The Job Interview

Types of Employment Interviews

Businesswoman at job interview
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When an employer calls and asks you to come in for a job interview it's a very big deal. It means he or she looked at your resume and, based on it, thinks you meet most of the qualifications for the job. So why bother with the interview? The employer needs to know more about you than whether you meet all the job requirements, although questions about that will certainly be part of it. He or she wants to know what kind of employee you will be.

Will you fit in with the rest of the staff? Are you likable? Are you enthusiastic? Will the employer-employee relationship be successful? Not to mention the fact that you likely have some competition out there. You will have to prove yourself to be the best person for the job.

The interview is obviously very important and because of that, it might make you a little bit—or maybe very—anxious. Sometimes that anxiety is fear of the unknown. Perhaps knowing what to expect will alleviate some of it. Let's start by going over the different types of interviews you might face. An employer will likely utilize a combination of them.

Types of Job Interviews

The Screening Interview

Your first interview with a particular company or organization will often be the screening interview. Typically you will speak with someone from the human resources (HR) department in person, on the telephone or even via video chat.

His or her goal is to make sure your resume is accurate. With a copy of it in hand, the HR representative will verify all the pertinent information. If you pass, you will move on to the next step.

The Selection Interview

The selection interview tends to make candidates nervous. The hiring manager typically conducts it, sometimes with members of his or her staff, in order to determine if you will be a good fit for the job.

The employer knows you have the basic qualifications. Now he or she needs to know if you will be a good fit based on your personality. Someone who can't interact well with management and co-workers may disrupt the functioning of an entire department. This ultimately can affect the company's bottom line. Many experts feel that this can be determined within the first several minutes of the interview. However, more than one person being interviewed for a single opening may appear to fit in. Often, job candidates are invited back for several interviews with different people before a final decision is made.

The Group Interview

In the group interview, several job candidates are questioned at once. Since any group naturally stratifies into leaders and followers, the interviewer can easily find out into which category each candidate falls. In addition to determining whether you are a leader or a follower, the interviewer can also learn whether you are a "team player." You should do nothing other than act naturally.

Acting like a leader if you are not one may get you a job that is inappropriate for you.

The Panel Interview

In a panel interview, the candidate is interviewed by several people at once. Although it can be quite intimidating, you should remain calm. Try to establish rapport with all members of the panel. Make eye contact with each one as you answer his or her questions.

The Stress Interview

The stress interview is not a very nice way to be introduced to the company that may end up being your future employer. It is, however, a technique employers sometimes use to weed out candidates who cannot handle adversity. The interviewer may try to artificially introduce stress into the interview by asking questions so quickly that the candidate doesn't have time to answer each one. Another interviewer trying to introduce stress may respond to a candidate's answers with silence. The interviewer may also ask weird questions, not to determine what the job candidate answers, but how he or she answers.

According to Interviewing by The National Business Employment Weekly (John Wiley and Sons, 1994), the job candidate should first "recognize that you're in the situation. Once you realize what's happening, it's much easier to stay calm because you can mentally re-frame the situation. Then you have two choices: Play along or refuse to be treated so poorly." If you do play along, the book recommends later finding out if the reason for conducting a stress interview is legitimate. That will determine if this is a company for which you want to work.

Part 2: Preparing for the Interview
Part 3: Succeeding on the Interview
Part 4: Dealing With Tricky Questions and Post-Interview Follow Up

Now that you know about the types of interviews you may have to face, it's time to get ready for them. Preparing will enhance your performance when the big day finally comes.

Research the Employer

Learn as much about the employer as you can. This knowledge will allow you to answer questions intelligently. It will also help you decide whether to accept a job offer if you eventually get one. Gathering employer information is not an easy task, especially if the employer is a small private company.

Start with the company's website and official Facebook and Twitter pages. Then use other resources including US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents if the company is publicly held and articles from newspapers and magazines. Read How to Research Prospective Employers.

Learn About Yourself Before a Job Interview

In order to effectively answer questions on a job interview, you are going to have to know a lot about yourself and know how to present that information to an interviewer. Start by listing your attributes. Think about what you can bring to the employer. If you're having trouble with this, ask former coworkers or others with whom you've worked closely to list some traits about you they most admired—work related, of course.

Once you come up with a list of attributes, try to find some faults. You won't, obviously, spontaneously tell a prospective employer about these faults, but you may be asked to.

One question that sometimes comes up in an interview is "What is something that has been a problem for you at work?" By studying your faults, you will be able to choose one that is somewhat innocuous or could be turned around into a positive.

Practice, Practice, And Then Practice Some More

You want to sound somewhat spontaneous when answering questions on a job interview but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared.

If you have to take a very long pause or use filler words like "uh" or "um" before answering a question, you won't sound as confident as you should. Before you go out on interviews rehearse, not exactly what you will say, but how you will say it. Many people find it helpful to record themselves answering questions on video. Study your posture, the way you make eye contact, and your body language. If you don't have a video camera, a mirror will do. Have a friend do mock job interviews with you. The more you repeat a scenario, the more comfortable you will begin to feel with it.

Part 1: Types of Interviews
Part 3: Succeeding on the Interview
Part 4: Dealing With Tricky Questions and Post-Interview Follow Up

Your resume showed off your skills and knowledge. That's what scored you an interview. Now it's time to get the job. As they say, presentation is everything.

Dressing For a Job Interview

Appearance counts whether we like it or not. It's the first thing people notice about us. That is why how you dress for a job interview is so important. You don't want your appearance to take away from your performance or from what you can bring to the job.

Dress appropriately for your line of work. If those working in your field wear suits, then that is what you should wear to a job interview. Even if the typical work attire is slightly less casual than that, you should still wear a suit for the interview. However, if very casual dress, for example jeans, is the norm, wearing a suit will make you seem out of place. Still, you should get a little more dressed up and wear something nicer than what you would wear for a day at work. Still unsure about what to wear? Stake out the employer's front entrance a few days before your interview to see what people are wearing.

Good grooming is essential. Your hair should be neat and stylish. Your nails should be well manicured and clean. Men's nails should be short. Women's nails should be of a reasonable length and polished in a neutral color. Women shouldn't be heavily made up. Avoid perfume or cologne since people find certain scents offensive or may even be allergic.

Establish Rapport on a Job Interview

The interviewer already knows you have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the job but he or she now wants to know if you will mesh well with his or her other employers. Will they like working with you? Will he or she? You want to allow the interviewer to get to know you and the way to facilitate this is by establishing rapport.

It begins the instant you walk in the door. Let the interviewer set the tone. For example, wait for him or her to extend his hand for a handshake, but be ready to offer your hand immediately. Some experts suggest talking at the same rate and tone as the interviewer. For example, if the interviewer is speaking softly, so should you.

Body Language

Body language gives more away about you than what you say. Making eye contact is very important but make sure it looks natural. A smiling, relaxed face is very inviting. Hands resting casually in your lap rather than arms folded across your chest indicates that you are open and not guarded. If you normally move your hands around a lot when you speak, tone it down some. You don't want to look too stiff, but you don't want to look like you're a bundle of nervous energy.

Answering Questions

When answering questions, speak slowly and clearly. Pause slightly before you begin. Your answers will seem less rehearsed and it will give you a chance to collect your thoughts.

Keep in mind that a very brief pause may seem like an eternity to you. It won't to the interviewer.

Prepare answers to some basic questions. Use the list of attributes you put together earlier. There are several books on the market that list questions and sample answers.

Questions to Ask

When he or she is finishing questioning you, the interviewer will probably ask if you have any questions. You should have some ready. As in every other aspect of the job search, you want to demonstrate how you can fill the employer's needs. Ask about a typical day on the job or special projects you would be involved in. Also ask questions that will help you learn more about the employer. It will let the interviewer know you are interested in working there. Use what you learned about the company through your research as a stepping off point. Don't ask about salary, benefits, or vacations, as those all imply "what will you, the employer, do for me?"

Part 1: Types of Interviews
Part 2: Preparing for the Interview
Part 4: Dealing With Tricky Questions and Post-Interview Follow Up

Illegal Questions

You've probably heard references to illegal interview questions. It's important to remember that the questions themselves aren't illegal, but using a job candidate's answers to make a hiring decision could be. For example, if an interviewer asks what your nationality is and then doesn't hire you because of your answer, the employer could be violating Section VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Employers shouldn't ask these types of questions, but it is up to you to decide whether to answer them. Although they should be, some interviewers are not aware of the legal issues involved. Simply say that the answer to the question is unrelated to your ability to do the job.

Money Questions

The interviewer may ask you what your desired salary is, so prepare to answer this question. Find out what typical salaries are in your field. Always give a range, not an exact number. This will help keep you from pricing yourself out of a job. You don't want the employer to think they can't afford you, but you also don't want them to think you are a cheap commodity either. Read Dos and Don'ts of Salary Negotiation.

After the Job Interview

Thank You Notes

Within 24 hours of going on a job interview, send a thank you note to follow up. This is your chance to reiterate something you mentioned on the interview or bring up something you forgot to mention.

It is also a nice gesture and a simple matter of politeness.

Send a note to everyone with whom you met. If you don't remember the name of each person, call the receptionist for some help. Type your note and keep it brief. Sending your note by email is fine as long as you've communicated with the employer that way before.

Sending a thank you note sets you apart from everyone else who forgot to or chose not to do this.

Post Interview Follow-Up

Waiting to hear back from an employer after a job interview can be torturous. Many job candidates wonder if they should call the employer to find out about their status and if so, how long they should wait before they do. Generally, you can call about one week after your interview. However, if the employer told you when you could expect to hear something, don't call until after that date.

Part 1: Types of Interviews
Part 2: Preparing for the Interview
Part 3: Succeeding on the Interview

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