Typical structure of an interview: Questions and answers on Interviewing


Read on for Typical Interview questions, examples and answers…

Q: What is a typical interview structure?

Although there is no set rule, a typical interview is scheduled for about one half-hour to an hour, and will include several phases. The first phase is an icebreaker, a few minutes of pleasant conversation so that you and the interviewer will feel comfortable with each other. Then the interviewer will get into some substantive questions, behavioral questions, and questions about your background. This will be the bulk of the interview and lasts anywhere from 15 to 50 minutes.

An employer will usually leave 5 to 10 minutes for you to ask questions. That’s a very important part of the interview and you should be prepared for it. Then there’ll be a close. The interviewer will thank you for coming in. You’ll have the opportunity to tell the interviewer what a pleasure it was to be there and how much you want the job. Usually, you’ll have to interview a second time, perhaps even a third time before getting a job offer.

Q: How many interviews should I expect with any one employer?

You can expect anywhere from two to three interviews depending on the company’s interviewing process and the number of qualified candidates applying for the position.

Q: What is an interviewer really looking for?

Some people wonder, “What can interviewers learn about me from the questions they ask and what do they really want to hear?” There are several things going through the interviewer’s mind during an interview. The first is, “Why should we hire you?” With questions of this nature, an employer is trying to learn if your skills and abilities meet the company’s requirements, if you have good communication skills, and whether you are dependable, honest, and a team player. He or she wants to find out what you will bring to the team if hired.

Another underlying question is about your motivation, “Why do you want to work for us?” With questions of this type, an employer is trying to learn what motivates you, what your ambitions are, and whether you are the kind of person who will do the hard work to get ahead.

Interviewers often determine how well prepared you are with questions such as “What do you know about our company? Or our profession?” With these questions, an employer is trying to learn if you have done the necessary work of researching their company and business environment before the interview. This will indicate two things. One, that you cared enough about the position to learn more about it. Two, that you are the kind of person that puts the extra effort into preparing for important assignments, interviews being one example. An employer also wants to know if you have the necessary knowledge to make intelligent business decisions based on the goals of the company and the industry in which it operates.

Q: What are the best ways to prepare for an interview?

There are eight important steps for you to take in preparing for your job interview:

·        Use your resume. Have a friend ask you “how” or “why” about each line. This exercise will help you get a better understanding of your own motivation, thought process and accomplishments so that you can better communicate this information to an employer.

·        Be able to articulate how the employer’s needs are met by what you have to offer.

·        Be able to articulate your own motivation for being interested in that particular job. What attracts you to that particular company? And what is your interest in that industry or profession?

·        Be prepared for behavioral questions, which are asked to determine how you responded to certain situations, or where you demonstrated certain behaviors that are important to the job.

·        Practice answering some background questions which are commonly asked, such as “Can you describe how your experience qualifies you for this position?”, or “Can you describe some of the companies you’ve worked for?”

·        Research the firm and its industry. Know the firm’s major products or services. Have they been profitable? What challenges will they face over the next 3 to 5 years?

·        Be sure to have at least five good questions ready to ask about the job, the firm, the industry or profession.

·        Practice interviewing with a friend. Be sure to play the role of both the interviewer and the job applicant.

Q: What if I am not sure that I want the job when I go to the interview?

It’s very important to let the employer know that you really want the job even if you are unsure or need more information to decide. Remember that your objective at the interview is to get an offer. Once you have the offer you can make a decision whether or not you want to accept it. Focus on those reasons that you want the job, even if it’s not the only job that you would ever consider. Remember, that you don’t have to be certain about this particular job until you have the offer.

Q: How important is honesty?

There are two important things to remember about honesty in an interview. First of all, although you don’t have to reveal everything in response to a question, everything you do say must be absolutely true. Secondly, you still will want to position yourself in the best possible light. Focusing on and emphasizing the positive aspects of your previous experience is not dishonest.

Q: What should I know about a company before the interview?

Before your interview, research the company and see if you can discover the following key information:

·        The company’s products and services

·        The company’s short and long-term goals

·        The size of the company, both in terms of the number of employees and overall value

·        The company’s annual revenue and profits

·        The company’s competitors

·        The location of all corporate offices and facilities

·        The names of the president and other senior officers of the company

·        How to pronounce the name of the person interviewing you

·        Where the interview is located and how to get there

You can find this information on the company Web site, in the company’s annual report, through the local chamber of commerce, or by research materials available at your local library.

Q: What is the question-answer-question cycle? How important are specific examples?

The answer you give to any question may give the interviewer material for the next question. We refer to that as the question-answer-question cycle. So when you’re preparing answers for a question, include some material that you’d like the interviewer to follow up on. Examples are an extremely important part of your answer – they give your answer both context and credibility.

Q: How long should my answers be?

Your answers should be informative but concise. As a rule of thumb, think in terms of 6 or 8 sentences. If you’re not sure if you’ve answered the question fully, feel free to ask. “Have I answered your question?” or “Would you like me to tell you more about that?”

Q: Why do interviewers ask if I have any questions for them?

Employers almost always give you time to ask questions of them. They have two reasons for doing this. One is simple courtesy, they’ve been asking you questions, so you should be able to ask them questions in return. A second reason is this: your questions are an important means of evaluating how interested you are in the position or company.

Q: What kinds of questions should I ask during the interview?

There are four rules to follow in preparing your questions for the interviewer.

·        Stay positive. Don’t let the questions you ask raise doubts or barriers to getting hired. For example, don’t ask a question like, “Is weekend work necessary?” or “Will I have to travel a lot?” Phrased that way the question makes it seem that you won’t be available for weekends or that you don’t want to travel.

·        Consider asking more detailed questions about the position, the company environment, and the management style of the person you would report to. During the interview, make notes of areas you would like more information on, then ask questions based on your notes at the end of the interview.

·        Ask about external influences. Ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and profession in general, and how external influences such as government policies and the state of the economy could impact the company.

·        Only ask questions that you sincerely want to hear the answers to. If you ask questions at the end of the interview just for the sake of asking questions, you may not be as attentive to the answers as you should be and might appear bored or indifferent. If you have been asking questions throughout the interview it may not be necessary to ask any further questions at the end of the interview.

Q: What is the best way for me to close an interview?

At some point the interviewer is going to thank you for coming in and wish you the best of luck. Some job candidates just say, “Thank you,” and leave but that’s a mistake. The proper way to close your interview is to say, “Thank you, I’ve enjoyed this interview and believe I would enjoy working here. When should I follow up or what should be my next step?”

Q: Is the interview over when it’s over or do I still have work to do?

After you leave the interview you might feel very relieved and think, “Gee, I’m glad that’s over.” Well, it’s not really over yet. It’s important to take notes about what happened. What was the first question? How did you answer it? How did the interviewer follow up on your answer? What was the second question, and so on?  What questions made me feel very confident? What questions made me feel uncomfortable? These notes will come in very handy if you’re invited for a follow up interview with that company, or if you interview for a similar job, or with a similar company. You can also look over those notes and see what you can do to improve your interview techniques the next time. It’s also important and courteous to send Thank You letters to those people who spent time interviewing you that day.

Q: How important is proper dress to interview success?

The key point to remember about dress is that it’s something you want to neutralize. That is, you’re not going to gain points for wearing fancy or expensive clothes. You simply don’t want to lose points for being improperly dressed. To determine the proper dress, try calling the company, describe the job you are interviewing for, and ask how to dress appropriately for that type of position. Another option would be to visit the company and observe how people are dressed. If in doubt, dress professionally, modestly and conventionally.

Q: What if I’m asked where I see myself in five years?

This question is commonly used to evaluate your drive and ambition and to assess your career stability and potential for future growth with the company. An appropriate answer would be one that portrays you as a dedicated professional who is motivated to succeed.

Q: What if I seem over-qualified?

If you encounter this situation, you will want to identify the employer’s real concerns and overcome his objections.

They can’t afford you

You must convince the interviewer that they can’t afford not to hire you. Demonstrate how your knowledge and skill set will add value to the company above and beyond what someone with less experience can offer. Then, use your past achievements to illustrate how you will achieve the same positive results here.

You won’t be challenged

Describe the exciting opportunities you see in this position and the areas in which your abilities and experience can bring real value to the company. Describe how you like what you have seen of the staff, corporate culture, and long-term goals of the company. By expressing excitement about the job, you can alleviate the impression that you will be bored or unchallenged by the position.

Q: How do you answer the question, “What did you like least about your last job?”

Never say anything negative about your former employer before, during, or after an interview. An excellent strategy for answering this question is to describe a situation that says something positive about you. One answer might be, “There were limited opportunities for growth in my former position. Though I enjoyed what I was doing, I felt that I was ready to grow beyond what my position would allow.”

Q: Should I expect a phone interview?

A telephone interview is very important. You should only answer phone calls from potential employers if you can talk in a focused, quiet environment. If not, then ask if you can call back at a time convenient to both of you. For phone interviews, you should begin with a 30-second to 2-minute summary of yourself that highlights your key strengths and details the kind of position you are looking for. If you encounter an awkward moment, ask questions about the position; this will give you a chance to organize your thoughts. Following the interview, if you are interested, affirm that you think this position is a good fit for your skills, abilities and experience and that you are interested in an interview to explore this opportunity further.

Q: How can I be more assertive in an interview?

Being assertive is knowing what you want, having confidence in your abilities, understanding how you can contribute, and not being shy about expressing yourself. To be more assertive, look the interviewer in the eye, answer their questions quickly and confidently, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Q: What if my skill set doesn’t match the position exactly?

It is important to research the company and position and discover exactly what skills, abilities, and knowledge are required to succeed. Determine, based on your experience, which of your current skills and abilities meet the requirements of the position. Demonstrate how the skills and abilities you have are a strong reason for hiring you, and explain that you can quickly learn the additional skills needed to excel in the position.

Q: How should I handle a Job Fair interview?

Job Fair interviews are simply a faster paced version of a normal job interview. You still must demonstrate that your skills, abilities, and experience are a good match for the position. Before attending the Job Fair, research the companies that will be attending and ascertain which companies have positions available in your field. Determine the requirements of the top positions you are interested in and practice a positioning statement for each, describing how your skills and abilities are a perfect match for that position. Then, as for any interview, prepare to answer questions about your qualifications.

Q: How can I overcome being nervous at interviews?

Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Also, give yourself a pep-talk before each interview. Convince yourself that you are the perfect candidate for the job and that any employer should be glad to have someone with your abilities. If you are confident in your own abilities going into an interview, you will also be confident during the interview.

If you liked this article, click here to buy me a beer!

11 replies to this post
  1. Just want to say your article is as surprising. The clearness for your post is simply spectacular and i could suppose you’re knowledgeable in this subject. Well with your permission let me to take hold of your feed to stay updated with drawing close post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please carry on the enjoyable work.

Leave a Reply