Interviewing and negotiating a job offer can feel intimidating, but the Career Development Center (CDC) is here to help! Read on for the information and resources you need to approach the interview process with confidence.
For additional assistance with interview and salary negotiation preparation, learn how to schedule an appointment with a CDC counselor.
Preparing for Interviews
Preparing for an interview is like studying for an exam – the more time and effort you invest, the greater your chances of success. Follow the steps below to ensure that you’re ready to make a great impression!
Big Interview is the resource you need to help you ace your next interview. Watch expert video tutorials to learn how to tackle the toughest interview questions, then get hands-on practice with virtual mock interviews tailored to your specific industry, job, and experience level. View instructions for accessing Big Interview on the CDC CareerLINK page.
When preparing for an interview, you want to learn as much about the company as possible. Start by reviewing the company’s website and social media channels to find out what products or services they offer, who their target audience is, and what their mission and values are. Glassdoor and news articles featuring the company are also great resources for learning more about the organization.
In the past, interviews almost always took place in person, but they now occur in a variety of formats. The preparation process is similar for each, but it’s important to understand the specifics of different interview types so that you know what to expect.
Employers may conduct initial interviews by phone, followed by virtual or in-person interviews. Phone interviews are often shorter than other types of interviews. It is recommended that you keep your responses for a phone interview a bit more succinct than for other interview formats since you are unable to receive visual cues to ensure an employer is still paying attention.
One-Way Video Interview
One-way video interviews require you to record yourself responding to preselected interview questions and are often used as an alternative to phone interviews during the initial screening process. You may or may not receive the interview questions in advance. Make sure to read the instructions carefully and record yourself in a quiet space with a neat background.
Virtual interviews are live, two-way interviews conducted using video conferencing software. When participating in a virtual interview, you will want to dress professionally and ensure that your background is neat and free from distractions. Resist the urge to read from notes during the interview – employers can tell!
In group interviews, multiple applicants are interviewed at the same time. It can be challenging to find the balance between monopolizing the conversation and being overshadowed by the other applicants, so try not to speak significantly more or less than everyone else.
In a panel interview, you will be interviewed by multiple people. When you are asked a question, it is recommended that you start by addressing the person who asked you the question and then direct your answer to others in the room as you respond. It’s important to make eye contact and engage with each member of the panel.
Multiple Mini Interview
Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) are used by many professional schools (e.g., medical, dental, physical therapy) as part of their admissions process and consist of a series of short, structured interview stations used to assess applicants’ soft skills. At each station, you’ll be presented with a question or scenario, and you’ll then have a short period of time to prepare an answer. You may want to invest in a book or course to help you prepare, but you can get started with a brief introduction to the MMI.
While it's impossible to predict exactly what you will be asked during an interview, the following questions are extremely common across industries and job types.
Tell me about yourself.
This is your opportunity to share whatever information best demonstrates your qualifications for the job. This typically includes a brief overview of relevant education, experience, and skills.
Why do you want to work here?
Even if the organization you’re interviewing with isn’t your dream company, your goal is to make them feel like you have a genuine interest in working there. Use this as an opportunity to share your knowledge about the organization and explain why this opportunity is a great fit for you.
What are your greatest strengths?
When sharing strengths with an employer, be sure to include specific examples. For instance, if you talk about your leadership skills, you’ll want to provide examples of when you have been a strong leader, such as a particular group project you oversaw or an event you led with a campus organization. Make sure that whatever strengths you choose to share are relevant to the position.
What are your greatest weaknesses?
Talking about weaknesses can feel challenging because you want to be honest without making the employer doubt your abilities. Consider the following tips when formulating your answer:
- Stay away from any weaknesses that relate to direct requirements of the job.
- Avoid cliché responses such as saying that you are a perfectionist or that you work too hard. Employers have heard these answers time and time again, and they do not demonstrate the ability for self-reflection or critical thinking.
- Demonstrate a growth mindset by framing weaknesses as “areas for improvement” or “opportunities for growth.”
- Talk about weaknesses you are able to change (think skills-based rather than personality-based) and focus your response on how you have already made progress.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Employers are not expecting you to have every detail of your life figured out, but they want to know that you have career goals. You can share what type of role or field you see yourself working in, additional training or certifications you would like you to receive, and/or specific skills you would like to develop. This is not the time to share personal goals such as wanting to get married or start a family. If applying for a full-time job, you will also want to avoid topics that indicate you are likely to leave the company.
Why should we hire you?
This is your opportunity to share with the employer anything that makes you uniquely qualified. Are you bilingual and thus able to serve a larger customer base? Are you already proficient in a software system you would need to use in this position? Do you have previous experience working with a similar client population? Use this question to highlight the strengths you bring and your ability to benefit the company.
Check out Big Interview for more information on how to approach these and other common interview questions. View instructions for accessing Big Interview on the CDC CareerLINK page.
Behavioral interview questions ask you to provide an example from the past as an indication to employers of how you might respond to a similar situation in the future. These questions often start with the phrase, “Describe a time when...” and are best answered using the STAR Method outlined below.
The STAR Method is a framework that helps you provide clear and concise responses to behavioral interview questions. Make sure to address each part in your response.
|Briefly provide necessary context or background for the example you are sharing.||Describe the goal you were working toward and include any challenges you faced.||Explain what you did to complete the task and how you did it.||Share the outcome of your efforts, including accomplishments and/or important lessons you learned.|
Describe a time when you had to work with a team member who wasn’t pulling their weight.
|In my Business Communications class, we were assigned a group research project. One of the group members was often late to our group meetings or missed them altogether. This was causing resentment in the group, and we were struggling to stay on schedule.||I spoke to this group member individually, and I asked her if everything was okay. She told me that she had been having car problems and that it was difficult to get to campus for our meetings. I recommended that we talk with the other group members to see if we could switch to Zoom meetings.||The rest of the group agreed to meet via Zoom, and everyone was able to make it to the remainder of our meetings. We completed the project on time and earned an A. This experience taught me that it's important to demonstrate empathy and flexibility when working with others. When you let others know that you are there to support them, it’s much easier to work together and find solutions that will work for everyone.|
Common Behavioral Questions
Behavioral questions typically try to assess skills such as conflict resolution, customer service, decision-making, time management, and leadership. The list below provides a sample of the types of behavioral questions you might face in an interview.
- Give me an example of a time you showed initiative and took the lead.
- Describe a time when you had a heavy workload and competing deadlines. How did you set priorities?
- Tell me about a time that you had to keep calm under pressure.
- Describe a decision you made that wasn't popular and explain how you were able to implement it.
- Think of a time you faced an ethical dilemma. How did you respond?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you handle it?
- Give me an example of a time you had to deal with an unhappy customer.
- Describe a time that you had to work with a difficult manager or colleague.
- Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
Choosing Examples for Behavioral Questions
Be sure to select examples that paint you in a positive manner and highlight skills relevant to the job. Examples can come from jobs, internships, class projects, clubs, volunteer work, or any other types of experience you’ve had. If you can’t think of a good example for a particular question, provide the employer with the next best example you have that demonstrates the same skillset. For instance, if you can’t think of a time when you had to serve a difficult customer, you can still highlight your conflict resolution skills by sharing a time you worked with a challenging team member.
If you are unable to come up with any relevant examples for a given question, tell the employer what you would do if that situation were to occur. Also, when sharing an example that involves teamwork, be sure to focus your answer on what you as an individual contributed. The employer wants to hire you, not the entire team!
At the end of an interview, employers will typically ask if you have any questions for them. Your answer should always be yes! Asking thoughtful questions will show the employer that you are taking this opportunity seriously and thinking critically about the role, and it will also help you determine if this position is the right fit. Plan on asking 2-3 questions but prepare 4-5 in advance in case the employer ends up addressing some of your questions during the interview. The following are questions you might consider asking:
- What qualities or skills do you think someone needs to succeed in this position?
- Can you elaborate on the day-to-day responsibilities this job entails?
- What are some of the challenges you’ve seen people in this role or on this team encounter?
- If I were in this job, how would my performance be measured?
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What steps has your company taken to ensure that this is a diverse and inclusive workplace?
- What is the natural career progression in this organization for someone in this role?
- What do you like best about working here?
- What is the next step in the interview process?
It’s important to avoid questions about salary and benefits at this point in the interview process. Because employers will be more willing to negotiate once they know that you’re the candidate they want, it is to your advantage to wait until after you’ve received a job offer to discuss compensation.
There are a number of simple things you can do to make a great impression when meeting employers.
For an in-person interview, plan to arrive about 10-15 minutes early. Leave plenty of time to find where you’re going and park. One of the worst things you can do for an interview is to be late!
What you wear to an interview will depend to some degree on the industry and role. If you are applying for a position with a top accounting firm, a suit would be ideal. For a part-time retail job, a collared shirt or blouse with nice pants would be more appropriate. When in doubt, err on the side of more professional and conservative, avoiding anything trendy or revealing.
Visit Big Interview for more detailed information about how to dress for an interview. View instructions for accessing Big Interview on the CDC CareerLINK page. Once signed in to Big Interview, select the [Learning] tab and click on [Fast Track]. Click on [Interview Fundamentals] and select [What to Wear].
Bring the following to an in-person interview:
- Multiple copies of your resume
- A copy of your references
- A notepad and pen for taking notes
- A portfolio with examples of your work, if appropriate
Be sure that your phone is turned off, and if interviewing virtually or by phone, make sure that you are in a quiet space.
After an interview, send a thank you email within 24-48 hours. Email is recommended over a written note because it is delivered instantaneously and will reach employers who are working remotely. If you were interviewed by multiple people, it’s ideal to send a personalized thank you email to each one. (Ask for their business cards or email addresses at the conclusion of the interview if you don’t already have that information.) If you’re short on time, a general thank you addressed to the committee and sent to your primary contact on the hiring committee will suffice.
The thank you email is an opportunity to express your appreciation for the opportunity to interview as well as reiterate your interest in and qualifications for the position.
Sample Thank You Email:
Dear Ms. Ortiz,
Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me earlier today. I enjoyed hearing about the Orange County Office on Aging’s amazing programs, and I am confident that I am an ideal fit for the Health Education Intern position. I believe that my coursework in Health Science has provided me with the necessary knowledge to design effective health programs, and my two years of volunteer work with Meals on Wheels of Long Beach has helped solidify my desire to continue working with older adult populations. I am excited about the opportunity to join your team and am happy to answer any additional questions you may have. Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Did you know that many employers offer a lower salary than they are willing to pay because they expect you to negotiate? Follow the steps below to ensure that you’re not leaving money or benefits on the table when accepting a job offer.
To effectively negotiate your salary, thorough preparation is needed. Dedicating time to each step below will help you to feel confident and well-informed when responding to a job offer.
Research Salary Information
When preparing to negotiate salary, the first step is to research typical salaries based on the industry, position type, and location. Salary.com and Glassdoor are the best places to begin this research. You may also want to conduct informational interviews with professionals in the field and ask them about the typical salary range for the type of position you’re interested in. Never ask someone how much they personally get paid. Learn how to request an informational interview and what questions to ask on the CDC Informational Interviews page.
Determine Your Target Salary
Once you’ve identified the typical salary range for a position, you will need to decide what salary you want to ask for. This is called your target salary, and it should fall close to the average salary for the position based on your research. Factors that may influence how far you move up or down from the average include how well your qualifications match the job description and what your expenses are. If you are relocating for a role, you can use a Cost of Living Calculator to determine what kind of salary you will need to cover living expenses in your new city. Remember that your target salary should always be based on data, not just wanting more money.
Identify Your Target Salary Range
When negotiating a job offer, it is best to present your desired salary as a range rather than a specific number because it shows the employer that you are flexible. To determine your target salary range, place your target salary at the bottom and move up 5% - 15%. For example, if your target salary is $50,000, you might share with an employer that you were looking for something in the range of $50,000 - $55,000. Though it may seem counterintuitive to put the salary you want at the bottom of the range, this increases your chances of walking away with your desired salary. Be sure not to provide a range that is too large or your expectations will seem unrealistic to employers.
Determine Your Walk-Away Point
Your walk-away point is the lowest salary you are willing to accept before turning down the job. It’s important to decide upon this number in advance so that you don’t end up accepting a salary you simply cannot afford. However, it is also important to take the following into consideration before turning down a job offer because of the salary:
- Benefits such as health insurance or tuition reimbursement
- How competitive the job market is
- How valuable this experience will be on your resume
- Opportunities for promotion and higher salary in the future
Assess the Value of Benefits
When evaluating a job offer, it’s important to consider the value of available benefits. Benefits to consider include:
- Health/dental/vision insurance
- Life/disability insurance
- Vacation time
- Flexible schedule
- Sick leave
- Telecommuting options
- Tuition assistance
- Retirement plans
- Stock options
- Professional development opportunities
Depending on the organization, benefits may be standard for all employees and not open for negotiation. Regardless, it is important that you consider their value when preparing to negotiate a job offer.
Reflect on Your Qualifications
In addition to determining your target salary, target salary range, walk-away point, and desired benefits, you must also decide which qualifications to highlight during the negotiation process. What skills, experience and accomplishments will you bring that make you worth the salary you are requesting? Perhaps you are bilingual and this will allow you to serve a wider customer base, or maybe you have a history of finding more efficient approaches to your work and thus decreasing expenses. In order to justify asking the employer for a higher salary, you will need to be able to communicate your value.
Following the tips below will help the the salary negotiation process to go as smoothly as possible.
Delay the Salary Conversation
Though it may be tempting to ask about salary during the interview process, it is best to wait to discuss salary until after you have received a job offer. Once an employer has decided that they want to hire you, they will be more willing to negotiate. If you share salary expectations early on that are higher than what they want to pay, that could factor into their decision of whether or not to hire you.
If an employer asks about your salary expectations before they’ve extended an offer, try to delay the conversation by saying something like, “I’ll be able to answer that more effectively once I have a better understanding of the role," or "I'm confident that we'll agree on a number that's in line with my qualifications and the market value for the position." If the employer pushes for an answer, provide a range rather than a specific number.
Let the Employer Speak First
If possible, let the employer provide you with an offer before sharing your desired salary range. It’s possible that the employer could provide you with a higher offer than you were going to ask for, so it’s best to let them go first. If they ask for your desired salary, you might say, "I would appreciate it if you made me an offer based on what you have budgeted for the position."
Ask for Time Before Responding
Once an employer extends an offer, it’s best to thank them and ask for time to think it over before responding. This will give you time to collect your thoughts and decide if and how you want to negotiate. Be sure to ask the employer when they need a response and the best way to get in touch with them. Always try to negotiate over the phone or via video conference rather than email.
Decide if You Want to Negotiate
The decision to negotiate is yours to make. Choosing not to negotiate means that you may be leaving money on the table, but only you can decide what is right for you.
Provide a Salary Range
When negotiating, remember to always provide a salary range rather than a specific number.
Provide Data to Support Your Request
A sound negotiation strategy is based on data. You need to provide the employer with justification for why you are worth what you’re asking for, so be ready to reference relevant salary data from your research and remind the employer of your qualifications.
It is unlikely that an employer will offer you your desired salary right away. Try to anticipate arguments that the employer might make during the negotiation, such as, "That's more than I have budgeted for this position," or "Others in this position within the company aren't paid that much." Preparing for these types of responses ahead of time will help you to be more calm and effective during the negotiation process.
Recognize that Negotiation Doesn’t Always Work
No matter how much time you spend preparing, negotiation is not always an option. The salary for some positions may be fixed and you will need either to accept or decline the position based on the initial offer.
There is no way to know exactly how an employer will respond when you negotiate a job offer, but it is good to try to anticipate ways that the employer might reply. Given your knowledge of the organization and your interaction with the employer, you will have to decide the extent to which you want to negotiate. Refer to the following sample salary negotiation for examples of how both the applicant and employer may respond during the negotiation process.
Initial Offer: $55,000
Your Target Salary: $60,000
Applicant: “I’ve reflected on your offer and am excited about the possibility of joining your team. Given my qualifications and work experience, I’m wondering if you have any flexibility on the salary.”
Employer: “Well, I could go as high as $57,000.”
Applicant: “I appreciate your flexibility. Based on my research of similar positions in this area, I was thinking $60,000 - $65,000 per year would be fair.”
Employer: “That’s really stretching our budget for this.”
Applicant: “I completely understand that. However, given my experience increasing revenue by 15% in my current position and my experience with reducing expenses, I hope we can work together to come to a salary that reflects my qualifications.”
Employer: “$60,000 is the best I can do.”
Applicant: “Thank you! Would you please send me the offer in writing so that I can review everything?”
On-Campus Interview Program
If you are seeking internships or full-time, professional employment, On-Campus Interviews (OCI) bring prospective employers to the Career Development Center (CDC) to interview and hire CSULB students and alumni. Employers may host OCI's either in-person or virtually. The model and location of the OCI will be available when applying and will be confirmed when a candidate receives directions on how to sign up for an interview.
Review the eligibility information and advantages below to determine if OCI is right for you.
Who is eligible?
Currently enrolled CSULB students or alumni who...
- Are seeking an internship or full-time employment
- Possess an active CareerLINK account (current student or alumni account)
What's the advantage of participating in OCI?
Employers make a special effort to interview CSULB students and recent alumni. They come to campus to seek you out, to make it convenient for you. It may be the only time in your working life when that will happen.
Competition is reduced when you interview for jobs earlier than other college graduates. Some students wait until after commencement to begin looking for work. OCI participants often have multiple job offers before or soon after graduating. The odds are significantly better to get an interview via OCI than in the open job market.
Review the information below to learn how to participate in OCI.
How do I apply for OCI?
- Select [Jobs and Internships – Search] from the left side of the CareerLINK homepage
- Under the search bar, click [Show Me]
- Select [All OCI Interviews] or [OCI Interviews I Qualify For]
- Click on the job titles that interest you and submit your resume and other requested documents
How do I upload my resume and other documents to CareerLINK?
- Select [My Resumes and More] from the left side of the CareerLINK homepage
- Click [Documents] and then [Add New]
- Select [Document Type] and click [Choose File] to select your document
- Label your document (e.g., J Smith Marketing Resume)
- Click [Submit]
- Select [Add New] to upload other documents including cover letters, unofficial transcripts, or writing samples, if desired
To upload a copy your unofficial transcript, copy the document from My CSULB and paste it into Word, WordPad or other text editor. Save it to your desktop or My Documents, then use your browser to select the document and upload it to CareerLINK.
Once my resume is uploaded in CareerLINK, can employers see it just by scanning the database?
No, employers can only view your resume if you apply for a position they have posted.
What is the difference between "Open" and "Preselect" interviews?
Open: Self-schedule an interview if you meet the employer's screening criteria on the job posting. No employer invitation is required for this type of interview. Select your interview time on CareerLINK. This option is first come, first served.
Preselect: If you meet the employer's screening criteria on the job posting, submit your resume for the OCI position. The employer will review all resumes and select candidates to interview. You will be notified by email if you have been invited to an interview. Then schedule your interview time on CareerLINK. You must first be invited to schedule an interview for a Preselect interview. Employers use this interview type most frequently.
How do the "Preselect" interviews work?
The example below shows schedule details for a Preselect interview.
- Submit a resume until 11:59pm on the [Resume Submission End] date to be considered for a Preselect interview
- Employers review the documents and select their interview candidates after the [Resume Submission End] date
- Those selected for interviews will receive notification by e-mail very early in the morning of the [Sign-Up Start Date]
- After receiving the notification email, sign in to CareerLINK to select your interview time
- Sign-ups end at 11:59 pm on the [Sign-Up End Date] and the schedule closes
Please note that the dates may change to accommodate the employer so check the dates that appear on the right-hand side of the job description page under [Schedule Details].
Why am I unable to submit my resume for some Preselect jobs?
You may not meet the employer's basic screening criteria for certain positions. You can review those requirements by looking on the right side of the job posting page beneath the interview date. If you don't meet each criterion, CareerLINK provides a [non-qualify because] message under [Application Status] at the top right of the job posting page.
How do I cancel an OCI appointment?
Signing up for an interview through OCI is a commitment that the CDC expects students to take seriously. Failing to show up for an interview or not canceling in a timely manner reflects poorly not only on students, but also on the University as a whole. For this reason, the CDC advises students to take special note of the following Cancellation and No Show Policies.
We understand that unexpected circumstances may arise. However, if you are unable to make a scheduled interview, interview appointments should be cancelled through CareerLINK whenever possible. Interviews can only be canceled online before 11:59 PM by the stated Sign-Up End Date noted under the schedule details. The Sign-Up End Date varies by employer and schedule - typically from 2-4 days before the interview date - so pay close attention! If the Sign-Up End Date has passed, the student must contact the OCI Coordinator directly at CDC.On-Campus-Interview@csulb.edu during regular business hours prior to the interview.