Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I have Been Called In For An Interview. What Can I Expect?

Now that you have made the shortlist, know that you have already cleared three of the obligatory hurdles before you get hired. The three hurdles that you have already cleared include the following:

  • A résumé that lists the skill set desired by the employer

  • A solid cover letter that speaks to how your experience matches the ‘wish list’ of the employer

  • A Google search of your name that hasn’t uncovered any concerns that could have a negative impact on your future employer [GUIDELINE: Post nothing on the Internet that you don’t want your grandmother to see.]


Interviews typically fall into one of three camps:

  • Traditional Interviews

  • Behavioural Interviews

  • Combination of both the Traditional and Behaviour Interviews


It is important to remember that you won't know what type of interview will take place until you are sitting in the interview with the hiring manager. Therefore, it is important to prepare to respond to both traditional interview questions and behavioural interview questions.

In a traditional interview, the questions have straight forward answers. Typical questions would include the following:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"

  • "Why should we hire you?”

  • “What have been your most satisfying and most disappointing school or work experiences?”

  • “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”


Behaviour Interview question require a little more preparation on the part of the candidate. In a behavioural interview, an employer has decided what skills are needed in the person they would like to hire and will ask questions to find out if the candidate has those skills. The logic is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future i.e. past performance predicts future performance.

Behavioural Interview questions usually begin with the words, ‘Tell me about a time when you…

…were creative in solving a problem
…were unable to complete a project on time
…persuaded team members to do things your way
…made a bad decision
…were forced to make an unpopular decision

During a behavioural interview, you will have to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities, by giving specific examples from your past experiences. The interviewer wants to know, not that you can do something, but that you have done it.

The most difficult part of the behavioural interview lays in your preparation. When you are asked to respond to a behavioural question, know that there is no right or wrong answer. Behaviour-based questions require detail, but not too much. Your answer should be clear and concise. In this case, the 90-second rule works well. Strive to answer the question in 90 seconds or less. If more information needed, the interviewer will ask for it.

As a guideline to answering behavioural questions, it is helpful to think of the STAR technique of responding. Ideally, your response should be delivered using the following format:

Situation - Describe a specific event or situation from your past that needed to be resolved

Task – Describe what were you trying to achieve.

Action – Describe what you did to achieve your results.

Result – Describe the outcome in terms of how or what the event contributed to the solution of the situation, i.e. what did you accomplish, and/or, what did you learn?

This approach will help you to focus on the relevant points of the situation without going into unnecessary detail.

Good Luck!