Interviews

It is common to be nervous and anxious about the interview, but if you prepare properly, are aware of your body language and personality you will be confident, impress the interviewers, and get the job you want.

First impressions are crucial! The employer obviously believes you are qualified to do the job, which is why they have asked you to an interview. The interview will tell them whether you will fit in with the company's culture, how you will interact with co-workers, and what your personality is like. Be on time for the interview, arriving 10-15 minutes early is appropriate. Know the exact location of the interview and how long it takes to travel there before the day of the interview. Present a professional image - wear a nice suit with a blouse or dress shirt underneath and clean shoes, have clean and tidy hair, have clean hands and nails, women should keep makeup to a minimum, only wear deodorant, not perfume or cologne (many workplaces are scent free), and do not chew gum, smoke, eat, or drink. Generally, dress a step or two above what you would wear to work on a daily basis, however; when in doubt, wear a suit.

The first 30 seconds to 2 minutes usually make or break the connection between two people when they meet for the first time. Many interviews fail because of poor communication, which is not only the content of your speech, but includes other non-verbal behavior such as eye contact, posture, facial expression, tone of voice, and gestures. The interviewer is looking for a candidate who is interested, enthusiastic, and confident. While you are waiting for the interviewer, you need to remain calm, organized, and always be polite to the receptionist. When you first meet the interviewer, give a firm handshake, let the interviewer take the lead when directing you towards their office, and once you are in their office wait for them to offer you a seat. When you answer questions maintain eye contact, have a positive tone of voice, and smile to show interest. Do not fidget or slouch in your chair, which can be very distracting. Be sure to ask the interviewer a question at the end of the interview that demonstrates your company research and interest. Be polite and thank the interviewer for their time at the end of the interview. Before you leave the interview, find out when you will be notified of the hiring decision.

Preparing for an Interview

  • Research the Company and the Position - Researching the company in advance of the interview and demonstrating your knowledge in the interview. Company information can be obtained from websites, annual reports, employees, employer information sessions/interviews, etc. Some information you may want to know is: the company's values and mission, the company's major products and/or services, the company's customer base, what market the company is targeting, how the company is organized, what are its primary businesses or business units, history of the company, how many people the company employs, career opportunities, key components of the company's work environment, etc.
  • Research the Position - Analyze the job description carefully to highlight and be familiar with the important qualifications. Refresh your memory about what the employer is looking for. Find out more about the position from the company website, employees, employer information sessions, informational interviewing, etc. Know where the position fits in the company as a whole and its role in relation to it. The interviewer's questions will revolve around the position qualifications to determine if you have what they are looking for. By knowing the position requirements well, you will better know how to offer detailed and appropriate responses.
  • Know Yourself and Your Resume - Know your strengths and weaknesses, skills and abilities, interests, values, goals, and aspirations gained from work, volunteer, courses and other experiences. Assessing yourself will assist in preparing you to feel comfortable in interview situations where the main topic is you. Knowing yourself well helps to identify strengths and experiences related to the position that can be emphasized in the interview. Review your resume to be sure of the specific experiences and skills already emphasized to the employer in your initial application. This will help identify areas that perhaps need further explanation or detail.The interviewer will be looking to see how well you can describe yourself and relate your skills to the position.
  • Practicing Interview Questions/Answers - You can never guess what questions you will be asked during an interview; however, it is helpful to review questions/answers before the interview. Once you have identified the most important skills for the position,  review common questions which will help you think about past experiences that relate to the position. Write down several examples in story format to answer the questions that outlines the situation you are referring to, the tasks involved, the action that you took, and the results achieved. Read your answers out loud as if you were in the interview. 
  • Other Information to Obtain - Get as much information about the interview as you can BEFORE you get there. When the employer calls, it is acceptable to ask how many interviewers will be present, their names and positions (if known), how long the interview will last, if you should bring any supporting materials (e.g. writing samples, portfolio, references), etc. The more you know about the interview, the less nervous and better prepared you will be.

Phone Interviews

Preparing for a phone interview is not very different than preparing for a in-person interview. Phone interviews can be more difficult, as you are unable to read your interviewers' nonverbal feedback such as facial expressions and body language over the phone.

Sample Interview Questions

  • Traditional Questions - These questions are usually straight forward to answer. Questions might include: Why do you want to work for a particular company?, What do you know about this company, Why should we hire you?, etc
  • Situational Questions - With these questions the interviewer will offer scenarios and ask you to predict how you would handle each situation. Questions might include: What would you do if a customer came into our store and was angry? These questions are not always found to be accurate in predicting actual behaviors. It is difficult to answer these questions successfully without a thorough knowledge of yourself, the position, and the company to which you are applying.
  • Behavioural Questions - These questions evolved out of research that suggest past behaviors are likely to be repeated and continued in the future. Typically these questions will ask you to: tell me about a time when…, or give me an example of... . You will have to recall quality examples on the spot without having to continually refer back to the same situation for each answer. To prepare,  think of and write down several examples in a story format before the interview that address the important skills the employer is looking for. To give excellent complete answers to behavioral questions, you must indicate a specific situation, the tasks or actions you took, and the results achieved.
  • Stress Questions - These questions are used for positions that will require employees to be in particularly difficult or stressful situations. The interviewer may ask questions that are intended to elicit an emotional reaction from you. You will need to decide whether to go along with the interviewer by keeping your cool and refusing to be intimidated, or you may decide you do not want to work in an environment where you must deal with this.
  • Technical Questions - These questions will be specific to the field of study directly related to the position to ensure that you have the basic practical skills required for the position.
  • Tests (psychology, problem solving, technical, writing, etc.) - You will normally be informed of testing when you are invited for a specific interview. Some tests are easier to prepare for than others, depending on whether it is knowledge based or if you will be tested on general knowledge or personality.

After the Interview

After your interview,  review your performance to help you improve for the next interview. Consider the questions that you struggled with and think about how you may better prepare for the next interview. Send a thank you letter or e-mail later that day, or the following day, reminding the interviewer of your interest in the position and company and thanking them for their time.

If the interviewer has not contacted you by the time they said they would, call and ask if a hiring decision has been made or how the hiring process is going. By contacting the employer after the interview, you may put yourself ahead of the competition by showing extra interest and appreciation. If you contact the employer and they say they have hired someone else, it is  appropriate to ask them for feedback on your interview and if there was anything you could improve on. Remember, the more interviews you have, the better you will get at them.