An interview is a conversation with a company to help both you and the organization determine if you are a good fit. It is important to prepare for an interview because it will help you feel more confident and comfortable. Interviewing is a learned skill. The more practice and preparation you do, the easier it becomes and the more competitive of a candidate you will be.
Dress professionally—a suit and tie is appropriate if you have one, otherwise wear a dress shirt or professional top and dress pants or skirt (at least knee length). Clothes should be clean and wrinkle free. If you are in need of professional clothing, visit the CSE Career Fair webpage to get connected with community partners for low-to-no cost professional clothing.
Research the Organization
Before your interview, research the organization so that you can articulate why you are a good fit for the company. Find out what the company’s mission/purpose is, its size and structure, what services/products it provides, any awards/recognition it has received, and if it has recently been in the news. See the Researching Employers and Industries Guide for research strategies.
Prepare Questions for the Employer
At the end of your interview, the employer will likely ask if you have any questions. This is your opportunity to ask anything that would be helpful to you as you assess your fit with the company and the position. It is important to ask thoughtful questions that cannot be answered through basic research. Use the information you gain from researching the company to develop more in-depth questions.
Prepare to Answer Interview Questions
Understand and be able to articulate your values, interests, skills, strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, transferable skills, related experience, and career goals.
Behavioral based questions (“Tell me about a time when...” or “Give me an example of...”) are the most common types of questions asked in an interview. Employers believe that past behavior predicts future performance; therefore, they will ask you questions about the skills they are seeking and want to hear specific examples from your past that demonstrate these skills. Examples may come from work experience, internships, academic experiences, extracurricular activities, or volunteer work. The STAR (Situation/Task, Action, Result) technique described below is useful for structuring your answers to ensure you are telling a detailed story. Before your interview, write down several stories that demonstrate the skills the employer is seeking using the STAR technique, then practice telling these stories.
Situation/Task: Description of specific situation, project, or task related to the skill
Action: Description of specific steps you took in the situation
Result: Outcome resulting from the action taken. Be specific. How did you know you were successful?
After the Interview
Within 48 hours of a job interview, it is crucial to send the interviewer(s) a thank you note expressing your sincere appreciation as well as your interest in the position. You may state why you think you are a good match for the position and outline your excellent candidacy by briefly discussing your qualities and skills. Include something specific that was discussed during the interview. Thank you notes can be nicely handwritten or sent via email. If they indicate at your interview that they are making a decision in the next few days, an email may be the best method to ensure they receive it before they make their decision.
For more details, tips, and practice questions, download our Interviewing Guide.
Evaluating and Negotiating an offer
Not all job offers are alike. Many factors contribute to differences between companies or applicants within a company. Some typical factors include location, size and type of employer, and years of professional experience. When evaluating a job offer, research all components of the offer to make sure they are fair and reasonable. If you have specific questions about an offer, contact the human resources department for that company. You also want to reflect on whether the position and the company are a good fit for you.
Salary Benchmarking Resources
The data on these sites should only be used to help benchmark average salaries, not as the only reason to ask for a higher salary.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey: BLS website
- CSE Graduate Survey Salary Data: CSE Career Outcomes and Salary Data webpage *For more detailed information, meet with a career counselor to review CSE graduate survey data.
- Market Value of Position: Minnesota State CAREERwise, Salary.com, PayScale, Glassdoor
- Cost of Living: Salary.com, Nerdwallet, Best Places
The College of Science and Engineering has developed employment offer guidelines for employers in order to give CSE students sufficient time to evaluate employment offers. Please be sure you review the timelines below for fall and spring recruitment cycles and communicate these timelines to your prospective employer. You can find the offer guidelines for employers on the Employer Recruiting Policies webpage.
Fall Recruitment: For summer intern to full-time conversion offers and returning internship offers, the employment offer must remain open until October 15 or a minimum of three weeks, whichever occurs later. For new internship and full-time positions, the employment offer must remain open for a minimum of three weeks.
Spring Recruitment: The employment offer must remain open for a minimum of two weeks.
Managing the Employment Offer Process
- Often an employer will make a job offer over the phone. Don’t accept the offer on the spot. Instead, make sure that the employer provides you with a written offer of employment (this includes internship positions). All terms of the offer should be clearly stated, including but not limited to position title, description of duties, location, start date, salary, bonuses, benefits, etc.
- If you have questions about your offer, contact the employer well before the offer deadline.
- Consider making a pros/cons list about the position and the company. Reflect on whether it is a company you want to work for (culture, size, industry type, location) and if the job duties are a good fit for you (match your interests, strengths, values, and personality).
- Evaluate the salary and benefits that the company is offering. Ask the company representative if you have any questions.
- If you need more time to make a decision about your offer, let the employer know as soon as possible. While we request that employers adhere to the above timelines, and grant students more time if needed, ultimately, it is the organization’s decision whether to give you an extension.
- If you have no interest in accepting an offer, let the employer know immediately. This allows the employer to follow up with other qualified candidates who are interested in the position.
- Do not be pressured into exploding offers, which are offers that students are expected to respond to in a very short period of time and often include conditions such as diminishing bonuses or other incentives.
- If you decide to negotiate your offer, be sure to conduct sufficient research to support your case. Please read our Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers Guide for more information on negotiating offers. Understand that not all offers are negotiable.
- Should you receive multiple job offers, please visit the CSE Career Center as soon as possible. Our career counselors can help you navigate the situation and communicate with employers in the most professional way possible.
- Once you accept a job or internship offer, whether via on-campus recruiting or a job pursued independently, you are committed to the position and company. At this point, we expect that you will halt your job search. This includes refraining from applying for any other positions, canceling previously scheduled interviews, and declining any new interview invitations.
- The employer will usually ask that you sign a contract/offer letter.
- Accepting a job or internship offer after you have already accepted another offer is unprofessional and unethical. Reneges can harm your professional reputation and jeopardize future employment. In addition, reneging on an offer can affect an employer’s willingness to continue recruiting at the University of Minnesota. Often employers will inform the CSE Career Center if a student reneges on an employment offer. Consequences for reneging may include discontinuation of GoldPASS Powered by Handshake access and other career services resources.
If you have any questions about employment offer guidelines, please contact the CSE Career Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-624-4090.
For more details, tips, and example negotiation approaches, download the Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers Guide.