The First Step in Getting the On-Site Interview

By Dr. Delores Dean


Employers expect to hire 17.4 percent more new college graduates for 2006-07 than they did in 2005-06, according to respondents of the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2007 Survey. This means there will be an increase in employers interviewing on campus to hire the best and the brightest college graduates. Therefore, you must be ready to sell yourself in the job market. How you sell yourself at the interview will determine if you are hired.

The main purposes of on-campus interviewing are twofold, and both the employers and the students benefit. The employers get to know the students on a personal level and are able to identify the best students to receive the invitation for an on-site interview. The students have the opportunity to learn more about the employers through the exchange of information.

Preparation will give you confidence to perform well during the interviews. Additionally, the interviews allow you to demonstrate interpersonal skills, personal style, and communication aswell as to communicate how your knowledge, skills, and aspirations combine to make you a desirable candidate for the employer’s organization.

Most on-campus interviews are conducted using behavioral questions, which are designed to examine how you have responded to specific situations in the past as an indicator of how you may respond in the future.

Examples would be:

  • Tell me about a decision you made recently and how you reached the conclusion;
  • Give me an example of how you demonstrated leadership in a situation; or
  • What was the greatest challenge you ever faced, and how did you handle it?

When answering these types of questions, consider how your qualifications and attributes enabled you to demonstrate initiative, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork ability.

Know that there are many types of interviews and the on-campus interviews are used for screening applicants and usually last 30 minutes. Most Career Centers use a web-based system for the on-campus interviewing process. Monstertrak or eRecruiting are two examples. Employers post company profiles and job description and allow students to submit their resume to sign up for on-campus interviews. These online systems operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On-campus interviewing requires students to be on top of their game. The three basic areas to remember and prepare for are: (1) before the interview, (2) during the interview, and (3) after the interview.


Before the INTERVIEW

Research the organization. Some sources of information are the websites, books in the career library and company literature. Know the name and title of the person conducting the interview.

Research the position. Call the organization or see the university website for a detailed description of the position you are interviewing for.

Know yourself. Study your resume. Practice your general statement about your knowledge, skills, and abilities to relate them to the position you are interviewing for. Practice, practice, and practice some more; become familiar with your answers. Speak eloquently.

Utilize the resources of the Career Center. Schedule a videotaped mock interview with a career counselor.

What to take to the interview? Extra copies of your resume, a list of references, a binder or leather portfolio, typed questions about the position and the organization, and a good quality pen.
Be sure to arrive 10-15 minutes early for your scheduled interview. Be friendly to everyone you see and greet all with a smile, especially in the restroom.

Dress appropriately for the interview. A professional suit with minimal accessories is appropriate. Good grooming is essential. Visit the Career Center for more details on dress and attend a workshop.


During the INTERVIEW

Greet the employer with a smile, a firm handshake, and call his/her name using the appropriate courtesy title, Mr., Ms., Miss or Mrs. Check with the Career Center or the person’s office tofind out, for example, if the interviewer prefers Mrs., Miss or Ms., or perhaps Dr. Maintain good posture and eye contact. Show enthusiasm and be attentive.

Answer the question asked. If you do not understand it, ask for clarification. Follow the interviewer’s lead. Emphasize your strong points by showing a match with what you have to offer and what the
organization is looking for.

Keep the interview on a positive note. Never criticize a former colleague, school, or teacher.

Use proper grammar. Avoid words like “um” and “you know.” Do not discuss salary during the first interview.

Be ready to answer the tough questions and have your questions ready. Always be yourself. Do not lie about anything.

Be aware that recruiters are not permitted to ask inappropriate/illegal questions. Examples ofinappropriate questions are related to your marital status, age, religious or political affiliations.Suggestions on how to answer the inappropriate questions are: (1) you have the option to overlook the
fact that the question does not relate directly to the position and provide an answer, (2) you may reply tactfully about the lack of connection between the question and the position and then craft an answer that addresses the concern or, (3) you may inquire about the question’s relevance to the position and
express that you are uncomfortable answering such an inquiry.

Be sure you close the interview with a clear understanding of the next action and timeframe.



Immediately after the interview, send a thank-you note or follow-up letter to each of the recruiters with whom you interviewed. This is your chance to acknowledge your gratitude and provide any additional information that will sell yourself for the position. It is simply a matter of politeness. For examples of thank you notes, visit the Career Center.

Maintain records of all employers’ contact information. Include the person’s name, title, and complete address with phone number. Don’t forget to note results, current status, and nextaction.

Employers want to hire the best and the brightest students. Therefore, you must be able todemonstrate the skills and qualities employers are seeking.


Ten Interviewing TipsTop 10 Skills Employers Seek

  • Communication skills (verbal and written)
  • Honesty/integrity
  • Teamwork skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical skills
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Motivation/initiative
  • Computer skills
  • Attention to detail

(Source: Job Outlook 2006, National Association of Colleges and Employers)

For additional information relating to on-campus interviewing, visit your Career Center or review the THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine, Job Choices 2007, and The Vault CollegeCareer Bible. Remember, interview as often as you can on campus. Be prepared to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job. Good luck!

Dr. Delores Dean is the director of the Career Services Center at Florida A&M University.

This article originally appeared in THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine, published by IMDiversity, Inc. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.