Interview Skills

Interviews are an opportunity for you to learn more about a job and for a potential employer to learn more about you. Most interviews consist of a series of questions that will help the potential employer to determine if you are a good fit for the position.

If your interview goes well and an employer thinks your personality is a good fit for the job, you may be offered the position. If an interview goes poorly, take time to reflect on what you can do differently at your next interview. The more practice you have, the better future interviews will go.

Before the day of your interview, consider the topics below.

interview attire

An important piece of showing a potential employer that you would be a good fit is to look professional. Make sure to wear clean, unwrinkled clothing that would be appropriate for the job you are hoping to be offered. A good rule of thumb is to dress slightly more professionally than what you would be expected to wear on a typical day of work. A google search for the job title and attire will help give you some ideas of what professionals in the field wear.

If you need support in finding clothing, contact Alumni Services to visit the Hudson Link Boutique or to be connected with clothing resources near you.

be early, not on time

A company is usually on a very strict schedule when they are holding interviews. If you are even 5 minutes late, it will reflect poorly on you as a potential employee. Plan your route in advance, and aim to arrive at least 20-30 minutes before your scheduled interview time to account for any transportation delays.

bring what you need

An interview is your opportunity to show a potential employer that you are prepared and organized. Bring extra copies of your resume, a pen, a notebook or paper to take notes on, water, and a mask.

do research and bring questions

Employers like when a candidate has done thoughtful research about the company and has a few questions of their own. Before your interview, visit the company's website and try to learn what they do, how they do it, what their challenges are, and what sets them apart.

Make a list of questions you have about the company as you read through the website, and bring those to the interview. Some ideas are:

  • What would the perfect candidate bring to the position?

  • What do you imagine the company looking like in 5 years?

  • What do you enjoy about working for this company?

  • What is the most challenging thing about working for this company?

Asking questions may seem strange, but it is an important way to show you are truly interested in the job, the company, and the people interviewing you.

prepare for interview questions

When interviewers ask questions, it is easy to get nervous. Try to stay relaxed during the interview and listen attentively. If a question that is asked is tricky, it's okay to think for a moment. One good idea is to say "Oh, that's a good/interesting/hard question. Let me think for a moment." This way, the interviewers know that you need a moment to consider your response. Be sure your responses are longer than one word, but try to be brief. Your interviewers have a list of questions to get through, and you want them to have enough time to complete that list!

To prepare for typical interview questions, this is a great article to read.

discussing a conviction in an interview

In New York City, it is illegal for an employer to ask you about your conviction history. A criminal background check can be conducted only after a job offer is made.

If you interview for a job outside of the five boroughs of New York City, you must be prepared to discuss your conviction with confidence and positivity. Do not mention the details of the conviction or try to convince the employer of innocence. If the employer asks for specifics, state the charges for which you were convicted but do not elaborate or try to explain it away—it can sound false and will keep the focus on the negative. Be as brief as possible. For example, “I was convicted of felony sales of a controlled substance.”

Special consideration should be paid to the discussion of drug related convictions. It is illegal for an employer to ask you whether or not you have a history of alcohol or drug use disorder. Current illegal drug use is not protected under employment discrimination law, and employers can ask if an applicant is currently using illegal drugs.

Employers like to see that a person knows what happened was the result of a poor decision because it shows personal reflection, growth, and a desire for change. State that you’ve changed. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m a different person today.” Explain how you’ve changed by listing the positive steps you’ve made in your life. This can cover a wide variety of areas—education, military service, work history, volunteer activities, and/or skills obtained inside or outside of prison. (NYC Connections 2020)