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Interview Preparation

by Tina Harney, Career Counselor, Washington State University - Vancouver

There are so many elements to interviewing and one article certainly will not be able to cover it all. As a result, I will focus on one of the biggest things that helped me be successful in interviews...


When I prepare for an interview, I sit down with the job description, my application materials, and a notebook. Prior to applying for the job, I should have come up with a list of skills needed in the field and this role that need to appear in my resume and cover letter. I write this list in my notebook.

Next, I scan through the job description and write down each skill, trait, or experience necessary to do that job. I will even look at the tasks listed and think about what skills are needed to complete those tasks and I will add those to the list. Once I feel I have a complete list of skills or tasks I might be asked about during an interview, I will jot down notes for 2-3 examples for each one to create a “bank” of examples.

Once you have that “bank” of examples, practice them! Use the STAR method to practice them!

S – Situation – provide context for the situation.

T – Task – what was the task at hand?

A – Action – what action did you take specifically?

R – Result – what was the result or outcome? What did you learn? Would you do anything differently next time?

Once I had practiced talking about my examples in this format, I realized I would answer questions providing an example with each answer (even if I wasn’t specifically asked for one) by using the STAR method without even thinking about it. It is always important to note that your answers should not be rehearsed word-for-word, but should be practiced enough that you are confident in your ability to articulate the answer and example in a concise manner.

I mentioned this method of preparing for an interview during a mock interview for a student planning to attend medical school. Also on the panel was someone from my search committee. She jumped in after I explained saying that it was very clear when I answered questions that I took the time to flip through the “rolodex of examples” in the back of my mind before choosing the right one and answering the question I was asked.

What is your most successful interview preparation trick?

Published on December 12, 2019

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