Every interview you have will be different, but interviews can also be categorized into some broad types. The following types of interviews are best viewed as “phases” of the overall process rather than separate interviews. A phone interview and screening interview may be combined or, in a small organization, the president or manager may combine all phases of the interview from screening to selection into one interview.
• Screening Interview
This is usually the first meeting you have with a prospective employer. It is usually general in format and relatively short, lasting 30-45 minutes, or even less. On-campus interviews and recruiting fair interviews are examples. The purpose of this interview is to reduce the number of candidates to a manageable number.
• Follow-up or Second Interview
The number of candidates has been reduced to a manageable number, but the final two or three candidates have not been selected. The purpose of this interview is to identify the finalist for the position. This interview is usually on-site at the employer’s location and often several people will interview the candidate. Additional information about the organization and the position will be received. Conversely, the interviewers will ask more pin-pointed questions, to reveal certain skills and characteristics that you possess.
• Selection Interview
With the final candidate pool, the position’s supervisor or Corporate Manager for that branch will usually be the primary interviewer, however others may be involved as well. During this interview, you will want to have all your questions answered so that you can make a decision if you would like to accept the position if offered. Salary, benefits, professional development and additional areas should be discussed at this time (not earlier). The decision to offer the job to an individual is made at this stage after a review of the finalists’ interviews.
These phases of the interview process may take on different formats, rather than just an individual, face-to-face exchange of information. Interview phases will vary widely, depending on the type of organization (private, government or non-profit), the size and culture of the organization, and the personalities of the people involved. Interviews may also occur over the phone, in a group with many interviewers present at once, or during a meal at a restaurant.
Regardless of the type of interview, you will be presenting yourself and your qualifications, but you will also be evaluating the organization. You will need to decide if you would consider working there based on information and impressions acquired in the interview. Simultaneously, the interviewer is judging your potential as an employee, as well as presenting her/his organization in an informative and attractive manner. With careful preparation, you can interview confidently and effectively with each employer. See a Pathways career advisor for assistance.
STYLES OF THE INTERVIEWER
Each interview will also have a style of its own, depending again upon the type and culture of the organization, and the individual interviewer. Here are a few interviewer styles to be aware of:
• Directive Interview
Following a set agenda, the interviewer will gather information, providing direction to you by the questions asked or answers she/he provides. You may feel as if questions are being “fired” at you constantly. Pause before answering and take a few moments to compose yourself and your answers. Silence is not a bad thing; it shows you are taking the questions seriously. This interview can allow for your own questions, if you have prepared adequately.
• Stress Interview
A confrontational style is used through which the interviewer will attempt to unsettle you. You are purposely placed in a pressure situation to see how you respond. The interviewer may begin the interview with “I’d like to begin the Interview by asking you what you would like to discuss during the next 30 minutes?” This style of interview is rare, except in the case of high-pressure sales positions.
• Nondirective Interview
Some interviewers take a fairly informal approach to interviewing and therefore, they fail to provide direction to you. A casually posed question within a casual atmosphere often promotes a casual response on your behalf. If this continues, you need to provide direction in the interview. In order to do so, be tactful and change the direction in a positive way. Your ultimate goal is to convey to the interviewer what she/he needs to know about you and your interest in working for the organization.
THE STAGES OF THE INTERVIEW
There is usually a logical ordering of events in an interview and knowing the order in which things typically happen can help you feel more confident. This is not to say that things will always happen in this order, but the following is the format of a standard interview.
1. Breaking the Ice
Always shake hands and introduce yourself. Relax! Most likely the opening of the interview will include small talk. Be friendly and responsive. Feel free to initiate a discussion of some very general topic of conversation such as weather, travel or comment on an object in the office. The interviewer will likely review your interviewing agenda with you and confirm your interest.
2. Company Information Sharing
The interviewer will usually begin the conversation with a general description of his or her organization, and the position for which they’re hiring. Listening carefully is the best strategy here, although questions are very much appropriate. Make a “mental note” of questions and responses to the information you may have, so that you can respond appropriately during the next phase of the interview.
3. Questions from the Interviewer
After describing his or her organization, the interviewer will begin asking you questions in earnest. You will be asked questions about your education and training, your work experience, and the skills that you have attained from work and interests. Remember how you organized your thoughts about your skills, motivations, and personal characteristics, refer to your resume when answering, and always give examples of when you used your best qualities to advantage.
4. Solicit Questions
An interview is not an interrogation! It’s a two-way process in which both interviewer and interviewee gather information and form impressions. It’s generally a good idea to wait on your questions until you are invited to ask them, but always have questions to ask! A lack of questions infers that you are not interested enough or alert enough to be inquisitive. Remember what you learned from “researching” the organizations, and don’t ask a question concerning things that you could have learned had you done your homework. Do not ask about salary in the initial interview. If the interviewer brings it up, however, then you are free to discuss it openly. It you are not invited to ask questions, politely ask if you may.
5. Tying It Together and Closing
It is during these final few minutes that any loose ends are addressed and any other questions that either the interviewer or interviewee need answered in order to make a decision are asked.
Here is yet another opportunity to make a good impression. Write a thank you letter right after the interview. So many people forget this step that if you don’t forget you’ll stand out! If you haven’t heard anything, wait at least one week and then call. Inquire as to the progress of the candidate search and ask about your current status as a candidate. If you don’t get the job, ask for some feedback. This is perfectly appropriate. Suggestions from past interviewers can help you strengthen weak areas and polish up for future interviews.