Written By: Cristine Befanis
In my experience searching for jobs and internships as a graduating senior, I have come across three different styles of interviews: the original, the informal, and the behavior-based interviews. While several common interview questions and suggested answers can be found online, nothing is more helpful than personal experience. The established guideline below is meant to serve you and offer you interview tips from a fellow student to prepare you for the “real world.”
With any of the three types of interviews, most often, you will wait for the interviewer in a lobby after confirming your presence with a receptionist or other co-worker. During this time, it is important to maintain your composure and perhaps show interest by making observations about the office that you can then bring up upon meeting the interviewer to build rapport. Rarely do interviews begin on time, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be at least 10 minutes early.
Always be mindful of your nonverbal body language especially because other parties may be observing you as well. Maintain your posture, and keep your phone in your pocket or purse to avoid distractions. When it finally comes time to meeting the interviewer, be sure to greet him or her with a strong, firm handshake. The handshake shouldn’t be too strong that you leave a mark on the interviewer’s hand, but you also don’t want it to be too soft either. A good handshake communicates to the interviewer that you are confident and ready for the interview. From there, you will follow the interviewer into his/her office or some other room while most likely engaging in some small talk asking how each party is on the way. The interviewer invites you in and you take a seat as soon as he/she offers it, and then the interview begins. Whether the interviewer asks or not, always start the interview off by handing him/her a hard copy or your resume.
The 3 Types:
The original interview is standard for most companies and is most often expected by students. It starts with an about me tribute, follows with some questions for the interviewee, and then ends with questions for the interviewer. The interviewer might begin by telling you a little about him/her and the company, or he/she might just go right into asking you to tell him/her about yourself as soon as you sit down. You should already have an answer prepared for this question, so you don’t go mumbling on, but make sure you address the key points that you want the interviewer to know about you. These might include your hometown, year and school, current major, current job, and plans for the future. For me, I like to bring up the fact that I am a transfer student that switched majors to emphasize the fact that I have faced obstacles in the past and have overcome them to focus on what I love.
Additional questions may stem from your about me tribute, or the interviewer will continue on by asking other questions. There are several questions that are common for an interviewer to ask during the original interview, and many of these questions and possible answers can be found online by running a Google search. Additionally, I always have answers prepared for the following difficult questions below:
- What is your biggest weakness and how do you plan to overcome it?
This is a tricky question as you don’t want to be too honest with the interviewer as to ruin your chances of getting the position, but you also don’t want to say that you are perfect since clearly, no one is. For this question, try to answer by listing a weakness that is nonessential for the job or list a quality that can be perceived as a weakness or a strength, but focus on how you can fix it to make it more of a strength. For example, I like to say that I am detail-oriented, and sometimes, I need to be reminded of the larger picture. I then give recent examples of how I have begun to overcome that.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
Whether you want to work for the company or you just landed the interview by accident and are exploring your options, you definitely want to come across as excited for the position. In order to answer this question, you need to have done some research about the company. It helps to bring up recent news articles that the company was featured in or some of your basic knowledge of the company after research that appeals to you. For example, you can begin answering this question by saying, “I know that X company is ______, and I really want to be a part of that environment because _______.” Also, try to tie your strengths into this answer, and be sure to give the interviewer a clear cut answer as to why you are different from everyone else interviewing for the position and should be hired. What can you bring to the position?
- Who else have you interviewed with (or have you received any job offers)?
In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult questions an interviewer can ask. The interviewer doesn’t have any right to know the answer to this question because your job search is personal. I had first noticed this question on a Google forum and went through about 10 interviews overtime before I was finally asked this, and I was definitely caught off-guard. The interviewer is indirectly trying to see if you are interested in the company or if you are pursuing other outlets. Additionally, he/she wants to see if you are active in your job search or putting all of your eggs in one basket. For this question, do not say that the employer is the only company you are interviewing with, and you also don’t want to list all the other companies you have applied to or are interviewing for. For this question, just say that you are really interested in the ______ industry and are excited to analyze the opportunities available within that specific company. If the interviewer continues to harp on the topic, just simply tell him/her that you do not feel comfortable discussing that at this time.
After answering a series of questions, the interviewer will most likely ask you if you have any questions for him/her. Always say yes and have a few questions prepared. Everyone’s favorite topic is to talk about him/herself. Therefore, try to start by asking how the interviewer got to his/her current position in the company. You can usually branch out and form some other questions from the responses he/she gives or you can continue asking those questions that you have prepared. Try to ask questions about the company as a whole and obstacles it might face in the future and how they will be overcome. Try to limit the questions you ask to 4-5 so that the interviewer doesn’t get uneasy or bored. You don’t want to switch things up to make the interviewer feel like you have switched roles, and you are now the interviewer.
The informal interview is most commonly found at a later round of interviews after you have already successfully gone through other interviews within the company and are now moving up the ladder, interviewing with more important people. This interview consists of very little, if any, questions for you. The interviewer will start by telling you about the position and/or company most likely because he/she has already reviewed your resume and application and has already heard a lot about you from the other interviewers.
I originally met this type of interview in a third and final round and was shocked when it seemed that the interviewer wasn’t at all interested in me. She told me about the company and position for 10 minutes, and after, she asked if I had any questions for her. She didn’t ask me one single question, so I was definitely thrown off-guard and proceeded to ask her several questions (definitely more than 5) to keep the interview going. When she seemed that she had enough questions, I summed up myself to remind her that I was a great candidate for the position and shook her hand. I left feeling pretty badly about the interview because I didn’t really get to give my rehearsed responses, but I ended up getting the position after all.
Later, in my Professional Selling class, I asked my professor about these types of interviews, and he said that I handled myself well. In these situations, it is best to listen to the interviewer and let him/her talk because a lot has already been communicated to him/her. The interviewer wants to see you interest in the position, and you can show this by agreeing with statements he/she makes and asking intense questions that show you have done your research. At the end of this type of interview, always summarize yourself with a personalized mission statement.
The Behavior-Based Interview:
Behavior-based interviews are usually conducted by larger companies narrowing down a large pool of applicants. The interviewer might start off by asking you a few questions about yourself and then will switch to the behavior-based questions. Behavior-based questions consist of questions asking you to analyze a past situation or experience. For instance, the interviewer might ask you to tell him/her about a time when something occurred and how you overcame the problem. For these types of questions, the interviewer is looking for you to bring up an experience from work, school, or an extracurricular activity to show your involvement. He/she is looking to learn how you react in certain situations to see if you would be a good fit for the position. The interviewer might even have a pen and paper to take down notes of your answers.
The best way to prepare for this type of interview is to think of 5-10 problems and obstacles you have faced and how you reacted. This way, you already have ideas in your mind and can pool from them depending on the specifics of the question asked. Several common behavioral-based questions can be found online so one can prepare. In the event that you are not prepared for a behavioral-based interview and are met by a surprise, the best thing you can do is think on your feet. A good way to buy yourself extra time to think of an answer when interviewing is to say things like, “That is a good question that I have never thought about before…” A statement like that is better than a long pause or saying “um.” You can even ask an additional question even if you fully understood the question just so you have more time.
At the end of any of the three interviews, depending on the position and the round of interviewing you are in, you may be extended an offer on the spot, be scheduled for another interview, or be told that you will be contacted by a certain date regarding the position. Always end by thanking the interviewer for his/her time and giving him/her a second firm handshake. If the interviewer doesn’t give you an automatic answer as to when you can expect to hear back when ending the interview, always ask because it shows you are interested and will also keep you from going crazy with the unknown while waiting to hear from the company.