Career Advice| Preparing for Interviews

Tips on how to get that job you want

NDSU Career Center is located in Ceres Hall and is free for students to utilize.

As a soon-to-be college graduate, you and your peers will undergo many job interviews in the next few years as you leave North Dakota State and enter the professional world. Everyone needs to perform well in at least one interview in their life, so these are some basic steps to prepare you for an interview.

It’s not uncommon to be overwhelmed by your first interview and some will go better than others. Often, job interviews that go poorly do so for two reasons: a lack of preparation or unnecessary anxiety, two aspects that are common, yet easily avoidable.

People often put off the preparation stage until it’s too late. Preparation can be broken down into three parts: the questions to be prepared for, the answers you want to give and actually going through the motions of the interview process.

Common questions

Google is going to be your best friend when attempting to determine which questions you will be asked. Job search forums have endless lists of questions and tidbits of information people pull directly from their own past interviews and put online. You just have to look.

There are a handful of questions all employers typically ask to get the interview started, and, if you know your field, determining the questions that are likely to follow isn’t all that difficult. Nowhere is there more information than online.

It’s important to note that you don’t want to script your answers down to the word. You’ll come off as robotic, and trying to memorize answer after answer becomes stressful. Simply having a general idea of what you will say can be the difference between opening your mouth and letting words spill out or answering the question in an insightful, concise manner.

Answer preparation

The flip side to question preparation is answer preparation. There are some life experiences you’ve had (whether they were on the job or not) that would be idiotic to not mention in a job interview.

The best way to prepare to work these in is not by looking for specific questions to answer, but crafting the response so that it can be applied to a wider variety of potential questions.

Employers like to ask one or two questions for each category (e.g., get to know you, hypothetical, give me an example of a time when blank happened).

You may prepare for five or six different behavioral based questions, but the majority of those answers are useless because in reality they’re only going to ask you one or two behavioral questions. Being able to use your best answer regardless of which angle they take is key.


Going through the motions of an interview is perhaps the most important but useless aspect without utilizing the first two tips. The best way to prepare would be a question face-to-face in the form of a mock interview or something as simple as talking through your answers with a friend or family member. Just talking through your answers so that they can be critiqued is better than nothing despite how elementary it seems.

Having someone ask you questions is the next step. Going through a back-and-forth will boost your performance when the time comes. You will come across as prepared to the interviewer, appear as someone who is well-spoken and insightful and ultimately seem much more polished and professional. These two things will surely impress a potential employer.

Not only that, but going through the motions will ease your anxiety related to the unknowns of a job interview. Having the peace of mind and confidence that comes with knowing what to expect is worth the time it takes to speak with someone who has experience with job interviews is all it takes.

Reaching out

So many college graduates go from holding casual “I need to make money” jobs during their years as a student to daunting interviews at companies they hope to establish their careers at. The high stakes come with a flood of overwhelming thoughts and overthinking.

Each person’s case will be different, but opening up and admitting that certain aspects intimidate you and getting honest in regard to what you can and can’t do well is a great place to begin. If it’s specific questions about the job that are stressing you out, reaching out to whomever is coordinating your interview is a great place to begin. Just be honest so they can address your genuine concerns.  

The best people to talk to are always going to be those who have experience in the field you are hoping to enter. They’re going to understand the specifics of what employers are looking for and have invaluable advice because they themselves went through exactly what you might.

However, it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to get into contact with someone who has experience for each interview you have. If the ideal contact isn’t accessible to you, speak with someone you trust who knows your strengths and weaknesses as a person and has some experience of their own to speak from. Their feedback will undoubtedly calm you down, and if you have specific questions this is a great place to address them.


NDSU offers resources to help calm the anxiety of interviews, like the Career Center. Their professional staff comes with a wide range of expertise, ranging from internships to changing majors and career trajectories entirely. Regardless of your request or concern, if it’s career related, they will help.  

Students can set up mock interviews for the same day. Additionally, there is always someone on hand to review your cover letter, resume or simply talk with you about the job searching process in general whenever you have time to drop in.

Some companies target NDSU graduates specifically and use the Career Center’s professional staff to communicate everything they’re looking for in potential employees.

It’s OK to fail

With all of this advice, it’s important to remember that everyone will have a job interview go poorly at some point. When it does, it’s on you to do what you can to improve for the next time.

Listing what you wish you had done differently and then making the changes you can is the best way to start. Over time, you’ll begin to lose certain habits altogether and will begin noticing and refining things you hadn’t before, which will leave you a polished interviewee.

So often students stress over one interview specifically because, in their mind, that job is the golden ticket to their career when there are often hundreds (if not thousands) of jobs in each field that would set their careers up for success down the road.

Don’t let yourself hyper focus on one or two positions you think would be perfect. Instead, affirm to yourself the strengths you possess and begin looking for ways to build off them and continue rounding yourself out as a person. There will always be quality jobs available and it’s up to you whether you will be prepared.

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