washington university in st. louis
college of architecture
graduate school of architecture & urban design
career development services
career services for a lifetime of successful career management
get the offer
Erika Fitzgibbon, M.Ed.
career development office
campus box 1079
one brookings drive
st. louis, mo 63130-4899
There are many different types of interviews you may encounter. The type you have
depends on when it occurs during the application process and who conducts it. For
example, a human resource representative may have a different goal in conducting the
interview than a hiring supervisor. Since different people within the company approach
interviewing differently, plan what you will say depending on the situation.
Human Resources Interview
Human resource professionals are usually trained interviewers. Their role is to evaluate
your overall potential and decide how well you fit within the company. They focus on
how you present yourself as well as your qualifications to do the job. Questions tend to
focus on your goals and attitudes as well as your previous experience. This is most
often the first interview and is designed to screen applicants either in or out.
When interviewing with a supervisor, the questions tend to be more job-specific. Since
these people are directly responsible for getting the work done, they want to be sure
you can perform the job. Expect to talk with them about your specific skills and
qualifications and to demonstrate that you are a team player. During this type of
interview it is important for you to have confidence in your abilities but never lie about
what you are capable of doing. A supervisor interview may occur first or it may come
after the human resource interview, depending on the size and style of the company.
The group or panel interview generally consists of a situation where you are interviewed
by three to six people. There is often a structured format using a prepared set of
questions that is divided up between the interviewers. In this type of interview, you will
want to make eye contact with each of the interviewers. You may want to direct your
attention to the person asking the question or briefly scan the room to see how others
are reacting to your response. Even if there is a leader, try to spread your attention
evenly throughout the group. For the most part, employers will tell you prior to the
interview what the format or structure will be in a group situation.
This is a standard type of interview in which you spend several hours at the employer’s
location. There are usually a number if interviewers you meet throughout the course of
a day. You may interview with each person individually or in small group settings. The
interviewers may have a structured format or they may ask the same questions over
and over. Remember during this type of interview to maintain your interest and
enthusiasm about the company and the position.
interview types continued
This is the interview with the person who will make the hiring decision. The focus of
this interview is usually different from the others. At this type of interview, you will have
already been screened and approved. The human resource professional has passed you
on and enough interviewers have judged you favorably. The purpose of this final
interview is to decide how well you will fit the team. Any problems raised during earlier
interviews may be addresses during this time. Finally, the interviewer will determine if
you have the right “chemistry” for the organization.
The Meal Interview
This type of interview is arguably the hardest of all. During a meal interview, the
employer has a chance to see you in a non-office environment and to observe your
social graces. Usually you will not be invited to a meal interview until you have already
demonstrated the appropriate skills and qualifications to do the job. This type of
interview is another form of the final interview and could lead directly to a job offer if
the employer determines you have the right “chemistry.” Remember to be polite and
observe standard table manners but most importantly remember to be yourself.
*Remember these are only guidelines to some standard interview types. No two
employers operate exactly the same way so you should always ask questions about
what to expect at the interview so you can be prepared!
preparing for an interview
Find out about the firm, their projects, awards, and recognitions. “Google” the
interviewers and any other staff members you will be meeting. Look at salary statistics
for the area/city, size of firm and type of position. Map out directions to the interview
location. Take a practice drive during the same time you will be traveling to the
interview to find out about traffic and road construction delays.
Here are just a few questions to guide your research:
How old is the firm? What are its services? Who are its customers? Who are its major
competitors? What is its reputation / industry standing? What are its short- and long-
term goals? How has the company resolved problems? Have there been recent
employee layoffs? What are the backgrounds of the principles? What training programs
Practice your introduction, handshake and interview question answers. Prepare
questions that you want to ask the interviewer. Think about examples and projects that
show your work ethic and talent. Be ready to talk about these things and bring them up
yourself if the interviewer doesn’t ask directly.
Have your interviewing outfit cleaned, pressed and ready to go! You should wear a
professional business suit. (Navy blue is best but you might also consider dark grey,
black, brown, etc…) You want the interviewer to remember you and your
professionalism, not specifically your outfit. Be sure to shine your shoes!
Remember to bring your resume, references, portfolio, questions you plan to ask, pen,
paper and a professional folder to carry these items. Don’t forget to include application
info with your materials just in case you are asked to fill one out prior to the meeting.
Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before your interview. Plan to get up early
enough to allow time to eat breakfast and drive to your interview with 10-15 minutes to
understanding the interview process
Most interviews consist of four stages, each with its own purpose. You can make a
better impression if you understand the purpose of each stage and can recognize when
the interview is shifting from one to another. However, keep in mind all interviews are
different and these are just some guidelines to follow.
1. Introductory or Opening Stage
Your goal is to make a positive first impression. Keep in mind, first impressions are
usually formed within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone, so you must be
prepared. Remember to dress appropriately, arrive on time, smile when introduced,
maintain eye contact, and offer a firm handshake. You will also want to be prepared
for “ice breakers” such as questions about your travel there or the weather. Pay
attention to the employer’s lead regarding a formal or informal setting. If the
interviewer introduces themselves as Mr./Ms. remember to refer to them throughout
the interview in this same way. If only a first name is given then that may be used.
If in doubt, chose the more formal approach.
2. Questions and Answers
During this stage the interviewer is trying to determine how well your attitude and
skills fit within the company. At this point, the focus usually moves to questions
about your work experience and qualifications. To be effective during this part of
the interview, remember to be positive and relate your experience/skills to the
responsibilities of the position.
3. Job Clarification
After the interviewer has asked questions to determine your “fit” within the
company, he ore she may give you an opportunity to ask questions. This is your
chance to follow up on topics that might have come up earlier or that you may want
to stress to the employer. During this stage, the employer is trying to determine
your level of interest in the company and the position. Before the interview you
should research the company and be prepared to ask a few questions.
4. Closing Stage
Your objectives for the close are very similar to those for the opening. You want to
strengthen the positive impression you have created and communicate your interest
in the position. At this point, you also want to learn about the next steps in the
selection process and set a time to follow up with the employer. Before leaving,
smile and offer a firm and sincere handshake.
after the interview
Follow up every interview by taking the time to review and evaluate the experience.
The best time to do this is immediately following the interview. Write down your
thoughts and assess the interview for future reference.
1. Assess Your Performance
Congratulate yourself for completing the interview! Write down your great answers and
review improvements you will make for the next interview. Ask yourself if there was
anything you forgot to include that would be helpful. Not this for your thank you letter.
2. Send a Thank You Letter
Write a letter or note to each person you spoke with during the interview. Make sure
you have their names and titles spelled correctly. Mail these letters within 24 hours of
your interview. If the company is making the decision quickly you may consider hand
delivering the letters to assure they are received in time.
3. Follow–up Calls
Always call back within one week of the interview to check on the progress of the
decision. Your call will remind the decision maker of your interest and enthusiasm and
will keep your name fresh in their minds. Remind yourself that this is just one of many
opportunities out there. Check back weekly and continue investigating other
4. Feedback and Networking
If you are not selected for the position, write a letter thanking them for the interview
opportunity and for informing you of the decision. Let the employer know you are still
interested if the job re-opens or if another position becomes available. Ask for feedback
as to what kept you from getting the job. Discuss other networking options the decision
maker might be aware of.
5. Evaluate Your Job Search
Always assess you job search plan and performance. Are there any contacts you may
have missed? Which leads are most productive at this time? Is it time to change your
focus? How can you improve your job search performance? Persistence is the name of
the game. “Your job” is out there, it’s a matter of finding the right match!
top 10 problem interview questions
1. Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?
2. Why should I hire you?
3. What are your major strengths?
4. What are your major weaknesses?
5. What sort of pay are you looking for?
6. How does your previous experience relate to what we do here?
7. What are your plans for the future?
8. What will your former employer say about you?
9. Why are your looking for this sort of position and why here?
10. Why don’t you tell me about yourself or your personal situation?
sample interview questions - suggested ways of answering
Q. Tell me about yourself.
A. This is the dreaded, classic, open-ended interview question and likely to be among
the first. It's your chance to introduce your qualifications, good work habits, etc.
Keep it work/academic and career related and make sure it’s 30 seconds or less.
Q. What are your strengths?
A. Point out your positive attributes related to the job. Emphasize your work ethic
skills, being dependable, able to meet tight deadlines, work well with others,
flexibility, problem solving, etc…
Q. What are your weaknesses?
A. Everybody has weaknesses, but don't go into details. Tell the interviewer that you
are only human but that you don’t have any weaknesses that would keep you from
doing a great job with their organization. If you are pressed further, talk about a
weakness that you have already overcome. Afterward, be sure to emphasize that
you would handle a future weakness in the same manner.
Q. Which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
A. Answer with positive, work-oriented adjectives, such as conscientious, hard-working,
honest and courteous, plus a brief description or example of why each fits you well.
Q. What do you know about our company/firm?
A. To answer this one, research the company before you interview.
Q. Why do you want to work for us?
A. Same as above. Research the company before you interview. Avoid the predictable,
such as, "Because it's a great company." Say why you think it's a great company.
Q. Why should I hire you?
A. Point out your positive attributes related to the job, and the good job you've done in
the past. Include any compliments you've received from management. Mention that
you are motivated and want to contribute to their success.
Q. What past accomplishments gave you satisfaction?
A. Briefly describe one to three work projects that made you proud or earned you pats
on the back, promotions, raises, etc. Focus more on achievement than reward.
Q. What makes you want to work hard?
A. Naturally, material rewards such as perks, salary and benefits come into play. But
again, focus more on achievement and the satisfaction you derive from it.
Q. What type of work environment do you like best?
A. Tailor your answer to the job and the firm where you are interviewing. Be
observant about your surroundings and rely on your research to help you know the
Q. Why do you want this job?
A. To help you answer this and related questions, study the job ad and or firm
information in advance. But a job ad alone may not be enough, so it's okay to ask
questions about the job while you're answering. Say what attracts you to the job.
Avoid the obvious and meaningless, such as, "I need a job."
Q. How do you handle pressure and stress?
A. This is sort of a double whammy, because you're likely already stressed from the
interview and the interviewer can see if you're handling it well or not. Everybody
feels stress, but the degree varies. Saying that you whine to your shrink, kick your
dog or slam down a fifth of Jack Daniels are not good answers. Exercising, relaxing
with a good book, socializing with friends or turning stress into productive energy
are more along the lines of the "correct" answers.
Q. Explain how you overcame a major obstacle.
A. The interviewer is likely looking for a particular example of your problem-solving
skills and the pride you show for solving it.
Q. Where do you see yourself five (ten or fifteen) years from now?
A. Explain your career-advancement goals that are in line with the job for which you
are interviewing. Your interviewer is likely more interested in how he, she or the
company will benefit from you achieving your goals than what you'll get from it, but
it goes hand in hand to a large degree. It's not a good idea to tell your potential
new boss that you'll be going after his or her job, but it's okay to mention that you'd
like to earn a senior or management position.
Q. What qualifies you for this job?
A. Tout your skills, experience, education and other qualifications, especially those that
match the job description well. Avoid just regurgitating your resume. Explain why.
Q. Why did you choose your college major?
A. The interviewer is likely fishing to see if you are interested in your field of work or
just doing a job to get paid. Explain why you like it. Besides your personal interests,
including some rock-solid business reasons might show you have vision and
Q. Why do you want to leave your current job?
Why did you leave your last job?
A. Be careful with this. Avoid trashing other employers and making statements like, "I
need more money." Instead, make generic statements such as, "It's a career move."
sample questions you could ask
What is the philosophy of the company?
What type of work does the firm or organization focus on? (commercial, residential,
education, healthcare, etc… Only ask if you couldn’t tell from their website.)
How does the firm approach the design process? (a group process, individually?)
If possible, ask about a particular project that interests you.
Is this a new position?
What is the size of the organization?
Who would be my supervisor? To whom would I report?
With whom will I be working most closely?
What are the first projects I will be working on?
What would be my main set of responsibilities within this internship or position?
What is the culture of the organization like? (is it formal, informal, etc…)
What do you like about working for this firm?
What so you foresee happening within the organization over the next 5 years?
What are the current challenges facing the company (or my department)?
What do you consider to be the company's strengths and weaknesses?
What are the company's long and short term goals?
Describe the work environment.
What attracted you (the interviewer) to this organization?
What are the most challenging aspects of the position?
Describe the opportunities for training and professional development.
Will I receive any formal training?
What is the company's promotional policy?
Are there opportunities for advancement within the organization?
When do you plan to make a decision regarding this position?
When can I follow up regarding your decision?
*These are just some ideas of questions you may want to ask an employer. Use your
own judgment as to which ones are most appropriate for the various interviews you
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are two major
laws that prevent employers form illegally discriminating against protected groups when
hiring. There are situations where specific jobs require an answer that in other
situations would be considered illegal. For example, when hiring for a job that requires
physical strength an employer could ask about health and physical condition. Keep in
mind that interview questions should focus on your ability to do the job. The following
is a list of questions that could be considered illegal to ask in some situations.
1. Questions about marital status, number or age of children, provisions for childcare,
your maiden name, pregnancy, childbearing, or birth control.
2. Questions regarding your birthplace, citizenship, nationality, or ancestry. However,
an employer may ask if you have the right to work and remain in the U.S.?
3. Name or address of your spouse, closest relatives, or children, or with whom you
reside. (Emergency information is acceptable.)
4. Questions regarding physical characteristics such as your complexion, color of your
skin, eyes, and hair, or your height or weight.
5. Questions concerning race, religion, or holidays you observe.
6. Questions regarding your general medical condition.
7. Questions about whether you’ve received Worker’s Compensation or have a criminal
8. Questions regarding military service, including specific dates, type of discharge, or
foreign military service.
9. Questions regarding financial standing including current or past assets, liabilities,
credit rating, etc...
10. Requests that you list the organization, clubs, societies, and lodges to which you
Before the Interview
• Bring a copy of your resume in case the interviewer has misplaced it, and offer it
even if it’s obvious the interviewer already has a copy.
• Research the company but don’t show off how much you know just to impress.
• Anticipate the questions and answers but try not to sound rehearsed.
• Prepare your “interview” clothing the night before and be sure not to wear too many
accessories or strong scents.
• Drive the route to the interview the day before, at around the same time, so you can
anticipate traffic and the length of time it takes you to get there.
• Remember to check your appearance before you leave home and again in the
restroom before you enter the reception area.
• Be on time!!!!!!! Arrive 10 minutes prior to your scheduled interview time.
• Prepare questions you want to ask and genuinely know the answers to.
• Review your resume in advance.
• Practice interviewing.
During the Interview
• Build rapport with the interviewer, first impressions are crucial.
• Emphasize your value to the company, the interviewer wants to know what you can
do for them, not what they can do for you.
• Be observant and listen carefully to what the interviewer is saying and asking. You
don’t want to ask a question that has already been answered or answer a question
that was never asked.
• Address the interviewer in the same manner he or she is introduced to you.
• Avoid bragging about yourself but voice your accomplishments in a positive team
• Ask questions as you move through the interview, you want to keep the interview a
conversation not and interrogation!
• Say you want the job by making a clear statement of interest.
• Don’t initiate the discussion of salary or benefits, ever!
• Remember to BE YOURSELF!!!!
job offer tips
Once you have the job offer, your window of opportunity has opened to negotiate your
salary and benefit package. Know your market value and be prepared to compromise
on issues that are not as important to you. Respect the decision maker and expect
respect in return. The following are some guidelines in preparing for the “job offer.”
The one who talks $$$$ first, loses in the negotiating game!!!!!
• Know your market value and salary goal. Research this on www.salary.com
• Determine for yourself the difference between needs and wants.
• Sell yourself, market your strengths.
• Take time to consider, preferably overnight.
• Respect all parties involved.
• Remember there are many benefits to a job, besides salary: advancement
opportunities, fringe benefits, work environment, good hours, vacation, etc..
• If possible, wait until you find out about the benefits offered before you answer
questions about salary.
• Don’t give a minimum salary you will accept, you will be too high or too
low. Instead try to make them give you a range first.
• For example, “I’m really interested in long-term growth and advancement. Right
now I am willing to consider any fair offer. What did you have in mind?”
• Or, ‘I don’t have a particular amount in mind at this time, I’m interested in a career
with your company and I am confident you will pay a fair amount.”
• If you pressed further you might say, “I am willing to consider any fair offer, what
did you have in mind for the salary range?”
• Finally, if forced to talk numbers provide a range, “I understand the range for this
area and your firm’s size is somewhere between the upper 30s to mid 40s. Is that
what you had in mind?”
evaluating job offers
how to make the right choice
Use the matrix below as a decision-making tool when comparing multiple job offers.
You may find it helpful to prioritize the importance of items listed before you begin.
Job Offer Comparison
In the “My Needs” column, weigh the criteria on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = least
important, 10 = most important) to determine your value for each factor. Next, on a
scale from 1 to 10, weigh how well each company satisfies each of the criteria. Finally,
total the columns. The higher the score, the closer the company comes to matching
Career & Professional My Needs Job Offer 1 Job Offer 2
Accountability/Adequacy of Staff
Title Promotion/Personal Growth
Decision Making Authority
Type of Work/Use of Talents & Skills
Size of Company
People Who Work There
Benefits (Pension, Insurance and
Paid Time Off (Vacation, Holiday,
Special Expenses (Relocation,
compensation and benefits
Below please find a list of possible elements included in an employer’s overall salary
and benefits packages. Consider these items when negotiating and evaluating job
offers. Mark A, B, or C next to relevant items to indicate your priorities (A = highest,
C = lowest)
compensation relocation expenses
base salary house/apartment hunting trips
bonus apartment/house location assistance
incentive bonus moving costs (direct or percentage)
money in lieu of benefits travel costs
benefits getting settled expenses
insurance programs realty fees
medical closing costs
dental unusual expenses
vision higher cost of living subsidy
life higher mortgage cost allowance
long-term disability bridge loan low-interest loan
stock options employee services
company paid pension employee assistance program
immediate vesting of pension annual physical exam
matching investment/profit sharing legal, tax, financial assistance
long-term disability thrift plan loans
other discount on purchases
tuition reimbursement status & life style perks
leadership/management development memberships
education/training expenses (IDP) professional association membership
subscriptions/professional publications health club
paid time off frequent flyer
personal days miscellaneous
vacation use of company apartment
medical premium hotel accommodations
holidays executive dining room
flex-time/comp time reserved parking
spouse’s travel expenses
perks company tickets to sporting events
company car paid sabbatical, maternity, etc…
commuting allowance larger better office