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Employers use various interviewing methods to assess the qualifications of job applicants. They’re also an opportunity for you to assess them by getting crucial information in your evaluation of the organization and the position. This page outlines some common aspects of the interview process and offers tips to help you prepare, perform, and follow-up.

Phone/Video Conference | On-site Interviews | Interview Attire | Meals | Technical Interviews

Phone/video conference

Most employers conduct their first interview with candidates via phone or video conference. This may be conducted by anyone from a human resources representative, search committee, or hiring manager. Here are some tips to help you prepare for and perform successfully in a phone or video conference interview.


  • Think about potential questions ahead of time by reviewing the job ad or looking at lists of sample questions, then practice answering them out loud. Illinois students can use Big Interview to record and evaluate your practice interview answers.
  • For phone interviews, make sure you’re in a quiet space with good reception.
  • For video interviews, test your technology and setup before the interview. Arrange equipment so that your camera is at eye-level and your face is clearly lit.

During the Interview:

  • Smile! Even if your interviewer can’t see you, smiling will project enthusiasm in your voice.
  • Don't rush. It's okay to pause for a few seconds and collect your thoughts before answering.
  • Keep your answers brief but substantive. Aim for somewhere between 1-3 minutes for each answer depending on the complexity of the question and the length of the interview.

After the Interview:

  • Take time immediately after the interview to document how it went. Write down what questions were asked and how you answered. Taking good notes will help prepare you for future interviews.

On-site interviews

Organizations will often invite their top candidates for extended on-site interviews. On-site interviews may include meetings, meals, tours, and presentations with various stakeholders and audiences. Below are a few tips to help you prepare for and perform successfully in an on-site interview.


  • Practice your answers out loud! Recall 10-12 stories that highlight your skills and experience relevant to the position and practice them until you feel comfortable delivering them. Illinois students can use Big Interview to record and evaluate your practice interview answers.
  • Research the organization and your interviewers as best you can. Good research includes looking at the organization’s website and social media, memorizing the job ad, and talking to people in your network familiar with the organization or similar roles.
  • Have a list of questions prepared that you want to ask. You can find a list of good interview questions to ask here.

During the Interview:

  • Be polite and professional to everyone you meet, even if they are not a part of the interview.
  • If presenting or bringing samples of your work, have backups! Do not rely on having only one way to access your materials.
  • Ask for contact information from all of your interviewers so you can send a thank you note to everyone you had a meaningful interaction with.

After the interview


  • Formal professional attire can vary greatly across industries and settings. In general, dress more formally than you would on a typical work day in the role.
  • Think about comfort and climate for all aspects of the interview including giving a presentation, tours, meals, or even long periods of inactivity.
  • Above all else, wear clothing that makes you feel confident!


  • Although meals can feel more relaxed, they are still part of the interview process so remain focused and professional.
  • Order food that is easy to eat and unlikely to get messy.
  • Ask the interviewer(s) plenty of questions so that you can finish your meal while they talk.

Technical Interviews

  • These interviews contain questions specific to the job itself in addition to numerical reasoning questions, coding challenges, word problems, peer discussions, puzzles, and brain teasers.
  • Practice whiteboarding or brainstorming through problems you might face in the role. Be prepared to communicate your thought processes visually and verbally.
  • It’s okay to ask questions! Make sure you understand the problem before trying to solve it.

Get Personalized Career Coaching

If you are a current graduate student or postdoc at the University of Illinois, you can schedule an appointment to meet with a career advisor to discuss the interview process and prepare for upcoming interviews.

Schedule an Appointment