Interviews

Overview

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-one 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

Panel interviews consist of two 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.

Group interviews

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 typically used to pre-screen candidates, but they can also be used when interviews take place in other locations.

Verbal communication skills are especially important in this format 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

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

Practice

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.

It can help if you research potential questions online and jot down sample responses or examples from your past experiences.

Plan ahead

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 5-10 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.

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, neat hair, no colognes or perfumes).

At the interview

General tips

  • Greet the interviewer(s) warmly with eye contact,  smile, and Introduce yourself.
  • 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.”
  • Seek clarification if you are unsure what the interviewer is asking.
  • Request a moment to think about your response before answering.

Answering questions

Employers often begin an interview by asking you to say something about yourself. Your response should be brief but thoughtful. Aim for 1-2 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/training relates to the position.
  • Work: A brief introduction to previous work or volunteer experiences you have had that are related to this role.
  • Skills: Your top skills or strengths you bring to the role.

Questions during an interview

Common 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, 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 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.   

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. The following are common examples:

  • 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: 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.

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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, and further assert your ability to meet their needs by asking questions like:

  • What kind of training will I receive?
  • What do you (the interviewer) 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?
  • What do you hope the person in this role will be able to accomplish in their first few months?

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

Helpful resources

  • Ten Thousand Coffees
    Create a free profile on The UBC Hub to join the mentoring platform, and receive monthly mentor matches specific to your area of interest.
  • 50 Ways to Get a Job
    Explore this guide to finding work that is personalized to you and where you’re at in your job search.
  • Glassdoor
    Search jobs and get the inside scoop on companies and salary ranges through anonymous reviews left by employees.

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