Congratulations! Your resume and cover letter got you to the next phase in the job search process – the all-important interview! This is your chance to shine and ensure the employer understands why you are the best candidate for the job. At this point, some may say this job is yours, but that isn’t the case. There could be a shortlist of several candidates vying for the same position.
Interviews can involve any number of steps. It is quite common to have a brief pre-screening interview, often with someone from the HR department. These typically last anywhere from 15-30 minutes, and the purpose of them is usually to screen candidates based on their experience, qualifications, and salary expectations. Make sure to prepare for these with as much effort and diligence as a regular interview, because these can make or break your chances of being invited to interview at the next stage.
Some companies hold just one interview, others conduct 2, 3, or even more!
Depending on the position, you may be asked to complete an assignment or prepare a presentation or provide a sample of your work as part of the screening process.
Be confident and self-assured, but don’t think you’ve got it made. Yes, you’ve made it this far, but interviews can be challenging. Preparation and practice are key to successful interviews.
Any interview can be broken down into three main phases – pre-interview, during, and post-interview.
Pre-Interview is the period between the offer of a job interview and the actual interview day. During this time, it is important to:
During is the actual interview which will generally include an opening/welcome, the main interview, and the close. Throughout the interview, be sure to:
Post-interview is the period after the interview, until you either get a job offer or learn you were not the successful candidate. You might also be asked to participate in a follow-up interview. During this phase, it is important to:
Most people expect to have a one-one-one interview, just you and the interviewer, in an office of some sort. However, it isn’t unusual to have a group or panel interview or for interviews to be held in more public places such as a restaurant or career fair. Here is a list of possible scenarios you may encounter:
Interviews can be structured, in other words a set of questions is developed ahead of time, and each candidate gets asked exactly the same questions in the same way by the same people.
Sometimes you see the opposite, where the interview is free-flowing and informal, feeling more like a conversation. These unstructured interviews tend to be individualized to each candidate, depending on what’s in their resume.
Some interviews are somewhere in between these two extremes (i.e., structured and unstructured), meaning that the interviewer usually has a framework of topics to cover, while allowing new ideas to be brought up during the interview as a result of what the interviewee says.
Sometimes there will be just one interviewer – it could be the hiring manager or a HR person. Other times you’ll be interviewed by a number of people, which can include a panel of representatives from different departments in the organization, or you could be interviewed by the team with the available position. Each will likely be involved in asking questions. When answering, direct your response to the person who asked but do not ignore the rest of the panel. Ensure you are making contact and building a connection with each person.
In some cases, you could be interviewed alongside other applicants. This is called a group interview. This style introduces some competitiveness among applicants and allows employers to assess you relative to your peers. This style can be common during career fairs and could include one or more interviewers, as well as multiple interviewees. These are almost always screening interviews, as employers work to narrow down to a shorter list of people invited to a more formal interview. As with any professional meeting, smile, be confident and positive, and do not interrupt other speakers. You want to try to stand out in these interviews, but not by putting other people down.
Restaurant interviews may involve breakfast, lunch, or even dinner or just a drink and snack. All the same interview guidelines apply – arrive on time, dress appropriately, and answer each question thoughtfully, ensuring you are sharing your skills and experience. In addition, be mindful of what you are ordering to avoid anything that is too expensive or messy. Never order alcohol.
There are many different interview formats, and you need to be prepared for anything.
In-person interviews are the most common, and likely what most people expect and are often considered “the norm” though the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact here to. As with any other interview, arrive on-time, dress appropriately, project a positive and professional attitude.
Phone interviews can be challenging as you don’t get the benefit of seeing the interviewer so can’t respond to body language, however if you are being attentive you can get the sense of the employer’s tone, and vice versa. Try to smile and project an air of confidence using your voice. Dressing as if you were going to an in-person interview will also help set the right tone. Turn off, or ignore, other notifications to ensure you stay focused. If the line is causing interference, be sure to explain to the interviewer rather than trying to answer questions you can’t really hear.
Virtual interviews became quite common during the COVID-19 pandemic and are likely here to stay. These are usually conducted over a web-based video platform such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or WebEx. These kinds of interviews require a bit more preparation, including:
Asynchronous video interview, or AVI is an emerging type of interview held at a different time than the interviewer, often supported by artificial intelligence. In these interviews, applicants receive an email invitation to participate, click a link and then record audio or video responses to the questions. After the AVI, interviewers score the videos and pick the top candidates, or in some cases, a computer algorithm screens and scores the videos. If you are interested to learn more about this, read this article.