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Career Development ServicesInterviewing & Evaluating An Offer


You have done a good job with your job search so far, and now you have an interview! Let's explore ways to maximize your success in this next step of your job search process!

Know the Organization

  • Learn the mission and goals of the organization
  • Research size, locations, history and annual or media reports
  • Understand the types of customers, primary competitors, and product lines or services
  • Consider how the organization links to your current or future career plans

Know Yourself

  • Identify transferrable skills - what skills do you have to offer?
  • Analyze your strengths - what value do you bring to the organization?
  • Be aware of any weaknesses - how should they be addressed?
  • Know your goals - why does this organization interest you?
  • Know your personal achievements - Download Guide
  • Be able to articulate why you are interested in the specific position and the company
  • Be ready to provide more details about on anything mentioned on your resume
  • Prepare several examples of relevant past accomplishments

Understand Each Perspective

Employer's Interview Goals Your Interview Goals
Employers want to learn about you You want to learn more about them
They are buying
You are selling
They are trying to screen you out You are trying to make the cut
They are gaining information about a prospective employee You are gaining information about a prospective job and employer
To assess your knowledge, skills, abilities To match your knowledge, skills, and experience to the critical aspects of the job
To evaluate your fit with the job and the organization To demonstrate that you are a good fit
To hire the best candidate for the job To fully understand the job

How to Prepare

  • Prepare 3 - 4 key points
  • Connect your background to the job
  • Identify ways in which your skills and knowledge can contribute to the employer's needs
  • Be able to articulate why you are interested in the specific position and the company
  • Be ready to provide more details about on anything mentioned on your resume
  • Prepare several examples of relevant past accomplishments

Employer Question Guidelines

  • Answer questions with work-related answers, if possible
  • Be sure to provide examples
  • Questions should address skills, knowledge and experience as they relate to the job.
  • Inappropriate questions include those that could lead to job discrimination based on age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or religion
  • If you are unclear about how a question relates to the job, ask for clarification
  • Download the Questions Asked By Employers Guide

Your Question Guidelines

  • Do not ask about salary or benefits in a first interview
  • Do ask what would characteristics make a candidate successful in this position, then provide examples of how you have those characteristics
  • Be sure to ask about the hiring timeline and next steps
  • Download the Questions to Ask Employers Guide

Know your Story

Stories provide more insight into your behavior and personality than a simple answer to an interview question. Seven steps to STAR in your interview stories is adapted from Bob McIntosh, A Practical Look at the Job Search:

1. Relate your experience in a concise, persuasive manner

The STAR formula helps you capture the interviewers' attention and keep your answershort and sweet. Theituation and Task set the stage while your Actions and Results tell your story.

2. Demonstrate self-awareness

"Tell me about a time when you remedied a problem you caused." Briefly own the problem or mistake but highlight the story with your action and results.

3. Reveal more than asked for

"How were you able to improve communications...?" Stories help reveal more than one skill, you can talk about your communication skills as well as leadership, problem solving, coordinating, and interpersonal skills.

4. Elicit follow-up questions

"Thank you. That was a great answer" indicates your story addressed the question. The employer may come back with follow-up questions which means you have gained the employer's interest.

5. Show enthusiasm

You can tell you story about organizing a major event or saving thousands of dollars but if your voice is monotone, there is something missing. Help interviewers' care about your accomplishments, lean forward, look in the eye, and smile when you talk about your actions.

6. Stories tell about your value

Don't be afraid to use the word "I" but remember that employers are looking for team players; give credit where credit is due and demonstrate you're a leader.

7. Preparation is key to success

There is only one way to prepare, you have to completely understand what is required of the position and know what competencies the employer is looking for.

Interview Types


Some jobs listed in Handshake are designated as OCI jobs. These positions offer ODU students and alumni the opportunity to interview on campus for jobs and internships with a variety of local, national and multinational companies. On-Campus Interviewing occurs on campus and in a centralized location to streamline the process. If the position for which you applied qualifies as an OCI job, it will appear as "pending" in your "interview requests" sub tab in Handshake. If you are selected to interview for an OCI position, you will receive an email with your next steps.

On-Campus Interview Process

  1. The employer will review your application and make a decision:
    a. When a decision has been made, you will receive an email and your application status in Handshake will change from "Pending" to either Invited, Alternate, or Not Invited.
    b. Decision time will vary from employer to employer.
    c. If you have not heard by the interview date, you should consider your application declined.
  2. If you are invited to an interview:
    a. You will receive an email reminding you to sign up for an interview.
    b. You will also see an alert at the bottom of your Handshake homepage.
  3. When you receive the invitation email:
    a. Log into Handshake using your Monarch-Key.
    b. Navigate to your "Interview Requests" sub-tab.
    c. Click "Schedule Interview" to the far right of the appropriate request.
    d. Select the radio button next to an available time slot and click submit.

Using Handshake for On-Campus Interviewing

  1. Interview Requests:
    1. This tab allows you to manage your applications to OCI positions
    2. Each application will have a "Pending" status until the employer submits a decision
  2. Scheduled Interviews:
    1. This tab is where you can view upcoming interviews that you have already scheduled
  3. Typical Schedule:
    a. SeasonL Fall and Spring Semesters
    b. Time: 9:00am and 3:30pm
    c. Duration: 30 - 60 minutes
    d. Location: Career Management Center - 2202 Webb Center

REMINDER: On-Campus Interviews are not meant to be the single source of employment opportunities offered at ODU. OCI is one tool among many offered by the CMC that students should utilize in their search for jobs and internships.

Search Handshake for Job Opportunities
View On-Campus Interview Tips


An Informational Interview is a short one-on-one appointment you schedule with an individual to discuss their insight on an industry, organization, job, or field of interest. Informational Interviews help you get an inside point of view when choosing a major, making career choices, or beginning a job search.

What's in it for me?

People are generally interested in talking about what they do and how they do it. An Informational Interview allows you to connect with an individual in their workplace giving you the opportunity to:

  • Explore possibilities and generate options
  • Experience their work environment and culture
  • Engage in a conversation about mutual interests and a day in the life
  • Learn what do you need to be competitive
  • Gain new networking contacts

Where do I start?

  • Ask friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and employers for an information interview contact or referral
  • Consult your faculty, career liaison, or other University services
  • Use Handshake and LinkedIn to find key contacts
  • Call community service agencies, trade and professional organizations and attend local, state, or regional meetings
  • Scan the Web pages, Yellow Pages, articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals

When scheduling an Informational Interview determine your communication preference (phone, email, in-person) and develop a brief script explaining how you obtained their contact info and the specific about the information you are seeking. Ask for a short 20-30 minute appointment (phone, email, in-person).

How do I prepare?

  • Identify your values and interests
  • Understand related knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Determine your short and long term goals
  • Consider your strengths and weaknesses
  • Be ready to share your Resume
  • Research the industry, organization, and individual
  • Compose your list of questions:
    • Personal
      • Ask about their career path into the industry/organization/position
      • Describe a typical day
      • What skills/abilities are most important to succeed in this job?
      • What do they like most, what they would change?
      • Identify professional or trade associations that are useful in the field
    • Organizational
      • Learn what is unique or differentiating about the organization
      • Discuss types of entry level positions, opportunities for advancement
      • Determine the biggest challenges facing the organization/individuals
      • Where do they see the organization in the next 3 to 5 years?
    • Industry/Field
      • What are the issues facing this industry in the future?
      • What are the most important factors used to hire people in this line of work (education, past experience, personality, special skills)?
      • What experience, paid or volunteer, would you recommend to help prepare for a job in this field?
    • Follow up
      • What is the best way to get started in this field?
      • What suggestions do you have to help make my resume more effective?
      • Based on our conversation today, what other types of people do you believe I should talk to?
      • May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?
      • What is your one best piece of advice?

Are there rules?

  • Dress as if it were an actual job interview but NEVER ask for a job
  • Arrive for your appointment early and be courteous to everyone that you meet
  • Observe the working environment...dress style, communication patterns, sense of humor to adapt your interview and consider your fit within the organization
  • Take the initiative while conducting the interview, ask open-ended questions which promote discussion
  • Do not exceed your allotted time but be prepared to stay longer following the contacts lead
  • Send a formal note thanking your contact for his/her time and interest, consider including a summary of your conclusions/decisions resulting from the interview

What next?

  • Evaluate your experience and determine necessary follow up
  • Review your notes and reflect on the interview
  • Did you get a positive or negative impression?
  • Can you envision a future in this occupation?
  • Do you need to reexamine your goals?
  • Will you follow this path or explore something different to better suit your interests?

No matter where your decisions may lead, always follow up with a thank you. Informational interviews help build your network of professionals that can be critical to your future job search!


Often conducted over the phone by a human resources person or recruiter. They are trying to judge whether you are a viable candidate for the position. The employer's goal in this type of interview is to narrow the pool. Because non-verbal cues are not involved, voice and diction are important.

What is phone interview etiquette?

  1. Use the caller's name in conversation when answering a question presented by the interviewer. This assists you in remembering their name and shows that you have been invested in the conversation from the very beginning.
  2. Use pleasantries when requesting additional information. If the interviewer did not provide their name, ask for it in a pleasant way such as, "May I ask who I'm speaking with?" to avoid sounding confrontational or rude.
  3. Maintain a pleasant, professional telephone demeanor. Do not use any slang or casual phrases. For example, always say "Yes" not "Yea". Be sure to use good diction when speaking, and be aware of the pitch, expressiveness and clarity of your voice.
  4. At the end of the interview, ask the caller "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" or "Are there any other questions I can answer for you?"
  5. Say 'Have a nice day!' at the end of every call. Say something to the effect of "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you about this position, I'd be interested in an on-site interview to discuss my candidacy further." Make sure the interviewer knows you are appreciative of their time and that you are interested in continuing the interview process.

What are some tips for interviewing via phone?

  • Background Noise - Make sure there are no loud noises in the background such as a television, radio, pets, or children. It makes it seem as though you are not dedicating your complete focus to the interview.
  • Eating/Chewing - Do not eat, chew gum, or smoke during the interview. The microphone on your phone will probably pick it up. Doing so makes it appear that you aren't taking the interview seriously and are not completely committed.
  • Prepare Notes - Make notes for yourself and have your resume in front of you so if they ask you specific questions you aren't scrambling to find or create an answer. Have a note pad available so you can takes notes about the position as well.
  • Smile - Smile while you are talking during the interview. You would be surprised how big of a change this can make to the tone of your voice.
  • Posture - Make sure your posture is good and you stay calm and relaxed. If you clench your fist or are uptight it can stifle your voice.
  • Attire - Wearing business attire during the interview will help you treat the interview more seriously than you would if you are wearing sweats.
  • Breath - Breath is the source of energy for your speech. Keep your breaths natural.


Involves multiple individuals at the same time. It is important to anticipate a variety of questions and personalities and engage with all members of the panel.


Used to determine how you might perform in their situation by looking at past experiences and behavior. Being concise and giving answers using real-world examples is the best approach.

How do I prepare for interviews using personal achievements?

Briefly describe 3 to 5 specific accomplishments that you enjoyed and where you believe you did well. Use examples related to class assignments, work assignments, and organizational involvements.

Expand on Your Most Important Achievements
Think about each achievement and answer these questions:

  1. How did I get involved?
  2. Details on what I did?
  3. Results/ Outcome?
  4. What was most satisfying?

How do I use the STAR format to prepare?

S = Situation
T = Tasks
A = Actions
R = Results

Example Question: Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills.

Situation Define the situation or "set the stage." Every year, my student organization sponsors a fundraising event to benefit a local food bank
Task Identify the task/project that you performed. As Philanthropy Committee Chair, I was in charge of organizing the event last semester
Action Describe the actions you took/initiated. Make sure to use "I" language and focus on your specific actions and skills that you used to accomplish the task. I organized and led a committee of 8 members to handle logistics involved in the fundraiser. I managed the 2,000 dollar budget, created the timeline and delegated responsibilities to each committee. I primarily focused on marketing the event. Using social media and old fashioned flyering, I raised awareness of the event to the point that we had over 100 attendees RSVP.

Summarize the result.

I was very proud of the event. 250 people attended the event and we raised $5,000 for the local food bank.

Are you ready for a Behavioral Interview?


Virtual interviews are a convenient and cost-effective alternative to the traditional in-person interview for potential employers. However, there are format-specific elements that students and new graduates need to understand and consider when preparing for a video interview.

How can I prepare?

  • Understand the technology and be comfortable with it-Don't sign up for a video interview until you're comfortable with the process. Learn what you can and can't do with the audio and video controls. Find out what your image looks like-and how to look your best-and where to look once the interview begins. Being adept with the technology gives you credibility as an "online professional."
  • Consider image and the interview environment-Dress professionally as a video interview is an interview. Ensure the background of the interview area is consistent with the image you want to portray to recruiters. Remove or silence all distractions, such as cell phone ringers, e-mail alerts on the computer, music, pets, roommates, and more.
  • Test all settings and connections beforehand-Make sure the settings are optimized and all connections are working prior to the interview to avoid any issues during the interview.
  • Be prepared for a system hiccup-And even though you're thoroughly prepared, have a Plan B ready in case the technology fails during a video interview. For example, have your cell phone ready to use in case the connection is unacceptable or drops. Being prepared in such a manner and making a smooth transition to another method in light of unexpected problems can impress an employer.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.


Second interviews are the organizations way of interviewing only top candidates. Second interviews may involve day long or overnight visits including meals, travel, lodging, presentations, and multiple interviews with search committees, human resources, and/or other key personnel.

Second interviews often focus on areas of concern for either party and may involve salary and benefits questions. Display your interest in the job and company, and ask relevant questions.

Ten Rules of Interviewing

You may be asked about salary requirements in the initial stages of the job interview process:

  • Research the job market and learn the salary range for the types of jobs for which you will be interviewing
  • Determine your minimun requirements and be prepared to consider a reasonable salary range and benefits
  • Avoid naming a specific figure, simply say you are open to negotiation should you be offered the job

Don't miss your chance to follow up:

  • Handwritten note
  • Email
  • Phone Call

You have already quantified your qualifications, now it is time to negotiate based on your unique knowledge, skills, and abilities in relation to the job and job market:

  • Negotiation involves compromise, work to acheive a win-win situation
  • Don't discuss your personal or financial problems, focus on your ability to perform and achieve results
  • Some salary scales are non-negotiable, you might ask for accelerated reviews or non-fixed benefits such paid memberships, time off, flexible schedule or a delayed start date

After considering a job offer (the job, salary, benefits, etc.) and weighing the pros and cons, you make a decision: You don't want the job.

The reality is, not every job is right for every person. Remember the purpose of the interview: It gives the company representatives an opportunity to decide if you're a good candidate for the job and lets you evaluate if the position and company are the right fit for you.

If you choose to reject the company's offer, here are five things to know:

  1. It's okay to say no, thank you. You aren't the first person to reject a job offer. In addition, the position is going to be filled by another candidate.
  2. A rejected employer may appreciate your answer. If you know the job or company is not a good fit for you, declining the job offer is the right thing to do. Hiring an employee is expensive. Accepting a job offer you are unsure of-and then resigning a few months later-costs time and money for both you and the organization.
  3. Say thank you. There must have been something that kept both you and the employer interested through at least two rounds of interviews. Be sure to thank the person offering the job for their interest in hiring you. (Note: Leave a good impression. You may want to work for that company in the future!)
  4. Be professional when you tell other people. Don't bad-mouth a company or specific person within an organization. Note: If you believe any interviewers acted inappropriately (asked illegal or uncomfortable questions), speak to someone in your campus career center. While it's not appropriate for you to speak ill of someone in your rejection letter, you also need not let improper recruiting conduct go unaddressed.
  5. Give them your decision in writing. It is imperative that you send an e-mail or letter to the person making the offer letting him or her know of your decision. In large organizations, a formal job offer letter may come from a human resources representative. In this case, send a letter to the hiring manager and forward a copy of the letter to the HR representative. As with thank-you letters, rejection letters are professional and concise.

Sample Rejection Letter

Mr. Connor Orr
Senior Account Manager
PPR Public Relations
224 Smith Street
Boston, MA 55555

Dear Mr. Orr,

Thank you very much for offering me the public relations assistant position with PPR Public Relations. I enjoyed meeting with you and your staff.

After much deliberation, I regret to inform you that I will be unable to accept your offer. Please know that my decision was a difficult one, as I was impressed with the opportunity presented.

I wish you the best in your recruiting efforts for the position. Perhaps our paths will cross in the future.

John Stafford

cc: Patti Landish, HR Representative PPR Public Relations

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Reasons why candidates don't receive a job offer

  • Lack of enthusiasm and interest in the position
  • Inappropriate attire
  • Responses do not contain enough detail
  • Inability to connect experiences and education to the position and the organization
  • Unclear and/or unrelated career goals
  • Limited knowledge of the organization and the position

Understanding Job Fit and Benefits

You have worked hard, hopefully with an end in mind but remember this is only the beginning:

  • What do you need from a boss, supervisor, mentor, or team?
  • How do you fit in and where does this opportunity lead?
  • What are the onboarding, job training, and professional development opportunities?

You have already quantified your qualifications, now it is time to negotiate based on your unique knowledge, skills, and abilities in relation to the job and job market:

  • Negotiation involves compromise, work to acheive a win-win situation
  • Don't discuss your personal or financial problems, focus on your ability to perform and achieve results
  • Some salary scales are non-negotiable, you might ask for accelerated reviews or non-fixed benefits such paid memberships, time off, flexible schedule or a delayed start date

A good benefits package can add as much as 30 percent to your overall compensation, and some of it goes to you untaxed. Many organizations that have recruiting programs aimed at hiring new college graduates offer a wide range of benefits.

Evaluating a Job Offer

Trying to decide what is right for you? There is no right or wrong way to make a career decision, your choices should reflect both personal and financial priorities. It is important to take time to research and evaluate opportunities and their relevance to your life and career goals.

Know your market value. Now is the time to apply your research skills and do your homework. Salary is often based upon the value of your ability to produce:

  • What is the national average for graduates in your field?
  • What special skills and experience do you have to offer?
  • What is your bottom line and how can you improve their bottom line?

You may be asked about salary requirements in the initial stages of the job interview process:

  • Research the job market and learn the salary range for the types of jobs for which you will be interviewing - Job Seekers Salary Calculator
  • Determine your minimun requirements and be prepared to consider a reasonable salary range and benefits
  • Avoid naming a specific figure, simply say you are open to negotiation should you be offered the job

Salary is only a part of the benefits package and evaluating an offer goes beyond compensation:

  • Job - Does the position help you meet your current and future goals?
  • Location - What about the commute and cost of living?
  • Organization - Have you considered the company culture, people, and relationships?
How to Prepare for Negotiating
Job Offer Checklist
Negotiation Tips & Blunders

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