Chapter Six: Interviewing
Lumen Learning and Linda Bruce Hill
If your résumé and cover letter have served their purposes well, you will be invited to participate in an interview with the company or organization you’re interested in. Congratulations! It’s an exciting time, and your prospects for employment are very strong if you put in the time to be well prepared.
In this section we look at how to get ready for an interview, what types of interviews you might need to engage in, and what kinds of questions you might be asked.
Preparing Effectively for a Job Interview
Carefully Review and Highlight the Job Description
When you prepare for an interview, your first step will be to carefully read and reread the job posting or job description. The job description is your “cheat sheet” for adapting your resume appropriately and for preparing for the interview. Although you won’t know exactly what questions you will be asked, you can count on being asked questions that relate to aspects of the position as described in the ad. Go through the ad and highlight it and make notes. Highlight the duties, skills and experience that you have that match. Write down examples of times you exhibited the desired characteristics or performed the specified duties. This will help you develop a clearer idea of how you meet the skills and attributes the company seeks.
Research the Company and Your Interviewers
Researching the company will give you a wider view of what they are looking for and how well you might fit in. Go to the “about us” section of the website. Find the company mission or vision statement and know how you fit within it. Find any news articles they have posted about the company activities. This gives you a glimpse into the culture and allows you to easily connect with your interviewers. Your prospective employer WILL ask you what you know about the company. They may even ask what you think they could be doing better! Being prepared to answer these questions shows that you took time and effort to prepare for the interview and that you have a genuine interest in the organization. It shows detail orientation and good planning—soft skills you will need on the job. Find your interviewers on LinkedIn. Know who they are and get a sense of what they value.
Practice Answering Common Questions
Most interviewees find that practicing for the interview in advance with a family member, a friend, or a colleague eases possible nerves during the actual interview. At Granite State College, you can meet with a career advisor to practice your interview skills and telling your job stories. Practicing helps you to feel more confident when you walk through the interview door. In the “Interview Questions” section below, you’ll learn more about specific questions you will likely be asked and corresponding strategies for answering them.
Plan to Dress Appropriately
Interviewees are generally most properly dressed for an interview in business attire, with the goal of looking highly professional in the eyes of the interviewer.
Plan to bring your résumé, cover letter, and a list of references to the interview. You may also want to bring a portfolio of representative work. Leave behind coffee, chewing gum, and any other items that could be distractions.
Above all, interviewees should be confident and “courageous.” By doing so you make a strong first impression. As the saying goes, “There is never a second chance to make a first impression.”
Job Interview Types and Techniques
Every interview you participate in will be unique: The people you meet with, the interview setting, and the questions you’ll be asked will all be different from interview to interview.
The various factors that characterize any given interview can contribute to the sense of adventure and excitement you feel. But it’s also normal to feel a little nervous about what lies ahead. With so many unknowns, how can you plan to “nail the interview” no matter what comes up?
A good strategy for planning is to anticipate the type of interview you may find yourself in. There are common formats for job interviews, described in detail, below. By knowing a bit more about each type and being aware of techniques that work for each, you can plan to be on your game no matter what form your interview takes.
Screening interviews might best be characterized as “weeding-out” interviews. They ordinarily take place over the phone or in another low-stakes environment in which the interviewer has maximum control over the amount of time the interview takes. Screening interviews are generally short because they glean only basic information about you. If you are scheduled to participate in a screening interview, you might safely assume that you have some competition for the job and that the company is using this strategy to whittle down the applicant pool. With this kind of interview, your goal is to win a face-to-face interview. For this first shot, though, prepare well and challenge yourself to shine. This type of interview should be treated like a real interview. This may mean dressing for the interview and having a resume in front of you so that it can be referred to. Another suggestion is to use a land line phone if possible and/or make sure a cell phone is fully charged and that the screening interview takes place in a location that is free of distractions. Try to stand out from the competition and be sure to follow up with a thank-you note.
Phone or Web Conference Interviews
If you are geographically separated from your prospective employer, you may be invited to participate in a phone interview or online interview, instead of meeting face-to-face. Technology, of course, is a good way to bridge distances. The fact that you’re not there in person doesn’t make it any less important to be fully prepared, though. In fact, you may wish to be all the more “on your toes” to compensate for the distance barrier. Make sure your equipment (phone, computer, Internet connection, etc.) is fully charged and works. If you’re at home for the interview, make sure the environment is quiet and distraction-free. If the meeting is online, make sure your video background is pleasing and neutral, like a wall hanging or even a white wall.
The majority of job interviews are conducted in this format—just you and a single interviewer—likely with the manager you would report to and work with. The one-on-one format gives you both a chance to see how well you connect and how well your talents, skills, and personalities mesh. You can expect to be asked questions like “Why would you be good for this job?” and “Tell me about yourself.” Many interviewees prefer the one-on-one format because it allows them to spend in-depth time with the interviewer. Rapport can be built. As always, be very courteous and professional. Have handy a portfolio of your best work.
An efficient format for meeting a candidate is a panel interview, in which perhaps four to five coworkers meet at the same time with a single interviewee. The coworkers comprise the “search committee” or “search panel,” which may consist of different company representatives such as human resources, management, and staff. One advantage of this format for the committee is that meeting together gives them a common experience to reflect on afterward. In a panel interview, listen carefully to questions from each panelist, and try to connect fully with each questioner. Be sure to write down names and titles, so you can send individual thank-you notes after the interview.
Serial interviews are a combination of one-on-one meetings with a group of interviewers, typically conducted as a series of meetings staggered throughout the day. Ordinarily this type of interview is for higher-level jobs, when it’s important to meet at length with major stakeholders. If your interview process is designed this way, you will need to be ultraprepared, as you will be answering many in-depth questions. Be prepared.
In some higher-level positions, candidates are taken to lunch or dinner, especially if this is a second interview (a “call back” interview). If this is you, count yourself lucky and be on your best behavior, because even if the lunch meeting is unstructured and informal, it’s still an official interview. Do not order an alcoholic beverage, and use your best table manners. You are not expected to pay or even to offer to pay. But, as always, you must send a thank-you note.
Group interviews are comprised of several interviewees and perhaps only one or two interviewers who may make a presentation to the assembled group. This format allows an organization to quickly prescreen candidates. It also gives candidates a chance to quickly learn about the company. As with all interview formats, you are being observed. How do you behave with your group? Do you assume a leadership role? Are you quiet but attentive? What kind of personality is the company looking for? A group interview may reveal this.
For most job candidates, the burning question is “What will I be asked?” There’s no way to anticipate every single question that may arise during an interview. It’s possible that, no matter how well prepared you are, you may get a question you just didn’t expect. But that is okay. Do as much preparation as you can—which will build your confidence in your answers and being ready for unexpected questions. The video below explains how you can use the job ad to anticipate the types of questions that will be asked. Proper preparation of “job stories” ahead of time will also allow you to answer all types of questions more easily.
Video: Behavioral Interviews
Licenses and Attributions:
CC licensed content, Shared previously:
All rights reserved content:
Lumen Learning authored content:
- College Success. Authored by: Linda Bruce. Located at: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/collegesuccess-lumen/chapter/interviewing-2/ License: CC BY: Attribution.
- 9 Last Minute Tips for Job Interviews. Created by Don Georgevich. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gugc6hbOP-g&feature=emb_logo License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.
- How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions. Created by Don Georgevich. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHqcLX3qSYo&feature=emb_logo License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.
Adaptions: Videos added by Jan Coville. Text added and adapted by Jan Coville.