Login Register
You are here: Home > Candidates > Preparation > Preparing for Interviews

Preparing for Interviews

Types of Interviews

With changing technology, there are numerous ways that institutions may choose to 
interview you either during or prior to OPE. Keep in mind that each institution has a 
different style, as well as different expectations surrounding interview practices, so it is 
challenging to say that your experience will be like another candidates. The following are 
some examples of interview types you may encounter:

Phone Interview: Phone interviews are conducted much like an in-person interview and
they are used as a screening tool for candidates. They are likely brief in nature if it is the 
beginning of a hiring process. Expect questions designed to get at who you are as a 
professional, some of the experiences you have had, what qualifies you for the position for 
which you are applying and why you are interested in the position.

Skype Interview: Skype interviews are much like phone interviews with the added bonus 
of being able to see the interviewers. This takes some of the non-verbal guess work out that 
you would likely encounter while doing a phone interview. Consider where you decide to 
do your Skype interview and pay attention to what may be visible in the background of 
your setting- remember that all of that plays into the overall picture of you as a candidate.

In-Person Interview: This is the kind of interview to expect during your time at OPE. Like 
mentioned previously, each institution has their own style of interview- you may have one, 
two, or more interviewers. You will also see some variation in the types of questions asked, 
which are dependent on the type of job you are applying for. Prepare yourself for any 
possible questions by utilizing our interview question document found on our site. The 
more you can practice and understand yourself and your experiences, the more polished 
you will come across. Remember that there is a fine line between being prepared and 
sounding scripted. Allow room to let your personality shine so they get to know you as a 

Group Interview: If you are going to experience a group interview it will likely occur at an 
on-campus interview. The intent of a group interview is to understand how you and the 
other candidates conduct yourself in a team setting. Try not to overthink this interview and 
participate in the group as much as you would typically in other settings, employers want 
to get a realistic picture of who you are.

On-Campus Interview: This type of interview will be an entire day, if not more than one 
day. You will be invited to an institution, and will spend your time meeting, being 
interviewed by, and dining with students, potential colleagues, campus partners, and 
potential supervisors. There are many different stakeholders that are part of an on-campus 
interview, and remember to take the day one interview at a time. Be yourself and speak 
honestly about your experiences.


Interviewing Tips

1. Preparing, writing down, and rehearsing "points to make" both in response to questions and to those you wish to initiate yourself (either through your own questions or assertive statements) is the best way to become confident about your interviews. Using this strategy does not mean memorizing word for word answers or using someone else's "past responses" for your individual situation.

2. Practice interviewing before the conference begins.  Sometimes it is helpful to do mock interviews with others. Use the sample interview questions listed below as a tool.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • In what ways can your skills and background be of benefit?
  • How would you describe your shortcomings?
  • What makes you particularly qualified for this position?
  • What do you see as the advantages and challenges of working in a large/small university?
  • What do you know about our college? Why do you want to work here?
  • Give me the best example of your leadership ability.
  • What does success in student development work mean to you?
  • What do you feel are your greatest strengths? Some of your weaknesses?
  • As you view this position, what are some of the ways you would measure accountability?
  • What are some of the major issues you see for Student Affairs in the future?
  • How important is it for you to get ahead in Student Affairs?
  • Why did you choose Residence Life as your specialty?
  • What are some qualities and experiences that set you apart from other applicants?

3. Contact the institutions you are most interested in and ask if you can schedule an interview with them. You may get contacted by schools, as well, but it is best to be proactive about the positions that are of the most interest to you. Be honest with other schools-if you're not interested, just let them know. Don't waste their time or your time.

4. Consider timing when scheduling your interviews. Are you best in the morning or the afternoon? Are you an extrovert who will continue to get more energy with the more people you meet, or are you an introvert who will be very in need of alone time at the end of the day? Schedule yourself to compensate for your style.

5. Don't over extend yourself.  It is easy to get so excited that people are interested in you that you forget how much energy it will take to "be on" the entire time. Additionally, you will wan to leave space for second interviews. Be somewhat selective about the employers you interview with so that you are not burned out when you find that perfect match. Each employer will also want you to be able to articulate why you are interested in them, and you need to be able to specifically articulate a reason for each of your interviews.


Questions To Consider Asking An Employer

  • What are some of the strengths of the college or department? Possible concerns for the future?
  • Do you have information on housing, cost of living, and the community?
  • What are some of the career advancement possibilities for someone entering this position?
  • What kind of orientation and training is available to new employees?
  • Is there tuition reimbursement for employees interested in taking course work? Is this encouraged?
  • What are the specific duties for this position (if not previously made clear)?
  • How large is the department? What are some of the other offices with which I would work?
  • Are there any long range plans for the office?
  • What is the relationship between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs?
  • Can you cite program examples?

For those looking at Graduate Programs, here is a sample of questions you may wish to consider asking during interviews:

  1. Is the program *CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) accredited? If not, are there full-time professors in your area and how many required classes are student development vs. elective?
  2. How long is the program? (Credits, years) Does the academic program include summer classes?
  3. Is the program more theoretical or practical based? (thesis, internship, practicum, research oriented)
  4. How many full time students attend the program?
  5. What types of electives are available?
  6. How many students does the program graduate each year?
  7. Does the program offer Doctoral degrees? If so, will you be competing for assistantships and/or be in mixed classes?
  8. How many graduates of the program go on for Doctoral degrees? How well prepared will you be if you chose this Master's program?
  9. Do you need to be accepted into the graduate program before you can apply for an assistantship?
  10. Is there any relationship built between the graduate program faculty and the department in which you will be getting your assistantship?
  11. How supportive will your assistantship department be of your studies?
  12. Will your assistantship include summer employment? (Especially important if your academic program runs through the summer)
  13. Is your graduate tuition covered by your assistantship? If not, will you be eligible for in-state tuition?

* For more information on this topic please refer to the American Counseling Association (ACA) home page (for graduate school/CACREP information, click on "Students in Counselor Education" and then "CACREP Directory"): http://www.counseling.org/

When considering graduate programs it is good to know that there are typically two tracks when pursuing a graduate degree in Student Affairs. Some programs are more Counseling based, with an emphasis in Student Affairs/Student Personnel, while other programs may be more Student Affairs/Student Personnel focused with an emphasis in Counseling. To take things one step further, graduate programs within the Student Affairs/Student Personnel area will have delineations of either being based in theory or practical experience.

Effective Interview Do's

  • Thoroughly research institutions and the job.
  • Represent yourself accurately. Be honest about your qualifications and experiences both on your resume and in your interview. If you exaggerate, it will catch up with you later!
  • Be relaxed but confident.
  • Be sincere and listen.
  • Maintain eye contact, especially when making your key points.
  • Be able to state specific goals.
  • Dress professionally-formal is usually best.
  • Be friendly, but not pushy or "chummy."
  • Maintain attentive posture and watch your nonverbals.
  • Express 100% interest in jobs for which you are interviewing.
  • Know higher education issues, trends and vocabulary.
  • Be aware that you cannot talk yourself into a job, but you can talk yourself out.
  • Assertively express your strengths and accomplishments.
  • Pause before answering questions.
  • Prepare interview answers in advance. Write down some points and practice aloud.
  • Speak in a confident voice and be enthusiastic.
  • Email or write thank you notes after each interview.
  • Use action verbs in your interview and on the resume.
  • Give concrete examples to back up your points.
  • Relax, take deep breaths, and gather your thoughts before the interview.
  • Be able to translate your skills to employer needs.
  • Ask thoughtful questions that pertain to responsibilities, challenges, opportunity for involvement, staff development, job analysis, supervisor communications and accountability.
  • Be on time or a little early.


Things Not To Do During The Interview

  • Use slang, over talk or argue.
  • Be critical or negative.
  • Say, "Well at X College, we do it this way."
  • Be defensive or act intimidated.
  • Chew gum or tap the table.
  • Look at the floor.
  • Tell jokes.
  • Evade questions.
  • Beg or boast.
  • Bring social life into the interview.
  • Volunteer personal information; especially values, associations, poor experiences, etc.
  • Express "sour grapes" or bad mouth others.
  • Have too many interviews in a row - allow some personal time.
  • Be casual in dress or approach.
  • Be late, huffing, disorganized, or with limp excuses; i.e.: "my watch stopped, etc."


Questions are taken from materials created and compiled by Steven Putka, Kelly Kehlbeck, Jennifer Wirz, & Wayne Sorenson of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point