If you are new to interviews, or it has been some time since you have had one, you may be under the impression that if you’ve seen one, you’ve them them all. So you may be in for a big surpise the next time you set foot in a potential employer’s office. Today’s interviews can range from one-on-one conversations to sit down meeings with an HR coordinator to informal informational interviews and even group interviews. And that’s just for starters.
If you want to be successful in all types of job interviews, you must first have a clear understanding of the different interview styles and what is expected of you during each of them.
But no matter what you learn about each particular interview style below, there are some similarities between all of them – anticipate questions, develop your answers and practice makes perfect. Articles such as this one and other can give you guidelines, but you need to learn how to adapt them to yourself so you aren’t giving the employer the same answers as everybody else. And remember to sell yourself, your qualifications and your skills at all times.
The Informational Interview
An informational interview is not a job interview. It is a chance for interested individuals to meet with a professional to gather industry and career information and advice to help determine if the career is worth pursuing. In addition, it allows the individual to begin establishing contacts and a network for future employment opportunities.
Even though these types of interviews are less stressful than regular interviews, you should still come prepared. Here are a few tips for informational interviews:
- Arrive prepared. You don’t want to waste your time or the employer’s. Do your research in advance and have questions ready about the industry, company, field and the position of the person you are meeting with.
- When other contacts are given to you, make sure the person is comfortable with you using their name as a reference.
- When the interview is over, make sure to shake hands and leave your contact info and a resume.
- Follow up with a thank you note in the next day or two.
Some places are easier to get your foot in the door than others. In some cases, you will have to get by a Human Resources professional before you get to the person who is actually doing the hiring. The purpose of the HR professional is to weed out the duds. But if you can get by them, chances are you will be meeting with a decision maker in the company. When screening, HR profeesionals are looking for employment gaps and inconsistent information. They may also inquire about salary requirements to see if the company can afford you, or if you are asking for more than you are worth. When asked this question, it is recommended that you stick to a simple answer such as "I would be willing to consider your best offer."
Screening interviews are also done over the phone. Again, this is a process used to eliminate job seekers based on standard requirements such as experience, education and skill sets. It is good practice when actively seeking a new job to keep a copy of your resume and references by the phone.
Some jobs may require a bit of an audition. This is common practice for positions such as computer programming. The purpose is to evaluate your skills on the fly. In an audition interview, you have the unique opportunity to strut your stuff and prove your abilities by demonstrating your knowledge of particular tasks associated with the job. For an audition type interview, you should always:
- Practice as many possible skills you posses that are requirements for the job prior to the interview.
- Ask for clarification on anything that is unclear during the exercise. It is better to ask questions that to be doing something incorrectly because you were confused about directions.
In a group interview you will be along side other candidates. This is your chance to demonstrate your leadership potential, communication skills and how well you work with others. Sometimes, you may even be challenged to solve a problem as a group and be asked to work as a team to solve the problem. This allows those interviewing to help determine if you are reserved, pushy or have a balance between offering and listening to ideas. This is perhaps one of the most overwhelming interviews and is easy to get lost in the rest of the faces. Here are a few tips to help you stand out:
- Speak to everybody in the group with respect, regardless of how much they are contributing to the cause. Always be polite even if other people are not.
- Do your best to avoid power struggles. They will only result in the interviewers forming a negative opinion about you, perhaps one of childishness and inexperience.
Tag Team Interview
As if interviewing with one person wasn’t hard enough, tag team interviews are even more difficult. They have multiple parties interview one person – you. The purpose of the tag team interview is to get insight from others who work in or for the company. They are not only looking for the usual background, education and experience, but how you get along with various members of the team. Here are some tips to help with success:
- Ask for each person’s business card at the beginning of the meeting. This will help you address them by name when required.
- Make eye contact with each interviewer and speak to them directly when answering their question.
- Be prepared to share at least two or three times as many stories as you would with a single interviewer. You are now trying to sell yourself to two or three more people, so you will need to have the appropriate amount of stories.
- Get a good night sleep. These types of interviews can be very fatiguing.
A mealtime interview, as the name would imply, is an interview set over the course of a meal. They are often used in situations where the position requires a high level of interpersonal skills. A mealtime setting allows them to see how you act in a social setting, as well as your mealtime etiquette. They are not only looking at how you interact with other employees, but also how polite you are to other guests and the serving staff. Here are some tips for a successful mealtime interview:
- Make sure you order a meal that iseasy to eat so you do not have to worry about spilling or splattering food all over your clothes.
- Watch the interviewer for cues. Do not sit until he or she does, do not order alcohol unless he or she does (even so, only have one). And order something a little less expensive. Do not begin eating until the interviewer does.
- Do not discuss any dietary restrictions or preferences.
- Allow the interviewer or others at the table to choose the topics of conversation.
- Be sure to thank the interviewer for the meal.
A stress interview allows interviewers to see how well you work under pressure. These types of interviews can be a little cruel, but it serves a point. These types of interviews may include a variety of odd behaviour, including being held in the waiting room for long periods of time, posing offensive questions, being met with long silence or cold looks, just to name a few. Verbal abuse is also fairly common. All of this just to see if you are able to handle a stressful work environment and company culture. Here are some pointers to help you keep your cool:
- Stress interviews are meant to test your mental strength, not hurt your feelings. If you can identify when you are in one, it will make it that much easier to shine.
- Stay focused on expressing your point. Do not let the interviewer shake your confidence or get in your head.
- Stay calm at all costs and avoid rude responses to rude questions.
A typical interview discusses your skills and how they fit with the job at hand. A behavioural interview is aimed at using your previous behaviour to indicate your future performance. You’ve probably heard questions such as, "describe a past work experience where you had to use problem-solving, adaptability or leadership. "They are looking for detailed information on how you have dealt with past experiences. Prior to a behavioural interview, review your resume and generate as many stories as possible based on the information in you interview, and of course practice practice, practice. Keep them short and concise.
If you make it through the first interview, you may very well be called back for another, or even a third. This could happen if employers are having a difficult time deciding between a few candidates, or just to ensure you are the right person for the job. If you get a second or third interview, it is your best chance to solidify your placement within the company. Often you will meet with people higher in the company, so be prepared for high levels of stress. Be as professional as possible and good luck!