Interviewing & Hiring-Career and Professional Development Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Interviewing & Hiring

Interview Preparation and Tips

Know the Market

Students have lots of employment options. What does your job have to offer other than a paycheck? What does your department have to offer students in terms of learning opportunities, pleasant work environment, sense of community, on-the-job training, and fun? It may be helpful to think about the learning objectives for this position.

Prepare for the Interview

Create a list of questions ahead of time. (Keep reading for sample questions.) Attempt to ask all applicants for the same job the same type of questions, although individual experiences and follow-up questions may send you down different paths. Clear your desk. Do what you can to minimize interruptions, and focus on each candidate.

Ease Them With Small Talk

Job interviews can make even the seasoned employee stressed, and you may have applicants who have no formal employment experience. If you can’t move to a separate office or leave your post, explain to the student the nature of your work, and that the phone may ring (let it go to voicemail) during your interview.

Give Some Perspective

Go over the job description from the posting, and put it in the framework of the function of your office or department. For example, “Our department is responsible for on-campus employment, and the student hired for this position will be helping newly hired students complete the hiring paperwork.”

Ask the Right Questions 

Review the guidelines for legal questioning. Use open-ended questions instead of ones that result in “yes”or “no.” You can begin with “What interested you in this position?” “Tell me a bit about yourself” or “What did you like best/worst about your last job?” If the students do not have formal work experience, try asking, “What accomplishment has given you the most satisfaction?”

Sample Interview Questions

General/Introduction Questions

Tell me about yourself.
What type of work (paid or volunteer) have you done?
What type of work do you like to do?
Why are you interested in this job?
How did you decide on your course of studies?
What has been your favorite (or least favorite) class? Why?
What would you consider to be your greatest strength?
What area have you identified as one you’d like to develop further?

Questions Related to Qualifications for the Job

What type of experience do you have in [software applications, computers, answering the phone, working with a cash register, customer service, filing etc.]?
What, specifically, interested you about this job?
Tell me about a recent accomplishment and that made you exceptionally proud.
Tell me about a time when you showed initiative in a previous job or project.

Questions About Work Experience

What other types of jobs have you had?
What have you learned from your past jobs/volunteer experiences/memberships in organizations?
Describe a course, project or work experience that was complex.
What types of skills or experience do you have that relate to the position?
What did like most (or least) about your last job?
Tell me about a time when you were responsible for a program or project.
Describe a time when you were not happy with your performance on the job (or in the classroom). What did you do?
Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult customer. What did you do?
Have you ever supervised another worker? What was that like?

Questions About Working Style and Characteristics

To what organizations do you belong? How do you participate? What do you get out of this experience?
Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to help someone.
Describe a situation where you found yourself to be very different from other individuals.
Do you prefer to work by yourself or with others? Why?
Discuss an important decision you have made regarding work or school.
Describe your most difficult work (or school) project. Why was it hard for you?
What type of person do you see yourself becoming?
Tell me about a situation in which you had to work under pressure.
How do other people describe you?
What sets you apart from other candidates