University of Oregon

Student Services Hub (PODS)


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Preparing for the Interview

Common questions

  • Why are you interested in the position?
  • Why are you interested in working for this organization?
  • How do your skills/experience match with the position/organization?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Behavioral questions (Tell me about a time when…)
  • Scenarios (This is happening...often an event common to that line of would you handle it?)
  • What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses (for weakness(es), discuss what steps you are taking to improve or develop skills)
  • Successes and failures (for failures, include what you have learned and how it will impact your work in the future)
  • Do you have any questions for us?

Preparing stories for your interview

  1. Goal: develop 10-15 stories that demonstrate your accomplishments and challenges you have faced.
  2. a) Identify your top strengths and achievements. Draw from different settings, e.g. course projects, community service, part-time/full-time jobs, internships, leadership experience.  b) Analyze the internship/job posting (if available). Review the qualifications and themes from the posting. Predict questions based on these themes.
  3. Use the SOAR method (below) to develop stories for your top strengths/achievements and stories that respond to the questions you have predicted.
  4. Once you have created your stories, review them to identify additional skills used in each experience.

S-O-A-R Storytelling Framework

Describe the Situation

  • Be sure to include enough detail so someone who is new to your story can understand what was happening. Where did it take place? Who was involved? What was your role?

Describe the Obstacle

  • What were you tasked with? What challenges did you face?

Describe the Action

  • What did you do in this situation? If you are sharing a team experience, at some point in your story, move from “We” to “I” to show how you individually contributed to the group.

Describe the Result

  • The result explains how the experience ended. Was it successful? What did you learn? How did it benefit the organization? If it was not successful, include what you learned so the employer will know that you would approach it differently next time.

Highlight the Meaning (the benefit to the employer)

  • It is helpful to end your responses to interview questions by highlighting how the skill/strength you elaborated on will help you accomplish the responsibilities of the job for which you are applying. The employer is interested in how you will add value to their organization. Take the opportunity to explain how the information you shared in the SOAR story will benefit them.

Goals of an Interview


  • Promote your potential to do the job; present your skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm
  • Evaluate the opportunity to determine if you would like to work for the organization


  • Obtain information to assess fit and decide if they would like to extend you an offer to work for them
  • Portray a positive image of the organization

Preparing for an Interview

Know yourself and your prospective employer

  • What skills and experience (paid and non-paid) do you have that are related to the job/organization? Why are you enthusiastic about the job?

What you need to know about yourself:

  • Your interests, skills and experience as they relate to the job for which you are applying
  • The potential contributions you can make to the job/organization

What you need to know about the employer:

  • The position and its responsibilities
  • The organization - what sets it apart from other employers? mission? values? culture? product/service?
  • The industry (economy, competitors). Be able to answer “Why do you want to work for my organization rather than one of my competitors?”

Interviewing Formats:

  • Screening interview: first interview often brief (30 minutes) to assess initial fit/skill level vs. in-depth/ site visit: second, third or additional interview which is longer (a few hours to a day +). They may be held at the company site and often provide an opportunity to meet people you will work with.
  • In person vs. phone call: be sure with a phone interview to use your tone of voice to express interest
  • Interviewers/Interviewees: You might encounter interviews that are one-on-one, with a group of applicants, or with a panel of employers

Stages of the Interview

  • Introduction: greetings
  • Body: employer’s questions and applicant’s questions. Be prepared to ask questions that help you determine if the job is a good fit for you. At this point, ask about the job and organization, not about compensation.
  • Closing: wrap – up/ ask about next steps if the employer does not offer that information

Your presentation:

  • Dress professionally to show your interest and investment
  • Pay attention to your non-verbals. What might be expected? (a firm handshake and consistent eye contact demonstrates your interest)
  • Make positive self references
  • Focus on you (not others or their faults)
  • Arrive 5 minutes early to the interview

After the Interview:

  • After you leave the interview, make notes of your impressions and reactions
  • Write thank you notes to your interviewers
  • Follow up if you do not hear from the employer by the date they indicated they would select a candidate 

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50 Tough Interview Questions

In the beginning

1.   Tell me about yourself.

2.   What attracted you to this position?

3.   What do you know about our company?

4.   Have you visited our website?

5.   Why did you leave your last job?

Strengths and weaknesses

6.   What is your greatest weakness?

7.   Tell me about the last mistake you made.

8.   What would your last employer say was your biggest weakness?

9.   How do you deal with stress?

10. What was the best thing about your last job?

11. How have you grown in your previous positions?

12. Tell us five words that you’d use to describe yourself.

General experience

13. How has your education and training prepared you for this position?

14. Describe your ideal supervisor.

15. What characteristics would you expect to find in a successful workplace?

16. When do you know if a team has lost its way? And whose responsibility is it to get back on track?

17. How would you describe your technical skills?

18. What’s your philosophy of success and what role does work play in your life?

19. How do you learn best?  What’s your learning style?

Situational or behavioral questions

20. Tell us about a challenge you faced at school or work and how you met it.

21. If you could go back in time and change anything about your education or job opportunities, what would you


22. Have you ever dealt with an ethical challenge? Explain.

23. An angry customer comes into the workplace and starts complaining to you. What do you do?

24. Describe a time when you worked on a team project. What role did you play? What was the outcome?

25. Tell me about a time when you used your creativity to solve a complex problem.

26. You’re under a deadline to complete a project when a coworker asks for some of your time to share a problem

       they’re having and then a family member calls with an emergency at home. How do you deal with this?

27. Has there been a time when you improved a work process? What was it and how did you go about making the

       change (step by step)?

Probing deeper

28. What are your future plans?

29. How does this job fit into your career plans?

30. What motivates you?

32. How do you handle criticism?

32. Give me an example of how someone has influenced you in the past.

33. Evaluate your most recent employer.

34. Tell us about a time when you had to deliver some bad news in the workplace.

Difficult areas

35. What are your salary requirements? Rank salary in importance on a scale of one to ten, and tell us why you ranked it with that score.

36. In what kind of work environments do you feel uncomfortable?

37. Do your grades reflect your abilities?

38. Why were you fired from that position long ago?

39. It doesn’t seem like you’ve done this type of job before. Why have you applied now?

40. How old are you?*

41. Do you have children?*

42. Where are you from? What country were you born in?*

43. What is your religion?*

Off the wall

44. Whom do you admire and why?

45. How many quarters would fit in this room?

46. Tell us about something you did that was interesting and why it was interesting.

47. How would you rate your performance in this interview?


48. Why should we hire you?

49. What did you learn about us in this interview?

50. What questions do you have for us?

* Note that in the U.S. these are illegal questions. You could refuse to answer them, but if you want to appear cooperative in the interview, consider why the interviewer is asking the question and whether the interviewer has a legitimate concern he/she is trying to address. Then, offer an answer that addresses the concern, turning it back on your job-related strengths. For example, if the interviewer asks where are you from (what country), he may be trying to understand if you are legally allowed to work in the U.S. The legal question he can ask is “Are you legally authorized to work in the U.S.?” You could address the concern by answering “Where are you from” with “I’ve lived in several places, but am legally authorized to work I the U.S., if that’s what you are asking. Having lived in several countries has enabled me to strengthen my…”