The purpose of an interview
The interview is a mutual exchange of information between an employer and you, as a candidate for a position. The primary objectives are to:
Supplement résumé information
Show that you understand your strengths and weaknesses and have a sense of direction
Enable the employer to evaluate your personality and attitudes in terms of the demands of the organization and the position
Allow you to gain information about the organization and the job that is not available through other sources
Give you and the employer an opportunity to discuss the desirability of further contact or an offer of employment
First impressions matter whether they be online or in person. Consider conducting a web search on yourself to see what employers could access when pre-screening candidates. Some employers are also registering themselves in social networking groups to collect
information on potential candidates. Thoroughly check all sites, blogs, where you are listed to ensure that the information contained is professional.
Your success or failure in the interview can depend on your appearance and the interviewer's first impression of you.
Be punctual. Arrive ten minutes early to allow yourself time to collect your thoughts. Take the opportunity to observe the work environment. Keep your eyes and ears open.
Research indicates that, on average, an interviewer decides to hire in just 5 1/2 minutes. If the first impression is not positive, it will be difficult to change the interviewer's mind during the rest of the interview.
Look neat, clean, and well groomed. Select proper clothing for the type of organization interviewing you. If in doubt, be conservative. It is also advisable to keep
fashion accessories to a minimum, to avoid wearing strong scents because many people
have environmental allergies, and to turn off cell phones, electronic organizers, and pagers. Greet each person with respect and professionalism. When you shake hands, make eye contact and smile. Handshakes should be firm but not aggressive; try to match the grip of the interviewer. It is good etiquette to wait to sit down until the interviewer invites you to do so.
Don't worry about being a little nervous during the interview; being nervous is normal and expected. Remember, the interviewer wants to hire you if you have the right qualifications and interest in the position. Many interviewers will begin the interview with some "small talk" to help you relax. This may seem irrelevant to the position, but you are still being evaluated; be sure to demonstrate a positive attitude.
Preparing for the interview
To impress an employer, you must be well prepared and understand the value of what you have to offer. To demonstrate effectively your suitability for the position and your value to the organization, you must know yourself. Review your self-assessment information and your résumé. Be prepared to give examples to substantiate all claims in your résumé. In addition to determining your level of proficiency, some interviewers want to see how you have grown over time in areas related to their position(s) (e.g., interpersonal and work skills,
motivation). Others will want you to talk about your mistakes and what lessons you learned from them.
Know the company/organization
You must be familiar with the position and the organization so that you can demonstrate your interest in and fit for the job. Refer to the notes you made as you reviewed print and online materials and spoke with people about the position.
A commonly asked interview question is: "What do you know about our company?" If you are unable to answer this question effectively, employers will see this as a sign of disinterest. In addition, try to obtain information on the person (or persons) you will be meeting with and the schedule for the interview period.
Answering interview questions
The next phase of the interview consists of the interviewer asking you questions to try to determine your fit. Having knowledge of possible questions helps you to prepare points to include in your answers. Think about why a question is being asked. What does the employer really want to know?
Behaviour-based and situational/hypothetical questions are increasing in popularity because they are considered to be more valid predictors of on-the-job performance.
Behaviour-based interviews are designed to elicit information about how you have performed in the past because past behaviour is a good indicator of how you will function in the future. Interviewers develop their questions around the traits and skills they consider
necessary for succeeding in a position or organization. These questions usually begin with phrases such as the following:
Tell me about a time...
Describe a situation in which...
Recall an instance when… Give me an example of…
Some applicants find the format of such questions difficult to understand and have trouble responding. However, if you have done your research and prepared for the interview, you will have work, academic, and life experiences ready to share. You can prepare for behaviour-based questions by recalling specific actions that demonstrate your
accomplishments, abilities, and fit for the position. Be certain to tell the truth, get to the point, stay focused, turn negatives into positives, and be consistent with your responses. Common behaviour-based interview themes include the following:
Working effectively under pressure
Handling a difficult situation with a co-worker
Applying good judgment and logic in solving a problem Thinking creatively
Completing a project on time
Persuading team members to do things your way Writing a report or proposal that was well received
Anticipating potential problems and developing preventative measures Making an important decision with limited facts and information Making a quick decision during the absence of a supervisor Making an unpopular decision Adapting to a difficult situation
Being tolerant of a different opinion
Using your political savvy to promote a program or idea that you really believed in Dealing with an upset client Delegating a project effectively
Explaining complex information to a client, colleague, or peer Surmounting a major obstacle
Prioritizing the elements of a complicated project
By analyzing the questions asked of you, you will discover further details about the position. What emphasis does the interviewer seem to be placing on which skills, knowledge,
personality traits, and attitudes? That insight can help you tailor your answers more easily to the employer’s position.
The "W5 model" is a useful method for answering a behaviour-based question. The answer should take approximately ninety seconds because that's the typical attention span.
State skill/knowledge/ability and give an example of it by explaining:
What, Who, When, Where, Why, and How
What the successful outcome was
Re-state skill and outline benefits transferable to the interviewer’s organization