Interviews: Types and Structure

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

Once you’ve done your strategic networking, gotten some names and numbers, made some introductions, leveraged recruiters, and gotten referred to the right people in the right places, it’s time to sit down and master the art of the interview. Let’s start by looking at the phases of the interview process.

What follows is an outline of the different types of interviews, how they work, and what you can expect during each of these interview situations. Then, we’ll review the specific questions that you should be prepared to answer — and those you should be prepared to ask — to maximize your success at every step in the interviewing process.

Types of Interviews

Informational: No specific job under discussion. Purpose is learning about industry, company, people, skills required, cultural fit, and perhaps generating additional avenues of research or more people for you to contact.

Screening: This is the first serious step in the interviewing process. Consider this a “live ammo exercise.” Used as the first step to narrow the field of candidates who are being considered for employment. Screening may be done by an outside recruiter or in-house human resources representative. Usually done over the phone.

Hiring Manager: An in-depth look at an applicant to confirm desired requirements and/or technical abilities, motivation, and overall personal and cultural fit with the organization. Typically 60 to 90 minutes in length, conducted by the individual for whom you would be working.

Approval: A series of sequential interviews, sometimes formal and sometimes informal (such as over lunch), conducted by team members, peers, or colleagues in departments with whom you would interact. Getting to this stage assumes that the hiring manager liked you and passed you along for the team’s approval. If everyone on the team gives you the thumbs up, you’ll have a good chance of getting a job offer.

Group: A more formal and structured interview, conducted by a panel of three to five peers and the hiring manager (at the same time) to narrow the field of applicants. Sometimes, this involves behavioral interview methods, hands-on tasks, or an assignment to work on a real-time problem that the group is facing. A conference call or video-phone format may be used in long-distance situations.

Offer: Hiring manager or human resources representative formally offers the job to the top choice. Their focus is now to provide you, their top candidate, with information you need to make a decision and enter into a win-win negotiation process. This will result in the best possible deal for both you and the company that wants to hire you.

Interviewing can be best described as two-way storytelling. You need to provide the interviewer with accurate, relevant stories about your career achievements and job performance. The interviewer needs to tell you the story of the company, describe the position in question, and explain specifically how they want you to fit into their picture. This will allow both parties to assess their level of interest in the other.

Think about the basic structure of a good story. It always includes these elements:

A beginning – in the case of an interview, this can be small talk, setting the tone, establishing rapport, and providing a personal connection between you and the interviewer. The key here is to be your best self – don’t force anything.

A body or middle – this is the substance of the one-on-one information exchange. All your preparation, accomplishment stories, personal strengths, abilities, and value statements can be used here to make a compelling case for yourself.

A strong ending or finish – the close makes sure the interviewer has a firm grasp on where you fit into the company’s landscape, exactly how you can add value to the position in question, and how you’re superior to the other candidates. This part of the story ensures that the interviewer is left with a good impression of you, your track record, and your ability to help the company meet its objectives.

In some cases, you’ll actually be taken through all of these interview steps before a hiring decision will be made – so be ready, and be patient. Throughout the process, be sure to tell compelling accomplishment stories, leveraging the three basic elements described above. These steps will ensure that you’ll stand-out as the “candidate of choice!”

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television and radio networks. He has also conducted presentations at many companies, associations and universities. Learn more at www.CareerPotential.com or contact Ford directly at 1-800-972-6588.

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