By University of Phoenix
The purpose of an interview is for the employer to gather as much information about you as possible, in order to determine whether or not you are the best fit for the position. At the same time, this is your opportunity to interview the company to determine if you want to work there.
There are many components to an interview, and it takes time and commitment to be well-prepared. When given an option, try to schedule the interview several days in advance, giving you plenty of days to prepare. This guide will help equip you to succeed at your interview. Good luck.
Before the interview
There are several things you must do before an interview if you want to be optimally prepared:
Research the company
Now that you have an interview, more in-depth company research will help you determine if this organization would be a good fit. It will also help you formulate questions to ask during the interview. Some areas you want to investigate include:
What to wear to an interview
Remember the adage, "You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression"? Your interview is your first opportunity to make a real impression on the employer. Selecting the right outfit is essential; it shows you are a professional and that you care enough about the position to make an effort. Dressing the part can also help you feel more professional and confident, which will add to the professionalism of your answers.
What to wear to an interview cont.
For some companies, it’s suitable to dress in business casual attire. There is no strict definition of business casual, so err on the side of conservative when making your outfit selections. If you aren’t sure, ask when arranging the interview.
General suggestions for men and women:
What to bring to an interview
When preparing for an interview, you might be tempted to focus only on what you are planning to wear or what questions you might be asked. It is also important to think about what you need to bring with you to the interview. Here are the essential items that you should gather the evening before your interview, so you can make sure not to leave home without them.
Common interview questions
With the limitless possibilities of questions that you could be asked in an interview, it is impossible to be prepared for all of them. However, many employers use some general questions that you will want to practice before your interview. While you practice, it is best to state your answers to another person or in front of a mirror if no one is available to help you. You never know how your answer will sound until you say it for the first time. Do not memorize answers, but rather create talking points. Here are some common interview questions:
Behavior-based interviewing and the STAR technique
Employers often ask behavioral-based interview questions, or questions that provide examples of your behavior in specific situations. Your answers can help the employer determine how you might manage in a certain situation if it were to come up in the future, because past behavior tends to be indicative of future behavior. Therefore, be prepared to answer questions about your previous experiences with great detail.
Give the interviewer a clear picture of the situation you are describing, with enough information that she can gain insight about your performance and work ethic. Provide answers that have positive results; if you can’t come up with a positive answer, then state what you learned from the experience. These questions can be very challenging, and sometimes require extra time to recall the details necessary to provide a full answer. To help you prepare for behavioral or situational questions, review the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique. This technique will help you provide a complete answer in a logical, easy to understand format.
Situation: Describe the problem you faced in a current or past position.
Task: Clarify your role or the goal.
Action: What action did you take?
Result: What was the result of your action?
Here is an example of an interview question and an answer that utilizes the STAR technique:
Interviewer: Tell me about a time when you worked in a group.
Interviewee: When I was getting my bachelor’s degree, I worked in groups all the time. One particular time was during my child psychology class. My team of five had to develop a presentation about childhood behavior issues and present it to the class (situation). My role was to make sure members completed their sections on time, complete my own section and then gather our work together into a presentable slideshow. I also had to make sure we all had enough time to present on our pieces, while maintaining the 30-minute time limit (task). To make sure I got everyone’s piece on time, I sent out reminder emails at set intervals, checked in individually to make sure no one was having difficulty with their topics, and emailed my piece to everyone well in advance so they would have something to refer to if they needed help with structure (action). Members submitted their pieces to me on time; we successfully completed the project before the deadline and got an A on our presentation (result).
Specific techniques for answering "difficult questions"
With all the interview questions you might be asked, you are likely to encounter some that are a real challenge to answer. Here are some tips to answering those difficult questions:
Buy yourself some time.
Don’t overthink it.
Don’t look for the "right" answer.
Be honest about mistakes, but don’t offer more information than necessary.
Make it positive.
Examples of difficult questions
Why did you leave your last job?
Tell me about a time when you didn’t get along with a colleague.
Illegal interview questions
There is an infinite number of questions you can be asked in an interview, so it may come as a surprise that some questions are actually off limits. If a question opens the door for discrimination, it is probably inappropriate for the interviewer to ask. Oftentimes, it is in the wording of the question, as the topic might be something necessary to know for the job (such as your ability to lift a certain number of pounds). Keep in mind that there might be no ill intent on the part of the person who asked; it might have come up naturally in your conversation (such as questions about where you are from). Though these questions are off limits, there are related questions that are legal. Also, employers can require background checks and/or drug tests, which might reveal some of the answers to these questions.
Examples of illegal questions
Appropriate responses to illegal questions
Verbal and nonverbal cues
When you think of communicating, you often think only of words that are spoken between two or more individuals. However, much communication involves no words at all. Rather, it is comprised of nonverbal cues you are yielding as you speak or listen. This can be in the form of body language, sounds, or even personal space. During an interview it is important to be in tune with not only your verbal communication, but also your nonverbal communication; it can say so much more than your actual words. Below are some nonverbal cues to be cognizant of throughout your interview:
How employers evaluate interviews
You can expect that every company to which you apply will be looking for slightly different qualities in a candidate. Even if the job title is the same, company missions and employees can have big variations. This is another reason to research the company as much as possible.
The choice of interview questions will be designed to find qualities and skills that match well with the position. Read the job posting in depth so that you can get a very clear picture of the ideal candidate. Save the job posting to your computer in case it is removed prior to the interview. Make sure that you can relate yourself as much as possible to all the required and desired qualifications listed in the posting.
Remember that there is not always a "right" answer to the interview questions. Many times the employer is trying to learn about your personality and whether or not you fit well within the company. Below are a few additional questions the employer will be asking himself about you:
Your responses to the interview questions should help the interviewer answer these questions.
Questions you should ask
The interview should be a two-way street; the interviewer is finding out about you, and you are finding out about the company. Therefore, asking questions shows you are interested in the organization, that you are organized and thoughtful, and that you want to learn more. Is the environment a good fit for you? Is the work what you thought it would be? What will your co-workers be like? Do you want to work there? A good rule of thumb is to ask questions you cannot get answered on the website, and that don’t pertain to vacation, salary or benefits. Some example questions might include:
After the interview
You have now completed the hard part of the interview process! Give yourself a pat on the back for your efforts. Now you have just a few more steps until the interview process is complete:
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