Whether you are in high school, college, a recent college graduate, or you have been out of the workforce, your job interview does not have to be an intimidating experience. An interview is an opportunity for both you and the employer to decide whether or not you are a good fit.
Here is a step-by-step description of a typical interview, with details on what to expect throughout the process.
The Pre-interview Phase
Before going to the interview, you will have already completed a number of steps in the job application process; this is known as the “pre-interview phase.” During this phase, you will have sent a cover letter, resume, and any other required application materials to the hiring manager.
You even may have had a phone interview with the manager before being invited in for an in-person interview. Thus, before even walking into the interview, the hiring manager knows a little bit about your background and qualifications.
You should feel confident — you were invited to have an interview because the manager thinks you could be a good fit for the company!
The Interview Phase: The Beginning
Your interview may take place at your high school or college, but generally it will take place at the company’s office. Once you arrive, you may be asked (by a secretary or other employee) to wait until the hiring manager is ready to see you.
Most interviews are one-on-one interviews with the manager or supervisor with whom you would be working most closely at the company. Occasionally, you will interview with a human resources employee who conducts the company’s hiring processes.
The Interview Phase: Types of Questions
The interview will likely take place in the manager’s office. She may begin with information about her job or the company or engage you in small talk (questions about your commute, etc.), but the bulk of the interview will be specific questions that assess whether or not you will be a good fit for the company.
No interview will be the exact same; each interviewer will ask slightly different questions. However, most interviewers ask questions to assess both your general behavior and skills. Below are a few types of questions that you can expect to come across; most interviewers will ask some of each type of question.
- Verification Questions: These questions will require you to provide objective information about yourself, such as your GPA, your major, the number of years you spent at your last job, etc. The interviewer may already know some of these answers and is therefore simply checking the facts on your resume.
- Competency/Behavioral Questions: A behavioral question is one in which the interviewer asks you to describe a past situation when you demonstrated a particular quality. These questions indicate how you may handle similar situations at a new job. An example of a behavioral question is, “Describe the toughest challenge you faced at your last job. How did you handle it?”
- Situational Questions: A situational question is one in which the interviewer describes a hypothetical situation and the interviewee must explain how she would handle it or has handled it in the past. With this type of question, the interviewer wants to know how you will handle situations that may arise in the workplace. An example of a situational question is, “What would you do if two members of your team had a conflict that affected your productivity?”
- Case Interview Questions: You will likely only encounter case interview questions if you are applying for a management consulting or investment banking position. In case interview questions, the employer gives the employee a business scenario and asks the interviewee how he would handle the situation. Sometimes these are questions about actual business situations, but other times, they are brain teasers that hold no direct relevance to the job (“How many gas stations are there in Europe?”). Case interview questions allow interviewees to demonstrate their analytical ability and problem solving skills.
- Other Types of Interviews: Group Interviews
While this article depicts a traditional interview between one hiring manager and one interviewee, there are other types of interviews which you may encounter. Below are some common examples.
- Group Interviews: One type of group interview you may encounter is an interview in which one hiring manager interviews you and other applicants simultaneously. In this scenario, the interviewer may ask you each to answer the same questions, or ask each of you different questions. Sometimes (particularly if you are being asked case interview questions), you will solve hypothetical problems as a team.
Another type of group interview is one in which you are asked questions by multiple interviewers. Either the interviewers will form a panel and take turns asking you questions, or you will meet with each one at a time.
Whether or not you are in a group interview, your interview questions will likely remain a mix of verification, behavioral, and situational questions.
The Interview Phase: After the Questions
The interviewer may ask questions for anywhere from half an hour to an hour or more. Afterward, she will likely ask you if you have any questions for her. This is your opportunity to ask questions about the company and/or the position itself. It also gives you another chance to sell yourself to the interviewer. Again, the interview is your chance to see if the job is a good fit for you, so feel comfortable asking questions.
After the “questions” phase of the interview, the hiring manager may give you a tour of the office and even introduce you to other employees. A tour will provide you with an opportunity to meet your potential coworkers and assess the atmosphere of the office.
While this is typically the end of the interview, some interviews contain additional components; for example, you may be asked to give a presentation to the hiring manager or a staff panel. However, if this is the case, you will have been told about this in advance, and will have had time to prepare.
Upon concluding the interview, do not expect the hiring manager to tell you definitively whether or not you have the job. However, if she has not already told you when you will hear back with an answer, feel free to ask her before you leave.
The Post Interview Phase
The next stage in the job application process, the “post-interview phase,” takes place in the days following the interview. This is the time when the hiring manager (and anyone else involved in the hiring process) decides whether or not you are the best fit for the position. This is also the time when you think about whether or not the job is the best fit for you.
Most companies will respond with a “yes” or “no” within a week or two, although some companies take even longer to respond (particularly if they are conducting interviews over an extended period of time. Some companies, unfortunately, do not respond unless you are going to receive a job offer. If the company is still deciding between multiple applicants, you may even be asked back for another round of interviews.
Remember that no interview is a waste of your time, even if you did not get the job or you decided it was not a good fit. Every interview offers an opportunity to practice your interview skills and to decide what types of jobs and organizations best fit your personality, interests, and skills.