A job interview is your personal opportunity to showcase your strengths. Preparation, self-assessment, and practice are the keys to a successful interview. Well-prepared candidates feel more comfortable and will more effectively represent their strengths and qualifications to the interviewer. Keep in mind that the interview is simply a conversation. It’s a time where an employer can assess your qualifications and where you can assess the employer as well.
Interview Format Accordion Open
In order to effectively prepare, it is important to know the interview format(s) you may experience. Interview formats can vary based on the position you are applying for, how far along you are in the interview process and even things like the size and culture of the organization. Interview formats each range from quite structured, where all of the questions are predetermined, to unstructured, where the questions are created on the spot.
Consider how your approach may change with the following formats:
Employers use screening interviews to get a quick handle of a candidate’s ability to perform in a job. These interviews are typically short (15-45 minutes) and the questions are focused on job-specific tasks. Screening interviews may be conducted over the phone or via video call.
The candidate meets with an interviewer one-on-one. There might be a single interview, or the candidate might meet with a series of individuals in a row.
In this format, a candidate will be interviewed by multiple interviewers at once. Interviewers typically ask pre-determined questions in a round-table format. When answering questions, be sure to address all of the interviewers and not just the person who asked the question. Organizations find this type of format beneficial in order to gain multiple perspectives in evaluating a candidate.
A group interview brings together multiple candidates to be interviewed at the same time. Through this format, an interviewer may be evaluating your ability to work effectively and listen to the thoughts of others. Be sure to thoughtfully listen to the responses of the other candidates and, if possible, integrate their thoughts into your unique responses.
Sometimes a candidate is asked to prepare a short presentation on a topic related to the position they are interviewing for. Often these presentations are open to multiple individuals, including prospective colleagues and key stakeholders. The presentation is typically followed by an open question and answer period.
Interview Preparation Accordion Closed
Step One- Research
Research the organization before the interview to demonstrate your knowledge of the position for which you are interviewing, the prospective employer, and the employer’s industry. This should include researching the organization’s services, products, departments, mission, locations, competitors, and reputation. Finding current event information that pertains to the organization can also be useful- discussing your perspective of these events during an interview can display your industry knowledge and analytical thinking skills.
Step Two- Self-assessment
What are your top skills and strengths? Be ready to express why you are the right person for the job. Ask the employer to provide you with a complete job description before the interview, if you don’t already have one. Analyze the job description and match your skills, education, experience, and interests to the employer’s expectations. Think about actual examples that you can share during the interview that demonstrate your abilities to fulfill the duties on the job description. Review the Behavioral Interview worksheet to help you prepare to answer questions using the STAR model.
Step Three- Create your own questions
Typically you will have the opportunity to ask your own questions towards the end of the interview. Prior to your interview, consider at least 3 questions that you would like to ask. Your questions should be designed to elicit helpful information for you and to show the employer your ability to inquire about thoughtful topics. Consider questions that focus not only on the job you are applying for but also show your understanding of the larger organizational operation. Avoid questions that bring up topics such as salary, benefits, or vacation time. These are issues that can be addressed when discussing compensation after you have been offered the job.
Step Four- Positive first impressions
There are several ways that you can impress your potential employer before the interview begins:
- Arrive 10-15 minutes early for the interview. Do not arrive more than 15 minutes early as the employer may feel rushed to see you. Use the time prior to the interview to review the office environment. If interviewing virtually, arrive at least 5 minutes early.
- Greet everyone you meet prior to the interview professionally and with a smile. Often employees who are not part of the actual interview, such as front desk staff, will be asked for their impressions of you from casual introductions.
- Most interviews call for professional attire from candidates. Even though some organizations have casual dress policies in their work environments, dressing professionally when interviewing with these types of organizations is still appropriate as your attire will show that you are taking your interview seriously. It is recommended to dress professionally for virtual interviews as well.
The Interview Accordion Closed
The core of any interview consists of the questions you will be asked during the conversation. Employers are evaluating both the content of your responses as well your ability to confidently communicate your message. While it may be a popular strategy, reviewing a long list of potential interview questions and then attempting to create (and then memorize) your best response is not the ideal way to prepare. Instead, as a candidate, you are better off thinking about the types of questions that you may be asked and then tailoring the experiences you want to communicate. Most interview questions can be divided into three categories.
Any interview will certainly have a variety of traditional questions that focus on topics such as your career goals, your thoughts on topics like leadership and teamwork, and your work ethic. The key to answering these questions effectively is simply to respond directly and honestly. In all likelihood, there is no “right” answer to these questions. Instead, employers are most interested in your overall work style and ability to communicate.
For some jobs, employers will want to know if you have the specific skills that are required to complete the job tasks. In these situations, you may be asked some technical questions. These questions are usually not designed to be easy and getting the “right” response, while preferable, may not be crucial. When responding to technical questions, employers are evaluating your logic in solving a problem. Therefore, walk the interviewer through your thought process in arriving at your response.
Through this popular interview format, interviewers want to learn about your potential future success through your past behavior. The key in answering a behavioral question is to accurately describe a situation from your past that displays a specific example of the skill they are asking about. Behavioral questions should never be answered with your general thoughts or theory on a topic. Employers are looking for you to describe an actual and specific past experience using the STAR technique. This technique allows you to break your experiences down into specific components and is a great way to prepare for behavioral questions. The best way to prepare for a behavioral interview question is to consider the possible topics that an employer may bring up during the interview. Review the Behavioral Interview worksheet to help you prepare. To answer questions using the STAR technique just keep in mind the following:
S– Describe the initial Situation and any relevant background information
T– Explain the Task that you set out to accomplish
A– Detail the Action(s) you took to complete the task
R– Highlight the positive Result(s) and major learning outcomes from the experience.
For more in-depth information, explore the following Career Steps online lesson: