Interview Skills

Before the interview:

Prepare and practice:

  • Research the field, organization and position. Use the company's website, social media and press releases to learn about its mission and values  
  • See what you can learn about the people who will be interviewing you
  • Review your resume and the job posting to understand the employer's stated and unstated needs.  Answer the question: what problem will you solve for them?
  • Confirm the date, time and location of the interview to give yourself plenty of time to get there
  • Anticipate interview questions and prepare answers using past successes to illustrate your skills
  • Generate some questions to ask at the end of the interview

Get professional feedback and advice

Increase your chances of getting the job by meeting with one of our career professionals. We'll support you with the personalized feedback and tips you need to ace your next interview.  Make an appointment by calling 778.782.3106.

Use Interview Stream 

Interview Stream  is an interview tool that lets you gain further interview prep from home using your computer. It lets you choose questions you want to practice and record yourself for playback, enabling you to refine your responses and hone your interview skills.

Register and create an account with your SFU email address and password

  1. Review the questions related to your area of interest (position, industry or field)
  2. Choose some behaviour-based and general questions
  3. Choose any other questions that test your skills, that you've had difficulty with in the past, or that you want to experiment with
  4. Record and review

No matter where your interview skills are at, we can all benefit from feedback. Record a practice interview and then have our career professionals review it with you and provide some tips. Call 778.782.3106 to book an appointment. 

During the interview

First impressions count so follow these steps:

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes early
  • Learn the organization's dress code. Make sure your clothes, hair and shoes are clean and professional looking
  • Have a firm handshake, open and confident body language and steady eye contact.  Don't forget to smile!
  • Bring extra copies of your resume, cover letter and reference list. Consider bringing a portfolio of relevant work samples from school projects, volunteering and past jobs
  • Think positively, act confidently, and show your interest and enthusiasm for the position and the organization

Interview questions

Employers ask many types of questions.  The key to answering them well is to understand the question behind the question: what do they really want to hear from me?  

For sample questions and answer guidelines see the SFU Interview Questions Database

General questions

These are questions such as “Tell me about yourself?", "Why do you want to work for our organization?", "What are your top skills?" etc.  They are a FANTASTIC opportunity to show you understand the organization’s needs and how you can meet them by mentioning relevant experiences from your past. Aim for two or three main points to avoid repetition and overly long responses.

Behavioral questions

These are "story time" questions and often start with “Tell me about a time when...” Employers ask this question because they feel that your past behaviour is the best predictor of how you will perform in the future.  If you have been able to display a specific skill or ability in the past, such as problem solving, communication or teamwork, there is a good chance you will do it again in the future.

Be as specific as possible. Tell a story. Consider using the C.A.R.E method to answer these questions.

Example: Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult person.

Context of the situation

"For one of my courses we had a group project and I was on a team where one group member was not contributing.  She wouldn't show up to meetings and didn't seem to have the same commitment to the project as the rest of us."

Actions that you took: 

"I offered to speak to her on behalf of the group.  I called her and we found a time to meet.  During this meeting I discovered that she was having childcare issues and couldn't always find someone to look after her baby.  We brainstormed some ideas around ways that she could be involved and contribute to the project.  I brought the ideas back to the group for their input."

Results of those actions: 

"We settled on giving her a section of the research and presentation that she could do independently, and having her join our group meetings by Skype when she could. Everyone was satisfied and we ended up getting an A on the project."

Evaluation, demonstrated by new learnings or conclusions:

"I learned a lot about not jumping to conclusions before getting the whole story, and I learned to not take things too personally." (These lessons apply to any work or life situation that is high pressure and when people are feeling stretched.)

Situational questions

Questions such as "Tell me what you would do if..." refer to your reactions and actions around hypothetical situations.  They often focus on problem solving skills.  It’s a good idea to not only explain what you would do, but also why you would make that choice.  Use real life examples if you have them.

Your questions

The interview isn’t all about them! You want the position to be a good fit for you, in an organization aligned with your values where you can thrive and grow. This is your chance to gather information that can help you decide if you really want the job.  Well-researched, tailored questions that demonstrate genuine interest in the position are another way to impress your interviewers.

For examples see: 

After the interview

Follow up

Send a brief thank you email or note before the hiring decision is made to thank the interviewers for their time and reiterate why you are a good fit for the position.