Remember this is your opportunity to demonstrate to a potential employer your unique gifts and talents and how you can contribute to the organization.
TYPES OF INTERVIEWS
Companies and hiring professionals utilize a variety of interviewing formats. The most common:
The Behavioral Interview
This is an interview designed to predict on-the-job behavior. In a traditional interview, an applicant goes through his/her resume and describes experience and skill learned while at each position. During that time, an interviewer may ask the following open-ended questions: Click here for a more comprehensive list of behavioral interview questions.
How did you enjoy that position?
More and more, companies are utilizing behavior based questions for face-to-face interviews. A behavioral interview aims to determine how a person would behave on the job, based on an applicant’s response to specific job-related questions. Some interviewers have a set list of questions, while others make it more of a conversation.
- What were some of the challenges of the job?
- Why did you leave this position?
The key to sailing through this type of interview is to recognize what the employer is looking for and being able to relate a specific story/experience to their question.
The Directed Interview
In this form of interview, there are questions and answers that generally involve a one-an-one format of interviewer and candidate, with interviewer asking a variety of questions on key evaluation factors previously cited.
The Highly Structured Interview
The Nondirective Interview
This kind involves a more formally structured interview format that includes a lengthy list of questions asked of all applicants and generally is one-on-one.
This type is generally executed in a one-an-one format; the interviewer asks few questions but uses open-ended statements such as, "Tell me about your job, your career progress, accomplishments, and successes." A skillful non-directive interviewer will not overtly give the impression of covering most of the key employer evaluation factors and yet may actually cover more.
The Group Interview
These are not extensively used, but are becoming more common today. They may involve several individuals from various departments, departmental managers, potential peers, subordinates, or employees. With the stressing of teamwork environments, more peer and subordinate involvement in the interview process is taking place in today's selection process.
The Stress Interview
This is a format that can be done on a one-on-one or group basis. The interviewer(s) try to stress the candidate with questions. The objective is to assess the individual’s reaction under stress and/or the pressure of a particular situation.
The Phone Interview
For all intents and purposes, every interview is a stress interview; the interviewer’s negative and trick questions can act as the catalyst for your own fear. And the only way to combat that fear is to be prepared, to know what the interviewer is trying to do, and to anticipate the various directions he or she will take. Whenever you are ill-prepared for an interview, no one will be able to put more pressure on you than you do on yourself. Remember: A stress interview is just a regular interview with the volume turned all the way up--the music is the same, just louder. Only preparedness will keep you cool and collected.
Stress questions are designed to sort out the clutch players from those who freeze under pressure. Used with discretion, the reflexives (“…don’t you think?”) will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are able to function well under pressure. At the same time, of course, you put the ball back in the interviewer's court.
One common stress interview technique is to set you up for a fall: a pleasant conversation, one or a series of seemingly innocuous questions to relax your guard, then a dazzling series of jabs and body blows that leave you gibbering. For instance, an interviewer might lull you into a false sense of security by asking some relatively stress-free questions: ''What was your initial starting salary at your last job?" then, "What is your salary now?" then, "Do you receive bonuses?" etc. To put you on the ropes, he or she might then completely surprise you with, "Tell me what sort of troubles you have living within your means," or "Why aren't you earning more at your age?" Such interviewers are using stress in an intelligent fashion, to simulate the unexpected and sometimes tense events of everyday business life. Seeing how you handle simulated pressure gives a fair indication of how you will react to the real thing.
The sophisticated interviewer talks very little, perhaps only twenty percent of the time, and that time is spent asking questions. Few comments, and no editorializing on your answers, means that you get no hint, verbal or otherwise, about your performance.
The questions are planned, targeted, sequenced, and layered. The interviewer covers one subject thoroughly before moving on. Let's take the simple example of "Can you work under pressure?" Answer that question with an example, and thereby deflect the main thrust of this stress technique. The interviewer will be prepared for a simple yes/no answer; what follows will keep the unprepared applicant reeling.
You have just been through an old reporter's technique of asking why, when, who, what, how, and where. The technique can be applied to any question you are asked and is frequently used to probe those success stories that sound just too good to be true. You'll find them suddenly tagged on to the simple closed-ended questions, as well as to the open-ended ones. Typically, they'll start something like this: "Share with me," "Tell me about a time when," or, "I'm interested in finding out about," and request specific examples from your work history. After you've survived that barrage, a friendly tone may conceal another zinger: "What did you learn from the experience?" This question is geared to probing your judgment and emotional maturity. Your answer should emphasize whichever of the key personality traits your story was illustrating.
When an interviewer feels you were on the edge of revealing something unusual in an answer, you may well encounter "mirror statements." Here, the last key phrase of your answer will be repeated or paraphrased, and followed by a steady gaze and silence. For example, "So, you learned that organization is the key to management." The idea is that the quiet and an expectant look will work together to keep you talking. It can be disconcerting to find yourself rambling on without quite knowing why. The trick is knowing when to stop. When the interviewer gives you an expectant look in this context, expand your answer (you have to), but by no more than a couple of sentences. Otherwise, you will get that creepy feeling that you’re digging yourself into a hole. This is exactly the purpose of this type of interview!
Employers use telephone interviews as a way of identifying and recruiting candidates for employment. Phone interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews.
Be Prepared to Interview
While you're actively job searching, it's important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moment's notice. You never know when a recruiter or a networking contact might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk. Review these tips and pull off your phone interview without a hitch.
Prepare for a phone interview just as you would for a regular interview. Compile a list of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a list of answers to typical interview questions. In addition, plan on being prepared for a phone conversation about your background and skills.
- Keep your resume in clear view, on the top of your desk, or tape it to the wall near the phone, so it's at your fingertips when you need to answer questions.
- Have a short list of your accomplishments available to review.
- Have a pen and paper handy for note taking.
- Turn call-waiting off so your call isn't interrupted.
- If the time isn't convenient, ask if you could talk at another time and suggest some alternatives.
- Clear the room - evict the kids and the pets. Turn off the stereo and the TV. Close the door.
- Unless you're sure your cell phone service is going to be perfect, consider using a landline rather than your cell phone to avoid a dropped call or static on the line.
- Make sure your answering machine/voicemail box has an appropriate recording and is able to accept messages.
- Coach family members or roommates (anyone who is answering the phone besides you) to take a message.
Talking on the phone isn't as easy as it seems. It's helpful to practice. Have a friend or family member conduct a mock interview and record it so you can see how you sound over the phone. You'll be able to hear your "ums" and "uhs" and " okays" and you can practice reducing them from your conversational speech. Also rehearse answers to those typical questions you'll be asked.
During the Phone Interview
After the Interview
- Don't smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.
- Do keep a glass of water handy, in case you need to wet your mouth.
- Smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
- Use the person's title (Mr. or Ms. and their last name). Only use a first name if they ask you to.
- Don't interrupt the interviewer.
- Take your time - it's perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts.
- Give short answers.
- Remember your goal is to set-up a face-to-face interview. After you thank the interviewer ask if it would be possible to meet in person.
The Informational Interview
An informational interview is a meeting in which a job seeker asks for advice rather than employment. The job seeker uses the interview to gather information on the field, find employment leads and expand their professional network. This differs from a job interview because the job seeker asks the questions. There may or may not be employment opportunities available.
Before the Interview
Informational interviews are initiated by the job seeker. There are many avenues the job seeker may pursue to obtain the informational interview. Career and social networking, newspaper want ads, job boards, placement services, company websites, human resource contacts, job search engines, and professional recruiters.
While the job seeker initiates the interview, he or she must follow the basic guidelines for interview etiquette. He or she must arrive promptly, dress appropriately, prepare informational questions, and make a good first impression.
Research your field to gain a basic understanding of the occupation so you can focus on questions that can't be answered elsewhere.
Identify Professionals to Interview
Get referrals from family, friends, and college alumni. Conduct informational interviews and gain access to alumni contacts and professional associations in a variety of career fields. Consider conducting several interviews in any one field to hear a wide range of experiences and viewpoints.
Setting Up the Interview
Call the professional to request an interview following these guidelines:
- Make it clear you are interviewing for information only and are not job hunting.
- Ask for only 20-30 minutes and then stick to it.
- Be flexible about when you can meet and, if a personal meeting isn't possible, be willing to accept a phone interview.
Conducting the Interview
Dress in a business-like manner and be on time. Be prepared with your questions and a notebook in which to take notes. Ask questions such as the following:
Skillfully used, an informational interview is one of the most valuable sources of occupational information. While it may cover some of the same ground as printed material or on a company website, it presents opportunities for an intimate and flexible inside view of a job field unmatched by other sources. The informational interview communicates the first hand experiences and impressions of someone in the occupation, and is directed by your questions.
- What attracted you to the field?
- Describe a typical day on the job.
- What personal attributes, skills, and qualifications are needed to be successful?
- What are the satisfactions and disappointments in your job?
- What are the possible career paths and salaries at various levels?
- If you had a choice, would you still enter this field? Why or why not?
- What trends and opportunities are developing?
- What advice would you give to someone entering the field?
- Who else could you refer me to who knows about this career field?
An informational interview is less stressful for both you and the employer than a typical job interview. You are the one in control. Questions can be asked that may not be strategic during a first interview (i.e., questions regarding salary, benefits, vacation). You can discuss what is done on a day-to-day basis and relate it to your own interests and feelings. Beyond the advantages of gaining valuable career information, the informational interview provides the opportunity to build self-confidence and to improve your ability to handle a job interview.
You should regard each interview as a business appointment and conduct yourself in a professional manner. If you have made clear, in advance, the explicit purpose of your interview you will, in all probability, find your contact an interested and helpful person. Remember the appointment time and appear promptly for your interview. You should neither be too casually dressed nor overdressed. Regular business attire is appropriate. Be sure you know the name of the person you are meeting, the correct pronunciation of his/her name, and the title of his/her position.
Because so much ground may be covered in the informational interview, individuals sometimes take notes during the meeting. A limited amount of note-taking is justified provided that your contact is agreeable and that you don't interrupt communication between the two of you.
Sketch out a brief outline of the topics covered and the information gained as soon as possible after the interview. This will require only a few minutes, and will insure that you remember the important points discussed. Later, working from your outline, you can construct a more detailed report of the interview.
Write thank you notes to the people you have interviewed. Report back to them if you have followed up on any suggestions. By building strong rapport with career contacts you enhance the likelihood that they will offer assistance with your job search when you are ready for that phase of your career planning process.
Most interviews occur at the prospective place of business. However, it is not unusual to have interviews at hotels, conference rooms and the most difficult of all – a restaurant!! Be prepared! A strange setting can actually put you on equal footing with the interviewer. Neither of you is on home turf.
To gain the upper hand, get to the meeting site early to scout the territory. By knowing your surroundings, you will feel more relaxed. The situation is now somewhat is your favor. You know the locale, and the meeting place is as much yours as the interviewer’s. You will have a clear view of your surroundings, and odds are that you will be more relaxed than the interviewer. When he or she arrives, say “I arrived a little early to make sure we had some privacy. I think over here is the best spot.” With that positive demonstration of your organizational abilities, you give yourself a head start over the competition.
The Meal Meeting
Breakfast, lunch or dinner interviews can catch the seasoned professional off guard. In fact, the meal is arguably the toughest of all tough interview situations. The setting offers the interviewer the chance to see you in a non-official (and therefore more natural) setting, to observe your social graces, and to consider you as a whole person. Here, topics that would be impossible to address in the traditional office setting will naturally surface, often with virtually no effort on the part of the interviewer. The slightest slip in front of the interviewer could get your candidacy “thrown under the bus”!
Usually you will not be invited to an “eating meeting” until you have already demonstrated that you are capable of doing the job. It’s a good sign, actually: an invitation to a meal means that you are under strong consideration, and, by extension, intense scrutiny. The meeting is often the final hurdle and could lead directly to the job offer – assuming, of course, that you properly handle the occasional surprises that arise. But be careful--many have fallen at the final hurdle in a close-run race. Being interviewed in front of others is bad enough; eating and drinking in front of them at the same time only makes it worse. If you knock over a glass or dribble spaghetti sauce down your chin, the interviewer will be so busy smirking that he or she won’t hear what you have to say.
To be sure that the interviewer remains as attentive to the positive points of your candidacy as possible, let’s discuss table manners.
Your social graces and general demeanor at the table can tell as much about you as your answer to a question. For instance, over-ordering food or drink can signal poor self-discipline. At the very least, it will call into question your judgment and maturity. High-handed behavior toward waiters and bus people could reflect negatively on your ability to get along with subordinates and on your leadership skills. Those concerns are amplified when you return food or complain about the service, actions which, at the very least, find fault with the interviewer’s choice of restaurant.
By the same token, you will want to observe how your potential employer behaves. After all, you are likely to become an employee, and the interviewer’s behavior to servers in a restaurant can tell you a lot about what it will be like on the job.
Keep all your cups and glasses at the top of your place setting well away from you. Most glasses are knocked over at a cluttered table when someone stretches for the condiments or gestures to make a point. Of course, your manners should prevent you from reaching rudely for the pepper-shaker.
When you are faced with an array of knives, forks, and spoons, it is safe to start at the outside and work your way in as the courses come. Keep your elbows at your sides and don’t slouch in the chair. The time to start eating, of course, is when the interviewer does; the time to stop is when he or she does. When pausing between mouthfuls (which, if you are promoting yourself properly, should be frequently). At the end of a course or the meal, rest your knife and fork together on the plate, at five o’clock.
Here are some other helpful hints:
Checks and Goodbyes
- Never speak with your mouth full.
- To be on the safe side, eat the same thing, or close to it, as the interviewer. Of course, while this rule makes sense in theory, the fact is that you probably will be asked to order first, so ordering the same thing can become problematic. Solve the problem before you order by complimenting the restaurant during your small talk and then, when the menus arrive, “What do you think you will have today?”
- Do not change your order once it is made, and never send the food back.
- Be polite to your waiters, even when they spill soup in your lap.
- Don’t order expensive food. Naturally, in our heart of hearts, we all like to eat well, especially on someone else’s tab. But don’t be tempted. When you come right down to it, you are there to talk and be seen at your best, not to eat.
- Eat what you know. Stay away from awkward, messy, or exotic foods (example: artichokes, long pasta, and escargot, respectively). Ignore finger foods such as lobster or spare ribs. In fact, you should avoid eating with your fingers altogether, unless you are in a sandwich shop, in which case you should make a point of avoiding the leaky, over-stuffed menu items.
- Don’t order salad. The dressing can often get messy. If a salad comes with the meal, request that the dressing be on the side. Then, before pouring it on, cut up the lettuce.
- Don’t order anything with bones. Stick with filets; there are few, simple, gracious ways to deal with any type of bone.
I know an interviewer whose favorite test of composure is to have the waiter, by arrangement, put the bill on the interviewee’s side of the table. She then chats on, waiting for something interesting to happen. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, never pick up the check, however long it is left by your plate. When ready, your host will pick it up, because that’s the simple protocol of the occasion. By the same token, you should never offer to share payment.
When parting company, always thank the host for his or her hospitality and the wonderful meal. Of course, you should be sure to leave on a positive note by asking good naturedly what you have to do to get the job.
Strange interview situations can arise at any time during the interview cycle, and in any public place. Wherever you are asked to go, keep your guard up. Your table manners, listening skills, and overall social graces are being judged. The question on the interviewer’s mind is: Can you be trusted to represent the company graciously?