Getting an interview is already an achievement for most positions as only a shortlisted few of the applicants will make it to this stage. The employer has examined your resume and application and deemed you fit for a potential hire; that’s already a massive step ahead.
Once you’ve reached this stage, you’d have to make sure you impress the employers with your interview and prove that you’re not only competent but perfect for the job. This process will be especially stressful for new graduates who’re just stepping into the workforce with little to no prior experience with interviews. However, while experience is important, you can still develop impressive interview skills through research and practice at home.
Ask yourself these questions first
There are effective steps you can take to improve your interview skills and learn how to succeed in an interview. Firstly, consider the fundamentals:
- What’s the position you’re applying for?
- Why are you applying?
- What are the essential skills for that position?
- What are the core values and goals of the company that’s hiring?
- What can you bring to the table?
- What type of interview will you be facing?
- What are the common interview questions and answers?
Once you have all the basics laid out before you, you can prepare accordingly. If you do your research carefully, you’d be able to walk into the interview with all the right tools to impress your interviewer and stand out from the other applicants.
Types of Job Interviews
Before you face any interview, it’s important to first determine what type of interview it will be. There are several types of job interviews, each requiring different preparation techniques and focus points. Here are the different types of interviews and how to prepare for each of them.
1: Traditional interview
This is the most common type of interview where a candidate sits down with a single interviewer at the designated interview space, usually within the premises of the company or business. In a traditional interview the employer or representative will ask the candidate questions that are fairly generic.
Interviewers typically start by asking the candidate to briefly introduce themselves and then follow up with common questions to ask in a job interview:
“What attracted you to this job?”
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
“Why should we hire you?”
“Why are you leaving your current job?”
“What are your salary expectations?”
“What motivates you?”
These types of questions are not particularly related to the job you’re interviewing for as they are more of a step to determine your potential beyond what you can present in your resume. Interviewers will try to identify your level of professionalism, job skills, work ethic and overall nature through your answers and the way you conduct yourself during the interview.
Preparing for a traditional interview
The generalized nature of this type of job interview can be a double-edge sword. On one hand, it’s fairly easy to prepare for these types of interviews as you can always predict the type of question you will get. On the other, you’d have to give a remarkable answer that sets you apart from all the other candidates.
This is why it’s important to develop successful interview techniques. Interviewers usually open with, “Tell me about yourself,” as a way to warm up the candidate before going straight to questions. The natural response for most people is usually outlining their employment history and other career related details.
Instead of wasting your time providing information your interviewer can already see in your CV, use this as an opportunity to provide additional information like your hobbies and interests etc. It would also be helpful to highlight some important points in your career that demonstrate your competence level and increase your hiring potential.
When it comes to preparing for this type of interview, make sure you do as much research as possible. Employers will want to know how much you know about their company and the job you’re apply for in order to determine if you’re a good fit. Showing that you’ve done your research also shows your level of determination and professionalism.
When your interviewer asks you to list your strengths and weaknesses, try to display a certain level of confidence while still remaining humble. Some candidates in their attempt to show confidence often end up coming off conceited. Make sure you don’t make this mistake. As long as you don’t sell yourself short, knowing your own limitations displays potential for growth.
2: Phone interview
Some employers will conduct quick phone interviews to screen and narrow down applicants before inviting you for an in-person interview. Before proceeding to the more detailed and intensive in-person interviews that usually take more time, employers will screen the candidates over the phone by asking a few essential questions.
Since phone interviews are usually a filtering process for the actual interview, they are usually short and focused only on some basic points. Employers typically conduct phone interviews to determine the following:
a) Availability: Employers will want to know how soon you can start. This is especially important if you’re currently employed and will have to serve a notice period, or when you’re applying from a distance and will need to relocate.
b) Basic employability: A phone call is a quick and easy way to determine if you have the basic intelligence level and communication skills to be employed. If you can’t even conduct yourself properly for a 15-minute phone conversation, employers wouldn’t want to invite you for an in-person interview.
c) Salary expectations: Employers will check if they can pay you the salary you expect.
d) Clearing up questions related to your resume: An employer will want you to clarify some details about your resume if they detect any inconsistencies.
Preparing for a phone interview
Phone interviews are usually meant to be quick and concise, so make sure you stick to the point without derailing. Since you’d have to prove you have basic employable qualities through your voice, communicate clearly and confidently. It’s also handy to keep a note with key points you can use to answer potential questions quickly.
Fumbling for words can be especially detrimental for phone interviews as they’re solely based on vocal communication. Phone interviews often include questions about salary expectations and this is a tricky topic. You’d have to state a pay range that the employer will be willing to pay, while still making sure you get paid what you deserve.
An important step is to research the average pay range for similar positions in your area through resources like Glassdoor, and settle on a number based on your own experience and qualifications.
3: Video interview
Video interviews are sometimes used as a more modern version of the phone interview where it is more of a screening process rather than the final stage. With some positions, especially with remote and virtual employment situations, it is also often conducted as a final stage of the hiring process just like normal interviews.
This type of interview can be either live where the employer is sitting on the other end of a live video call and asking questions, or on-demand, where you send in a pre-recorded video of yourself answering a set of prearranged job interview questions.
Preparing for a video interview
The most important step is to make sure all the technical side of things are up to scratch. Double check that have a strong and reliable internet connection, check if your audio and camera are working properly, consider any potential technical issues, and make sure everything is up to mark.
This is especially important with live video interviews. If something goes wrong during the interview, not only can this dissuade your potential employers but it can also disorient you for the rest of the interview. Also, set up a good distraction-free environment so the interview can go smoothly. Find a quiet spot in your house with a clean background, keep away possible distractions like kids or pets, and inform other people in your house not to interrupt you.
4: Group interview
A company will conduct group interviews when they’re hiring multiple people for the same job. This type of interview isn’t common and is usually used for internships or sales jobs. Several candidates will be asked common traditional interview questions that they will answer in turns.
Preparing for a group interview
The questions asked in group interviews are often similar to traditional interview questions. With group interviews, however, you’d have to show special charisma and confidence to stand out among the crowd. Make sure you use your time properly and communicate clearly without speaking over other candidates and taking up too much time to answer a question. Try to provide responses that are unique but within reason.
5: Panel Interview
Panel interviews are usually conducted when employers are especially careful and do not want to risk hiring the wrong person. In a panel interview, a candidate will sit down with a panel of multiple interviewers representing the company. People often find panel interviews especially intimidating as having multiple interviewers means more questions and more people you need to impress.
Preparing for a panel interview
With rapid fire questions coming from every direction, candidates can easily get overwhelmed. This is exactly the point of this type of interview. Employers want to know how well you can deal with this type of questioning and how you communicate with each of the panel members.
If possible, find out who your interviewers are before the interview so you can best determine how to interact with each of them. Since the panel members usually represent different departments of the company, they will be conducting the interview from multiple angles. It will be helpful to know each interviewer’s area of concern so you can structure your answer accordingly.
6: Case Interview
Case interviews are often used by financial management and consulting positions to determine the candidate’s problem solving skills. You’d be given a business problem to analyze and solve. These cases do not have one definite correct answer. Their purpose is to identify how well you can strategize to find a solution for problems you might encounter in real consulting projects.
Preparing for a case interview
This type of interview requires impressive problem solving skills through logical thinking. You can prepare by reading business magazines and books and brushing up your mathematic skills. Since most case interviews will involve a mathematical problem, it’s essential that you have knowledge of at least basic mathematical formulas as well as certain quick math solving tips and tricks.
7: Behavioral Interview
As opposed to the more generalized questions you get in traditional interviews, the questions in behavioral interviews tend to be a lot more specific. Interviewers will ask probing questions about your performance in your previous job, the conflicts that you may have faced, and how you dealt with them.
Preparing for a behavioral interview
Do not oversell yourself. Keep in mind that interviewers do not need to hear exaggerated promises about how you plan to perform in the future. Employers want to learn about the directions you had taken in the past, what the results were, and what you’ve learned from them. Keep in mind the STAR method when answering behavioral interview questions:
- S- Situation: The situation that you encountered
- T- Task: The task you were faced with
- A-Action: The action you took to complete that task
- R-Result: What the action resulted in
8: Stress Interviews
Like the name suggests, stress interviews are designed to observe how you handle stress and how well you operate under extreme pressure. Interviewers will ask confrontational and intimidating questions that are difficult to answer. The objective is to see how calm you remain and how well you can focus under this stressful environment.
Preparing for a stress interview
You can prepare by researching common stress interview questions so you can plan out an answer beforehand. This way, you don’t risk the added stress of trying to figure out an answer on the spot. Before stepping into the interview space, keep reminding yourself not to take anything personal, be it confrontational questions, intimidating body language or tone etc. as they are all tactics to deter you. The knowledge that the stressful environment is all fabricated to test you can certainly keep you more grounded and calm.
The Bottom Line
You will be facing many different interview types throughout your career. Make sure you do proper research about the hiring process in your intended field: What are the key traits employers will look for? What type of interview is typically conducted for that field? What are the strengths that you can highlight to impress employers?
Keep in mind that while knowing how to prepare specifically for your area is essential for you to land the job you want, you also have to follow the some basic habits for success that are crucial for your professional development.