What is the purpose of an interview?
An interview is a matchmaking process. You will interview the company and the company will interview you. This is a mutual exercise in determining compatibility.
The employer is interested in discovering the answers to three fundamental questions:
- Can you do the job?
Do you have the technical background, training, education, capabilities, and experience to perform the work, short-term as well as long-term? Do you have a track record of results which match the opportunity?
- Will you fit in?
Do you have well-developed interpersonal and organizational skills? Are these skills sufficient to interact well with the team?
- Do you want the job?
How enthusiastic are you? How well prepared are you for the interview? Did you ask to receive the company literature before the interview?
How should I prepare for the interview?
- Be ready to discuss your qualifications as they relate to the requirements of the job.
- Create a verbal resume a one or two minute verbal summary of who you are.
Do your homework
- Research your prospective employer.
- Request company literature: annual reports, employee newsletters, promotional material, or product brochures.
- Look at the company's website, go to a local library or Chamber of Commerce, ask about directories that would describe the company, its competitors, and its industry.
Study the job description
- If a job description hasn't been provided, either contact the employer directly or refer to generic occupational descriptions, like those found in the National Occupation Classification Index http://www5.hrsdc.gc.ca/noc/english/noc/2006/welcome.aspx
- Match your background to the job requirements. List specific experiences that demonstrate your ability to fulfil the requirement. Integrate them into your verbal resume.
How do I practice?
- Anticipate questions that may be asked of you, and prepare solid responses which are truthful and credible. Practice responding in a confident manner.
- Make an appointment with us to role-play in a video-taped practice interview. Bring in a description of the job you are applying for. Find out ahead of time what type of interview you can expect.
- Practice your verbal resume in front of a mirror.
- Practice answering difficult questions.
How do I make a good first impression?
Dress the part
First impressions are often the strongest you make, and they are based on your appearance. Dress conservatively and appropriately. When in doubt, overdress slightly. Regardless of the job for which you are applying, good grooming is essential.
- Wear a suit or dress with a jacket. Wear a minimum amount of jewelry and perfume.
- Wear a suit and tie. A white shirt and conservative tie are always appropriate. Make sure everything is neatly pressed. Wear dark socks with freshly polished dress shoes.
If you are not familiar with the interview location, make a trial run to find it and plan how much travel time is needed.
Arrive early. Be sure you are close to the building, but do not go in until ten minutes before the interview.
Be cordial to everyone you meet on your way to the interview. Secretaries and other employees can have a positive or negative influence on the person who conducts the interview.
Watch non-verbal messages
Studies have shown that more than 50 per cent of the meaning of any message is attributed to nonverbal communication, also known as body language.
- Give a firm handshake.
Make sure that your right hand is free. Carry your briefcase, coat, portfolio or purse on your left arm.
- Make eye contact and smile.
Say, "Hello, Ms. Smith. I am John Jones. I have been looking forward to meeting you." Make eye contact and maintain it in a natural way throughout the interview, especially when answering difficult questions.
- Do not sit until invited to do so.
Maintain a confident posture. Sit forward, look alert, and be enthusiastic.
- Do not show anxiety or boredom.
Employers look at your ability to manage the stress of an interview as indicative of how you would deal with stress on the job. Your body language should reflect a positive attitude that says, "I can make a difference."
What can I expect during my interview?
Most interviews last 30 to 60 minutes and have three basic components:
Breaking the ice
The interviewer will engage you in small talk, discussing topics like weather and current events.
Responding to the interviewer's questions forms the body of this stage. Your goal is to manage the interview, not dominate it. Let the interviewer set the tone.
Get the interviewer to talk about the organization so that you have a context for the interview. Ask strategic questions about the company (i.e.: Can you give me a brief history of the company? What is your focus for the future?) or refer to information collected when researching the company.
Offer to share your verbal resume. You can transition to this by saying, "Thank you for sharing about your organization," and ask if it would be helpful for the interviewer if you were to sketch in your background, what you have been doing, and what you are looking for in your next position. Incorporate what you have learned about the organization from the interviewer. Focus on potential links between your strengths and the organization's needs.
Discovering needs and creating common ground
Be prepared to ask the interviewer questions that will help you learn more about the position and the company. Demonstrate your analytical ability by asking thoughtful questions, such as:
- Why is this position open?
- What are the major responsibilities of this position?
- Is there a job description? May I see it?
- Why is this position available?
- Could you identify typical career paths based on past records?
- What characteristics does the successful person have at your company?
- Could you describe typical first year assignments?
- What are the company's plans for future growth?
- What is the overall structure of the department where the position is located?
Here is a list of questions you should avoid:
- things the interviewer has already reviewed.
- information covered in company literature.
- issues regarding compensation and benefits.
What are some commonly asked questions?
Tell me about yourself. Write and memorize your verbal resume. Before you answer, it may be most helpful to ask the interviewer, "What area of my background would be most interesting to you?" to find the appropriate focus.
What is your greatest strength?
As a student or recent graduate, your answer must stand out from all other entry-level candidates. For example, saying, "I'm good with people" will brand you as average. Recount a past situation which demonstrates how you are good with people.
What is your greatest weakness?
Remember that many weaknesses are excessive strengths. Design your answer so that your weakness is ultimately a positive characteristic. For example: "When I don't feel that others are pulling their weight, I find it a little frustrating. I am aware of this weakness, and in these situations I try to overcome it with a positive attitude that I hope will catch on."
Which of the jobs you've held have you liked the least?
It is likely that your work experience contained a certain amount of repetition and drudgery as all early jobs in the business world do. Avoid the negative and say something like, "All of my jobs have had their good and bad points, but I've always found that if you want to learn there's plenty to be picked up each day." Be careful to never criticize the companies and bosses you've worked for.
What are your future vocational plans? Where do you want to be five years from now?
Avoid the trap of saying "in management." Your safest answer identifies you with the profession into which you are trying to break. "In five years I hope to have become a thorough professional with a clear understanding of the company, industry, and where the opportunities lie for future development."
What kind of salary do you expect?
Ask what the salary range is for the position, and avoid stating a salary range before they have stated an amount. Research the standard wage for a position like the one you are applying to so that, if you find yourself boxed in, you can state your salary requirements in a range, using your previous research as a framework.
Other questions you may expect:
- How does your education equip you for this job?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What do you know about our company?
- Why do you feel qualified to perform this job? Why should we hire you?
- In what ways do you believe you can make a contribution to our organization?
- What skills have you acquired in your most recent jobs and how do they relate to this position?
- What, in your opinion, are the qualifications necessary for success in this field?
- What are your short- and long-term career goals?
- Why did you choose this occupation?
- What do you know about the responsibilities of the job for which you are applying?
- What do you look for in a job?
- What type of work environment do you prefer?
- What do you look for in a supervisor/boss?
- Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team and why?
- What did you like best/least about your last job?
- What motivates you?
Ask a prefatory question like: "Would it be helpful if I were to briefly sketch in my background, what I have been doing, and what I am looking for in my next position?"
In one sentence concisely state your primary career orientation.
In one sentence say where you were born and raised.
In five seconds, state your degree(s), major subjects and school name.
Experience from the past to the present, without mentioning every position or date. Provide no more than FOUR examples of jobs you've held along with concrete, specific results for each one.
Tell what you are doing now. Communicate interest in learning more about the company. Maybe ask, "Are there any particular points in my background you would like me to expand on?"
Write out your verbal resume, revising it if necessary. You will need to practice delivering it without sounding like you're reading it or reciting it from memory.
Should I send a thank you or follow up letter?
Thank you and follow-up letters are valuable because they give you another opportunity to remind the employer that you are an excellent candidate for the position. They also enable you to add pertinent information that you didn't mention in your phone call or interview.