You’ve made the cut. The company’s recruiter has called you in to interview for that job you want. Now what? This is an article about what will happen in that interview and how you can best prepare to do your best.
There are specific roles of the interviewer. These roles are not super complex, actually they’re quite simple. The interviewer wants to find as good a persona as possible, one that is skillful, adequate and friendly and can ultimately compliment the company in this position. The interviewer will do this in a number of different ways, but will use these four things: 1) Their gut 2) Your Personality 3) Your skills 4) Who you know, who they know (relationships).
The truth is that all the theories about the best person for the job, the best qualified candidate for the job, while are nice in theory, are rarely reality. Hiring managers and interviewers will go with one of the four mentioned standards from above in making their selection. To win the job you have to understand how interviewers are trained and the types of interview they will use.
Types of Interviews
There are different types of interviewing styles, all of which are used at one time or another. Some of these styles require training on behalf of the interviewer and some do not. These styles/types are listed below.
Structured Interview. This is an interview where the interviewer has a list of questions that they will ask. The interviewer try to and ask every question they have been given or they might just choose a couple questions from the long list. Sometimes interviewers will be very straightforward about running through the list, commenting, “I have to ask all these questions so we really should keep going down this list.” This is the sign of an inexperienced interviewer.
Most often the interviewer will have some sort of checklist with a place to score your answers. Usually scores are numbers that mean something along the lines of excellent, above average, average, below average and poor. The interviewer may or may not have been trained on what is excellent and what is poor, so instead they go with their gut, using their own set of standards. Your aim in answering these questions is to respond in a way that earns you an above average or higher area score. Giving a complete answer even when the question requires a simple yes or no answer does this and be careful not to talk too much. For example, the question may be, “What kind of classes did you take in High School?”
A good answer is, “I took the standard math and English classes. I also took classes in woodworking, automotive repair and Spanish.”
A bad answer is, “I took the usual classes…just enough to get me through and graduate.”
Another sample question might be, “Can you type?”
A bad answer is, “Yes,” while a good answer is, “Yes, I type 125 words a minute and can do that in Word, Word perfect and other word processing software applications.”
The interviewer is trained to accept the answer. So, the simple answer meets their minimum standard and a detailed answer exceeds their expectations, thus giving you a higher score. If you understand ahead of time what the company is looking for, what the organization is all about, the type of work they do and what kind of people they hire, you can give good short answers that ranks above average and give better responses every time.
Unstructured Interview. This interview style is just like having a conversation. The interviewer is talking to you just like they would if you met each other at a grocery store. This technique is not a taught technique and the HR types do not like this style very much. More often than not, these interviews result in someone being selected for reasons other than skill. These are difficult to prepare for but you can have a few “tricks up your sleeve” just in case. Almost all interviews start out with the interviewer trying to create a relaxed environment. They will often break the ice with a question like, “So, tell me about yourself.” This is not where you sound like Steve Martin in the Movie The Jerk and tell your life’s story starting with “I was born a poor child…” This is where you tell the interviewer why they should hire you.
For example, “I took classes in computer design at Lakeland Community College. While at college, I worked on three different projects helping local employers in the construction industry to better handle their blueprints, especially when they involved changing orders. When I graduated I went to work for a local developer, making changes and modifications to their plans and blueprints. Eventually, I worked with the architects, engineers and draftsmen to design custom projects. I’ve worked exclusively on these projects for the last 3 years, and along the way have become certified in three different areas. Perhaps you have seen the results of my work along I-90 with the construction there.”
Nowhere in there did you talk about your dog, fishing, hunting or your vacation plans for the summer. You talked about yourself, gave good examples of your work and made it relate to the position you’re interviewing for. If you gave the common answers that so many other people give about their family, where you grew up and so on, you’d probably still be looking for a job after the interview.
Behavioral Interview. This is the most common form of interview. An interviewer will ask you a series of questions designed to determine how you think. Now this is how the interviewer is trained. The interviewer is trained to understand your responses by how well they like them based upon the four standards of gut, personality, skils or relationships. The basis for questioning is simple and almost always worded in this way…“Tell me about a time when…” The interviewer will then insert a specific situation, for example, a time when you and a co-worker had a disagreement. Underneath it all, what the interviewer is wants you to respond to their question with a STAR, an acronym for: Situation, Time, Action, Results. A good interviewer will be persistent in asking questions until you complete the STAR. Some won’t bother and leave the deciphering of what to say up to you. Let’s examine the STAR.
A good interviewer will keep asking you questions until you complete the STAR. Some won’t bother and leave the deciphering of what to say up to you.
Situation. This is where you explain (using the example question) what was the cause of you and the co-worker not getting along. The situation is nothing more than that. It is why the problem exists. “John and I didn’t get along because he thought I was talking about him behind his back.” Period.
Time. When did this issue happen? Again, using the example question. “This happened last March when John and I worked together at the plant.” Perfect answer.
Action. This is where you describe what you did to correct (hopefully) the problem. “I decided that John and I needed to work together, so I went up to him on break and said ‘John, we need to talk because I think you have some bad information about me.’ John and I talked, both realizing that a lot of bad information was hurting our relationship. We understood each other, apologized for anything we did that upset the other, shook hands and went back to work.”
Results. This is where you describe what the outcome or results of your actions were. Interviewers are taught that the results, successful or not, certainly matter. The reality is they would rather hear about successes. Using the example again, say something like, “John and I made up. We understood that the things we’d been hearing just weren’t true. After listening to what each had to say, we patched things up and are now we are friends again.”
You sculpted your answer into a STAR. You can practice these easily by yourself and ask any question. This also works great if you have teenagers and you want them to talk to you. Just ask, “Tell me about a time when you needed money from your mom.” Or, “Tell me about a time when you were asked to work late and you had other plans for that evening.” Remember the STAR and you will give the best possible answer.
Panel Interview. This is an an interview conducted by a committee. If you’ve experienced promotion boards in the military, or a Soldier,Sailor, Marine or Airman of the month board, the concept with the panel interview is pretty much the same. You sit in front of all the interviewers at once and each interviewer has a set of questions they have to ask you. (However, you don’t have to salute or stand or sit at attention.) Sit comfortably but not rigidly and relax but don’t slouch. Follow the same guidelines in a panel interview as you would in a structured, unstructured or behavioral interview, and you’ll do great.
Understanding the different types of interview and knowing what the interviewer has been trained for puts you ahead of the competition. Using the tools presented here will not guarantee that you will get the job offer, but it does guarantee that you have a better chance than those who are unprepared and do not have this knowledge.