Understanding Job Interviews
Before you begin interviewing, you must make sure you have a good understanding of what interviews are all about. You should know about the interview process, the different types of interviews, and what employers are trying to learn about you from an interview. Becoming more knowledgeable about what to expect will help you demystify the entire interview process. This in turn will allow you to feel more confident when you are on a job interview. Remember, the more confident you feel, the more confident you will look to your potential boss.
Getting to Know You
Have you ever wondered what the point of a job interview is? The employer has your resume—can't she just look at it to see whether you have the necessary skills and experience? All she has to do is make a phone call or two to verify that information, right? While your resume is made up of information about your past experience, it doesn't give the employer a full picture of who you are. Your resume is only a summary of your skills, work experience, and educational background. With only your resume to rely on, the person interviewing you won't have any idea of the specific things about you that will set you apart from the other candidates.
Remember that the interview is your chance to expand upon the facts you listed on your resume. Rather than thinking of an interview as an inquisition, you should instead look at it as a wonderful opportunity to express your true self to your prospective employer.
After all, a resume is merely a piece of paper and you are so much more than that. An interviewer can't learn about someone's personality by looking at a resume. She can't discover how a candidate developed some of his skills or which accomplishments meant the most to him. The interviewer can't find out how the candidate reacts to change or adversity by reading his resume.
The only way an interviewer can learn any of those things about a job candidate is by talking to him and asking questions. This will allow the candidate to paint a picture of himself that is much more elaborate than what can fit on one sheet of paper.
Getting to Know Your Prospective Employer
Another purpose of a job interview is to help you to learn about the employer. You will discover things on a job interview that will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to accept or reject an offer should the employer make one. You will learn some things about the employer by asking questions. You will also learn things about the employer from the questions she asks you. For example, if the interviewer starts asking questions about working late or traveling, you can safely assume that these things will be part of your life if you get the job.
You may decide by the end of a job interview that this isn't really the job for you or that this company isn't one you want to work for. And that's okay. It is in everyone's best interests, both the employer's and yours, to make this determination before you accept a job offer and begin working.
The Interview Process
The interview process can go on for quite a while. First, you may be asked to come in for a screening interview. The screening interview is your first interview with a particular employer. In some cases it may even take place over the telephone. During a screening interview, the person interviewing you will usually be someone who works in the human resources department, and he will want to verify items that are on your resume, such as dates of employment and schooling.
If the person who completes your screening interview is satisfied, he will most likely set up a selection interview. While someone from human resources may interview you again at this point, it is also likely that a department manager will interview you. The department manager, in addition to making sure you have the desirable skills and background, will want to make sure you have the right personality for the position.
Following the first selection interview, the employer may ask you to come back for subsequent interviews. During these further interviews, the employer may want to introduce you to other people in the company to make sure you are the right choice. Remember, you are still in the interviewing phase, so be on your best behavior.
The employer may call back other candidates as she tries to narrow down her choices. Sometimes you will be the only candidate who is asked to return for more interviews. That usually is good news, but don't consider it a done deal until you actually have a job offer.
What should I discuss on a second interview?
Use this opportunity to bring up something that you didn't get to talk about during the initial interview. Be prepared with an example of a specific skill or achievement you didn't have a chance to highlight before. Remember to explain how the example shows you are a good candidate for the particular position you want.
Preparing to answer Questions
You will be asked a variety of questions on a job interview. These questions will pertain to your skills and abilities, accomplishments, education, and work history. You will also be asked questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and hobbies, and your likes and dislikes, all of which will allow the employer to learn about your personal traits or characteristics.
In Chapters 3 through 13 you will find questions you might encounter on a job interview. While answers (both good and bad) are given, they are only guidelines. You should try to figure out how you will answer those questions. While you should not go into a job interview with a memorized script, you should have an idea of how you will answer most questions that will come your way. Chapter 14 will give you ideas for the types of questions you should ask the interviewer. Use these questions in the same way—as a guideline you can adapt to your particular situation, the company with which you are interviewing, and the industry it is in.
Special Types of Interviews
At some point during your job search, you may have to participate in a group interview. In a group interview, several candidates are interviewed at one time. This type of interview allows those who are natural leaders to show themselves, and its purpose is often to find out who stands out from the crowd or emerges as a leader. If you aren't a leader, don't worry—not everyone can be one. The job may not be the right one for you. Trying to be someone you are not will only make things difficult down the line, when you or your employer discover you're not the right fit for the job after all.
If, when you walk into an interview, you find yourself sitting at a table opposite several people, don't be alarmed. You are about to take part in a panel interview. This type of interview is also known as a committee interview and is often used when a group of people must collectively decide who to hire. During a panel interview, each member of the panel will ask you questions. The best thing you can do in this situation is stay calm and answer the questions one at a time.
During a panel interview, several people may be firing questions off at once. Listen carefully, but if you don't hear the question, politely ask the person who asked it to repeat herself. When you answer questions during a panel interview, directly address the person who asked the question by making eye contact with her.