Your customized resume and cover letter have gotten you that highly anticipated interview with a company that interests you. What does it take to succeed in a screening or hiring interview? Below are some tips regarding types of interviews and steps to follow to succeed in your interview.
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Acing the Interview
Types of Interviews
- In person – first impressions are very important.
- By telephone – verbal communication is important as it is impossible to see the non-verbal reactions.
- Video-conferencing – it is important to pay attention to body language.
Step 1 - Before the interview
- Review and analyze the job description in detail; compare your skills, experience and abilities to the job requirements.
- Research the company. Understanding its business and corporate culture will show that you have initiative, are willing to learn and will help you respond to questions during the interview.
- Anticipate questions and prepare your answers by highlighting your accomplishments with concrete examples.
- Prepare questions for the interviewer.
- Find out the names and titles of the people interviewing you, the location and type of your interview and whether or not there will be any tests.
- Practice, practice, practice! Practice helps build confidence.
Step 2 – During the interview
- Be on time! Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
- Dress appropriately and professionally. (Dress to impress guide)
- Greet your interviewer with eye contact, a smile and a firm handshake.
- Bring your portfolio (copies of your resume, references, transcripts, certificates, etc…).
- Be positive and enthusiastic; employers are looking for people with a positive attitude and often emphasize attitude over skills, training and experience.
- Maintain eye contact and good posture throughout the interview; 55% of the communication process involves body language.
- Answer questions clearly and concisely. Stay focused and do not deviate from the topic.
- Follow the lead of the interviewer and ask questions for clarification whenever necessary.
- Always include a concrete example in your answer that supports the skills or experience that you are highlighting.
- Ask the employer the questions that you have prepared.
- Don’t forget to find out about the next step in the recruitment process.
- Thank the interviewers for their time, shake hands and say goodbye.
Step 3 – After the interview
- Immediately after the interview, make notes about the job, the company and how you responded to the questions. This will be useful information when you are writing your thank you letter and if you are called back for a second interview.
- Within 24-48 hours, send a thank-you letter.
- If you have not heard within 1-2 weeks after the first interview, follow up either by phone or by email
- If you were not selected for the job or a second interview, ask for feedback about your performance during the interview
Things not to do during the interview:
- Do not arrive late.
- Do not criticize former employers, co-workers or professors.
- Do not ask about salary or benefits until the recruiter raises the issue.
- Do not wear excessive jewellery or perfume.
- Do not avoid eye contact with anyone during the interview.
Employers may ask you a variety of questions during an interview. It helps to be familiar with the categories of questions you may be asked so that you may better prepare for the interview. These include general questions, behavioural questions, and situational questions.
A. General questions
Understanding why the employer is asking the question can help you formulate your response. Below you will find some typical questions including some tips for responding.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Intent: This question is usually asked as an ice breaker, to help both the employer and you
relax. The employer is interested in better understanding you as a potential employee and how your skills and
experience may fit with the position.
Response: This is an invitation for you to talk about your qualifications, experiences related to the position, and educational background. You want to add value to your resume. Talk about what you did to get to where you are today, such as how you developed an interest in your field of study, and where you want to go from here. Sell yourself, but keep your answer brief.
2. Why are you interested in a position with this organization?
Intent: The employer wants to know how much you know and understand about their company, and
their products and services.
Response: Show the employer that you have done research on their organization, including their services, products, market information, and competitors. In addition, demonstrate your interest in the company by discussing how your skills and experience will benefit the organization.
3. What led you to complete your undergraduate degree in ________________?
Intent: The employer wants to know why you chose your particular field of study and degree
program and when you made the decision to do so.
Response: Show passion for your field. You may also choose to talk about the decision-making process that led you to select your program of study.
4. What strengths do you feel you bring to this position?
Intent: The employer is interested in assessing how well you know and believe in yourself, and
whether or not you possess the necessary skills for the
Response: Describe your strengths that relate to the position and provide examples to support your answer. Possible strengths could include employability skills such as communication, reliability, flexibility and ability to be a team player.
5. Describe a weakness (or 2 or 3…)
Intent: The employer is assessing your ability to be self-reflective and critical. In essence,
he or she is interested in seeing how well you know yourself and how honestly you can evaluate your strengths and
Response: State the weakness(es) and describe the measures you have taken to overcome it (them) and improve in that area.
Other possible questions:
- If you were hired, what steps would you take to become an effective team member?
- Where do you see yourself five years from now?
- What are your salary expectations?
B. Behavioural questions
- They are based on the assumption that past behaviour is a good predictor for future behaviour.
- The interviewer will ask you to describe a situation in the past where you demonstrated a quality or skill that is required for the position for which you are interviewing.
- The emphasis is on gaining real life examples.
- They are often used to evaluate employability skills.
- Companies attract better candidates using the behavioural approach.
How to prepare and respond to behavioural questions :
- Identify the skills the employer is seeking from the job description or statement of qualifications.
- Choose a situation or incident that best demonstrates a particular skill.
- Be honest and specific and give a detailed account of an event.
- Prepare your response including the situation or problem, the action you took and the outcome or end result (S.A.R.).
Sample behavioural question:
1. Can you give me an example of a situation in which you effectively used your time management skills?
Situation : As a student, I find that my time management skills are constantly being challenged. Last semester, for example, I had to submit three final papers within the span of one week. That made me quite nervous because writing papers always takes me longer than studying for exams.
Action: Since I learned about the assignments at the beginning of the semester, I developed a work plan to complement my schedule. Essentially, I established priorities based on the difficulty and involvement of each paper. For instance, I knew that my paper on the Romanticism period for Art History class would require more in-depth research than my paper on anxiety, since I knew less about that topic. As a result, I reserved more research time at the beginning of the semester for my Art History paper. I also set deadlines for myself where each month, I would have to complete certain sections of my papers by specific dates.
Results : By prioritizing my work and sticking to my deadlines, I succeeded in submitting all the reports on time and was pleased with the results.
Behavioural interview questions:
1. Describe a situation in which you played a key role in helping your team succeed. What did you contribute? What
was the outcome?
2. Describe the most significant or creative presentation that you have had to complete.
3. Can you provide me with an example of a time when you had to meet a tight deadline?
4. Give me a specific example of a time when you failed to complete a project on time, despite your best efforts.
5. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult client and how you handled it.
6. Give me an example of an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.
C. Situational questions
- The interviewer will provide you with a hypothetical situation that you may face in the work environment and ask how you would respond.
- Your response should include your intended action and result.
Sample situational question:
1. You are working on a team project and one of your teammates is not co-operative.
How do you resolve the conflict?
Action : My first reaction would be to assume that there may be some sort of problem, either personal or work-related, that is affecting his or her performance. Then I would meet with my teammate in private, tell him or her what I had observed, and ask if there was anything I could do to help resolve the situation. If the individual identified a problem, then we would work together to find a solution. I would then follow up with the individual and my teammates the following week to ensure that the situation had improved and that we were once again working efficiently as a team.
Result: I hope that by following these actions the lines of communication between my teammate and the rest of the group would open and morale would improve.
Situational Interview Question
1. A client tells you he or she is dissatisfied with the service you have provided. How would you respond?
D. Questions to ask the interviewer
At the end of the interview, you are usually given the opportunity to ask some questions. It is important to prepare some questions for the interviewer in advance. It shows that you are well prepared and allows you to clarify any questions you have about the position you are seeking or the company.
- About the position
- What is a typical workday like and what would my main duties include?
- What are some short- and long-term goals you would like to see met?
- What are the biggest challenges in this position?
- What would you consider to be a successful employee in this position?
- What freedom would I have in establishing my own goals and deadlines?
- How does this position contribute to the overall goals and objectives of the
- How does the company contribute to its employees’ professional development?
- What are the company’s plans for future growth?
- How do industry trends affect this company?
- What makes your company different from its competitors?
- What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What is the corporate work culture?
- What do you (the interviewer) like most about working here?
- About career advancement
- Does the company promote from within?
- What is a typical career path for this position?
Questions not to ask the interviewer:
- Anything that is already in the company’s literature or that can be easily found on their Web site.
- What will my salary be? *
- What is the company’s benefits package? *
* These topics are usually discussed in a second interview or when negotiating an offer.
If you would like a mock interview, come to Career Services to make an appointment with one of our team members.