An employment interview is a formal meeting during which both employer and applicant ask questions and exchange information. These meetings have a dual purpose: (1) the organization's main objective is to find the best person available for the job by determining whether the applicant and the organization are a good match, and (2) the applicant's main objective is to find the job best suited to his or her goals and capabilities.
Most employers interview an applicant two or three times before deciding to make a job offer. Applicants often face a sequence of interviews, each with a different purpose. First is the preliminary screening stage, which is generally held on campus and which helps employers screen out unqualified applicants. Interviews at the screening stage are fairly structured, so applicants are often asked roughly the same questions. Your best approach to an interview at the screening stage is to follow the interviewer's lead. The next stage of interviews helps the organization narrow the field a little further. Typically, if you're invited to visit a company, you will talk with several people: a member of the human resources department, one or two potential colleagues, and your potential supervisor. Your best approach during this selection stage of interviews is to show interest in the job, relate your skills and experience to the organization's needs, listen attentively, ask insightful questions, and display enthusiasm. If the interviewers agree that you're a good candidate, you may receive a job offer, either on the spot or a few days later by phone or mail. In other cases, you may be invited back for a final evaluation by a higher-ranking executive who has the authority to make the hiring decision and to decide on your compensation. An underlying objective of the final stage is often to sell you on the advantages of joining the organization.
Organizations use various types of interviews to discover as much as possible about applicants. A structured interview is generally used in the screening stage. Here the employer controls the interview by asking a series of prepared questions in a set order. In contrast, the open-ended interview is less formal and unstructured, with a relaxed format. The interviewer poses broad, open-ended questions and encourages the applicant to talk freely. Some organizations perform group interviews , meeting with several candidates simultaneously to see how they interact. This type of interview is useful for judging interpersonal skills. Perhaps the most unnerving type of interview is the stress interview , which is set up to see how well a candidate handles stressful situations (an important qualification for certain jobs). During a stress interview you might be asked pointed questions designed to irk or unsettle you. You might be subjected to long periods of silence, criticisms of your appearance, deliberate interruptions, and abrupt or even hostile reactions by the interviewer. The video interview is becoming more popular. Many large companies use videoconferencing systems to screen middle-management candidates or to interview new recruits at universities. Another modern twist is the situational interview, in which an interviewer describes a situation and asks, “How would you handle this?”
When it comes down to it, every job has basic qualifications. Employers first look for two things: evidence that a candidate will fit in with the organization and proof that the person can handle a specific job.
Three types of preemployment tests frequently administered by companies are job-skills tests, psychological tests, and drug tests. Job-skills tests, the most common type, are designed to assess competency or specific abilities needed to perform a job. Psychological tests usually take the form of questionnaires. These tests can be used to assess overall intellectual ability, attitudes toward work, interests, managerial potential, or personality characteristics—including dependability, commitment, and motivation. Approximately 45 percent of all companies now require applicants to undergo drug and alcohol testing, and this percentage is expected to rise for two reasons: (1) Companies seek to avoid the increased costs and reduced productivity associated with drug abuse in the workplace (estimated to cost industry some $100 billion a year), and (2) studies show that substance abusers have two to four times as many accidents as other employees and that drug use can be linked to 40 percent of industrial fatalities.
When planning your employment search, you probably already researched the companies you sent your résumé to. But now that you've been invited for an interview, you'll want to fine-tune your research and brush up on the facts you've collected (see Table 18.2). Today’s companies expect serious candidates to demonstrate an understanding of the company’s operations, its market, and its strategic and tactical problems. Learning about the organization and the job enables you to show the interviewer just how you will meet the organization's particular needs.
Planning ahead for the interviewer's questions will help you handle them more confidently and intelligently. Moreover, you will want to prepare intelligent questions of your own. Y ou can expect to be asked about your achievements, skills, and goals, as well as about your attitude toward work and school, your relationships with others, and occasionally your hobbies and interests. As Table 18.3 in the text shows, you can expect questions from the following categories: college, employers and jobs, personal attitudes and preferences, and work habits.
Before the interview, prepare a list of about a dozen questions you need answered in order to evaluate the organization and the job. Don't limit your questions to those you think will impress the interviewer, or you won't get the information you’ll need to make a wise decision if and when you're offered the job. Here’s a list of some things you might want to find out: Are these my kind of people? Can I do this work? Will I enjoy the work? Is the job what I want? Does the job pay what I'm worth? What kind of person would I be working for? What sort of future can I expect with this organization? Rather than bombarding the interviewer with these questions the minute you walk in the room, use a mix of formats to elicit this information. Take your list of questions to the interview on a notepad. If you need to, jot down brief notes during the meeting, and be sure to record answers in more detail afterward. Having a list of questions should impress the interviewer with your organization and thoroughness. It will also show that you're there to evaluate the organization and the job as well as to sell yourself.
By building your confidence, you'll make a better impression. The best way to counteract any apprehension is to remove its source. You may feel shy or self-conscious because you think you have some flaw that will prompt others to reject you. Bear in mind, however, that you're much more conscious of your limitations than other people are. Confidence helps you walk into an interview, but once you're there, you want to give the interviewer an impression of poise, good manners, and good judgment. Some job seekers hire professional coaches and image consultants to create just the right impression. You can develop an adept style by staging mock interviews with a friend. Physical appearance is important because clothing and grooming reveal something about a candidate's personality and professionalism. When it comes to clothing, the best policy is to dress conservatively. Plan to take a small notebook, a pen, a list of the questions you want to ask, two copies of your résumé (protected in a folder), an outline of what you have learned about the organization, and any past correspondence about the position. You may also want to take a small calendar, a transcript of your college grades, a list of references, and a portfolio containing samples of your work, performance reviews, and certificates of achievement. In an era when many people exaggerate their qualifications, visible proof of your abilities carries a lot of weight.
How you handle a particular interview depends on where you stand in the interview process. If you're being interviewed for the first time, your main objective is to differentiate yourself from the many other candidates who are also being screened. Just be sure the trait you accentuate is relevant to the job in question. In addition, you'll want to be prepared in case an employer expects you to demonstrate a particular skill (perhaps problem solving) during the screening interview. If you progress to the initial selection interview, broaden your sales pitch. Instead of telegraphing the &quot;headline,&quot; give the interviewer the whole story. Touch briefly on all your strengths, but explain three or four of your best qualifications in depth. At the same time, probe for information that will help you evaluate the position objectively. As important as it is to get an offer, it's also important to learn whether the job is right for you. If you're asked back for a final visit, your chances of being offered a position are quite good. At this point, you'll talk to a person who has the authority to make an offer and negotiate terms. This individual may have already concluded that your background is right for the job and may be more concerned with sizing up your personality. Both you and the employer need to find out whether there is a good psychological fit. Be honest about your motivations and values. If the interview goes well, your objective should be to clinch the deal on the best possible terms.
Regardless of where you are in the interview process, every interview will proceed through three stages: the warm-up, the question-and-answer session, and the close.
Of the three stages, the warm-up is the most important, even though it may account for only a small fraction of the time you spend in the interview. Psychologists say that 50 percent of an interviewer's decision is made within the first 30 to 60 seconds, and another 25 percent is made within 15 minutes. If you get off to a bad start, it's extremely difficult to turn the interview around. Body language is important at this point. Because you won't have time to say much in the first minute or two, you must sell yourself nonverbally. Begin by using the interviewer's name if you're sure you can pronounce it correctly. If the interviewer extends a hand, respond with a firm but gentle handshake, and wait until you’re asked to be seated. Let the interviewer start the discussion, and listen for cues that tell you what he or she is interested in knowing about you as a potential employee.
Questions and answers will consume the greatest part of the interview. The interviewer will ask you about your qualifications and discuss many of the points mentioned in your résumé. You'll also be asking questions of your own. Let the interviewer lead the conversation, and never answer a question before he or she has finished asking it. Tailor your answers to make a favorable impression. Don't limit yourself to yes or no answers. If you're asked a difficult question, be sure you pause to think before responding. If you periodically ask a question or two from the list you've prepared, you'll not only learn something but also demonstrate your interest. Paying attention when the interviewer speaks can be as important as giving good answers or asking good questions. Listening should make up about half the time you spend in an interview. The interviewer's facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, and posture may tell you the real meaning of what is being said. Be especially aware of how your comments are received. Employers cannot legally discriminate against a job candidate on the basis of race, color, gender, age (from 40 to 70), marital status, religion, national origin, or disability. If you are asked personal questions, how you respond depends on how badly you want the job, how you feel about revealing the information asked for, what you think the interviewer will do with the information, and whether you want to work for a company that asks such questions.
Like the opening, the end of the interview is more important than its duration would indicate. In the last few minutes, you need to evaluate how well you've done. You also need to correct any misconceptions the interviewer might have. You can generally tell when the interviewer is trying to conclude the session. He or she may ask if you have any more questions, sum up the discussion, change position, or indicate with a gesture that the interview is over. When you get the signal, respond promptly, but don't rush. Be sure to thank the interviewer for the opportunity and express an interest in the organization. If you can do so comfortably, try to pin down what will happen next, but don't press for an immediate decision. If you do receive an offer during the interview, you'll naturally want to discuss salary. However, let the interviewer raise the subject. If asked your salary requirements, say that you would expect to receive the standard salary for the job in question. If you don't like the offer, you might try to negotiate, provided you're in a good bargaining position and the organization has the flexibility to accommodate you. If yours is a typical job search, you'll have many interviews before you accept an offer. For that reason, keeping a notebook interview notes can help you refresh your memory of each conversation. As soon as the interview ends, jot down the names and titles of the people you met. Briefly summarize the interviewer's answers to your questions. Then evaluate your performance.
Touching base with the prospective employer after the interview, either by phone or in writing, shows that you really want the job and are determined to get it. The two most common forms of follow-up are the thank-you message and the inquiry. These messages are often handled by letter, but an e-mail or a phone call can be just as effective, particularly if the employer seems to favor a casual, personal style. Express your thanks within two days after the interview, even if you feel you have little chance for the job. Acknowledge the interviewer's time and courtesy, and restate the specific job you're applying for. Convey your continued interest, then ask politely for a decision. Even if the interviewer has said that you are unqualified for the job, a thank-you message may keep the door open. If you're not advised of the interviewer's decision by the promised date or within two weeks, you might make an inquiry. A letter of inquiry is particularly appropriate if you've received a job offer from a second firm and don't want to accept it before you have an answer from the first.
Other types of follow-up messages are sent only in certain cases—letters requesting a time extension, letter of acceptance, letter declining a job offer, and letter of resignation. If you receive a job offer while other interviews are still pending, you'll probably want more time to decide, so write to the offering organization and ask for a time extension. Preface your request with a friendly opening. Ask for more time, stressing your enthusiasm for the organization. Conclude by allowing for a quick decision if your request for additional time is denied. Ask for a prompt reply confirming the time extension if the organization grants it. When you receive a job offer that you want to accept, reply within five days. Begin by accepting the position and expressing thanks. Identify the job that you're accepting. In the next paragraph, cover any necessary details. Conclude by saying that you look forward to reporting for work. After all your interviews, you may find that you need to write a letter declining a job offer. The bad-news plan is ideally suited to this type of letter. Open warmly, state the reasons for refusing the offer, decline the offer explicitly, and close on a pleasant note, expressing gratitude. If you get a job offer and are currently employed, you can maintain good relations with your current employer by writing a letter of resignation to your immediate supervisor. Follow the bad-news plan, and make the letter sound positive, regardless of how you feel.
Interviewing for Employment and Following Up
Employment Interviews Organization’s Main Objective Applicant’s Main Objective Match Applicants with the Organization Match Goals and Capabilities with the Job
The Typical Sequence of Interviews Applicant’s Objectives Employer’s Objectives Hiring Decision The Interview Process Screening Stage Selection Stage Final Stage
Types of Interviews Group Structured Open-Ended Stress Situational Video
What Employers Want Fit with the Organization Qualifications for the Job
Preemployment Testing Job-Skills Tests Drug Tests Psychological Tests
Researching the Organization The Organization The Opportunity <ul><li>Full Name </li></ul><ul><li>Location </li></ul><ul><li>Age </li></ul><ul><li>Products </li></ul><ul><li>Industry Position </li></ul><ul><li>Earnings & Growth </li></ul><ul><li>Overall Structure </li></ul><ul><li>Job Title </li></ul><ul><li>Job Functions </li></ul><ul><li>Job Qualifications </li></ul><ul><li>Career Path </li></ul><ul><li>Salary Range </li></ul><ul><li>Travel </li></ul><ul><li>Relocation </li></ul>
Anticipating the Employer’s Questions College Years Attitudes and Preferences Employers and Jobs Work Habits
Preparing Some Questions <ul><li>Are these my kind of people? </li></ul><ul><li>Can I do this work? </li></ul><ul><li>Will I enjoy the work? </li></ul><ul><li>Do I want this job? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the job pay well? </li></ul><ul><li>Who will be my supervisor? </li></ul><ul><li>What sort of future can I expect? </li></ul>
Preparing for the Job Interview Build Your Confidence Plan to Look Good Polish Your Interview Style Arrive Prepared
Handling the Actual Interview Screening Interview Selection Interview Final Interview Cover Your Strong Points Emphasize Your Personality Differentiate Yourself
Three-Step Interview Process Warm-Up Phase Question-and Answer Stage The Close
The Warm-Up Phase First Impressions Body Language
Questions and Answers Asking Questions Listening to the Interviewer Dealing with Personal Questions Answering Questions
The Close of the Interview Concluding Gracefully Discussing Salary Reviewing Notes
Following Up After the Interview Thank-You Messages Inquiry Messages
Other Types of Follow-up Messages Requesting More Time Declining an Offer Accepting an Offer Resigning From a Job