State Universities Civil Service System
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Urbana, IL 61802
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www.sucss.illinois.gov
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Interview Tips

The following tips will assist you in adequately preparing for a job interview, including the Police Officer Series Oral Board Interviews.

Understanding the Interview Process

Interviews assess your communication abilities. Your attitude (i.e., your approach toward the job in question) can also be observed. These abstract attitudes and communication abilities are not as effectively measured on a written test. Therefore, you will be asked standard job-related questions.

You will probably see the interviewers taking notes as you speak. What they are doing is recording their reaction to your responses, usually in accordance with some established guidelines.

You may be rated on various abstract components, including appearance, maturity, oral communication skills, judgment, understanding of the position, attitude, self-confidence, reaction to stress, interpersonal skills, personal integrity, organizing and planning, objectivity, and empathy.

Interview Ethics

  • Interview only when sincerely interested in a position with the employer.
  • Acknowledge invitations for on-site interviews promptly, whether you accept or reject them.
  • Provide factual and accurate information on your qualifications and interests. Never falsify data such as GPA, academic major, coursework completed or extracurricular activities on a résumé or in an interview.
  • Notify the Human Resources Department or the employer, well in advance or at least 24 hours in advance, if you cannot make or must postpone an interview or employer presentation.

Preparation - Days Prior to the Interview

  • Review and follow all instructions presented to you by Human Resources:
    • Review your application and background statement.
    • Be familiar with key aspects of your education, job history, and other relevant job components such as licensures, training, and driving record.
  • Be familiar with the job:
    • Obtain and study the job announcement/job description to determine the employer’s expectations.
    • Research the employer/department.
    • Use the employer’s/department’s website or homepage to gather information (annual reports, employee handbooks, policy statements, employee newsletters).
    • Read current periodicals and trade journals to learn about the latest trends in the industry or occupational area.
    • Review mission statements and company literature.
    • Familiarize yourself with the employer's organizational structure, clients, their competitors, etc.
  • Talk to relevant others about their jobs so that you have an understanding of what it entails, the time commitment involved, and what some of the expectations are.
  • Talk with others who successfully completed the process. They can give you a great deal of insight and valuable information about the interview.
  • If possible, demonstrate an interest in the position. For example: When applying for police positions, "ride-alongs" and facility tours can be most informative. Also, participation in volunteer programs, such as internships and auxiliary police programs, may be beneficial.
  • Your response to all questions should reflect organized thought. When appropriate, introduce your answer, give your answer, and then conclude your answer.
    • Anticipate difficult questions:
      • Do not try to avoid these questions, explain the situation honestly and in a positive manner.
      • Try to turn a weakness into a strength, i.e., “Yes, my GPA is low, but it is because I worked thirty hours a week to put myself through school.”
    • Practice 'selling yourself'.
      • Be prepared to talk about yourself (your accomplishments, experiences, and skills).
      • Prior to the interview, think of specific work or educational experiences in which you demonstrated skills (technical and interpersonal) that would be important to the position. Provide examples of how you have developed your skills.
      • Think about your interests and values.
      • Know your strengths and weaknesses, and be able to give examples to demonstrate your strengths.
      • Think about important decisions you have made, the thought process behind each one, and the outcome.
      • Identify accomplishments of which you are proud, and how you achieved them.
      • Avoid being ‘overzealous’ in your presentation.
    • Explain why you are interested in this occupation and position - show your personality.
    • Define your short-term and long-term career plans and goals.
    • Prepare a few relevant questions to ask the interviewer(s). This conveys your genuine interest and preparation.
    • Anticipate and practice answering common/key interview questions with a friend, and/or use a video or tape recorder to record your answers. You can then critique your answers, or ask a friend to do so.  Strive to improve your method of delivery and the content of your answers.
    • Memorize your résumé so you can quickly answer questions about it.
    • Prepare questions for your interviewer:
      • The end of the interview is usually reserved for your questions.
      • Do not ask generic questions or questions that could easily be found in company literature.
      • Ask questions that will help you determine if you are a good match for the position and organization and demonstrate your genuine interest in the position.
  • Time your presentation and stay within any prescribed time frames.
  • Practice your firm, confident handshake.

Preparation - Immediately Before Interview

On the day before the interview, you should prepare just as you would for any other important appointment.

  • Review the interview “confirmation” to identify everything you need to bring with you to the interview.
  • Prepare what you should take with you to the interview (i.e., résumé, reference list, reference letters, official transcript, portfolio, driver's license or picture ID, etc.).
  • Know where you are going and explore your transportation/parking options.
  • Reduce your anxiety. A few actions you can take to reduce anxiety include:
    • Allow yourself plenty of time, especially to do things you need to do before the interview and still get there a little early.
    • Avoid speaking with others who express negativity.
    • Exercise; it is believed to sharpen the mind and reduce stress.
    • Get plenty of rest and a good night’s sleep before the interview and allow yourself enough time in the morning so that you do not have to rush. Being rested and having a clear head on the day of the interview may help as much as any last minute review.
    • Approach the interview with confidence:
      • Use whatever strategies you can to personalize success: visualization, logic, talking to yourself, practice, team work, journaling, etc.
    • View the interview as an opportunity to show how much you know about the position.
    • Be aware that you will NOT be allowed to bring cellular phones, beepers, headphones, or other similar communication devices to the interview.
    • Be aware that smoking is NOT allowed at the interview site or on any of the State Universities and Agencies grounds.

Day of Interview

  • Eat a good meal.
    • Do not go to the interview with an empty stomach.
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables are often recommended to reduce stress.
    • Stressful foods can include: processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, junk foods, pork, red meat, white flour products, chips and similar snack foods, foods containing preservatives or heavy spices.
  • Dress conservatively and professionally in appropriate business attire.
    • Image is often as important as content.
    • How you dress and how you say something are just as important as what you say.
    • Studies have shown that 65 percent of the conveyed message is nonverbal; gestures, physical appearance, and attire are highly influential during job interviews.
    • Properly groom your hair (including beards and mustaches) and nails.
    • Minimize jewelry and cologne/perfume.
    • Wear conservative (dark colored) shoes that are clean and polished.
    • Do not bring gum, candy, or cigarettes.

    Male

    • Wear conservative clothing (navy, black or grey in color), preferably a suit that is neatly pressed.
    • Wear necktie with a conservative pattern.
    • Wear dark socks.
    • Do not wear earrings and remove other exposed body piercings.
    • Consider covering exposed tattoos.

    Female

    • Wear a suit or a dress with a jacket (navy, black or grey in color), preferably a suit/dress that is neatly pressed.
    • Wear conservative hosiery at or near skin color (no runs).
    • Do not wear extremely high-heeled shoes.
    • Wear conservative makeup and a conservative color of nail polish.
    • Wear conservative earrings and remove other exposed body piercings.
    • Consider covering exposed tattoo
  • Be punctual.
    • Arrive at least 25-30 minutes early to ensure you will be there during your scheduled time. This also prevents a rushed and stressful presentation. In addition, if you miss your scheduled time, there may be no guarantee that it will be rescheduled.
    • Use time wisely to review employer research information.
    • Carry a pencil, pen, paper, extra résumés, references, etc. in an organized portfolio.
    • Be prepared to sit for a while as many interviews last 30 minutes to one hour.
  • Use good manners and be conscious of your body language.
    • Maintain a professional demeanor from the time you walk into the interview until the time you depart the site.
    • Always remember that how you present yourself before the interviewer(s) (personal hygiene, appearance, attire) will have an effect on your rating, score, or impression. First impressions are lasting ones.
  • Communicate clearly and use appropriate eye contact with your interviewer(s).
    • Shake hands firmly and do not take a seat until asked.
    • Do not slouch, and always maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s).
    • If you are introduced, listen carefully to their names. Refer to the interviewers by their names.
    • Speak in a firm, confident voice and always present a positive attitude.
    • Maintain a professional image before, during, and after the interview.
    • Relax and be yourself, but do not forget that the person(s) sitting on the other side of the desk/room could be your future employer.
    • Understand that nervousness is normal, so prepare for it and maintain a calm appearance. If you become nervous, make sure that you take slow, deep breaths.
  • The interview should be a two-way communication – it is important to develop a rapport with the interviewer(s).
    • Allow the interviewer(s) to describe the position and its responsibilities early in the interview. Then you can apply your accomplishments specifically to that position.
    • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s) as you speak. Smile with your whole face.
    • Listen carefully and attentively to the interviewer’s complete question before responding. Do not interrupt. Think a moment before you respond. Make sure you answer the question asked and that you answer all parts of the question.
    • Be cognizant of your grammar. Use simple but complete sentences when responding. Only use words that you can pronounce and fully understand.
    • Maintain an appropriate volume of speech, inflecting your voice when necessary.
    • Do not be overly repetitious.
    • Use appropriate hand gestures to emphasize important points. Do not fold your arms in front of you.
    • Be willing to have the interviewer(s) repeat or clarify questions if you do not understand them.
    • If you do not know the answer to a question, admit it.
    • Share the information you feel is appropriate and relevant.
    • Stay focused - keep the conversation on topic. Keep your answers as brief and concise as possible.
    • Do not dominate the interview - the interviewer leads the meeting and guides the questions.
    • Ask appropriate, relevant, and well thought-out questions.
    • Be assertive, but not aggressive; be confident, but not overzealous.
    • Do not make jokes.
    • Do not negatively comment on your present or former employers.
    • Do not expect an offer on the spot. Let the interviewer bring up salary first.
  • If there is more than one interviewer:
    • Think of the group as one person and try not to be intimidated.
    • Try to ignore note-taking by the interviewers, and do not worry - this type of interview is difficult to control. Try to get the names of the interviewers before the interview and use them during the conversation.
    • Respond initially to the interviewer who asked the question, but try not to get tunnel vision from anxiety. Do not interrupt the interviewer.
    • As you proceed with your answer, also acknowledge the other interviewers by maintaining a comfortable level of eye contact.
    • Scan from one pair of eyes to the next, pausing briefly on each. (In other words, speak to the whole group.)
    • As you finish your answer, focus back on the interviewer who asked the question, and get ready to shift your attention to the next one who speaks.
  • Always send a thank-you and follow-up letter after the interview - an important final step in the job search process.