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UCLA Career Center

Put your best foot forward at your job interview, and negotiate your job offer.


Structuring Answers to Interview Questions

For all industries it is important to research the organization thoroughly. Be able to communicate your technical and transferable skills as well as your organizational fit. Target your answers to each job and give examples to demonstrate your skills and qualifications.

The CARR Method allows you to think about the various aspects of each experience to help you provide an answer that describes your experiences and accomplishments.

  • Context: Provide information about the organization; its climate; size, number of employees/co-workers, interesting or otherwise impressive; timing; relevant interpersonal situations. What was the goal you were trying to accomplish? What was your purpose within the organization/project?
  • Action: Explain your actions, framed in the context of the situation. What work did you actually do? What were your responsibilities?
  • Result: Explain the result and its benefit. If possible, quantify your results with numbers to demonstrate your impact on the organization or the field. Example: “Implemented new data analytics method to streamline the process of solar cell creation, resulting in a 65% reduction in cost to the consumer.
  • Relate: Connect your experience with the desired qualifications of the job. What skills from your previous experience will you be able to use in this job?

Sample Interview Questions

Many common interview questions across fields can fall into the following categories. You should be prepared with answers to general questions, as well as those specific to your industry.

Resume & Fit
Assesses your skills, interests, and fit for the position to which you are applying and provide context for experiences listed on your resume.

  • Why are you interested in this position? Why should we hire you? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  • What has been your most significant accomplishment to date?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Assesses your past behavior in order to predict your future behavior in the workplace.

  • Provide an example of a time when you worked on a team. What was the project, your role, and the outcome?
  • Give me an example of a time when you solved a complicated problem.
  • Tell me about a time you failed.

Assesses your demonstrated skills in the areas of: problem solving, communication, teamwork, and analytics. The case is often a business decision that simulates an actual scenario that you will work through in real time either individually or in a group.

  • “Your client is a ski resort. Global warming has reduced natural snowfall by 50% in the past two years, which is having a significant impact on the cost of operations and the length of the ski season. What should they do and why?”
  • “The Star Trek transporter has just been invented. Spell out some of the effects on the transportation industry.”

Assesses your technical knowledge, aptitude, and problem-solving skills.

  • “Compare and contrast REST and SOAP web services.”
  • “What is copper trading at today?”
  • Coding problem—delivered on a white board in real time.

Download this handout for more examples of industry-specific questions.

Thank You Letters

Writing a handwritten thank you note, or more commonly - sending a thank you email is expected after any job interview at any stage. The purpose of the thank you note is to reaffirm your interest in the position, and thank those involved in the interview for their time. This is also an opportunity to highlight your strengths and fit for the position. Thank you notes don’t necessarily earn you a position; however, if they aren’t received, hiring managers may count it as a strike against you as a candidate.

Send a thank you email within 24-48 hours of an initial phone screening or Skype interview, to ensure your thank you reaches the search committee or hiring manager before a decision is made about who will be moved along in the process. Handwritten thank you notes can be used after a final interview. However, if a decision is expected quickly - getting the thank you out via email is recommended to ensure it is received before a decision is made.

Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers

Congratulations! You have been offered the position. It may seem like the hard part is over, but it is still important to read the offer carefully and consider your value as well as your long-term career goals. Note that the items and resources below do not apply to all job offers. Get advice from your mentors and knowledgeable colleagues about how to approach any negotiation - the potential employer also has the option of withdrawing an offer if your terms seem out of bounds for the position or untenable for the organization. Evaluate the entire offer…not just the salary!

Base Salary
Research the salary of comparable positions in the area, taking into consideration your skill set.

Relocation, Commute, Parking
What will it cost to go to work on a daily basis?
If relocating, what is the cost of living difference and the cost of moving?
Cost of Living Calculator

Professional Development
Annual financial contribution, conference attendance, professional membership, certifications/trainings available

Education Benefits
Tuition reimbursement or financial help for college for your children/family members

Work Schedule
Flexible work schedules or opportunities to telecommute

Paid Time Off
How do they calculate paid time off, sick vs. vacation and days the organization is closed? Is it “use it or lose it”? Do they cover paternity/maternity leave?

Retirement Contribution
Types of plans, minimum/maximum contribution, time to being vested, company match/contribution

Healthcare Coverage
Monthly co-pays, types of coverage

Research Funds/Start-Up
How are start-up funds offered: lump sum, funded from list/proposal, etc.? How long will funds be available? Are there scenarios in which you might lose your start-up funding (grant award, etc.)?

When to Negotiate

Often negotiation begins before a formal written offer is made. However, to ensure all parties are working with the same set of information, always get everything in writing before negotiating.
Read more about evaluating and negotiating a job offer from start to finish.

What is negotiable?

Before negotiating, remember that you are taking a risk and the way you negotiate is just as important as what you choose to negotiate. Be specific and clear about your needs and never negotiate if you have no intentions of taking the position.

  • Relocation or Travel Reimbursement, Housing and / or travel to find housing
  • Start Date
  • Salary
  • Flextime or Telecommuting
  • Stock Options
  • Bonuses (Signing or Annual)
  • Professional Development Opportunities
  • Teaching Requirements and Research Leave
  • Service Commitments
  • Pre-tenure leave, time to tenure
  • Start up Package: office space, laboratory facilities, computer(s)/software, teaching/research assistance, research funds, conference travel.

For reference, see this job offer evaluation/negotiation worksheet.

How to Negotiate

  1. Have an action plan before you start negotiating.
  2. Don’t fixate on one portion. If the employer states that salary is less flexible, negotiate other benefits.
  3. Get everything in writing.
  4. Use professional language and maintain composure through all communication. Practice with someone verbally or have a trusted colleague read written communication before sending to ensure tone/goal are appropriate.
  5. If you cannot reach a mutual agreement, you have the option to reject the offer. Do not feel pressured to accept an offer if the compensation package does not reflect your worth and meet your needs.