With the mediums in which interviews are conducted covered, along with some of the pros and cons, today we will be covering the common elements of an interview from types of interviews to structure. These are things that you should know before stepping into the interview, be it virtual or in person. So without further ado, let’s jump right in!
There are various aspects to interviews that can greatly influence the dynamic of the setting and “feel” of the environment. Each element is often to serve a specific purpose. For example, some interviews are panels (more than one interviewer), which allows a hiring manager to gain a group consensus on the interviewee’s performance. Panel interviews can include the hiring manager, your soon-to-be supervisor (which may also be the hiring manager), the hiring manager’s supervisor, or even people who will be your peers in the position.
Conversely, interviews can also be with just one person. Sometimes this is with a recruiter and telephonic, which is used at an earlier stage of the process to “screen” the candidate before moving on to a later round with a panel. This brings up the point of interview “rounds.” It is not out of the realm of possibility that interviews can involve multiple rounds, sometimes upwards of three or four, with variances in the elements that we’re discussing today.
Some interviews are meant to be more relaxed in nature, although there is always some level of stress for the applicant. This is an attempt to be able to see the “real” person applying, rather than a persona or facade that the interviewee thinks that the interviewer(s) want to see. Charles Schwab CEO, Walt Bettinger, would take applicants to lunch for the interview so as to try and create an environment of true relaxation. Interestingly, he would take it a step further, having coordinated ahead of time with the restaurant to purposely mess up the interviewee’s lunch order just so he could assess how the interviewee treated the server. This brings up a valuable point: Everything is being assessed from the moment the person/panel sees you, from how you act, dress, speak, etc. Everything.
For jobs that might be more stressful, you may experience an intentional “high intensity” interview. This doesn’t mean that they’ll be yelling and screaming at you, but in these types of settings, you will likely be met with “What would you do” type questions, and possibly even receive challenging opinions or feedback just to see how you keep your composure under pressure.
In addition to the type and setting of interviews, there are also variables to the methodology in which they require you to perform. In other words, there are different ways to assess performance in the interview, one being mentioned just a second ago regarding the “high intensity” interview, where they attempt to rattle you in order to assess your composure. Some interviews may be hands-on or presentation-based, where you will be asked to show your proficiency with a particular item or tool. Some presentation-based interviews may require you to deliver a presentation or “pitch” as if you were selling a product or service.
Lastly, and the most common, is the question-based interview in which you will be asked questions and assessed on your answers. Sometimes these questions are “How would you...” and some are more experience-based and begin with something like, “Tell me about a time when you...” The latter, known by many names but I’ll go with just “Behavioral Interview” (BI), is growing more and more popular and common in interviews. BIs are less focused on “what would you do,” and more geared towards, “what have you done” type answers. In a BI, you are expected to draw upon your past experiences to describe how you have handled actual situations or problems, rather than how you think you would.
With their increase in popularity, a particular method of answering them, known as the STAR method, has emerged. However, I am an advocate for the STARS method and will touch on what that is and entails in much more detail in Part V(d) when we cover interview performance.
So let’s discuss the common structure of the interviews. While interviews can always vary somewhat in their structure, there are three common sections: Intro/Bio, Questions, and Closing. Each of these sections has its own general guidelines to know and consider. While I will be covering these three sections in more depth in Part V(d), we'll just identify them today.
The beginning of the interview will almost always start out with introductions of both interviewer(s) and interviewee. While I have witnessed some that don’t ask the interviewee to introduce themselves, this is not very common and you should be prepared to have something to say about yourself. This is commonly called your elevator speech and will be discussed more in-depth in Part V(d).
After the introductions are complete, the interviewer(s) may cover the structure of the rest of the interview, and maybe even establish rules. For instance, I know that when I’m conducting a BI interview, I will tell the interviewee that I want all answers to be rooted in actual situations they’ve experienced, and to include the result. Often, the interviewer(s) may also use this time to try and put the interviewee’s mind at ease, stating that they want folks to be themselves and relaxed.
Then the questions begin. We’re going to go much more in-depth in how to answer questions in Part V(d) regarding performance, so I will just say that this is the “meat and potatoes” of the interview. After the questions are finished, the interviewer(s) will often move on to the closing of the interview. If the interview is a panel, the “head” of the panel will often ask if the panel has anything to add or ask before closing. At this point, they may also cover what to expect moving forward, including possible next steps or timelines, if/when selected.
Then you will be asked if you have any questions for them. Closing questions will be discussed in Part V(d), but let me just iterate now that this section is often overlooked and one of the most underprepared. Trust me, you want to have questions prepared for them!
We’ve all heard the adage about how we don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Granted, the chances are that the interviewer(s) will already have some sort of impression of you based on your application packet (resume, cover letter, etc), and it’s likely not a bad impression because they’ve chosen to interview you. However, your appearance in an interview is still a critical element to your success. It is also an element that is highly subjective and can vary wildly in opinion. Therefore, I will caveat this with the same caveat that I gave regarding resumes: This is subjective, and I am speaking on the commonalities that I’ve experienced, seen, and/or heard, and I will leave out the outlying opinions.
The first thing you should do when figuring out what to wear is to educate yourself on the options. There are numerous categories of dress – from business formal to casual – and each category can have variations within it. If I were to get into the nit-and-gritty of each variation, it would take forever, so let me cover some general guidance or things to consider.
I caution against taking the “dress for the job you’re applying to” rule that we often hear a little too literally. While there is some credence in that, you would not walk into a job interview for an engine mechanic wearing oil-stained overalls. I would argue that you never want to go below the “business casual” category. However, this is where your research comes into play as well: What is the company culture?
For instance, if you apply for a Branch Manager position at a bank, you’re going to not want to have anything below the “business” attire category. However, for some companies that pride themselves on more relaxed environments, such as BrightHR, “business casual” may be much more appropriate.
The second thing to consider and research is the color scheme. Whether or not you prescribe to the idea that colors have subliminal meanings (although I highly encourage you to do the research), at a minimum, there are rules to know about color combinations/matching. When we were in the military, we really didn’t have to even think about something like this, but if you’re like me, it’s a whole new (and sometimes overwhelming) world of making sure your shoes match your belt, socks match your shirt, and how different patterns/shapes interact with each other. Also, how you’re dressed can have a large impact on your confidence.
The last thing I’ll touch on about appearance is not clothing-related per se, but rather the way you appear in your body language. We never want nervousness to overtake us in an interview. Are we going to be nervous? Absolutely. However, if we let our nerves get the better of us, it can negatively affect our speech, recall memory, and create a litany of other performance issues in an interview. Appearance, however, can assist with this too! Being in a snappy outfit that fits well and looks sharp can greatly impact your comfort and confidence in the interview!
Even if it’s virtual, however, your nerves can have a negative impact. The goal is to enter an interview with confidence (not arrogance) and be ourselves. Often, when our nerves overtake us, we begin to act differently than we normally would if we were relaxed, and humans can sense that sort of behavioral difference when someone is not acting themselves. We want to be ourselves as much as we possibly can be. So, how do we do that? With preparation. And what’s next week’s topic? Yup, you guessed it! Stop on by next week!
Hopefully, you’ve found some use in Part V(b) of our Employment chat. If you did, please share it with your fellow service members so that they can also hopefully glean some insight into the various aspects of transition. And of course, join me next week for Part V(c) of the Employment chat as we talk about interview preparation!
Until next time, be safe, stay healthy, and remember that you’re not in this alone!
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