Research Potential Employers

  • Find out the size of the firm, including the number of employees.
  • Where is the organization headquarters?
  • What is the potential growth of the company and the industry it represents?
  • Check the annual sales growth or expansion of services for the last several years.
  • Research the product lines or services.
  • Identify the competition and their strength.
  • Is there a training program? Is it structured or unstructured?
  • What is the typical career path within the organization?
  • Who are the organization's leaders? What can you find out about them?
  • What are the philosophies of the organization? What is its "personality"?
  • Does the organization and position fit in with your employment objectives?
  • Stay informed about recent developments by reading the daily newspaper, business magazines and journals related to your chosen career.

In addition to the previous topics, education majors and teachers will want some additional information:

  • What is the community like?
  • What is the philosophy of the school system?
  • What is the emphasis of the curriculum?
  • What is the class size in the schools?
  • What is the availability of audiovisual equipment, computers and other classroom resources?
  • How are teachers evaluated?
  • What special assistance is offered to encourage professional growth of teachers?
  • What is the socioeconomic level of the school district?
  • What is the tax base and funding level?

Job Search Advice from Employers

How can I, as an applicant, best prepare myself for the job search?

  • You need to identify your skills and abilities. Analyze and determine what you learned from your jobs, classes and activities and how you may have benefited from them.

  • Keep your objectives concise and realistic. Research the types of positions that are appropriate for someone with your background and accomplishments.

  • Know what type of career and organization you want—responsibilities, industry, location, and employer size.

  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses you are working to improve. Be ready to tell an employer about them.

  • Know something about employers before you apply for jobs with them—read employer literature that is often available on the internet or in the local library or chamber of commerce.

  • Do a good job of being a student, take advantage of clubs and organizations to meet other people, enhance your skills and expand your learning beyond the classroom.

  • Develop a positive relationship with the Office of Career Services. The staff provides an important service—one that many employers value a great deal.

What do employers look for in an applicant?

  • Strong academic preparation—grades are important!

  • A desire to achieve, leadership record, communication skills, intelligence, creativity and flexibility.

  • Successful applicants are bright, enthusiastic, creative, and have the ability to express themselves well. They have thought about their background and how they relate to the positions for which they are interviewing.

  • Personal qualifications: personality, self-confidence, poise, assertiveness and professional appearance.

  • Professional qualifications: motivation, leadership ability and potential, interest in career and academic preparation, both overall and in major.

  • For teaching candidates only: Evidence of positive teaching performance, knowledge of subject matter and sound classroom management skills.

How can I make a positive impression during the interview?

  • Be punctual, responsible and thorough in all responses. Exhibit a high degree of professionalism at all times.

  • Be friendly and be yourself! The interviewer is more likely to have a good impression of you if you are open and honest.

  • Ask good, appropriate questions. Show an interest in the employer!

  • Most employers are impressed with applicants who have good personal appearances, the ability to express their ideas clearly and concisely and who can discuss their accomplishments with self-respect and assurance. Companies are also impressed with applicants who have clear ideas of their career objectives, who demonstrate interest in the companies or positions and who show more interest in opportunity than initial salaries, benefits, etc.

Questions to Consider - Employers expect you to respond

Tell me about yourself. Be brief, you can't share everything (one or two minutes). Keep your response relevant to the position and the organization in question. Before the interview, consider what qualities and experiences you want to emphasize. Typically, these include academic background, any related work experiences (paid or volunteer) and any other aspects of your background that will help the interviewer see you as potentially successful in the position.

Why do you want to work for us? The interviewer is finding out how much you know about the organization and your chosen career field. If you haven't done your "homework" this question can be devastating.

Why should we hire you? Knowing your own strengths and abilities will be the key to this question. You must be able to convince the interviewer that you can contribute to the organization. Emphasize where and how you expect to contribute—not what you expect the employer to do for you.

What is your greatest weakness? Don't knock yourself out of contention for the job. Whatever you mention, be sure to state you have worked to strengthen yourself in the particular area or turn it around to be a potential strength. For example, "I am a perfectionist and like to do the best work possible, so sometimes I wind up spending more time on projects than is really needed." Don't select a weakness that would be critical to your success.

What are your long-range goals? The interviewer would like to know if you plan to stay in this career field and with this organization. General goals that confirm your commitment are best. Mentioning specific job titles and salary levels—or saying "I want to be president of the company" can sound pretentious.

Which accomplishments are you most proud of? Be ready for this question with at least two (preferably three or four) concrete examples that illustrate your personal strengths. Ideally these examples will illustrate qualities and abilities that will be valuable once you are on the job.

Additional examples of the types of questions you may be asked in an interview are:

  • What do you think determines a person's work success?
  • Why did you choose your particular college major? Would you choose the same one again? Why?
  • Do you like to work with groups or by yourself? Why?
  • Are your grades an accurate reflection of your college achievements?
  • Tell me about a major problem you have encountered and how you dealt with it.
  • What will be the most difficult aspect of making the transition from college to your career? Why?

Key questions to ask about the organization and/or the job

  • When was my predecessor in this job promoted? How long was he or she in the position?
  • What is a typical day on the job like?
  • What personal qualities or characteristics are most important to success in this job?
  • What working relationships will I have with others in the organization?
  • How often will my performance be evaluated? What criteria will be used to measure my performance?

Other questions may pertain to developments within the organization or industry and the effects on the job in question. Here, it will be essential that your research on the organization be as current as possible. Generally speaking, you should not ask about salary and benefits early in the interview; instead concentrate on finding out about the job itself. The employer should be the one to bring up the topic of money, usually later in the process.

Dressing for a Successful Interview

When dressing for job interviews, it is almost impossible to be too conservative. Most employers regard conservative dress as a sign of good judgment. Be sure your clothing is clean, pressed, and in good repair. Being well groomed is essential for any interview. Good grooming indicates to the employer that you value yourself and your work.

Guidelines for Men -- Conservative suit

  • Colors: preferably navy blue or medium to charcoal gray
  • Pattern: solid or pinstripe
  • Fabric: wool/polyester blend (year round) or all wool (winter)
  • Tie: solid color, small polka dot, or conservative stripe (here is your chance to use color)
  • Shirt: long sleeve, preferably white or light blue solid
  • Socks: long and dark (coordinate with suit)
  • Shoes: black (polished), no boots
  • Jewelry: very little—watch and one ring per hand
  • Hair: conservative length and style

Guidelines for Women -- Skirted suit or pantsuit

  • Colors: navy or medium blue, medium to charcoal gray, wine, black
  • Pattern: solid tweed, or subtle plaid
  • Fabric: linen (spring and summer), wool/polyester blend (year round) or all wool(winter)
  • Blouse: light color solid or small pattern, may coordinate a silk tie to go with the outfit
  • Shoes: dark color, closed heel and toe, one to two-inch heel or flats
  • Hose: natural color or dark color to match your suit
  • Jewelry: at most a necklace, earrings (one pair, no dangles), watch, one ring per hand
  • Make-up: natural looking, conservatively applied
  • Hair: neatly styled

Summary of Keys to Successful Interviewing

  1. Have well defined career goals.
  2. Be punctual.
  3. Be alert and prepared.
  4. Do not chew gum or smoke.
  5. Dress neatly and appropriately.
  6. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake.
  7. Maintain good eye contact.
  8. Follow the lead of the employer to identify relevant topics for discussion.
  9. Express thought clearly and concisely—don't ramble!
  10. Be informed about the organization and ask relevant questions.
  11. Concentrate on the positive! If asked to identify your weakness, mention something non-essential, then mention steps you are taking to overcome it.
  12. Be alert to nonverbal cues such as nods, smiles, gestures, mannerisms, eye contact, voice tone, etc.
  13. Before leaving the interview, determine the next action expected of you.
  14. Do not bring up salary and benefits.
  15. Be enthusiastic and interested in the organization.
  16. Smile, but keep it natural.
  17. Maintain good posture while sitting and standing—don't slouch!
  18. Write a thank-you letter to your interviewer and have it in the mail within forty-eight hours.

The Company Visit

When the interviewer indicates that you are a good candidate and that others in the organization would like to meet you in a follow-up interview, keep a level head. Get as much information about the next interview as possible. Naturally, you will need to know where and when it will take place, but getting additional details is critical.

Find out:

  • How long will it last? One hour? One day? Two days?
  • With whom you will be interviewing—a personnel recruiter? A department manager? The president of the company?
  • What kind of structure the interview will take—a simple one-to-one Interview? Group interviews? Testing?
  • How will expenses be handled?

Because of the greater variability in the length and structure of follow-up interviews as compared to screening interviews, previously un-encountered situations can occur. A few of the most common are mentioned here with suggestions on the best way to handle them.

Smoking: If you are a smoker and your interview lasts several hours, you may be tempted to smoke. Don't do it! Resist the urge. It could eliminate you from further consideration.

Meals: If your interview lasts more than a few hours it will probably include at least one meal with the employer's representatives. Proper etiquette is absolutely essential. Also, choose your meal wisely. Some foods are difficult or impossible to eat neatly and should be avoided (for example, spaghetti, barbecued ribs, fried chicken). Don't order the most expensive item on the menu, either; you may be viewed as a spendthrift or as trying to take advantage of the employer's hospitality.

Drinking: If it is suggested that you order an alcoholic drink with your meal, limit yourself to one. None is preferable. No employer will fault you for not drinking, but some may get a negative impression if you order even one. You cannot go wrong by choosing non-alcoholic beverages during the interview process.

Remember, regardless of where you are, who you are with or what you are doing, you are being evaluated as a potential employee of the organization. Use good taste and common sense in all that you do.

Handling Job Offers

  • If an offer is extended verbally, ask for it and the details in writing, including job title, starting date, salary, location and any other important information. If anything appears vague, ask for clarification before accepting the offer.

  • Make your acceptance in writing, restating the important details.

  • If you are going to reject the offer, do so in writing as soon as possible while expressing appreciation for their confidence in you. Don't burn any bridges behind you!

  • If you need more time to consider the offer, ask for an extension of the deadline and tell them why.

Weighing the Offer

In deciding whether to accept or reject an offer, you will need to evaluate it on its own merits. It is unusual to have more than one offer to consider at one time. You will want to look at job-related, monetary, lifestyle and geographic considerations to help you evaluate job offers and make your decision.

  • Geographic Considerations
    • Climate
    • Size and type of community
    • Availability and cost of housing
    • Cultural and recreational opportunities
    • Proximity to academic institutions
  • Lifestyle Considerations
    • Work schedule
    • Amount of travel
    • Social life for singles or couples
    • Commuting time to work
    • Dress code

  • Monetary Considerations
    • Starting salary (consider all taxes)
    • Salary potential
    • Bonuses and commissions
    • Benefits
    • Company car
    • Cost-of-living
    • Expense account







  • Job-Related Considerations
    • Job responsibilities
    • Promotion and advancement potential
    • Professional development and growth opportunities
    • Degree of autonomy
    • Your supervisor and co-workers
    • Philosophy and reputation of the organization 

Coping with Rejection

Being rejected by potential employers is an inevitable part of every job search. This doesn't mean that it will be easy to accept or that you have to like it. No one likes to feel unwanted. This is as true in the job search as in any other aspect of life. Keep in mind two things that may help you handle negative feedback in a positive way.

First, you will hear "no" many more times than "yes". This is a fact of the job search, and realizing this should help you put an employer's "no" into proper perspective.

Second, don't just accept an employer's negative response without looking at the reasons. Try to determine why you were turned down. Was there a poor fit between the position and your background? You may be able to see the answers to these questions yourself, but it is also a good idea to seek guidance and input from the Career Services Office staff or from the interviewer by asking, "how could I have presented myself better?".

Accept the fact that you will be rejected more often than not, but learn from the experience to better prepare for the next interview.