Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

The interview is an opportunity to showcase your professional strengths, goals, and passion to a potential employer. These pointers will help you prepare for the big day...

Differentiating Yourself in Interviews

Once you have successfully made it to the interview stage of your job search, you need to ensure that you clearly differentiate yourself from your competition. Your first step is to have clearly in your mind three to five core branding themes that you will want to reinforce at every opportunity.

While you will probably not be able to predict many of the questions you will be asked, you can prepare for a typical opening question and an often used type of interview question – the behavioral interview question.

A Typical Opening Question

As an icebreaker, interviewers will often ask some version of “Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?” When you hear this question, you should hear “Tell us why you are the ideal candidate for this position.”

In your answer you will want to highlight both your fit and qualifications consistent with your branding themes. You can begin your answer “Let me tell you about myself relative to this position” or “Let me tell you why I am the ideal candidate for this position.”

Behavioral Interview Questions

Many organizations today are using behavioral interview questions. These questions are designed to uncover specifically how you have approached situations in the past that are similar to those you will face in the future.

Behavioral interview questions are tied to competencies. Competencies are the behaviors or actions that demonstrate the knowledge, abilities, or skills necessary for superior performance.

Here are some examples of behavioral interview questions (with the corresponding competency in parentheses):

  • Describe a situation where you were able to persuade someone to see things your way (influencing others).
  • Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a student and how you resolved it (managing conflict).
  • Describe a situation where you had to deal with cross-cultural differences (managing diversity).

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

When answering behavioral interview questions, follow this formula:

  • First, describe the situation you were in or the challenge you faced.
  • Second, describe the action you took. Use “I” and not “we” – the interviewer is looking specifically for what you did.
  • Finally, describe the result particularly in terms of how you met your employer’s needs.

For more information about interviewing, or to schedule a mock interview, contact your career and academic advisor.