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7.5: Interviewing

  • Page ID
    110621
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    Learning Objectives

    1. Learn about the benefits of Career Fairs.
    2. Describe four different types of interviews
    3. Know how to prepare for an interview by anticipating commonly-asked interview questions.
    4. Know what to do during and after an interview.
    5. Prepare and record a 60-second elevator speech.

    The saying that “you only have one chance to make a good first impression” is especially true during an interview. The goal is to present a professional image while communicating to potential employers the skills, education, and experiences you’ve worked so hard to gain. In a job search, nothing is more exciting or more intimidating than an interview. Reaching the interview stage means that you are in serious consideration for the position, and the pressure feels cranked up. In this section, you will learn how to prepare yourself to “ace” this process.  To learn more about how to market yourself, schedule a practice interview with Career Services at STCC.    

    Career Fairs

    Career fairs are an excellent way to network with potential employers and discover internships and jobs related to your major. They are also a great place to build your employment-related communication skills while you meet with recruiters without the pressure of a formal interview. All students are encouraged to attend a Career Fair, even if they aren’t currently looking for a job.  STCC students can visit the Career Services website to learn about upcoming career fairs and to see a list of participating employers before the event.   Events may be held on campus, online, or both. When you attend a career fair, bring several copies of your updated resume, dress in business attire, and prepare to give employers your full and undivided attention by silencing your phone and removing your earbuds.

    Elevator Speech

    An elevator speech is a 30-60 second "commercial" or message about who you are, what you're looking for, and how you can benefit an employer. An elevator speech is an excellent way to introduce yourself to employers at a job fair, or to answer one of the most commonly-asked interview questions, "Tell me about yourself."  You can learn more about elevator speeches and see an example at https://youtu.be/hGkIVxwxrCk.

    Interview Formats

    In the process of exploring occupations and landing a job, you will likely participate in a variety of interviews. Four types of interviews are phone and one-way interviews, which are typically for screening purposes; virtual or online interviews; and in-person interviews.

    Phone Interviews

    Prior to scheduling an interview with job candidates, many companies hold a phone or “screening” interview. The objective of this interview is to find reasons to remove, not include, people in a candidate pool. Do not consider it lightly just because someone other than the hiring manager is conducting it. Prepare for your call by reading 5 Phone Interview Tips to Master from Monster.com.

    One-Way Interviews

    Instead of using phone interviews, employers are increasingly using one-way interviews. "A one-way video interview is a brief video recording that you send to employers to help with their screening process. Within this video, you typically answer a few preselected interview questions or follow a prompt. Unlike a typical interview, you are only talking to your camera. You do not get instant feedback like you would with a real-time interview with an employer. While this format can be challenging, you can also benefit from the fact that you can re-record your video." (Indeed.com)  If you are successful in your one-way interview, you will likely be asked to participate in a virtual or traditional, in-person interview.  To read more about one-way interviews at https://www.job-hunt.org/handling-on...eo-interviews/

    Virtual or Online Interviews

    With an increasing number of employers conducting virtual or online video interviews, it’s important to be prepared for this format. Some of the more common virtual platforms that are being used are Zoom, Skype, Go-To-My-Meeting, and Microsoft Teams. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with both the technical aspects of the platform and some considerations unique to online interviewing as mentioned here: Video Interview Tips for Job Seekers.

    In-Person Interviews

    During an in-person interview, you will meet with a hiring manager or small hiring committee at their workplace.  This type of interview allows employers to get a better sense of your professionalism and interpersonal communication (verbal and non-verbal) skills. Through a series of questions, the interviewer’s goal is to find out if you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to handle the job for which you have applied. The hiring manager is also looking to get a sense of what it would be like working with you and how you would fit into the organization. Expect to be asked a behavioral interview question such as, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example…” as many interviewers believe that how you handled past situations is a predictor of how you will behave in the future. This interview is the one a hiring decision is based on.

    Preparing for Interviews

    Employers often state that candidates do not know enough about the company when they interview and therefore come across as unprepared or uninterested in the position they are interviewing for.  Don't let this be you.  A little preparation can go a long way toward reducing interview day stress and ensuring that you come across it in a professional manner. For practical and helpful tips from Indeed, watch Top Interview Tips.  In addition, here are other guidelines to help you prepare:

    Learn about the organization. In almost every interview situation, you’ll be asked, “What can you do for this company?” To adequately answer this question, you must research the company or organization.  Know the company’s mission, values, products and services, targeted customers, new executives, and major directional changes. 

    Use your network. Do you know anyone who works for or has worked for this company or organization? Make contact with individuals who have worked for the company through Handshake or acquaintances.  Email, call, or have lunch with him or her before your interview to learn more. Your competition likely won’t have done their homework as well as you have. Your prospective employer will notice.

    Review the job description. Be prepared to explain how your background qualifies you for the job. Did you find the job posting online? Be sure to have printed a copy, and bring it with you to the interview. Some companies take weeks to start calling people in for interviews, and by then the job description may have been removed from the site where you saw it.

    Review your résumé. Think of examples that describe or illustrate your accomplishments. You will be asked about items on your résumé, and you need to be able to support them and go into more detail.

    Use your interview study guide. Employment interviews, especially screening interviews, do not stray far from a standard list of questions. Find a quiet one to two hours to review the interview study guide provided here, prepare your answers, and actually practice them. Your answers should be short but complete.

    Interview Study Guide

    The following questions are typical in many employment interviews. If you prepare answers for them ahead of time, you will not be caught off guard during an interview.

    • Tell me about yourself. Remember that one-minute elevator introduction?  Here is a great place to use it. Practice saying it aloud until your delivery is smooth and fluent.

    • What do you know about our company? Remember to research the company thoroughly so that you can answer this question successfully.  

    • What can you offer us? Why should we hire you? Make a list of your qualifications for the job. Include years of experience, education, special training, technical skills, inside knowledge of a product or market, and so on. Are you a customer of this product or service? Make a list of your "soft skills" skills like communication, leadership, organization, attention to detail, and work ethic. Review the list objectively. Which items are most valuable to the employer? Use this information to write a brief “sales pitch” that describes your qualifications for the job. Structure the information in a logical fashion and then practice saying it aloud until your delivery is smooth, natural, and confident.

    • What are your strengths? Provide context and scope when answering this question. By elaborating on your strengths, it’s easier for the employer to see where and how you excel. Think about your noteworthy and unusual achievements or experiences. What did you do to accomplish them? What kind of preparation did they require? Why are they unique? Think about performance reviews you have received in a job. Have you won awards or received positive feedback from others in the organization or from a happy customer? What were the reasons for the positive attention? If you are a student or recent graduate with limited professional experience, think about your papers, reports, projects, or group assignments. Think about the assignment and what you did to complete it. The same strengths that helped you academically will also help you succeed professionally.

    • What are your weaknesses? Remember that employers are human and appreciate honesty. It’s OK to acknowledge your weaknesses and explain steps you’ve taken to address them.  

    • Where do you see yourself three to five years from now? Think about your personal goals and answer as genuinely as possible. This is a good opportunity to ask the interviewer about the opportunities available to a person who succeeds in this job.

    • What attracted you to our company? Draw from your research and personal knowledge of the company to answer this question. Keep in mind that this interview is about what you can do for them, so answering that you’re attracted to the free snacks in the break room won’t score any points.

    • Tell me about a time you were under pressure to meet a deadline and what you did. Did you face pressure at school or work because something was due? Describe the problem, the actions you took, and the outcome.   This type of question is called a behavioral question and has become increasingly common in recent years.  One of the best techniques for answering a behavior question is using the STAR technique, which ontsits of 4 steps: Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work. For example, perhaps you were working on a group project, or you had a conflict with a coworker. This situation can be drawn from a work experience, a volunteer position, or any other relevant event. Be as specific as possible. Task: Next, describe your responsibility in that situation. Perhaps you had to help your group complete a project within a tight deadline, resolve a conflict with a coworker, or hit a sales target.  Action: You then describe how you completed the task or endeavored to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, rather than what your team, boss, or coworker did. (Tip: Instead of saying, "We did xyx," say "I did xyz.") Result: Finally, explain the outcomes or results generated by the action taken. It may be helpful to emphasize what you accomplished, or what you learned.

    • What will former employers say about you? Be honest. Think about the positive things they will say about you.

    • What salary are you expecting? This is a land-mine question and one you’ll almost certainly face. Typically a company has budgeted a certain salary range for a position and will do its best to stay within it. A general rule for salary discussions is that he or she who says the first number loses. Ask what the salary range is and where the interviewer sees you fitting into that range. You owe it to yourself to find out before the interview what the salary range is for a comparable position in the geographical region. You can learn this through your network or an online salary search.

    • Why do you want to leave your present job?  Or why did you leave your previous job?  Do NOT bad-mouth a previous employer.  This is akin to gossip, which is ever good.

    • What questions do you have for me? Before the interview, think of questions you would like answered about the company, the job, or the industry. Having good questions will tell the interviewer a lot about your listening skills and your degree of preparation. If you can, tie your questions back to something the interviewer said earlier. Do not ask questions that the interviewer has already answered. Remember, an interview is not just the company checking you out, it’s also you checking out the company.  Business Insider provides examples of questions you might consider asking at the end of an interview: https://www.businessinsider.com/questions-to-ask-at-end-of-job-interview-2016-4

    Trick Questions in Interviews

    These happen to the best of interviewees. The only wrong answer to an impossible question is “I don’t know.” Hiring managers are looking for employees who think through tough challenges. They want to know if you keep your cool under pressure if you can think on your feet, whether you start rambling or maintain your credibility, and how you respond to the unfamiliar. So show them: think aloud.  Talk about what you know about the problem; work out the process in front of them. You are being judged not only on your ability to solve problems but also on your intelligence and potential. There is no potential in “I don’t know.”

    Prepare yourself physically. Like a final exam, an interview can cause anxiety, and too much anxiety can result in a poor interview. Make sure you eat well and get a good night’s sleep before the interview. Hunger, use of energy drinks, and lack of sleep all contribute to interview anxiety.

    Dress to impress. Research indicates many job applicants have unsuccessful interviews because they didn’t dress professionally. If you’re not sure, ask the person who schedules you for an interview what the dress code is. A suit or jacket, dress slacks, dress shirt, and a tie are usually fine for men. A suit or blouse and a skirt or slacks are fine for women. The rule of thumb is to dress one notch above that group’s normal attire. If in doubt, a suit is never inappropriate for men or women. Remember, you’re going to a job interview, not a casual event.  See more recommendations at  How to Dress at a Job Fair - Men and How to dress at a Job Fair - Women.

    Punctuality counts. Confirm the date and time of the interview a day or two before. Make sure you know how to get there and how long it takes. Arrive at least ten to fifteen minutes before your interview. You may be asked to complete an application or other form when you arrive. If not, it’s a good time to do some relaxation exercises.

    Tips for Success During the Interview

    Now is the time to demonstrate your listening, thinking, and communication skills. Avoid unexpected distractions, and turn off your cell phone before you even enter the building. Know whom you will be interviewing with and what his or her role is in the company; if possible, get something in writing from the interview coordinator so you can get the names spelled correctly (for follow-up purposes). Once you are face-to-face with the interviewer, do the following:

    • Turn your cell phone off and put it away.  Remove earbuds and give the interviewer your full attention.
    • Relax, take a deep breath, and smile. You should be genuinely pleased to be there, as you were selected from a pool of many other candidates.
    • Be yourself. That’s whom you want them to hire, not someone you’re trying to act like.
    • Keep your tone conversational but not too informal. Avoid slang and expletives. Avoid vocal fillers such as uh, uhm, and so on. 
    • Make eye contact but don’t stare. If you are participating in a virtual or one-way interview, look at the camera, not the screen.
    • When answering questions, keep your answers focused on your skills and knowledge.
    • Avoid one-word answers, but be succinct and direct; don’t ramble.
    • Be truthful. Any statements discovered to be untrue are grounds for not hiring you.
    • If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification.
    • Listen carefully.  
    • If you don’t have the exact fact an interviewer is asking for, offer to find out and get back to them.
    • Be prepared to ask questions.
    • At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer and tell him or her you enjoyed your conversation. If the interviewer hasn’t already told you, it is appropriate to ask about the next steps.

    After the Interview

    Be sure to send a thank-you note to each person you interviewed with. It is also courteous to send a short note of thanks to the person who coordinated your schedule with the company, even if he or she didn’t interview you. This person is often asked for his or her impressions of you. Keep your notes short but personal; refer to a comment or question from the interview that you found significant. An e-mail is usually acceptable, especially if the employer required you to submit an electronic application or résumé. Be sure to send it within twenty-four hours.

    Key Takeaways

    • Successful interviewing depends on careful preparation.
    • Most interview questions can be anticipated and prepared for.
    • An interview is as important for you to evaluate the company and its working environment as it is for the company to evaluate your skills and “fit.”

    Exercises

    1. Practice, even with mock interviews, will make you more comfortable in an interview situation.If time permits, conduct a mock employment interview with a classmate for for a job you select from an Internet posting. Switch roles so that you are both the interviewer and interviewee. Write about what you learned about yourself and your approach to interviews. 
    2. Prepare and record a 60-second elevator pitch that you can use to answer the interview question, Tell me about yourself, or that you can use to introduce yourself at career fairs.  Find guidelines and an example at  https://youtu.be/hGkIVxwxrCk.

    References

    Career Services Guide. Southwest Tennessee Community College. 2021.

    Indeed Editorial Team. One Way Video Interview Guide: Steps to a Successful Interview. Indeed.com  https://www.indeed.com/career-advice...ideo-interview.  2 Feb. 2021.

    SuccessHawk, “Interview Questions to Anticipate,” www.successhawk.com/Interview...-to-Anticipate (accessed July 13, 2010).


    7.5: Interviewing is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lisa Coleman, Thomas King, & William Turner.