Introduction to Interviews
Generally speaking, an interview is a formal, face-to-face meeting between an employer and a job applicant, and is necessary to secure a professional-level position. The employer asks questions to assess the qualifications of a job applicant and determines if he or she is the best candidate. The applicant both answers and asks questions to learn more about the employer and the position itself.
Life cycle of an interview:
A job applicant learns of an open position and submits a CV and cover letter with the hope of being
contacted for an interview.
Human resources department or hiring manager reviews CV and cover letters. They determine a pool of potential candidates and call to schedule interviews.
An interview occurs between hiring personnel (interviewer) and the candidate (interviewee).
More than one interview may occur before a hiring decision is made.
There are many ways to conduct an interview. Interview formats vary according to position, organization, and field, so it’s difficult to know what to expect. And because multiple interviews are becoming more common, you may experience one or more interview format before a job offer is extended.
To best prepare for an interview, begin by familiarizing yourself with different interview formats:
- Informational interview
- Screening interview
- Telephone interview
- Behavioral interview
- Situational interview
- Informal interview
- Panel interview
- Peer group interview
- Group interview
Informational, Screening, and Telephone Interviews
A part of the networking process, job seekers often set up informational interviews with people they know that may be able to help them in their job search. This type of interview is really more of a relaxed, friendly meeting.
Used to determine which candidates meet necessary qualifications, screening interviews can be conducted on the phone or face-to-face. These interviews are sometimes less formal than a traditional interview. For example, a member of the human resources department might conduct the interview rather than the person making the hiring decision. In either case, make your best impression to increase your chances of securing a second interview.
Telephone interviews are particularly useful when a candidate lives far from the site of the interview. After a successful telephone interview, a prospective candidate may be invited to a face-to-face, traditional interview.
Panel, Peer Group, and Group Interviews
During a panel interview, members of an organization interview candidates one-by-one. This way, each member can ask specific questions and form an opinion about the candidate. Candidates shouldn’t worry about repeating information; always fully answer questions. Don’t leave important information out.
Peer group interviews are similar to panel interviews, except several members of an organization interview candidates at once. Often, these people are members of a team with which the candidate would be working.
In a group interview, employers invite several candidates to a single meeting and present them with a problem situation. This way, they can gain a sense of candidates’ teamwork and leadership abilities.
The Importance of Research
Once you’ve experienced the joy of having secured a job interview, you may feel anxious as the big day approaches. For example, you may wonder, “What do I do?” “What do I say?” “What should I wear?” “What if I make a mistake?” Don’t worry; it’s natural to feel this way, but don’t let your fears take over. The best way to ease your mind is to prepare for the interview.
To sell your skills and experience to an employer, discover what their needs are. How do you do that? Research. Keep accurate notes to avoid quoting erroneous information to a potential employer.
When researching, consider the following:
- What are the company’s major products and services?
- Who are the company’s customers?
- Who are the company’s major competitors? How do they view the company?
- How is the company viewed in the marketplace? Is it a profitable business or are they on the brink of bankruptcy?
- Find out two of the company’s recent success stories.
- What are the company’s potential problems?
- Is the company publicly or privately owned? Is it independent or part of a larger organization?
- What’s the size of the company? Big? Small? Are they hiring? Have they recently laid people off?
- What’s the corporate culture (work environment) like? Is it traditional or more relaxed?
- Where is the company located?
- What is the employee turnover rate? Do people work in teams or alone?
- Why is the position open? Was it newly created? Why did the last person leave?
- What are the duties and expectations associated with the job?
Tell me about yourself.
Employers ask this question for a variety of reasons. Some may want to hear a brief summary of your work experience (including your current job), while others use it as an icebreaker to get a sense of your personality. Many human resources professionals recommend keeping it brief, stating two professional accomplishments and one personal fact. What you choose to say, and how you say it, says a great deal about you.
What is your greatest weakness?
Most of us would like to respond, ” I don’t have any,” but that’s not what the interviewer wants to hear. After all, who doesn’t have a weakness? However, be cautious. Think about what you want to reveal. Pick a weakness that is not important in this job, or one that you have taken steps to strengthen. Always try to transform your weakness into a strength.
What attracted you to the company/position? Why do you want to work for us?
Interviewers ask this question to find out how much you know about the company. Having done your company research, talk about the needs of the company or business and how your skill set can contribute to their goals. Talk about your work experiences and how they have prepared you for this particular position. Also, point out your own career goals.
Describe a conflict with a manager or coworker. How was it resolved?
Everyone has experienced workplace conflict at some point. The interviewer is assessing your ability to solve problems and interact with others. Don’t use this as an opportunity to say negative things about your former manager, state the problem and describe steps you took to resolve the issue. Do not state that you have never had a conflict: it is too unbelievable.
Why are you changing jobs/careers?
If you are in fact changing careers, be prepared for this question. Interviewers will want to know if you have thoroughly researched your new career, and are not switching jobs on a regular basis. Stress how your skills can transfer to your new career.
What kind of compensation/salary are you seeking?
Usually, a first interview is not the time to discuss salary. An interviewer may just be testing you to see how you react. At this point, it’s best to say that it’s negotiable or that you’re interested in a competitive salary.
How to Handle Difficult Interview Situations
Gaps in employment history.
Be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment history. While the gaps may be undeniable, it doesn’t mean you lack necessary qualifications. Try to put the gap in a positive light. For example, explain that your leave from work provided the time to make some decisions about your life and career. Highlight any skills gained or used during that absence. Now is the time to talk about your return to school or volunteer work. If you continued your involvement with professional organizations, be sure to mention it.
Once an employer finishes with their questions, they’ll ask you if you have any questions. Don’t make the mistake of saying no. Employers are usually happy to answer questions you may have. They want to be sure you would be happy and productive in your new position, and you can take this opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and interest in the company.
Here are some ideas:
- When is the start date?
- What are the day-to-day key responsibilities of the job?
- Why is the position open? Was it newly created? Why did the last person leave?
- How are evaluations done? How would I get feedback on performance?
- Is there opportunity for career advancement? Does the company believe in promoting competent individuals from within?
- What is the management style?
- Can you describe the perfect employee?
- Questions that pertain to the position that haven’t been answered yet.
The writer is a HR consultant at Corporate staffing Services. Website: www.corporatestaffing.co.ke