Step 8:  Prepare for an Interview


A job interview is a part of the job selection process where employers evaluate selected candidates. Typically, an interview is a conversation between a candidate and the potential employer. This conversation will determine whether or not the employer feels that the candidate is suitable for a position. The decision is based on how a candidate presents themselves. All interviews are different, but these guidelines will help you prepare and enhance your understanding of the process to ensure better success.

How do you prepare for an interview?

Research yourself; How will you “sell” yourself?  How will you fit into the position and organization?

List your accomplishments; Emphasize your skills, qualifications and past experiences that are relevant to the position. Avoid any negativity about past experiences or employers.

Use your network; Conduct informational interviews with people in similar positions or people within the same organization.

Bring extra copies of your resume and reference; Do not assume the interviewer has read your resume in depth.

Practice answering questions; But don’t sound rehearsed. Some commonly asked interview questions for the candidate include; Tell me about yourself?, What do you know about this organization?, What is your biggest weakness?,  What have you done to try and overcome it?

Be aware that you may need to answer some unusual questions; These questions may not seem to be job related, but employers use them to determine your confidence and creativity through your answers. These questions seldom have right or wrong answers, such as: If you could be any fruit which would you choose and why?

Think about questions you would like to ask the employer;  It is not appropriate to ask what the organization will do for you if you’re hired. Save questions about salary or benefits, etc. if employment is offered. Instead focus on questions like:

  1. How would you describe this organization’s style of management?
  2. What type of person tends to be successful in this position?

Know that you never have to answer certain questions; Employers should never ask about your race, age, sex, religion, marital status or family plans.

Dress appropriately; Every industry has its own requirements, and knowing what to wear on the day of the interview is very important. If you are unsure of a company’s policies regarding proper dress, call the personnel office for more information.

  1. Your clothing should be clean, pressed, and help you to look your best. Business attire is a pant/skirt suit.
  2. Conservative colors and subtle patterns are best.
  3. Appropriate business casual includes a pair of slacks/skirt, shirt, and sports jacket or sweater.
  4. If you are told to dress casually, never wear jeans, T-shirts, tennis shoes, sandals or boots.
  5. Don’t wear any scent at all. The most attractive scent is your natural, fresh smell after a bath or shower, plus deodorant.
  6. If you smoke, avoid smoking in your interview outfit.
What are the different types of interviews?

Screening Interviews

  • Provide brief evaluations of a candidate. These take place if an employer wishes to reduce the number of job candidates before deciding on a list for face-to-face interviews.

Phone Interviews

  • Are also usually brief. If the timing of the interview is inconvenient, let the employer know.  You should have a copy of your resume and cover letter in front of you to use for reference.

Video Interviews

  • Take place if a job candidate is a significant distance away from the premises of the hiring company, such as abroad or in another province.

Face-to-Face Interviews

  • Are quite common and involve the candidate being questioned by one or more persons.

Second Round Interviews

  • Happen if you are considered a serious candidate. If travel arrangements are involved, usually the company will arrange and pay for your expenses.

Site Interviews

  • Usually consist of a series of interviews with several individuals including your potential supervisor, co-workers, and higher-ranking staff members. You may spend a whole day interviewing, which may also involve a meal or social activity.

Stress Interviews

  • Are designed to cause the applicant stress. The interviewer may ask confrontational or particularly difficult questions. It is important to remain calm and think carefully about your answers. The purpose of these types of interviews is to evaluate your behavior and maturity in difficult situations.
What are the typical stages of an interview?

The First Impression

  • Arrive at the interview site about 10 minutes early. Give yourself extra time in case an unforeseen problem occurs. Never be late!
  • Turn your phone off before the interview. Never answer a call or text during an interview.
  • Greet the employer with a firm handshake, a friendly smile and make eye contact.
  • Be aware of your body language. Don’t cross your arms, slouch or fidget.
  • Keep small talk brief and informal. Never provide too much personal information, or ask the employer personal questions.
  • Employers are looking for appropriate appearance, good manners and social ease.

The Questions and Answers

  • Employers are assessing whether you can do the job and how well you will fit into the organization.
  • Be yourself, employers respond well to sincere candidates.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’re confused by a question.
  • Mention your career goals, your education, your work experience and relevant skills.
  • Emphasize your motivation, enthusiasm, initiative, willingness to follow directions, and ability to get along with others.
  • Whenever possible, answer questions using specific examples to support your response.
  • You will have an opportunity to ask the employer questions as well. These questions allow you to assess how their goals and priorities fit with your own and display your interest in the position and organization.

The Conclusion

  • Discuss the next steps in the interviewing process. This should include a time-line in the decision-making process.
  • Volunteer to provide additional information such as your references or transcripts.
  • Thank the interviewer for their time and ask for a business card.

The Review

  • Go over the positive and negative aspects of each interview.
  • Use this opportunity to modify your responses.
  • Learn from your mistakes and build on your strengths.

The Follow Up

  • Send a thank you letter. The letter continues to build the rapport that you began during your initial meeting. Acknowledge the individual’s participation, thank them for shared insight, highlight aspects of the organization that you admire. Offer anything you may have forgotten to mention in the interview.
  • Send it promptly, the more time that elapses, the less enthusiastic you will be about writing it and the less impact your letter will have on its reader.
  • Only send it via email if the recipient has offered their email address. Otherwise, send a hand written thank you on a note card.
What are common reasons for rejection?
  • Lack of self knowledge- an interviewer cannot determine where you fit into the organization until you explain your career interests and applicable skills.
  • Lack of company knowledge- this indicates a lack of interest on your part.
  • Lack of enthusiasm- employers want to hire someone who is excited about working with their organization.
  • Lack of confidence- if you doubt your abilities, an employer will too.
  • Poor communication skills- the employer must be able to hear you, understand you and follow your thoughts.
  • Unprofessional appearance- an improper first impression will ensure an unsuccessful interview.