Someone flipping through resumes


Be confident in the fact that you already have the basic skills and qualifications an employer is seeking – otherwise they would not be spending time interviewing you. In an interview, an employer is looking to determine factors such as skills and abilities, experience, company fit, personal qualities, and interests.

Different types of interviews

  • The most common interview format, where you meet individually with an employer or recruiter
  • Break the ice by asking casual questions or making small talk at the start of the interview – this will help you relax and connect with the employer
  • Panel interviews consist of two or more interviewers taking turns asking questions
  • Make eye contact with all the interviewers when answering a question, not just the individual who asked it
  • Employers may hold group interviews to screen multiple candidates at once; these interviews may also involve a group activity that requires applicants to work together to solve a problem or complete a task
  • Listen to your fellow interviewees and be open to their ideas
  • Don’t think of it as a competition, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to work in a team environment
  • Typically used as pre-screening but also when interviews take place in other locations
  • Verbal communication skills are especially important because the employer can’t see your facial expressions or gestures
  • Smile when speaking into the phone to help convey enthusiasm through your voice
  • Dress professionally as you would for an in-person interview to put yourself in an interview frame of mind

Before the interview

Do your research
  • Review the position description and highlight specific skills or personal qualities that the employer mentions
  • Prepare stories and responses to address these concerns
  • Research the company or organization to gain a better understanding of who they are and what they do
  • Prepare questions about the organization to ask during the interview
  • Interviewing is a learned skill that can be improved with practice
  • Practice your responses to typical interview questions with a friend or family member; get comfortable telling your stories and answering questions about your experiences
Plan ahead
  • Plan your route to the interview beforehand; double-check the location and map your route via public transit or figure out where to park before the interview
  • Arrive 5-10 minutes before the start of your interview
  • Arriving too early can be bothersome to employers, who may have other interviews and appointments before you; waiting too long can also increase your nervousness
Dress the part
  • First impressions count!
  • In general, dress one step up from what the organization’s employees wear on a typical day; when in doubt, dress more formally
  • Be conservative and detail-oriented (e.g., polished shoes, dark socks, neat hair, no colognes or perfumes)
Come prepared
  • Bring extra copies of your resume
  • Have a list of your references on a separate sheet of paper ready to hand over
  • Bring a pen and notebook to jot down any important notes

At the interview

General tips
  • Greet the interviewer(s) with a firm handshake, good eye contact, and a smile
  • Monitor the messages you send with your body language, e.g., hand gestures, slouching, fidgeting, etc
  • Monitor the body language of the interviewer(s); if they stop writing notes and look ready to move on, finish your point quickly
  • Be honest with your responses
  • Avoid slang expressions such as “ya know” or “like”
Don’t be afraid to:
  • Introduce yourself
  • Seek clarification if you are unsure what the interviewer is asking
  • Ask to have a question or parts of a question repeated
  • Request a moment to think about your response or to return to the question later on in the interview
Employers often begin an interview by asking you to say something about yourself. Respond using the PAWS formula:
  • Personal: Who you are and why you’re interested in this position
  • Academic: Your academic interests and how your education/training relates to the position
  • Work: Previous relevant work or volunteer experiences you have, and what you have accomplished or gained from these experiences
  • Skills: Skills you developed or demonstrated in previous experiences and how they relate to the position you’re applying for now
Typical questions
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What do you know about our organization/company?
  • What is your greatest strength/weakness?
  • What are your long-term/short-term goals?
Illegal questions
  • Under the Employment Standards Act of BC, questions pertaining to age, race, ancestry, religion, colour, sex, marital status, physical/mental disability, place of origin, political beliefs, family status, and sexual orientation are illegal (unless directly related to the position).
  • You should not answer questions about these subjects.
Behavioural-based questions

These questions require you to tell a “story” from your past experience to demonstrate how you handled a particular situation. Employers ask these questions to assess how you might act in similar situations in the future. You should prepare stories beforehand to respond to questions like the following (and highlight the skills they are assessing):

  • Describe a time you made a difficult decision in the absence of your supervisor? (Judgment, Independence, Decision-making)
  • Tell me about a time you had to work as part of a team. What was your role in the team? What did you do to ensure that the group functioned effectively? (Teamwork, Leadership)
Answer behavioural-based questions by using the STARR formula:
  • Situation: Background on the scenario, with enough detail for the interviewer to imagine the scenario in his or her mind and to understand that the event did actually occur
  • Task: The task you had to complete or the problem you faced
  • Action: The steps you took to deal with the task or problem
  • Result: The impact of your work. Was the problem solved? How did others react? What feedback did you get from your supervisor? What did you learn or accomplish?
  • Relevance: How the skills you showed or gained from the experience relates to the position you’re applying for
Questions for the employer

You should have some questions ready to ask the employer at the end of the interview to demonstrate your level of preparation and interest. Discover if the organization and position is a good fit for you by asking questions like:

  • What kind of training will I receive?
  • What do you (the employer) like most about working for this company/organization?
  • Will I have an opportunity to take on new responsibilities once I get comfortable in my position?

After the interview

Be careful not to ask too many questions about salary and benefits. Some employers prefer to disclose this information in a subsequent interview or discussion.

Send a thank-you card or email to your interviewer(s). Address each interviewer individually by name. If you are unsure or have forgotten their names, look online or phone to find out.

Skills to get a job

External resources


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