Career Advice » Interview

The Job Interview

Your efforts start paying off: After updating your resume, searching for the right job opening and applying to a few, you have finally received a call for an interview! You should be satisfied but you feel nervous. That’s normal! An interview is the most important step to employment, a “make or break” step. Most people don’t like to be the centre of attention and being judged for their skills and experience. However, there are some steps you can take to make job interviews easier and increase your success rate.

Structure of a typical interview

Unlike Resumes, Cover Letters are custom-made for the job you apply and the employer you contact. As a rule of thumb:

There is standard format of an interview, but, in general, this is what you should expect:

  1. Introductions and ice breaker: The interviewer(s) will start by welcoming you, introducing themselves and having an informal chat with you for a few minutes.
  2. General questions: Be prepared to answer questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, “Can you multitask?”, or “How do you deal with pressure?” Probably they use the same pool of general questions for all job candidates.
  3. Resume questions: General questions are typically followed by specific ones related to your resume: your experience, skills, education. These questions can be high-level at the beginning but they may become quite specific later.
  4. Technical questions: For technical and engineering jobs, they will ask you specific technical questions, request that you describe one of your latest projects in detail, or discuss a technical problem with you. A whiteboard may be used during this phase of the interview.
  5. Discussion of position: At the last part of the interview, they will discuss the job in more detail and ask you a few more questions. Typically, this is the part during which you can ask questions about the organization, the team, the job, etc.
  6. Closing: They will end the interview by telling you what the next step will be (e.g., an email from Human Resources within a week, or a second interview for successful candidates).

Preparing for the interview

There are some steps you can take to make job interviews easier and increase your success rate.

Step 1: Research

  • The organization: You can research the organization on the Internet. Visit its website(s) and use Google to find additional sites. Other sources such as present and past employees of the organization are invaluable.
    You should research the organization at different levels:
    • world-wide operation,
    • operation at the branch/office to which you have applied,
    • work of the department or group that has the job vacancy.
    You are looking for information on what the firm does, what products or services it offers, culture, history, structure, management, etc.
  • The interviewers: You should know in advance the interview type and your interviewers. If not, contact Human Resources and ask.
    • Type of interview: Is it a technical interview? Does it involve some kind of written test? Are you meeting a panel of interviewers, a single interviewer, or several interviewers in succession?
    • Who are the interviewers? If possible, obtain their names. At the very least, you should know their role (Human Resources, manager/team lead from hiring department/group, senior employee from the hiring department, etc.).
    • If you know the names of your interviewers, research them on the Internet. You will be surprised at how much information you can find. Professionals keep a LinkedIn account, post to professional forums, author articles, present in conferences. If you are lucky enough, you can get first-hand information from someone who knows and have worked with the firm in the past.
  • The sector: Use the Internet to gain basic knowledge of the sector in which the organization is involved: How this sector is performing now? Future prospects? Who are the main players in this sector? This will help you to identify the competition of the organization.
  • Your Resume: Go through your resume and ensure that you can discuss your previous experience, education and skills in detail. Focus on items that may relate to the job requirements.

Step 2: Practice

  • Rehearse answers to specific and general questions that may be asked during your interview. Ensure that you are happy with the level of detail you provide, the tone/pace of your voice, your body language (eye contact is important).
  • For resume items that may relate to the job, specificity is important. The chances are that you will be asked detailed questions about these items.

Step 3: Relax and be confident

  • You have prepared for the interview and took charge of all factors under your control. There is nothing to worry about! Even if you don’t land the job, you have done all you could.
  • The organization went through a pile of resumes and chose only a few for an interview. This should boost your confidence: The Company hand-picked you from the pile because it already believes you may be the right person for the job.
  • Remember there are always rewards from an interview. You gain experience you can use at your next interview.

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