How to be prepared for all phases of a Job Interview
Each phase of a job interview will be different. It’s important to know where you are in the process, and how you can leverage each stage of an interview.
Job interviews are a two-way discussion between you and a prospective employer. The interviewer is attempting to determine whether you have what the company needs, and you are attempting to determine if you would accept the job if offered. Both of you will be trying to get as much information as possible in order to make those decisions.
The interview that you are most likely to face is a structured interview with a traditional format. It usually consists of three phases. The introductory phase covers the greeting, small talk, and an overview of which areas will be discussed during the interview. T
The middle phase is a question-and-answer period. The interviewer asks most of the questions, but you are given an opportunity to ask questions as well. The closing phase gives you an opportunity to ask any final questions you might have, cover any important points that haven’t been discussed, and get information about the next step in the interview process.
This phase is very important. You want to make a good first impression and, if possible, get additional information you need about the job and the company.
- Make a good first impression. You only have a few seconds to create a positive first impression, and that impression can influence the rest of the interview and even determine whether you get the job.
The interviewer’s first impression of you is based mainly on your body language. The interviewer is assessing your overall appearance and demeanor. When greeting the interviewer, be certain your handshake is firm and make eye contact.
Wait for the interviewer to signal you before you sit down. Once seated, find a comfortable position so that you don’t appear tense or uncomfortable. Lean forward slightly and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
Your posture shows that you are interested in what is being said. Smile naturally and show that you are open and receptive by keeping your arms and legs uncrossed.
Avoid keeping your briefcase or handbag on your lap. Try to appear relaxed and confident.
- Use your knowledge of company information. You should get this information about the company in advance. Be sure to prepare your questions in advance as well.
- Ask questions. Deciding exactly when to ask your questions can be tricky. Your chance to ask questions in the traditional interview is typically late in the interview. How can you get the information you need early in the process without making the interviewer feel that you are taking control? Timing is everything.
- You may have to make a decision based on intuition and your first impressions of the interviewer. Does the interviewer seem comfortable or nervous, soft spoken or forceful, formal or casual?
These signals will help you to judge the best time to ask your questions. The sooner you ask the questions, the less likely you are to disrupt the interviewer’s intent or agenda. However, if you ask questions too early, the interviewer may feel you are trying to control the interview.
Try asking questions right after the greeting and small talk. Since most interviewers like to set the tone of the interview and maintain initial control, always phrase your questions in a way that leaves control with the interviewer.
Perhaps you can say, “Would you mind telling me a little more about the job so that I can focus on the information that would be most important to you and the company?” You may want to wait until the interviewer has given an overview of what will be discussed.
This overview may answer some of your questions or may provide some details that you can use to ask additional questions later.
During this phase of the interview, you will be asked many questions about your work experience, skills, education, activities, and interests. This is the assessment part of the interview. The interviewer wants to know how you will perform the job in relation to the company objectives.
Your responses should be clear and concise. Use specific examples to illustrate your point whenever possible. Although your responses should be well-phrased and effective, be sure they do not sound rehearsed.
Remember that your responses must always be adapted to the present interview. Incorporate any information you obtained earlier in the interview with the responses you had prepared in advance and then answer in a way that is appropriate to the question.
Below are frequently asked questions and suggested responses. Give a specific example to illustrate your point for each question.
What is your weakest attribute? (A stress question)
- “I’m a stickler for punctuality and promptness.”
- “I’m tenacious.”
- “I’m a perfectionist.”
What is your strongest attribute?
- “I am organized and manage my time well.”
- “I work well under pressure.”
- “I am motivated and eager to learn.”
What do you hope to be doing five years from now?
- “I hope to still work here and have increased my level of responsibility based on my performance and abilities.”
What do you know about our company? Why do you want to work here?
- “You are a leading provider of widgets on the West Coast.”
- “Your company has a superior product/service.”
- “Your company has the largest market share for your product in the world.”
- “Your company is a leader in your field and growing.”
It would help if you try to get the interviewer to give you additional information about the company by saying that you are very interested in learning more about the company objectives. This will help you to focus your response on relevant areas.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
- Give a specific illustration from your previous or current job where you saved the company money, helped increase profits, or improved processes.
- If you have just graduated from college, try to find some accomplishment from your school work, part-time jobs, volunteer work, or extra-curricular activities.
Why should we hire you? (A stress question)
- Highlight your background based on the company’s current needs. Recap your qualifications keeping the interviewer’s job description in mind.
- If you don’t have much experience, talk about how your education and training prepared you for this job.
Some Questions You Should Ask
- “Could you give me a more detailed job description?”
- “What are the company’s current challenges?”
- “Why is this position open?”
- “Are there opportunities for advancement?”
- “To whom would I report?”
During the closing phase of an interview, you will probably be asked whether you have any other questions for the interviewer. Ask any relevant questions that have not yet been answered. Highlight any of your strengths that have not been discussed.
If another interview is to be scheduled, get the necessary information. If this is the final interview, find out when a final decision will be made, and when you should follow up. Thank the interviewer for their time.
- Be attentive and polite when answering questions
- Answer questions clearly and concisely
- Ask relevant questions
- Be sincere and direct
- Use specific examples to illustrate points
- Try to control the entire interview
- Be too serious in the interview
- Bring up salary, benefits, or working hours
- Take extensive notes
- Make negative comments about anyone or anything, including former employers
- Smoke or chew gum
- Look at your watch
- Let your disinterest or discouragement show
After the Interview
The interview process is not finished yet, so don’t get overly excited. It is important to assess the interview after it has concluded.
After the interview, you should:
- Review what the job entails and make a note as to what the next step will be.
- Take note of your reactions as well as those of the interviewer following the interview. Include what went well and what didn’t go so well.
- Assess what you learned from the experience and how you can improve your performance in future interviews.
- Send a thank-you letter shortly afterward, preferably within 24 hours.
- Thank-you letters should be handwritten if possible. If you don’t have good handwriting, type it.