VPRO-E BUZZ: Tips on Job Interview

A job interview is a process in which a potential employee is evaluated by an employer for prospective employment in their company, organization, or firm. During this process, the employer hopes to determine whether or not the applicant is suitable for the job.

Job interview typically precedes the hiring decision, and is used to evaluate the candidate. The interview is usually preceded by the evaluation of submitted resumes from interested candidates, then selecting a small number of candidates for interviews. Potential job interview opportunities also include networking events and career fairs. The job interview is considered one of the most useful tools for evaluating potential employees.(1) It also demands significant resources from the employer, yet has been demonstrated to be notoriously unreliable in identifying the optimal person for the job.(1) An interview also allows the candidate to assess the corporate culture and demands of the job.

Multiple rounds of job interviews may be used where there are many candidates or the job is particularly challenging or desirable. Earlier rounds may involve fewer staff from the employers and will typically be much shorter and less in-depth. A common initial interview form is the phone interview, a job interview conducted over the telephone. This is especially common when the candidates do not live near the employer and has the advantage of keeping costs low for both sides.

Once all candidates have been interviewed, the employer typically selects the most desirable candidate and begins the negotiation of a job offer.


A typical job interview has a single candidate meeting with between one and three persons representing the employer; the potential supervisor of the employee is usually involved in the interview process. A larger interview panel will often have a specialized human resources worker. While the meeting can be over in as little as 15 minutes, job interviews usually last less than two hours.

The bulk of the job interview will entail the interviewers asking the candidate questions about his or her job history, personality, work style and other factors relevant to the job. For instance, a common interview question is “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” In some ways, all questions are really subsets of one of three overarching questions “Can you do the job?” (strengths), “Will you love the job?” (motivation), “Can we stand working with you?” (fit).(2) The candidate will usually be given a chance to ask any questions at the end of the interview. These questions are strongly encouraged since they allow the interviewee to acquire more information about the job and the company, but they can also demonstrate the candidate’s strong interest in them.

Candidates for lower paid and lower skilled positions tend to have much simpler job interviews than do candidates for more senior positions. For instance, a lawyer’s job interview will be much more demanding than that of a retail cashier. Most job interviews are formal; the larger the firm, the more formal and structured the interview will tend to be. Candidates generally dress slightly better than they would for work, with a suit (called an interview suit) being appropriate for a white-collar job interview.

Additionally, some professions have specific types of job interviews; for performing artists, this is an audition in which the emphasis is placed on the performance ability of the candidate.

In many companies, assessment days are increasingly being used, particularly for graduate positions, which may include analysis tasks, group activities, presentation exercises, and psychometric testing.

In recent years it has become increasingly common for employers to request job applicants who are successfully shortlisted to deliver one or more presentations at their interview. The purpose of the presentation in this setting may be to either demonstrate candidates’ skills and abilities in presenting, or to highlight their knowledge of a given subject likely to relate closely to the job role for which they have applied. It is common for the applicant to be notified of the request for them to deliver a presentation along with their invitation to attend the interview. Usually applicants are only provided with a title for the presentation and a time limit which the presentation should not exceed.

Types of Job interview


A common type of job interview in the modern workplace is the behavioral interview or behavioral event interview, also called a competency-based interview. This type of interview is based on the notion that a job candidate’s previous behaviors are the best indicators of future performance. In behavioral interviews, the interviewer asks candidates to recall specific instances where they were faced with a set of circumstances, and how they reacted. Typical behavioral interview questions:

* “Tell me about a project you worked on where the requirements changed midstream. What did you do?”

* “Tell me about a time when you took the lead on a project. What did you do?”

* “Describe the worst project you worked on.”

* “Describe a time you had to work with someone you didn’t like.”

* “Tell me about a time when you had to stick by a decision you had made, even though it made you very unpopular.”

* “Give us an example of something particularly innovative that you have done that made a difference in the workplace.”

* “What happened the last time you were late with a project?”

* “Have you ever witnessed a person doing something that you felt was against company policy. What did you do and why?”

A bad hiring decision nowadays can be immensely expensive for an organization—cost of the hire, training costs, severance pay, loss of productivity, impact on morale, cost of re-hiring, etc. (Gallup international places the cost of a bad hire as being 3.2 times the individual’s salary). Studies indicate that 40% of new executives fail in their first 18 months in a new job.(3) This has led to organizations investing in on boarding for their new employees to reduce these failure rates.

Case Interview

Further information: Case interview

A case interview is an interview form used mostly by management consulting firms and investment banks in which the job applicant is given a question/situation/problem/challenge and asked to resolve the situation. The case problem is often a business situation or a business case that the interviewer has worked on in real life.


Another type of job interview found throughout the professional and academic ranks is the panel interview. In this type of interview the candidate is interviewed by a group of panelists representing the various stakeholders in the hiring process. Within this format there are several approaches to conducting the interview. Example formats include;

* Presentation format – The candidate is given a generic topic and asked to make a presentation to the panel. Often used in academic or sales-related interviews.

* Role format – Each panelist is tasked with asking questions related to a specific role of the position. * For example one panelist may ask technical questions, another may ask management questions, another may ask customer service related questions etc.

* Skeet shoot format – The candidate is given questions from a series of panelists in rapid succession to test his or her ability to handle stress filled situations.

The benefits of the panel approach to interviewing include: time savings over serial interviewing, more focused interviews as there is often less time spend building rapport with small talk, and “apples to apples” comparison because each stake holder/interviewer/panelist gets to hear the same answers to the same questions. (4)


Stress interviews are still in common use. One type of stress interview is where the employer uses a succession of interviewers (one at a time or en masse) whose mission is to intimidate the candidate and keep him/her off-balance. The ostensible purpose of this interview: to find out how the candidate handles stress. Stress interviews might involve testing an applicant’s behavior in a busy environment. Questions about handling work overload, dealing with multiple projects, and handling conflict are typical.(5)

Another type of stress interview may involve only a single interviewer who behaves in an uninterested or hostile manner. For example, the interviewer may not make eye contact, may roll his eyes or sigh at the candidate’s answers, interrupt, turn his back, take phone calls during the interview, or ask questions in a demeaning or challenging style. The goal is to assess how the interviewee handles pressure or to purposely evoke emotional responses. This technique was also used in research protocols studying stress and type A (coronary-prone) behavior because it would evoke hostility and even changes in blood pressure and heart rate in study subjects. The key to success for the candidate is to de-personalize the process. The interviewer is acting a role, deliberately and calculatedly trying to “rattle the cage”. Once the candidate realizes that there is nothing personal behind the interviewer’s approach, it is easier to handle the questions with aplomb.

Example stress interview questions:

* Sticky situation: “If you caught a colleague cheating on his expenses, what would you do?”

* Putting you on the spot: “How do you feel this interview is going?”

* Popping the balloon: (deep sigh) “Well, if that’s the best answer you can give … ” (shakes head) “Okay, what about this one …?”

* Oddball question: “What would you change about the design of the hockey stick?”

* Doubting your veracity: “I don’t feel like we’re getting to the heart of the matter here. Start again – tell me what really makes you tick.”

Candidates may also be asked to deliver a presentation as part of the selection process. The “Platform Test” method involves having the candidate make a presentation to both the selection panel and other candidates for the same job. This is obviously highly stressful and is therefore useful as a predictor of how the candidate will perform under similar circumstances on the job. Selection processes in academic, training, airline, legal and teaching circles frequently involve presentations of this sort.


Further information: Microsoft Interview

This kind of interview focuses on problem solving and creativity. The questions aim at your problem-solving skills and likely show your ability and creativity. Sometimes these interviews will be on a computer module with multiple-choice questions.


Telephone interviews take place if a recruiter wishes to reduce the number of prospective candidates before deciding on a shortlist for face-to-face interviews. They also take place if a job applicant is a significant distance away from the premises of the hiring company, such as abroad or in another state or province.(6)



Time has finally come! You’ve been called for an interview. Now what? Don’t sweat it! Prepare yourself to win. You know you’re ready for the job, now you have to convince the employer!

Getting ready is a big part of your interview. You will likely, and you should, spend more time preparing yourself than you will in the interview. Preparing includes getting to know more about the company and the job, and being able to explain how and why you’re the best person to hire. To help you study, be sure you have a Statement of Qualifications, or a basic job description. If you do not have one from when you first applied for the job, be sure to ask the person who is arranging your interview for a copy.

Preparing for the Interview… know the job, and the organization

When you wrote your résumé, you did some research about the company and the job. Review it now. Answer these questions in your research:

* What does the employer or company do?

* What’s involved in the position you’re applying for?

* What qualifications do you need for the position?

* What skills might the employer be looking for?

* Who are the customers or clients?

* What kind of reputation does the employer have?

You’ll be more comfortable in the interview if you know a bit about the company and the position you’re applying for.

Think Ahead – Pre-Planning is Essential

When you are called, confirm the interview time! Ask if there will be any test or written assignment you will be asked to do. Find out how many people will be there.

Plan and rehearse your answers to the questions you expect to be asked. Memorize the training, skills and experience you have, and be ready to answer questions on what you did, and how you did it.

Choose your clothes a day or two ahead, and make sure they’re neat and clean.

Be on time. Find out ahead where you’re going and how long it will take to get there. Drive or travel the route a day or two ahead, at the same time of day as you will on the day of the interview. Confirm how often the buses run. Have a back-up plan.

Set aside at least an hour for the interview.

Survive the Interview – and Win!

What to Wear to an Interview

What you wear can be as important as what you say. Make sure your clothes are neat, clean, and ironed, if they are meant to be! Don’t turn up rumpled and untidy. Try to find out how people dress at the place you want to work, and dress the same or slightly better. Skip the perfume, cologne, or aftershave. You want to smell clean and nice, but not overpower the interviewer, or worse, upset someone with allergies.

What to Take to the Interview

Carry a folder or envelope containing:

* A copy of your résumé for each interviewer (This is why you asked ahead how many people would be present)

* Copies of your reference list

* Paper and a pen, so you can jot down the interviewer’s name, the time of any future interview, or other information you might need later

* Copies of letters of recommendation, if you have any

You’re On Your Way

You’re at your job interview. Stay relaxed and make a good impression. Here are some suggestions to help you make sure this step of your journey gets off on the right foot.

* Greet the interviewer or panel members. Introduce yourself, and shake hands firmly, without crushing anyone’s fingers. Smile. A sincere smile will help to put you, and the interviewer, at ease. Stand until you’re invited to sit down.

* Let the employer or panel members take the lead and set the tone. Make eye contact, and answer the questions in a firm, clear, confident voice. Relax and sit naturally, but don’t slouch in your chair or lean on the interviewer’s desk. Be prepared to tell the interviewer more about your education, training and skills, work experience, and the personality traits that make you right for the job.

* It’s okay to ask for more explanation if you don’t understand a question. In fact, it’s better to ask for clarification if you are unsure than to answer inappropriately. Keep a positive attitude.

* At some point in the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions. This is where your research and preparation pays off. Have a couple of questions prepared that show you are interested and informed about the company, or ask for more detailed information about the position you’re applying for.

Quick Tips for the interview

* Be on time. Five or ten minutes early is about right!

* Dress appropriately.

* Don’t chew gum or smoke.

* Be neat, clean and well groomed.

* Never bring a friend to an interview.

* Don’t discuss personal or financial problems.

* After the interview, don’t linger. Smile, shake hands, thank the interviewer(s) for their time, and make a graceful exit.


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