How to Be Successful in a Job Interview - Career Guide Series - Part Seven

Today our topic of discussion is focusing on how to be successful in a job interview as a continuation of our comprehensive career guide series. In the previous part of the series we discussed how to write a curriculum vitae (CV). Today we would be exploring the various strategies and success tips you need to know in being successful in a job interview. 

1. What is an Interview

An Interview is an interactive session between a prospective employer and an applicant. It is usually the first formal meeting where, haven scaled through the first hurdle of applying for a job and getting shortlisted, the employer gets to know the applicant better, and the applicant is given an opportunity to convince the employer that he/she is the right candidate for the job.

2. Style of Interviews

2.1. Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral interviewing is a technique used by employers in which the questions asked assist the employer in making predictions about a potential employee’s future success based on past behaviors. In behavior-based interviews, candidates are asked to give specific examples of when they demonstrated particular behaviors or skills.

The Effective Formula for Answering Behavioral Interviews is using the STAR method
S: Describe the Situation you were in
T: Describe the Task you needed to accomplish
A: Describe the Action you took
R: Describe the Results of your experience

2.2. Case Interviews

Certain employers, especially management consulting firms, use a “case interview” technique to determine how well-suited you are to performing their type of work. Case interviews are used to measure your problem-solving ability, your tolerance for ambiguity, and your communication skills.

Potential Components of Case Interviews

Can be little or complex logic puzzles. It can involve quick math and give you a chance to demonstrate your conceptual skills. Examples include:
  • Why are man-hole covers round?
  • If a wall clock reads 3:15 pm, what is the angle between the hour and the minute hands?
  • How would you weigh a plane without a scale?
Estimation Question
This type may be longer than brainteasers. It may require you to be adept in making assumptions and working with numbers, facts, and the unknown (usually you will need pencil and paper). Examples include:
  • How many car batteries are sold in the U.S. each year?
  • How much does all the ice in a hockey rink weigh?
  • Approximately how many pharmacies exist in the U.S.?
Project Case
This type of interview may be written or verbal and take 45 minutes or longer. Here practice is important; some firms will have sample cases. Examples include:
  • You are called in by Pizza Hut to help them develop a strategy for the home delivery market in which Domino’s has the dominant position. As lead consultant, what would you do?
  • Your client is a mid-sized hotel chain. How would you develop a pricing strategy for the client
  • A company is considering expanding internationally. If its labor costs are competitive, what issues might influence its decision?
What Employers Look for in a Case Interview
  1. Enthusiasm and ability to think out loud and brainstorm
  2. Listening skills, pace of your response, ability to restate the problem, focus
  3. Use of sketches, charts, diagrams to describe your logic
  4. Ability to summarize final recommendations in a clear and concise manner
  5. Confidence
Common Mistakes in a Case Interview
  1. Ignoring cues of the interviewer; asking open-ended questions throughout the entire interview
  2. Making poor assumptions and being disorganized
  3. Spending too much time on smaller aspects and not referring back to the big picture
  4. Not responding well to criticism or questions about your assumptions or your solutions

2.3. Technical Interviews

Technical Interview is the interview used to help an employer decide whether or not a candidate have the skills necessary to complete his/her day-to-day work. The technical questions asked would reflect the experience you’ve put on your resume, so, in a sense, this is an employer’s verification of what you’ve listed on your resume. Technical questions can incorporate drawing and sketching, coding, or even a written test. The following tips would help you succeed

Refresh your technical skills:
  • Read your resume and make sure you are comfortable with the skills you’ve listed
  • If you state you are an expert in something, be prepared to be asked expert-level questions
  • Find sample technical questions and practice Mentally prepare
  • Research the job description and make sure you brush up on the required skills
  • Read more about technical interviews so that you are comfortable with the process
  • Practice the points you want to get across
Communicate clearly
  • Think out loud and describe your assumptions as well as the test cases you will use
  • Sometimes getting to the right answer isn’t as important as having your interviewer understand your thought process or approach to the question
Be prepared to sketch or write on a whiteboard
  • Practice this so that it feels natural in case it is necessary
  • Remember a simple solution is better than a complicated one Ask clarifying questions
  • Interviewers expect you to ask for clarification on ambiguous instructions, just as you would in a work environment. This can show them that you understand what else you need in order to solve a problem.
Take their advice
  • If you are offered a suggestion, take it or offer a very good explanation for why you don’t think it would work.
  • Show them you can work collaboratively.
Consider bringing in a portfolio of your work
  • A notebook with code or designs can highlight your skills
Have a closing statement in mind
  • Express enthusiasm for the role
  • Let the interviewer know why you are the right person for the job
Lastly, send a thank-you note

3. Types of Interviews

3.1. Video and Phone Interviews

General Tips for Video and Phone Interviews
  • Prepare as you would for a behavioral interview (see page 62).
  • Find a quiet place for the interview where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Place a sign on the door “Interview in progress—please do not disturb” and close the door.

1. Phone Interviews

  1. Make sure you have a good signal and charged battery if using a cell phone.
  2. Have a “cheat sheet” of compelling story topics that highlight your accomplishments. Do not, however, write out answers ahead of time, so that your responses remain natural.
  3. Have your resume in front of you. If the interviewer references it, you can easily respond.
  4. Consider having key words at hand such as strengths and weaknesses. This may make it easier to respond.
  5. Consider printing out the job description and highlight key attributes so you can remember to reference relevant skills.
  6. Have a pen and paper handy for taking notes, and a glass of water.
  7. Speak clearly into the phone.
  8. Get the interviewers names ahead of time so you know to whom you will be speaking. Look them up if possible.
  9. Dress so that you feel confident, even though they can’t see your clothing
  10. Have a short list of questions about the job and organization.

2. Video Interviews

  1. Set up your video conferencing system in advance and test it with a friend. Make sure you are comfortable troubleshooting should that occur.
  2. The camera should be at the same height as the top of your head. You look better when the camera look down slightly towards you.
  3. Do not wear tinted glasses. Anti-glare coatings are highly recommended for clear lenses so the viewer can see your eyes.
  4. Look directly into the camera, not the image of the interviewers. This is tough to do, so you should practice with a friend. Put a sticky arrow pointing at the camera if that helps you remember. Making eye contact is critical for conveying trustworthiness.
  5. Use good posture, as if you are in the same room with the interviewer.
  6. Beware of your background. The simpler the background the better.

4. Interview Success Tips

1. Research the organization
  • Know what they do and where they do it.
  • Find out what you can about your interviewer before the interview.
2. Make a strong first impression

  • Dress appropriately and conservatively.
  • Arrive 10 minutes early. Plan for commuting delays.
  • Address the interviewer by his/her title (e.g. Dr. if appropriate).
  • Offer a firm handshake.
  • Maintain good eye contact and smile.
  • Avoid heavy cologne and perfume. Some people are very sensitive to smells.
  • Don’t ask about salary/benefits unless the employer brings it up first.
3. Keep your responses focused and use your STAR examples
  • Keep your answers to 2-3 minutes, unless you are asked to elaborate further.
  • Prepare examples ahead of time using the STAR method (STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Results).
4. Quantify and be specific
  • Generalities rarely impress.
  • Specific and quantifiable responses are the most compelling.
5. Summarize at the end of each answer as to how you approach that type of situation
  • Consider stating something like ‘So in general, when I have to interact with a difficult coworker, I...’
  • This leaves the interviewer with the take-home message that you want him/her to remember.
6. Be clear on how you fit the job opening; convince them with examples that you could be a valuable team member

7. Express appreciation for the opportunity to interview
  • Thank the interviewer and ask about next steps.
  • Give a firm handshake before you leave.
  • Send a follow-up thank-you email or note.
In this part of our Career Guide Series we have equipped our-self with the necessary knowledge of some interview types and success tips. In our next part of the series we shall be exploring some other kinds and styles of interview such as On-site Interview, sample interview questions and tips to be successful in them. This and many more are what we are going to be discussing in our next post in the Career Guide Series and it will focus on the continuation of how to be successful in a job interview.

Feel free to make your contributions, observations or ask questions on this topic of how to be successful in a job interview or any part of our Career Guide Series using the comment form below and we will be more than happy to add to our data base of knowledge because nobody knows it all. 

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