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Preparing for an Interview

This is where all your work ultimately pays off—skills assessment, resume development, and communication with targeted employers. Preparation and practice are key to successful interviewing. A lack of thorough employer research is often interpreted as poor preparation and a lack of interest in the employer.

Quick Tips:

  1. Know your resume “inside and out.”
  2. Understand that the resume emphasizes your skills and accomplishments; it may be used in the interview to guide the conversation or as reference.
  3. Verbally practice answering questions (Yes! Out loud!)
  4. Do employer research.
  5. Attend an employer information sessions on campus if available
  6. Prepare your materials, clothing, and transportation the night prior to the interview so that you are not rushed the day of.
  7. Dress professionally for the interview
  8. Answer every interview question with supportive information; never provide a simple one- or two-word answer.
  9. At the end of the interview, ask questions. Doing this demonstrates your interest in the employer and allows you to better assess the opportunity
  10. After the interview, follow-up with a thank you!

Interviewing Guides

S.T.A.R. Method for Behavioral Interview Questions

In responding to behavioral questions, it is best to provide a specific example to support your response.

Frame the response using an example from your resume including: academic projects, classes, work experiences, and out-of-class activities.

Be very specific as you cover the four necessary steps (Situation, Task, Action & Result) for optimum success:

  • Situation: Give an example of a situation you were involved in that resulted in a positive outcome.
  • Task: Describe the task(s) required in the situation.
  • Action: Talk about the various actions you initiated or completed.
  • Result: Provide the results directly connected to your actions.

Looking for resources to help with technical interviews, coding interviews or case interviews? Check out the LinkedIn Learning platform and search for the type of interview by keyword. LinkedIn Learning is free for all UW-Madison students

Big Interview Software

UW-Madison has a license for Big Interview software to assist you with interviewing. We do not recommend using their resume templates, but the interview preparation information can be useful.

How to get started:

  • Read the Big Interview User Guide to learn more about using the system.
  • Go to Access Big Interview on the User Guide page and click the LOG IN box. The system will recognize your current net id and you will access your Big Interview account. You can also add Big Interview to your My UW tiles. 

Using the system:

  • The system is designed to help you learn more about interviewing and an opportunity to practice your interviewing skills. You can also receive AI feedback once you have created your practice videos.
  • Recommended Practice Sets for Engineering students using the Mock Interview Tool:

Sample Questions

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  • What led you to choose your field of major study? Why did you select UW-Madison? Was it a good decision?
  • What classes were the most challenging? The least challenging?
  • Describe your most rewarding college experiences.
  • Are your grades an accurate indication of your academic achievement?
  • Do you have plans for graduate or professional school?
  • Why weren’t you more involved in college activities?
  • What was the best part of your college experience?
  • A college degree is nothing special; everyone I am interviewing has one. What else do you have to offer me?
  • Provide an example of how you acquired a technical skill and converted it into a practical application.
  • How frequently did you skip classes while in college?


  • How have you prepared for this interview?
  • Why are you interested in opportunities with my company? What do you know about our company?
  • Why should we hire you instead of other equally qualified candidates?
  • Which trade publications do you read to keep informed about current trends?
  • What technical skills would you bring to this position?
  • What qualities do you think this position requires?
  • What interests you least about this job?
  • What do you see as the major trends in the field?
  • Why do you want to leave your current employer?
  • What salary would you anticipate?


  • Describe a situation in which your ideas or work conflicted with the ideas or work of a co-worker or supervisor.
  • What type of people do you find difficult to work with?
  • What have you learned from your past jobs?
  • How did your co-op/intern position contribute to your career growth?
  • Tell me of a situation where you worked under pressure.
  • You seem to have limited work experience; why do you think you could do this job?
  • What part of the position’s responsibilities interests you most?
  • If I contacted your references, what would they each say about you?
  • Have you ever been fired?
  • Do you make your opinion known when you disagree with a supervisor?
  • How would you handle a situation in which you couldn’t get along with your boss?
  • What new idea or suggestion did you make to your immediate supervisor in the last couple of months?
  • How would you describe the perfect supervisor?


  • Tell me about the last time that you made a change in your life.
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
  • Give me two examples of good decisions you have made in the last six months. Why were they good?
  • What have you done that demonstrates your initiative?
  • What would you change about yourself if you could?
  • When have you been a leader?
  • Would you rather write a report or give an oral report? Why?
  • What was the latest book you’ve read or movie you seen?
  • Are you a risk-taker?
  • How do you handle pressure situations?
  • How do you relieve stress?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • How have you gone about determining that this field is right for you?
  • What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?
  • What is your strongest transferable skill? How has it been helpful to you?
  • What accomplishment has given you the most satisfaction? Why?
  • What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
  • What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  • How do you define success?
  • What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?


  • How do you react to criticism?
  • Think about something at work or school that you consider a failure. Tell me about it.
  • Tell me about a mistake you made, and how you handled it.
  • What is the worst communication problem you have experienced?
  • Tell me about a time when you put your foot in your mouth (misspoke).
  • Describe the biggest problem you have faced within the last six months. How did you handle it?
  • What is the most unethical situation you have encountered?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
  • When was the last time you lied?
  • Who is currently angry with you?
  • Tell me about a team you were on when all members did not carry their weight.


  • Describe an instance where you made effective use of facts to secure the agreement of others.
  • Describe a creative idea that you produced which led to a significant contribution to the success of an activity or project.
  • What is leadership? Describe your vision of a leader. When is it time to follow?
  • What qualities are essential for success in business today?


  • What are your short-range goals? How are you preparing for them?
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  • Which of your personal goals have you reached and not reached?
  • What are your long-range career objectives?
  • Tell me about a time you overcame obstacles to reach a goal?


You MUST have questions to ask your interviewer. If you do not ask questions, it indicates you have little interest in the position and is perceived negatively by the interviewer. You can ask about almost anything job-related – except salary.

  • What attracted you to this organization?
  • What do you think its strengths and weaknesses are?
  • What are the most critical factors for success at your organization?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • What are the greatest challenges for entry-level hires within your organization?
  • Can you tell me about the people who will look to me for supervision?
  • What is the organization’s customer service philosophy?
  • What is the makeup of the team as far as experience?
  • What does the organization value most?
  • What kinds of processes are in place to encourage collaboration?
  • How do my skills compare to other candidates you have interviewed?
  • What kinds of assignments might I expect during the first few months on the job?
  • What characteristics help a person succeed in this field?
  • How often are performance reviews provided?
  • What do you consider ideal experiences for this job?
  • Please tell me about the people with whom I would be working.
  • What would be a typical career path for someone like me entering your organization?
  • Please describe the management style or engineering environment at your organization.
  • What are my opportunities for learning new skills?
  • How much influence will I have over the type of work I will do?
  • What do you like best about working at ABC Co.?
  • Do you promote from within?
  • What would be my primary responsibilities?
  • What would I be expected to accomplish in the first six months on the job?
  • What are some of the department’s ongoing and anticipated special projects?
  • How much contact does the department have with management?
  • What do you like best about working for this department/organization?
  • Can you describe a typical workday in the department?
  • Do you feel free to express your ideas and concerns here?


  • What are the possibilities for professional growth and promotion?
  • How much interaction do you have with superiors, colleagues and customers?
  • How long have you been with the company?
  • Is there anything you would change about the company if you had the chance?
  • What do employees seem to like best about the organization?
  • How large is the department where the opening exists?
  • What type of orientation or training do new employees receive?
  • How do you prioritize young professionals in the organization?
  • What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from you? What are the next steps in this process?
  • I would like to leave you with some final thoughts regarding my qualifications and enthusiasm for working with your company.

QUICK TIPS (questions NOT to ask a recruiter):

  • What will my salary be?
  • What does your organization do?
  • Where are you located?
  • Do I get paid for overtime?
  • How much vacation will I receive?