Interview Guidelines

Preparing For The Interview



Write out a chronological outline of your career and education by breaking down your life into "segments" (i.e. university, first job, second job, etc.). For each segment, write down:

  • Why you went into the program or job

  • What you did while you were there

  • Why you left

  • The chronology should flow logically and bring you to the present day. Lastly, write down where you want to be in the short and long term and why it makes sense based on where you've been according to your chronology.

    STEP 2


    Strengths: Write down 3 technical and 3 non-technical personal strengths. For each strength, document something external that proves the strength is also perceived by others as strength, i.e. when you received a bonus in recognition or when it was noted on your performance evaluation. Weaknesses: The area of weaknesses can be difficult. The way to answer any question about your weaknesses is to either: Describe a weakness or area for development that you have worked on and how you have now overcome it, or, describe a characteristic that could be perceived as either a strength or a weakness.

    STEP 3


    It is important to ask a lot of questions both throughout the interview and at the end of the interview when interviewers generally ask if you have any questions. Therefore, you should prepare a list of 5-10 technical and 5-10 non-technical questions and memorize them before the interview. Do not inquire about salary, vacation, bonuses, or other benefits. Here are some sample questions:

  • Could you tell me about the growth plans and goals for the company/ department/division?

  • What needs to be accomplished in this position in the next 6-12 months?

  • What skills are important to be successful in this position?

  • Why did you join this company?

  • What types of systems do you use throughout the company/department/division?

  • Why is the position available?

  • What made the previous persons in this position successful/unsuccessful?

  • To where have successful people in this position advanced?

  • What criteria will my supervisor use for my performance evaluation and how frequently, and in what manner, will my supervisor and I meet?

  • How do you (the supervisor) like to operate in terms of assignments, delegation of responsibility and authority, general operating style, etc.?

  • What long and short term problems and opportunities do you think my prospective area faces?

  • With whom will I be interacting most frequently and what are their responsibilities and the nature of our interaction?

  • What particular things about my background, experience and style interest you?

  • What experience, training, attributes, operating style, accomplishments and personality factors should the ideal candidate for the job have?

  • Is there anything in my background or experience to prevent you from considering me as a viable candidate?

  • What else can I do to get a job offer from your company?

  • What is the time frame for making a decision on this position?

  • STEP 4


    Questions You Should Be Prepared For:

  • What do you know about our company?

  • Why do you want to work here?

  • Why are you looking to change positions?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • What do you like most and least about your current position (or supervisor)?

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  • What are the best and worst things your boss would say about you?

  • Name 5 adjectives that would best describe you.

  • What are your concerns in your current situation and what would you improve?

  • How have you changed or improved the nature of your job?

  • Why should we hire you?

  • What can you do for us that someone else can't?

  • Why did you choose this particular vocation?

  • What contributions to profits have you made in your present or former positions to justify your salary level there?

  • What do you think determines a person's progress in a good company?

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    Answers To Some Difficult Questions

    Q: How much money do you want?
    A: Only indicate what you are presently earning and that salary is one of several factors you are considering. Emphasize that the opportunity is the most important consideration.

    Q: Tell me about yourself.
    A: Emphasis on your recent experience is most important; however, brief coverage of previous experiences and education can also be useful.

    Q: What are some situations in which your work was criticized?
    A: Give only one or two examples and emphasize how you addressed the criticism and how it is now not a problem. Ensure that you show you are open to constructive criticism.

    Q: What do you think of your boss?
    A: While situations may not always be ideal, it is best to keep comments to those that are positive and/or highlight the areas that you value in a boss/employee relationship.

    Q: How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our company?
    A: Realistically speaking, experience and requirements of the job will influence your making a meaningful contribution.

    Q: Why haven't you found a new position before now?
    A: Explain that finding the right job is more important than just finding a job. This can be a difficult task as the current economy may be a factor.

    Q: Why were you laid off?
    A: Be as positive as possible. Do not discuss interpersonal conflicts, regardless of how sympathetic the interviewer may seem. Discuss economic conditions. Do not go into much detail unless asked.

    Q: Why should we hire you? or Are you interested in this job?
    A: Explain why this is a logical position for you, sum up your work history and re-emphasize your strongest qualities and achievements. Above all, let the interviewer know that you will be an asset to the company.

    Step 5


    You should find out as much information on the Company and the interviewers as you can. If you are working with a recruitment firm or staffing service their knowledge and insight can be useful and advantageous for your interviewing process. Other great sources of information are the public library and the Internet (you should check if the company has a home page). If you get to your interview early, you should read any brochures they may have in the reception area.

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    The Interview

    Types of Interviews

    1.Screening Interview A member of the personnel department usually conducts the screening interview, which is meant to weed out unqualified candidates. Providing facts about your skills is more important than establishing rapport. Interviewers will work from an outline of points they want to cover, looking for inconsistencies in your resume and challenging your qualifications. Provide answers to their questions, and never volunteer any additional information. That information could work against you.

    2. One-on-one Interview In a one-on-one interview, it has been established that you have the skills and education necessary for the position. The interviewer wants to see if you will fit in with the company, and how your skills will complement the rest of the department. Your goal in a one-on-one interview is to establish rapport with the interviewer and show him or her that your qualifications will benefit the company.

    3. Stress Interview Stress interviews usually are a deliberate attempt to see how you handle yourself. The interviewer may be sarcastic or argumentative, or may keep you waiting. Expect this to happen, and when it does, don't take it personally. Calmly answer each question as it comes. Ask for clarification if you need it, and never rush into an answer. The interviewer also may lapse into silence at some point during the questioning. Recognize this as an attempt to unnerve you. Sit silently until the interviewer resumes the questions. If a minute goes by, ask if he needs clarification of your last comments.

    4. Lunch Interview The same rules apply in lunch interviews as in those held at the office. The setting may be more casual, but remember it is a business lunch and you are being watched carefully. Use the lunch interview to develop common ground with your interviewer. Follow his or her lead in both selection of food and in etiquette.

    5. Committee Interview Committee interviews are a common practice. You will face several members of the company who have a say in whether you are hired. When answering questions from several people, speak directly to the person asking the question. It is not necessary to answer to the group. In some committee interviews, you may be asked to demonstrate your problem-solving skills. The committee will outline a situation and ask you to formulate a plan that deals with the problem. You don't have to come up with the ultimate solution. The interviewers are looking for how you apply your knowledge and skills to a real-life situation.

    6. Group Interview A group interview is usually designed to uncover the leadership potential of prospective managers and employees who will be dealing with the public. The front-runner candidates are gathered together in an informal, discussion-type interview. A subject is introduced and the interviewer will start off the discussion. The goal of the group interview is to see how you interact with others and how you use your knowledge and reasoning powers to win others over. If you do well in the group interview, you can expect to be asked back for a more extensive interview.

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    Interview Do's and Don'ts


    1. Know the time and place of the interview and the interviewer's full name and title.

    2. Ensure that you fully understand the job description of the position for which you are interviewing.

    3.Plan to be 15 minutes early in anticipation of traffic problems or other unanticipated delays. Also, know where you're going. If possible acquaint yourself with the route. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable.

    4. Dress professionally (i.e. proper business attire).

    5. If presented with an application, fill it out neatly and completely.

    6. Ensure to shake the interviewer's hand firmly.

    7. Speak slowly and clearly. Don't rush your answers.

    8. Stress accomplishments.

    9. Ensure to answer every question fully and honestly.

    10. Don't jump ahead or give more information than is required. Pay attention to "cutoff" cues.

    11. Ensure you are consistent in your answers throughout all interviews.

    12. Don't answer with a simple "yes" or "no". Explain answers where possible.

    13. Avoid saying anything negative about present or previous employers or coworkers.

    14. Ask questions to show interest in the Company and the position.

    15. Ensure they know you are interested in the position; never close the door on an opportunity.

    16. Look alert and interested at all times and look the interviewer in the eye.

    17. Relax, smile and have a positive attitude. Give the appearance of energy as you walk.


    1. Poor presentation.

    2. Lack of a firm handshake.

    3. Being unprepared for the interview, i.e. little or no knowledge of the company.

    4. Poor expression of thoughts, including incorrect grammar.

    5. Not asking questions about the job.

    6. "Superiority complexes" and "know it all" attitudes.

    7. Indifference or lack of enthusiasm.

    8. Being evasive, nervous and lacking in confidence.

    9. Lack of career direction - undefined goals or purposes.

    10. Candidate is too interested in compensation factors.

    11. Overaggressive, overbearing or conceited behavior.

    12. Speaking unfavorably of previous employers.

    13. Lack of courtesy and maturity.

    14. No appreciation for the value of experience.

    15. Not looking the interviewer in the eye.

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    Closing The Interview

    If you are interested in the position, ask for it, or ask for the next interview if the situation demands. You might say something like: "Mr./Ms. Employer, I am very impressed with what I've seen and heard here today and am confident that I could do an excellent job in the position you've described to me. When might you be in a position to make an offer?" Your enthusiasm should make a favorable impression.

    If you are made an offer, accept it only if you are ready. You don't have to accept the offer on the spot.

    Don't be discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with CFS first or interview more applicants before making a decision.

    Thank the interviewer for his or her time and consideration of you. If you have answered the two major questions in his mind: a) Why are you interested in the company?; and b) What can you offer?, you have done all you can.

    The Legal Registry Offers Mock Interviewing Sessions. Contact our attorney division at for further details.

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