There are several common interview methods, including one-on-one interviews, group interviews, and panel interviews. One-on-one interviews involve a one-on-one meeting between the applicant and a company representative. The company representative is typically either someone from the human resource department or the immediate supervisor of the department with the open position. Group interviews involve several applicants interviewing at the same time while being observed by company representatives. The purpose of a group interview is to gauge how an individual behaves in a competitive and stressful environment. In a group interview, practice positive human relation and communication skills toward other applicants. Listening and communicating that you are the best candidate is critical to a successful group interview. If another applicant is first asked a question and you are immediately asked the same question, do not repeat what the other applicant said. If you agree with the first applicant’s response, state, “I agree with Ms. Bell’s response and would like to add that it is also important to . . . ,” and then elaborate or expand on the first applicant’s response. If you do not agree with the first applicant’s response, state, “I believe . . . ,” and then confidently provide your response. Show respect by not demeaning other applicants. Be professional, do not interrupt, and behave like a leader by being assertive, not aggressive.
Panel interviews involve the applicant meeting with several company representatives at the same time. During a panel interview, make initial eye contact with the person asking the question. While answering the question, connect with all members of the interview panel. Whenever possible, call individuals by name. As with a one-on-one interview, your job is to appear personable and attempt to create a favorable impression that makes each panelist want to hire you.
The three general types of interview questions are structured, unstructured, and behavioral. Structured interview questions address job-related issues where each applicant is asked the same question(s). The purpose of a structured interview question is to secure information related to a specific job. An example of a structured question is, “How long have you worked in the retail industry?” Although the sample question appears to be closed-ended, a skilled candidate will elaborate on his or her response. For example, avoid simply answering, “I have worked in retail for two years.” Add additional information to your response; for example, “I have two years of retail experience. One year I worked in a small family business and the other for a large retail chain. During this time I have increased my general knowledge of business and my customer service skills. I liked the family business best because I enjoyed getting to know our loyal customers.”
An unstructured interview question is a probing, open-ended question. The purpose of an unstructured interview question is to identify if a candidate can appropriately sell his or her skills. An example of an unstructured interview question is, “Tell me about yourself.” When you are asked to talk about yourself, start with your personal commercial and, if appropriate, show job samples from your interview portfolio when referring to a specific skill. Make every attempt to provide specific examples without rambling and relate answers back to the target job.
Behavioral interview questions are questions that ask candidates to share a past experience related to a workplace situation. The purpose of a behavior interview is to identify what a candidate has done in the past, including how the candidate behaves under a specific circumstance. An example of a behavioral question is, “Describe a time you motivated others.” Prior to answering the question, take a moment to formulate your answer. Attempt to have the interviewer view the situation from your perspective by briefly providing the background to your experience. Describe how you used specific skills to solve a problem or improve a situation. For example, “Our department had just gone through a series of layoffs and employees were working hard but feeling unappreciated. Although I was not the team leader, I thought we needed something to help us deal with the stress, so for one week, and with my direct report’s permission, I planned brief, fun activities for our daily morning meetings. The first day, we played a game I made up called ‘Name That Stress.’ At first glance, it seemed silly, but it actually started a conversation about how stressed we all were and how we could collectively deal with the stress in a challenging situation.”
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