Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Nail the interview

So you’ve sent out your fine-tuned resumes and are starting to get interviews – that’s great! But the best resume in the world won’t get you the job unless you’re prepared for the interview.

The biggest mistake job-seekers make with interviews is not being fully prepared. Don’t wing it – practice answering questions beforehand!

1) Practice, practice, practice

Interviewing can be one of the hardest parts of applying for jobs. Like with anything else, the more you practice, the easier it will get! We recommend setting up practice interviews online. You can practice as many times as you want, then email your interview to your job coach to get feedback.

Most initial interviews are short (around 30 minutes) and include some version of the questions below. Be sincere with answers that reveal your skills and abilities. Also, practice answering concisely – you don’t want to spend all your time answering only a couple of questions.

Typical interview questions:

  • Please share a bit about your background.
  • Why do you want this job?
  • How do your skills and previous work experience equip you for this job?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • How do you organize your typical workday?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Describe your experience working with diverse populations.

These questions look for specific abilities:

  • What is your openness for growth and learning?
  • What are your experiences in solving problems and getting resolutions?
  • Are you able to focus and contribute to the goals and needs of others?

These questions will help prospective employers learn more about you:

  • Tell me about your weaknesses.
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Give an example of a problem at work and how you contributed to a solution.

Prepare and practice your responses so you can describe yourself clearly!

2) Prepare your questions

Prepare questions that you have about the job and company.  Be prepared for that phase of an interview when you are asked: “Do you have any questions?”

Do your homework about the company or organization, plus review exactly what the employer wants and needs from the job description or job posting.

Pay attention to:

  • specific terminology
  • technical skills
  • communication abilities that the employer is looking for
  • Learn what you can from people who have worked at that company
  • Ask those in your professional network about this employer

In the first interview, don’t ask about:

  • salary, benefits, time-off

When a job offer is made, that’s the time to ask your questions about salary and benefits.

3) The real thing

Introduce yourself at the start of an interview

First, develop your “pitch”. Pitch merely refers to what you will say to another person to describe who you are and what you’re looking for. For example, if someone asks “What do you do?”, you could answer:

“I am a recent graduate from PCC in the Criminal Justice program.  I interned with the Hillsboro Police Department and now I am looking for a permanent position as a police officer.”

“After a career in tax preparation, I went back to school for a Paralegal Certificate from PCC.  I’m now looking for a position as a paralegal, possibly with a firm that specializes in estate planning or finance.”

“After working a lot of different jobs in restaurants I decided it was time to go back to school.  I’ve just finished my Multimedia Certificate at PCC and am looking for an opportunity to do web design.  I’m especially good at animation.”

The basic formula behind all these answers is the same: demonstrate what you have to offer, what you’re looking for, and how it relates to the position.

After an interview

Follow up with a thank you note after each interview.  It’s always polite to show appreciation to those who considered you for a position.

Do every week:

  • Work on your “pitch” until you can comfortably introduce yourself and connect your expertise with what the company is looking for.
  • Practice answers to interview questions that highlight your experience and skills.
  • Send thank you messages for interviews.

Where to get help

Interviewing is tough, but with the right help, anyone can learn to answer questions with confidence.

If you are... Then contact...
Having interview jitters Job & Internship Specialist
Having anxiety and stress Get support from a counselor
New to interviewing Develop skills with mock interviews