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Interviewing Skills

What is a Job Interview?

It is a dialogue between a potential employer and candidate to fill a vacant position your skills, interests, and qualifications will be questioned and discussed.

Some people experience stress when they have a job interview, which is completely normal. However, with advanced preparation and a few tips, you can succeed with confidence.

What types of interviews are there?           

One-on-one: this is the most common interview format, where you meet individually with an employer

Panel: consists of two or more interviewers taking turns to ask questions

Group: employers may hold group interviews to screen multiple candidates at once. These interviews may also involve a group activity that bring applicants together to solve a problem

Telephone or Skype: typically used for pre-screening but also when interviews take place in other locations

What I can do before the interview?

  • Review the posting carefully
  • Research the company to get a better understanding of who they are and what they do
  • Make a list of questions you might be asked and prepare your answers
  • Be prepared with examples to answer behavioral questions
  • Practice your responses to interview questions with a Career advisor
  • Double check the location and map your route via public transit or figure out where to park before the interview and how much time it will take to get there
  • Arrive 10- 15 minutes early, no more no less
  • Bring:
  1. A few copies of your Resume and cover letter
  2. Questions to ask the prospective employer
  3. A list of your references on a separate sheet paper
  4. Notepad and pen
  5. Professional Portfolio
  • Wear appropriate, clean and pressed clothing, and well-polished shoes
  • Wear minimal make-up and jewellery
  • Have a recent haircut or styling and neatly manicured nails
  • Be conservative and dress one level higher than the employees
  • Be scent-free (e.g.no strong fragrance or coffee breath)
  • Keep a tissue in your pocket to wipe cold, and wet nervous hands
  • Positive self-talk
  • Practice deep breathing to calm yourself down

What I can do during the interview?

  • When you enter the room make eye contact and shake hands with each interviewer as you introduce yourself.  Smile!
  • Wait to sit until they indicate where you should be seated
  • Maintain eye contact to indicate interest
  • Be aware of your voice (too quiet, fast or squeaky)
  • Listen carefully to the interviewers without interrupting and ask for clarification if you do not understand a question
  • Monitor the messages you send with your body language (e.g. hand gestures, slouching etc.)
  • Pay attention to the interviewer’s nonverbal cues that indicate you are providing too much or too little information
  • Focus on your strengths
  • Be comfortable with silences
  • Thank the interviewer(s) for meeting with you
  • Avoid slang expressions such as “you know” or “ like”
  • Be honest with your answers
  • Be careful not to ask questions about salary and benefits. Some employers prefer to disclose this information in a subsequent interview

What I can do after the interview?

  • Write what you learned: this helps to prepare for a 2nd interview and/or evaluate your performance
  • Send a thank you note or email to your interviewer(s). Address each interviewer(s) individually by name. If you are unsure or have forgotten their names, look online or phone to find out. Only 10% of candidates do this.

What is the purpose of the questions during the interview?

The employer is trying to determine:  if you can do the job, if you want the job and if you are a good fit.

Common Interview Questions

  • Tell me about your self.
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What are you long/short term goals?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What do you know about our organization/company?

Why do interviewers like behavioural questions?

Behavioral question help evaluate past behavior as the best predictor of future performance. In short, the goal for the interviewers is to predict future job performance based on examples of previous specific behavior.

Some examples:

  • Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a specific type of problem.
  • Can you recall an instance where you had to be the leader of a team?
  •  Can you describe one decision that you regret? What did you learn from the experience?
  • Describe the most difficult decision you’ve made in the last 6 months.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that required coping skills.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you convinced your supervisor or professor of an idea. How did you accomplish this and what was the result?

What is the best way to handle behavioral questions?

Avoid using examples from your personal life and try to vary your examples, do not just talk about the same project.

Prepare in advance your stories and follow the STAR model:

Situation + Task+ Action = Result

S= briefly set up the situation

Task = explain the task you had to complete or the problem you had to solve

Action = describe the actions you took to complete the task or solve the problem

Results = close by explaining the result of your efforts. Quantify that outcome if possible.

Sometimes there are surprising questions, which would be your answer to this question?

  • If you could be anything in a grocery store what would you be and why?
  • Are you ready for your next steps? Attend an Interview workshop or make an appointment for a mock interview with Career Services!