In an interview, an employer is looking to determine factors such as skills and abilities, experience, company fit, personal qualities, and interests. If you have already secured an interview, be confident in the fact that you already have the basic skills and qualifications an employer is looking for.
Different types of interviews
One-on-ones are the most common interview format, where you meet individually with an employer or recruiter.
At the start of the interview, break the ice by asking casual questions or making small talk. For example, ask how they are doing, thank them for taking the time to meet with you or make a comment about your environment. This will help you relax and connect with the employer.
Panel interviews consist of 2 or more interviewers taking turns asking questions.
Try to 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.
Don’t think of it as a competition, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to work in a team environment. Listen to your fellow interviewees and be open to their ideas.
Phone or video interviews
Phone or video interviews are often used as the first step in the interview process; they may also be used throughout the interview process, especially if the employer and interviewee are located in different regions. Like an in-person interview, a phone or video interview can involve speaking with one or more people.
In a phone interview, verbal communication skills are important because the employer can’t see your facial expressions or gestures. Smiling when speaking into the phone can help show enthusiasm through your voice.
Candidates may sometimes be asked to record videos of themselves responding to interview question prompts without the presence of an interviewer. These are known as one-way video interviews or asynchronous video interviews. More employers are introducing these interviews to reduce hiring time, cost, conscious and unconscious bias, as well as to promote collaborative decision-making..
Before having an asynchronous video interview, check your computer video, audio, and internet connection. Make sure to also familiarize yourself with the online chat software program. Dress professionally as you would for an in-person interview to put yourself in an interview frame of mind.
Before the interview
First, do your research
It is important that you understand what the role is like, in addition to company values and the work you will be doing.
Review the position description and highlight specific skills or personal qualities that the employer mentions. Prepare stories and responses to address these concerns.
Review the company website and social media pages to equip yourself with an understanding of current goals or priorities. Researching the company or organization will help you gain a better understanding of who they are and what they do. Make sure you also prepare questions about the organization, role, or team culture to ask during the interview.
If you have an asynchronous video interview, there are different softwares you may be asked to use. Read all the instructions in advance to avoid confusion 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 to get comfortable telling your stories and answering questions about your experiences.
It can help if you research potential questions online and note down sample responses or examples from your past experiences.
If you have an asynchronous video interview, check your background and make sure you get the lighting right, not too dark or bright. If possible, make a short demo video to observe what you sound and look like.
Bring extra copies of your resume and have a list of your references on a separate sheet of paper ready to hand over.
You may want to bring a pen and notebook to jot down any important notes. In some cases, you may wish to bring a tablet or laptop to show your digital portfolio in person.
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 to 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, and waiting too long can increase your nervousness.
If you have an asynchronous video interview, click “Start” and check the series of questions you must respond to, plan what you will say for those questions, and estimate the time spent if there is a time limit. Usually, you’ll have limited time to read the question. Write down keywords and ideas instead of a whole script.
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.
At the interview
- Greet the interviewer(s) warmly with eye contact, smile, and introduce yourself.
- Be mindful of the messages you send with your body language (e.g., hand gestures, slouching, fidgeting).
- 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.
- Seek clarification if you are unsure what the interviewer is asking.
- Request a moment to think about your response before answering.
- Avoid looking down and reading the script during an asynchronous video interview. You still need to make eye contact with the invisible interviewer(s).
Employers often begin an interview by asking you to say something about yourself. Your response should be brief but thoughtful. Aim for 1 to 2 minutes.
Consider using the PAWS formula:
- Personal: Who you are and why you’re interested in this position.
- Academic: Your academic interests and how your education or training relates to the position.
- Work: A brief introduction to previous work or volunteer experiences you have that are related to this role.
- Skills: Your top skills or strengths you bring to the role.
Questions during an interview
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What do you know about our organization or company?
- What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?
- What are your long-term goals? What are your short-term goals?
Under the Employment Standards Act of BC, questions pertaining to age, race, ancestry, religion, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, place of origin, political beliefs, family status, and sexual orientation are illegal unless directly related to the position.
You do not need to answer questions about these things. If you are asked a question you believe is illegal, a good tactic is to reply with a question that helps you clarify what the employer is trying to learn. For example, an employer may carelessly ask your age or if you are physically fit because they want to know if you will be able to handle how active the role is.
By clarifying their motivation for asking the question, you can then respond by letting them know you have no concerns about being able to perform the physical requirements of the job but would prefer not to disclose your age or other personal information.
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. The following are common examples:
- Describe a time you made a difficult decision in the absence of your supervisor. Related skills include judgment, independence, and 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? Related skills include teamwork and leadership.
Answer behavioural-based questions by using the STARR formula:
- Situation: Provide some 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: Describe the task you had to complete or the problem you faced.
- Action: Explain the steps you took to deal with the task or problem.
- Result: Share 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: Demonstrate 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. Identify whether the organization and position is a good fit for you, and assert your ability to meet their needs with questions like:
- What kind of training will I receive?
- What do you like most about working for this company or organization?
- Will I have an opportunity to take on new responsibilities once I become comfortable in my position?
- What do you hope the person in this role will be able to accomplish in their first few months?
After the interview
You may send a thank-you 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.
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