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Interview Preparation

Prior to the Interview

Do Your Research: Employer Research

The best thing you can do prior to speaking with an employer is to gain as much information about the company as possible. By doing this, you will be able to intelligently speak about and ask questions about the organization, while also showing you have a strong interest in their products, services, values and purpose.

Basic Items to Research:

  • Primary mission or purpose of the organization
  • Major competitors
  • Organizational culture (management style, work environment, structure)
  • Principal services and products

Resources for Researching Employers:

  • Visit the company's website
  • GoingGlobal (Log into Handshake, hover over the "Career Center" tab, and select "Resources" from the dropdown)
  • WORKnet - employers in Wisconsin
  • Better Business Bureau check the status of employers and their standing with clients
  • Reference USA
    -Alumni and current students can access on-campus (Wifi OR Ethernet)
    -Current students and recent alumni (within one year post-graduation for undergraduate student alumni, within two years post-graduation for graduate student alumni) can access off-campus (requires a w # to log in)
    -All other alumni who wish to access off-campus should contact their local library. Many libraries have a subscription to Reference USA

Do Your Research: Salary Research

The topic of salary should be initiated by the employer, which typically occurs after an initial interview or during a second/third interview. It is wise to research salaries prior to interviewing to be prepared if this question is brought up earlier than the second stage. Utilize resources such as Glassdoor.comOccupational Outlook HandbookSalary.comLinkedIn Salary ToolPayScale.com and PayCheckCity.com to gain a better understanding of salary ranges that fit the position and level for which you are applying. Demonstrate an understanding of the position and industry with salary research and tie that to why you and the experience you bring is worth the salary range you seek. Always remember to offer a salary range (i.e. $35,000 - $42,000) instead a solid number. This offers more flexibility in negotiation. You also need to remember to gain an understanding of the whole offer and not focus solely on the salary.


Prepare Your Outfit: Dress for Success

As a general rule, dress a level above what you believe the company culture may be. There are three general dress categories including business professional, business casual, and casual. Most commonly we recommend you dress in business professional for interviews.

Dress 1
Dress 2

Visit the Interviewing techniques handout for additional information regarding appropriate interviewing attire.

Career Closet
UW-River Falls Career Services and Treasures from the Heart have partnered to provide gently used professional clothing to current UWRF students at a deep discount. Start by scheduling a free appointment with a personal shopper from Treasures from the Heart and they will help identify professional clothing to fit your needs. To learn more, please review the brochure, or call Treasures from the Heart at 715-425-9771.

Career Closet Coupon


Practice and Prepare

  • Ask about the interview type (group, panel, one-on-one, etc.) and for the names/job titles of the interviewer(s) if not provided with this information. More information regarding interview types can be found in the Interviewing Techniques handout. Knowing the names and job titles of the interviewers will allow you to prepare appropriate questions.
  • Know your skills, including strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared to respond to related questions with examples.
  • Practice answering interview questions with impact by using the STAR Technique outlined in our  Interviewing Techniques handout.
  • Ready Prep Interview offers position and industry specific interview questions to practice before your interview.
  • Attend Mock Interview Day at UWRF to practivce your interviewing skills and receive employer feedback.
  • Schedule a mock interview appointment with a UWRF Career Counselor.
  • Prepare questions to ask the employer to show you are interested in the position and organization.
  • Organize and prepare your padfolio.
  • If an assessment is included as part of of the interview process, review assessment information.
During the Interview

Monitor and Adjust Your Communication

Be aware of what your verbal and non-verbal communication is saying to the interviewer.

  • Non-Verbal Communication: Practice a firm handshake, sit up straight and do not cross your arms, maintain eye contact without staring, be aware of nervous mannerisms and adjust if you find yourself performing distracting mannerisms.
  • Verbal Communication: Never talk negatively about past employers, do not talk too much or ramble, eliminate"filler" words (i.e. "you know", "um", or "like"), speak in a clear and audible voice.

Provide Strong Responses

Common interview questions and how to utilize the STAR technique for responses that have impact are available in our Interviewing Techniques handout. Answers to questions should generally be between 30 seconds to 2 minutes per response.


Ask the Interviewer(s) Questions

It is extremely important to have questions for the interviewer(s). Questions for the interviewer indicate interest, initiative and forethought by the interviewee. Example questions for the interviewer can be found in our Interviewing Techniques handout.

After the Interview

Send a Thank You to the Interviewer(s)

Sending a thank you letter to your interviewer(s) within 24 hours of the interview displays interest in the position and respect for the interviewer and their time. Did you fail to mention something critical about your skills and experience during an interview? Here's your opportunity to mention it. You can also reiterate the skills you touched on.

You can choose to send a hard-copy thank you letter send through traditional mail, or you can send an email thank you note. When deciding which form to send, consider the communication you had with the recruiter prior to the interview. If you have emailed, consider sending an email as this is the form of communication already used. Also, if you know the hiring timeline for the position will move quickly, an email will arrive faster than a letter sent through the mail.

View an example thank you letter in the Professional Letters handout.


Evaluate and Negotiate Job Offers

Resources for researching salaries can be found within the "Before the Interview" section of this page. Remember that benefits can account for up to 20% of the total offer.

Benefits Count
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)

As you look for your first job, you’re probably not thinking about becoming ill, retiring, or looking for tax breaks. However, you should consider benefits to be an important part of your compensation package. According to the most recent survey of new college graduates, the top benefits desired by new hires include medical insurance and such “core” financial benefits as salary increases, tuition reimbursement, and a 401 (k) company match. Benefits that deliver more immediate satisfaction, such as family-friendly benefits, more than two weeks of vacation, and flextime are increasingly important. A good benefits package can add as much as 30 percent to your overall compensation and may make a huge difference in your work/life quality! Here is information about some commonly offered benefits:

Health Insurance
This is an important benefit for three financial reasons:
1. Even if you have to pay for all or part of the coverage, it’s cheaper to get insurance through an employer at group rates than to purchase it on your own.
2. Health insurance is comparable to nontaxable income—providing health insurance could cost your employer upwards of $4,000 per year per employee—and you don’t pay tax on it. If you were to purchase health insurance, it might take more than $5,000 per year out of your pocket—after taxes.
3. The third advantage, of course, is, if you get sick or have a surfing (or horseback riding or bungee-jumping) accident, your medical treatment is paid for (in part or in full, depending on your policy).

Annual Salary Increases
More money? Of course that’s a good thing. In recent years, some employers have frozen salaries—not given any raises—or given minimal, 1.4 percent raises. According to Aon Hewitt’s annual U.S. Salary Increase Survey, average salary increases over the past couple of years ranged up to about 4 percent. If you earn $44,500, a 4 percent raise will increase your income by $1,777.

Tuition Reimbursement
One way to get ahead in your career is to continue learning—keep up with the latest trends in your profession. In this case, your employer pays all or a portion of your tuition costs for classes related to the business of the company. In some cases, employers reimburse for nonbusiness-related classes and for supplies such as books.

401(k) Plan
A 401(k) is a retirement plan that allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a trust fund or other qualified investment fund. In many cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage—this is “free” money that can add to your overall compensation package. Why is this important to you since retirement is still 30 or 40 years away? According to The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, someone saving $5,000 a year beginning at age 25 will have $787,176 at age 65 (assuming an 11 percent annual return on savings). Waiting until age 35 cuts your investment earnings in half, to a total of $364,615. Wait until age 45 to start your retirement fund and you’ll have only $168,887—not much to live on in retirement. Typically, you can direct your contributions and the matching funds into investments offered through your employer. And your 401(k) is portable—you can take it with you if you change jobs.

Flex Spending Account
Also known as flexible benefits and Section 125 plans, these plans let you put aside money (via a deduction from each pay) before taxes to cover various types of costs such as payment of health insurance and life insurance premiums, and vision care, dental care, or child- or dependent-care costs. By using money held out before taxes, you’ll spend pre-tax dollars on necessities and you’ll show less earned income on your federal tax return—so you will pay a lower percentage of your income in taxes.

Family-Friendly Benefits
Do you have to have a family to collect these benefits? Absolutely not! Family-friendly benefits can mean a lot of things.
Flextime allows you to vary your workday start and stop times, within limits.
Paid time off (PTO) deposits your paid-time off (e.g., vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days) into one bank from which you withdraw days, which you allocate as you wish. This means you could wind up with more than two weeks of vacation.
Telecommuting allows you to work from home or at an alternative work site for part of the week, checking in with the main office via telephone and computer. Some employers provide the office equipment for home use; in other cases, you cover the costs associated with telecommuting.

Read about job offers and salary negotiation in our Evaluating Job Offers and Salary Negotiation handout.

View examples of ways to respond to job offers.

On-Campus Interviewing

Career Fair Interviews

Most employers interviewing in connection with the Career Fair will not have their interview schedules listed in Handshake. These companies will instead be handing out interview invitations to candidates of interest during the Career Fair (visit their booths). A complete list of interview opportunities can be found on the Career Events page.


On-Campus Interviewing Policy

UW-River Falls Career Services requires attendance for students who sign-up for on-campus interviews as UWRF has worked hard to develop strong partnerships with employers. We ask that students uphold their interview commitments to represent the university, their academic program and themselves in the best possible manner.

Effects of Missing an Interview:

  • Missed appointments inconvenience employers who have scheduled their time around your interview.
  • Missed appointments reflect poorly on other UWRF students, faculty, staff, and your academic department.
  • Missed appointments disrupt the working relationship between UWRF Career Services and employers which ultimately affects other students now, and in the future.

Emergencies
We understand emergencies may occur. In the event you cannot attend your interview, due to an emergency, please notify the employer and Career Services (715-425-3572, leave message if necessary) as soon as possible. If unable to notify the office, prior to your interview, please do so as soon as possible after the scheduled interview time.

Years taken to build business relationships for the benefit of the UWRF community can be erased with just a few negative experiences. Please observe the highest professional and ethical standards and see yourself as we see you, a professional representative of UW-River Falls.

2014 Out for Work Bronze MedalContact Us

Career Services
career.services@uwrf.edu
715-425-3572
M-F, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
211 Hagestad Hall

 

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