Preparing for Job Interviews

As you prepare for your interview, it is useful to keep the purpose of the interview in mind, from both the employer's perspective, and yours. Doing so will help you prepare and answer questions well.

The interview allows the employer to:

  • Assess your competency for the position.
  • Determine your fit for the position and the organization.
  • Clarify the role and their expectations.

The interview allows you to:

  • Communicate your related experience, attributes, and accomplishments.
  • Learn more about the position and the organization.
  • Assess if the position aligns with your goals, values, and needs.

Preparing for the Interview

Before the Interview
  • Research the organization: who are their clients/customers and stakeholders, what are their goals, philosophy and mission statement, what opportunities and challenges do they face?
  • Use the job posting and your research to prepare questions to ask during the interview.
  • Analyze the job description to anticipate questions they may ask. Think of situations that you have been in, or problems you have solved, which demonstrate experience in similar scenarios.
  • Prepare materials to take with you into the interview.
    • Copy of your resume and references
    • A notebook and pen so you can take notes, or keep a list of some talking points or accomplishments to refer to
  • Select professional attire to wear to the interview.
  • Arrive early; travel to the location ahead of time to figure out where to park, how to access the building, etc.
  • Visualize a successful interview and focus on a positive outcome. Take a few deep breaths before you go into the interview.
During the Interview
  • Be kind and respectful to everyone you meet.
  • Introduce yourself to the interviewer(s) with a firm handshake and eye contact.
  • Maintain eye contact and open body language once you are seated for the interview.
  • Listen to ensure you are composing the right answer.
    • The interviewer will be using your descriptions of past actions as predictors for future behaviour.
  • Be tactful when speaking about past employers, colleagues, and contacts, particularly when asked to share negative experiences.
  • Ask to return to a question if you need more time to think.
  • Keep communication professional and use appropriate language.
  • Inquire when you will hear a decision.
After the Interview
  • Express gratitude for the opportunity to interview with the company/organization.
  • Ask for the business card of the interviewer(s) so you can follow up with a thank you note or email to each of the interviewer(s).

Types of Interview Questions

Behaviour Description Questions

These questions ask about how you handled experiences in the past since this is an indication of how you would handle similar situations in the future. It is important to note what you learned in the experience since this will significantly impact your future behaviour. If you have not ever been in the situation asked about, answer the question as a hypothetical.

You can use the STARS formula to help formulate your answers to these questions:

S - Situation - Describe the situation in as much detail as possible. Include such details as the people involved, the task at hand, the challenges you faced, and your role.
T - Transferable Skills - Identify the skills you used to handle the situation, pay particular attention to skills that are required by the employer.
A - Action - Explain how you handled the situation and the sequence of actions you took. Talk about how you used your skills.
R - Results - Explain how the situation turned out. What were the results of your actions?
S - Self-assessment - Explain what you learned from the situation. How well did you handle the situation? Are there actions you would repeat? What would you do differently? Demonstrate that you are self-aware and willing to improve.

Example: Tell me about a presentation you gave that did not go well.

Directive Questions

These are straightforward questions in which the focus is clear. If you have researched the position and the organization, and know what you have to offer, you will be prepared to answer. Be sure to avoid simple yes or no answers; use examples in your answers.

Example: Did you research our organization before applying?

Hypothetical Questions

These questions ask how you would handle a particular situation. If you have been in a similar situation and handled it well, use that example. If you have never been in the situation, consider which skills would be important to use and walk the employer through the particular steps you would take. It is useful to outline what considerations you would make and what information you would use to make decisions.

Example: What you would do if you found your ideas about how to tackle a project significantly differed from those of your supervisor?

Non-Directive Questions

Also called open-ended questions, these questions are broad and require you to focus your answer, communicating what is relevant. Anticipate which experiences and attributes are critical to your success in the role and include examples that will demonstrate how you have used them in the past.

Example: Tell me about yourself.

Stress Questions

Interviewers may use stress questions to assess how you react. Stress questions can be unexpected, seem irrelevant, challenge your opinion, or ask you to talk about your negative attributes or experiences. It is important to stay calm, positive, and take time to think about your answer. Remain tactful when speaking about colleagues.

When addressing negative experiences or weaknesses, be honest but avoid drawing attention to weaknesses that would negatively impact your job performance. Turn negatives into positives by talking about strategies you have for overcoming your weaknesses.

Example: Tell me about your skill deficiencies related to this position.