The purpose of an interview is for employers to determine whether you:
- Can demonstrate the skills they are looking for in an employee
- Can solve the employers’ problem(s) or meet their organizational challenge(s)
- Are the best fit for the company, organization or program
Types of Interviews
- Screening or Preliminary Interviews: During a screening interview, also known as a preliminary interview, the applicant has an opportunity to present whether they have the basic skill sets that an employer is seeking. Screening interviews are usually conducted by the organization’s human resources department or may be done by a recruiter.
- Hiring Interviews: Hiring interviews are usually conducted by a person or a group of people. This is your opportunity to demonstrate good listening skills, ask intelligent questions and illustrate your accomplishments. Highlight how you can help the employer. Promote yourself as a natural addition to the employer’s team.
It is important to ask about the format of the interview when you set up an interview appointment so you can be better prepared. During the interview, you might also meet potential co-workers who will help make the hiring decision. Plan on being courteous to everyone you meet, regardless of which type of interview you may have.
In this style of interview, one individual interviews you for the position. You may also be interviewed by different interviewers at different times. Usually a one-on-one interview will include some behavioral questions to learn how you might react to different situations, such as deadlines or angry customers.
Panel or Board Interview
These are generally conducted by two or more interviewers at the same time. They usually take turns asking questions and have their own separate list of things they want to determine about you. You can expect to be interviewed by 3-10 people, or possibly more. Direct your answer to the person who asked the question, but try to maintain eye contact with all group members. You might be interviewed by multiple individuals or groups of interviewers one after the other, instead of at the same time. This is referred to as a series interview.
A group interview is usually conducted with other applicants applying for the same position in different parts of the organization. Interviewing candidates in a group allows employers to evaluate how well you would fit in at the company. Establish a good relationship with everyone and promote yourself as a natural addition to the team. Be prepared to answer behavioral questions and simulation exercises during this type of interview.
This type of interview is often used in the medical and dental fields, as well as by graduate schools and for academic faculty positions. Applicants move between interview stations and are observed by a single person who rates each applicant. Employers then select an applicant based on their rating scores. Each station covers a different organizational topic, such as communication, collaboration, ethics, critical thinking, awareness of health issues and subject knowledge. This technique is used by employers that have a high investment in new hires.
Stress interviews involve questions that are deliberately intended to make you uncomfortable or upset. This is usually a test of how you will handle stress on the job. Remain calm and take your time in responding to the questions. The questions are not intended to be taken personally.
When you meet people to learn about their occupation, company or industry, you are engaging in an informational interview. These are not job interviews, although completing these may lead to a job offer.
Appropriately preparing for your interview means understanding your key strengths and skills, researching the position you're applying for and the company you're interviewing with and identifying how you will benefit their organization.
Prepare Key Strength Statements
The first step in preparing for an interview is to know your strengths and skills. Personal traits can be described as your unique qualities. Always be prepared to provide an example of how you demonstrated skills and how they can contribute to the organization.
Many employers value five key strengths as critical for any job: customer satisfaction, team work, communication skills, interpersonal skills and adaptability. Make sure you have developed good examples that demonstrate you have these five key strengths.
Research the Employer
The more you know about the company, the better you will be able to explain how you can fit in and your talents can be used. Researching the employer can help you to:
- Identify companies that may be hiring in your field
- Help you target your cover letter and resume
- Find hidden job markets
- Prepare you for an interview
- Understand how you can apply your skills in a new field
Research the Interviewer
Often times, you’ll know the name of the individual who will be conducting your interview. If not, you should ask when you initially schedule the interview. Once you have the interviewer’s name, take the time to research them. Having knowledge of the interviewer will give you material for discussion during the interview. You can discuss projects the interviewer has previously worked on, ask about their experience with the company, or discuss mutual acquaintances.
How to Research:
- Check for biography blurbs on the company’s webpage
- Do a general search on the Internet
- Check their profile on LinkedIn
- Ask people in your network who may know the individual
Promote Your Brand
During an interview, you have the opportunity to promote your unique skill set directly to the employer. First impressions are extremely important, so it is crucial that you know how to present yourself before you even start the interview.
Be sure to identify:
- What makes you unique from other jobseekers
- Specific skills you bring to the job
- Who you are as an individual and what you’ve accomplished
Highlights for the Interviewer
Write down the 4-5 most important points or highlights you want the interviewer to remember. In an interview, you are a salesperson. Your task is to promote your most important skills, strengths, experiences and values or anything that shows the interviewer that you are the best fit for the job and the company. Short, 2-3 minute stories about your most important characteristics should be the foundation of the talking point
Plan for a Successful Interview
Along with planning how you will respond to interview questions, you must also plan for how you will dress and get to the interview site. Think about things you will need to take to the interview. Your goal is to be as prepared as possible to avoid any problems on the day of the interview. By being prepared you will demonstrate that you have good work habits.
Dress for Success
Know your future work environment. Investigate appropriate clothing to wear at your future job before you decide your interview attire. Talk to people who have worked there or try to visit the organization before your interview so you can see what people generally wear. Dress in ways that show the employer that you understand the work environment and will dress to fit that environment.
How to Get to the Interview
Try going to the interview location beforehand. This way, you will be familiar with the route on the day of the interview. Otherwise, give yourself plenty of time for any delays that might occur. If you drive, find out in advance about parking options near the interview location.
Body language plays a significant role in determining whether an employer sees you as a trustworthy, confident, capable individual. Also keep in mind that the more interested you are in what you are saying, the more interested the interviewer will be in listening to you. Lastly, smiling during the interview is important. If you smile, you will present yourself as a positive individual who is likable and would fit in with an existing team.
- Handshake: The handshake is your first interaction with an interviewer. It is as important as being dressed appropriately for an interview. Make sure you have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact with the person whose hand you are shaking.
- Posture: Sit up straight during your interview.
- Active Listening: Body language can show that you are interested and truly listening. Be optimistic and alert, but relaxed.
- Be Relaxed: Do not slouch or sit too stiffly. Take a deep breath before meeting with the interviewer.
- Eye Contact: Maintain friendly and attentive eye contact without staring. Do not let your eyes wander. When there is more than one interviewer, establish eye contact with everyone.
- Facial Expression: Make sure your facial expressions match what you are saying. Relax and smile often.
- Gestures: Be careful not to tap nervously or fidget. Do not bite nails, chew gum or smoke. These gestures may give a bad impression.
- C3: Appear calm, cool and confident. Do not appear desperate. The best strategy to develop appropriate body language is to practice in front of a mirror or get feedback from friends and family.
What to Bring to the Interview
It is important to be prepared with a list of things you will need to bring with you to the interview. Here are a few things you should bring:
- Photo ID or identification for a security check-in desk
- Copies of your resume
- Copies of reference letters
- A pad of paper and a pen
- A portfolio or work sample, if applicable
- The address and room location for the interview
- Directions to the interview location and the phone number of the contact person for the interview
- A list of past employers with addresses, dates and phone numbers
- A list of possible questions to ask
- A sheet with a list of your stories and takeaway points
After an Interview
- If you are not able to get a business card, write down the name and title (double check spelling) of the interviewer
- Review what the job entails and record what the next step will be
- Note your reactions to the interview; include what went well and what went poorly
- Assess what you learned from the experience and how you can improve your performance during future interviews
- Write the interviewer(s) a thank-you letter or email
Learn from the Interview
- After the interview, go home and write down everything you can remember about the interview, especially what went well and what didn't. If you don't get the job, this information could prove to be very helpful.
- If you are offered a position, write down any other questions you might need answered to help you with the decision.
- If possible, see if you can get feedback from the interviewer. Contact the interviewer if you didn’t get the job and ask if there was something you could do to improve your interviewing skills. If the interviewer says that the organization simply chose a different candidate, then ask the interviewer if they would consider you for any additional openings in the future. Also consider asking the interviewer if they might be aware of similar positions that you can apply for within the organization or elsewhere. You can also ask the interviewer if they would be willing to forward your information to anyone they know who might be looking for a candidate with your skills. In effect, you might convert this disappointment into a networking opportunity.
- Do not rely on only one interview. Keep looking and networking for more job openings until you get an offer you will accept. Be prepared for disappointments, and don’t let them slow you down.
After the interview is complete, send a thank-you letter to the interviewer. A thoughtful thank-you note can move you to the top of the candidate list, and gives you one more chance to remind the employer about the special skills that you can bring to the company.
- Your thank-you note should be handwritten only if you have very good handwriting
- Sign your note with your first and last name • Keep it short, no longer than three quarters of a page
- Proofread the note to check for spelling or grammar errors • Ask someone else to proofread the note for you as well Provide your telephone number with area code, and an email address if available
- Send the note no later than the day after your interview
First Paragraph Thank the employer for the interview and the time the employer spent with you to discuss your qualifications for the job. Mention again that you are interested in the position.
Second Paragraph Briefly state a few of your skills without repeating the information on your resume word for word. After the interview, you should know the critical qualities of the position and the person who will fill it. Highlight why you think you are a good candidate for the position. At this point, you can include any important information not mentioned at the interview.
Third Paragraph End with a statement that indicates that you are looking forward to being contacted by the employer regarding the status of your application for the position.