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Last updated on 2/17/23

Approach the interview effectively

Great news—you’ve landed an interview!! 😁

Just like for your résumé and cover letter, you’ll have to do some prep work to stack the odds in your favor. 😎

What Are Interviews For, Anyway?

The interview is your first meeting with the recruiter, so it’s very important.

I really like this saying: You only get one chance to make a first impression.

So pay careful attention to how you dress, how you speak, your body language and what you want to say. This is the occasion to highlight your qualities and skills at every opportunity!

Phone interview

Generally, the recruiter will have already contacted you by phone. This initial phone screen is usually brief, yet essential.

It is used to:

  • check that you have clearly understood the job.

  • ask a few questions to add detail to (or clarify) certain points in your résumé and cover letter.

  • sometimes evaluate your personality and ability to express yourself.

If everything goes well and you make a good first impression, the recruiter will suggest an interview with the hiring manager, either in person or over Zoom/Google Hangout.

If you have recorded your applications in a tracking chart, you can quickly and discreetly find the job posting again, the date on which you applied and the name of the recruiter. You’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate your organizational skills and your interest in the job!

Here are some general tips for succeeding in a phone interview.

  • Have your calendar ready. There’s nothing worse than an applicant who doesn’t know when they are available for a follow-up meeting or who will change an appointment at the last minute. Inspiring confidence is crucial..

  • Take notes during this conversation. The recruiter is giving you information even if they are only asking you a few questions. You’ll get a better idea of what interests them in your profile, thus helping you to better prepare yourself for what comes next! 😉

  • Prepare a few questions in advance to ask at the end of the interview. This shows that you are interested in the role and actively engaged in evaluating if you are a good fit. Here are some great examples.

And above all, relax! Take a deep breath and focus on what the  recruiter is saying and the questions they ask. Then be confident and answer as honestly as you can.

Hiring Manager Interview

At this point, you’ve likely already passed the first step in the selection process, and you’ve been selected for an interview with the hiring manager—congratulations! 😊

At this stage, there are probably still 5-10 applicants in the running.

The recruiter has shortlisted you because your skills and experience align with what the company is looking for, and they think you’re a good applicant based on:

  • your qualifications

  • your experience in the field and business sector

  • the hardskills you've developed throughout your professional life 

  • certain soft skills, like organization, communication, thoroughness, etc.

Now they're interested in meeting you to drive deeper into these points, as well as get a feel for you as a person and if you would be a good fit for the team.

The hiring manager will need to:

  • understand your career path and trajectory.

  • go into more detail about how you handled challenges in your past positions. 

  • know why you’re looking for another position.

  • confirm your technical skills, often with a business case in a third interview.

  • be convinced of your interest in the job and the company, and of your commitment.

By following the same You/Me/Us technique, you should be prepared to answer all these questions:

  1. “You”: the company, the job—What attracted you to this job posting? What do you know about this business sector? What do you know about the company, and how did you find out about it?

  2. “Me”: the applicant – Who are you? How has your career path unfolded? How did you make your career choices and changes? Why did you choose this field? How do you see your progression professionally over the upcoming years?

  3. “Us”: the company and the applicant – What will you bring to the company? What are your strengths for this job? What makes you different from the rest? What do you think about the company’s values?

The main objective is for the recruiter to get to know you and feel confident that you are the best candidate. 😎

Prepare yourself not just physically, but psychologically. Have a positive attitude!

How Does a Job Interview Work?

Interviews can vary in how they play out, depending on the job you're applying for and the company, so you will undoubtedly be facing some unknowns. If you have little or no experience with professional interviews, it's important to learn as much as possible by talking to other people who have experience.

It's also a good idea to become familiar with the interview process by watching some examples online. Take a look at the following videos. The first one provides an example of a British context, while the second takes place in an American context. As you watch them, note the questions being asked and reflect on what you think the applicant is doing well and what they could improve. Pay attention to the details we've covered so far.

The Most Common Components of an Interview:

  • The recruiter briefly presents the company and the role. They may also identify where the role fits in within the larger organization, the relevant department or team and why they're recruiting.

  • You will be asked to introduce yourself. This is where your pitch comes into play! Give a two to three-minute introduction summarizing your career to date, your experience and skills relating to the job.

  • The recruiter will ask you questions to dive deeper into your skills, qualities, experience and proof of results achieved. Based on the information you were given in the phone screen, you can anticipate some of these questions and think of a few key “tell us about a time when…” stories that show your skills in action.

  • You will then be able to ask your own questions – and you better have some ready! Not asking questions will give the impression of being too passive and lacking motivation or interest.

  • And finally, at the end of the interview:

    • Ideally, the recruiter outlines the next step(s) in the recruitment process, which may be another interview. (Three to five interviews is now standard for many companies, with some companies even insisting on more, a controversial practice.)

    • Less ideally, but still good, the recruiter keeps you in suspense for another few days by saying “I’ll get back to you very soon.”

    • Alternatively, the recruiter may say something along the lines of “I have other applicants to see, and then I’ll need to think about it.”

The more interviews you do, the more comfortable you’ll get with the process, and the more success you’ll have!

Who You Might Meet During the Recruitment Process

  • The hiring manager or person in charge of recruitment to validate your profile and motivation.

  • An expert in the field to confirm your technical skills.

  • The future line manager (if they aren’t the hiring manager) in order to talk about the job, the team, current projects, etc.

  • Sometimes a future colleague or team members. (These culture fit interviews are becoming increasingly common!)

  • Someone from Human Resources, in order to detail the financial, administrative and contractual procedures, such as status, working hours, remuneration package, start date, employee benefits, etc.

Manage Yourself Throughout Your Job Search

You want to be at your best when you interview. Since you don’t know how long an interview is going to last, don't schedule multiple interviews in one day. Otherwise, you could arrive late, or be exhausted from the physical, mental and emotional energy even just one interview can take.

Sometimes you may be surprised to see several applicants invited at the same time as you. The recruiter may have organized a group introduction to the company, brought several directors together, or planned technical test sessions.

Be considerate of the recruiter. They will appreciate it! Keep the interview effective and efficient on your part. This is another reason why asking questions will be appreciated —you'll avoid confusion, oversights and wasted time!

Are you unsure about the exact time and place for the interview? Don’t run the risk of getting it wrong or arriving late. Email the recruiter or their assistant well in advance.

Want to know what to bring with you or how to dress? Different companies have different dress codes and professional norms (e.g., in hotel and catering, in a trendy start-up, in tourism or in a factory).

You need a contact name, email address or phone number in case you get lost, stuck in traffic, or your train is late! If you have a last-minute issue, it’s better to warn them so the interview can be rescheduled. Plan ahead—don't appear disorganized.

Manage Your Stress

Stress can be an ally and allow you to give the best of yourself! But too much stress can overwhelm and paralyze you. Let’s look at a few tips for overcoming it and making it into a driving force.

  • Prepare! Business courses often emphasize that 90% of success is preparation. Preparing yourself properly will give you added self-confidence!

  • Breathe! Train yourself to breathe mindfully: breathe in and breathe out deeply and slowly, as if you were blowing out the candles on your birthday cake.

  • Exercise! On the day of your interview (and why not also in the days leading up to it!) go swimming or jogging, do yoga—anything physical to help relax your mind and body. Just don't overdo it and wear yourself out, twist an ankle or end up in pain on the day of the interview! Simply getting some fresh air by taking a brisk walk and getting your blood circulating can have a huge impact before an interview.

  • Be present (here and now)! Instead of focusing on things that could happen or that might go wrong, focus on what you can control—your interview prep. Take things one step at a time.

Follow Up After the Interview

Your success isn't out of your hands at the end of an interview. Remind the recruiter who you are and how organized and courteous you are! That way they will remember you even if they see other applicants.

Send a Thank You Email

If you want to make a good impression and gain extra points over the other applicants, it’s a good idea to send a thank you email! Thank the recruiter and any other participants (usually their email addresses are easy to figure out using the same formula as the recruiter's, often firstname.lastname@company.com) again for their time, mention any particularly interesting talking points that came up, and restate your interest in the role.

Follow Up With the Recruiter

In every situation, if no one calls you back, don’t hesitate to follow up with the recruiter! A good rule of thumb to know when you follow up is to take the timeframe the recruiter gave you and double it. So, for example, if the recruiter said you should hear back in one week and two have passed with total radio silence, then you can follow up with an email like this:

Hello X,

I hope this email finds you well.

I’m following up to see if you have any status updates on the (job title) position that I interview for on (date).

I’m excited to hear about next steps, and the role seems like a great fit for my skillset and experience based on what I learned! I would appreciate any update you could share.

Thanks so much,

Your Name

If you still don’t receive a response one week after you send this email, you can follow up again with a similar email. However, if there is still no response after this email, it is unfortunately safe to assume that you have been ghosted, and it is better to move on to a company that will respect your time and effort.

Let's Recap!

A successful interview is a well-prepared interview. Let's have a closer look at steps to take to prepare yourself to succeed!

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