After forming and submitting your ideal resume, the most sought after–yet dreaded–part of securing your dream job will expectantly come along: the interview. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive and Everest College, around 92% of adults in the United States struggle with some type of nerves during a job interview. In today’s job market, there are a few different types of interviews you may encounter. What is the best thing for you to do? Prepare! And we’ll give you some tips on how to prepare for the most common types of interviews.
A popular form of interview for employers is the phone interview. In many cases, a phone interview is the first step of the hiring selection process. An article by Forbes magazine, 6 Steps to Nailing a Job Interview Over the Phone, cites that employers are opting for phone interviews quite a bit more frequently to enable companies to sift through candidates, while avoiding the time and expenses required for personal on-site interviews. Preparation is made easy for candidates in this circumstance. Phone interviews could be looked at as an open-book test. Prepare for the interview and take advantage of the research you do. Additionally:
- Write down basic company information, have your resume handy to answer any questions and even have the LinkedIn profile of the manager you’re speaking with pulled up to help the interview sound more personal.
- Do not eat or chew gum.
- Be in an isolated room so no background noise is audible and to eliminate distractions.
- Smile! You read that correctly- SMILE while you speak during the phone interview. Phone interview in front of a mirror if you must, but keep those pearly whites showing. Smiling can change the tone of your voice so the hiring manager can “hear” you smiling (just as the hiring manager can “hear” the corners of your mouth turned down).
- Lastly, keep in mind to that phone interviews are designed to take less time for the managers, so be respectful and keep your questions and answers clear and concise (most responses should be less than 2-3 minutes in duration).
Face to Face Interview (one on one)
During a personal or face to face interview, you will meet with the hiring manager or designated hiring team member from the company you are interviewing with, most likely at the company location. Most likely, this will be the first physical impression you make and it crucial that you do your very best. The first step in preparation for a personal interview is to nail down the logistics of the interview. Collecting these details may seem obvious, but it is crucial to ensure you have all of these details. You do not want to derail the interview before it even starts!
Special instructions? (who are you meeting? how to enter facility? what time?)
Do your research on the interviewer, so you may connect better with him/her. LinkedIn profiles are very good research tools for interviewees, as you are able to view hiring manager’s work history and professional background (perhaps you worked at the same organization previously – wouldn’t that be great to know heading into the interview?!). You may also share common connections with the hiring manager that you are able to identify via social media outlets like Facebook or LinkedIn. Knowing your interviewer will also create a sense of familiarity. Relating with the manager based on your experiences will help ease tension for both parties and give you more confidence.
Collect any special instructions for entering the facility. Many companies have some type of controlled access. In some cases, you may be required to present a valid ID (so don’t leave it at home, or in the car!). There may be a visitor registration process in the lobby, so you’ll want to ensure you have time to complete this process before the interview time. Drive to the interview location the night before if necessary to ensure you know where to go and how long it will take you to get there.
How should you dress?
This is a very common question for interviewees. We recommend you dress one level up from the interviewer(s). For example, if the hiring team will be wearing business casual, you should dress in business formal (for men, this would be a full matching business suit; for women a dress pant or skirt with matching jacket). If you are unsure of the dress environment then we recommend dressing in business formal.
Once you have all the logistics worked out, the next step in preparing for the face to face meeting is “formulating a strategy”, beginning with an introduction. Harvard Business Review recommends forming a seamless story of your career from beginning to present day, how it leads you to this role you’re interviewing for and how you may contribute to this role. This story should be no more than 3-4 minutes in duration.
Once you have your introduction, the hiring manager will most likely review your resume with questions, or move into specific interview questions. This is where preparation becomes more challenging, because in most cases, the interviewee does not know what to expect. The good news is there are online tools such as Glassdoor that can help you predict what questions the hiring team may ask. There are also many reputable online articles that can provide a list of commonly asked interview questions. Many interview questions will be open-ended, where the interviewee needs to be as descriptive AND concise as possible. Every answer you provide should specifically address the skill in question. A good technique to structure your answer is the “STAR” technique:
S – situation (describe the situation you were in; where? when?)
T – task (include what was your specific task; why?)
A – action (what actions you took; how?)
R – results (what were the results; quantify)
Once you have made it through the interview questions, be sure you have questions prepared and close the interview. Keep in mind, many tactical and technical questions you have about the job will most likely be answered at some point during the interview. When preparing your questions, you want them to be informative for you, but also leave a lasting impression on the interviewer that you are genuinely curious. For example, ask the interviewer, “If I were hired for this position, what would I need to do within the first six months to be the best hire you’ve ever made”.
How do you close the interview?
Great question! Many interviews can end awkwardly or flat. Prepare a strong closing. Be sure you are aware of next steps and timeline. If you are extremely interested in the position, convey that to the hiring manager. You do not necessarily have to ask directly for the job, but you can mention that if you were offered this job, you would gladly accept. If you choose to “keep your cards close” and not reveal your desire for the job until a competitive offer is made, that is not necessarily a bad thing…but know that the hiring team is most likely considering multiple candidates for the role and may decide to hire the candidate who expressed the most desire for the job.
A more intimidating version of the personal interview is the panel interview. Typically, this interview style may not come until later in the process, after a phone and/or personal interview for example. The setup is much of the same as a personal interview, with the addition of a few more people. Some managers may choose to bring in someone from their HR department, a fellow team member or the supervisor the position would directly report to. Much of the preparation would similar to the personal interview, especially knowing your audience and how to relate to them. Additionally, ensure that you are balancing your eye contact among all parties present, and remember to be confident but not cocky.
A 2012 article in the Hilltop Review, a publication by Western Michigan University, addresses the newest form of interview styles: virtual interviews. While there are different forms of videoconferencing, perhaps the most commonly used is Skype. The article continues that videoconferencing offers a solution between personal and phone interviews. Whereas personal interviews could take unnecessary time and resources from a company and phone interviews often lack a personal touch, Skype interviews streamline visibility between companies and interviewees. The Skype interview gives a feel of authenticity back and is predicted to become much more widely used in future interviews. So, as a job seeker, how do you prepare for a virtual interview? Here are a few simple tips to help you.
Tip #1 – clear away distracting or unprofessional objects in the background (the collectible beer sign in the background may be a great wall piece in other circumstances, but for the video interview take it down or use another room).
Tip #2 – when responding to a question, look directly at your computer camera NOT at the computer/video screen. Once you are done speaking, look at the interviewer on your computer screen to help read non-verbal gestures.
Tip #3 – dress professionally.
Tip #4 – TEST ALL EQUIPMENT PRIOR TO THE INTERVIEW TIME.
The good news is if you’ve made it this far, you probably have a good shot at getting the job. For many companies, technical interviews are used only for top candidates. With that said, some employers incorporate technical assessments early in the process. Regardless of where the technical interview falls within the selection process, you need to:
- Have clear and concise communication (especially during whiteboarding sessions)
- Refresh on core principles and basics
- Be familiar with the job description
Don’t be afraid to ask questions for clarification – some technical assessments are designed to showcase the interviewees approach to a solution, as well as the result. Additionally, you may elect to provide a portfolio of your work (keeping in mind that you do not want to include confidential or proprietary information of current/previous employers into your portfolio).
The biggest mistake an interviewee can make is not being prepared. Even if you have less than 24 hours before your next interview, you can still outshine the competition with good interview preparation. Also, keep in mind that every interview is a learning experience, so if you don’t ace this one, apply what you learn on the next interview, and you’ll be one step closer to landing your dream job! Keep an eye out for part 3 of “Obtain Your Dream Job” next month!