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Employers and Interviews 

Ever wondered what employers are thinking while interviewing you? Get insight into what they're looking for during this crucial step in the job search process.

Employers’ Interview Goals
The Screening Interview
The Second Interview
The Phone Interview
The Panel Interview
The Group Interview
The Stress Interview
The Behavioral Interview

Employers' Interview Goals

A job interview is a professional conversation between a potential employee and an employer. Conducting interviews allows employers to identify the skills that they need in their company.

Well-planned interviews typically use a standard set of questions to assess things such as interpersonal skills, communication skills, and job knowledge. The employer seeks to determine the suitability of the prospective employee for the job, while the employee tries to learn more about the position and the company while also impressing the employer. You must be able to effectively communicate your skills to a potential employer if you hope to have a chance of getting hired.

Getting called for an interview should not be taken lightly. Be prepared by getting as much information as possible beforehand, such as the type of interview, and name and title of the person or persons interviewing you. The typical interview is a face-to-face one-on-one conversation but there are many different styles of interviews used for different reasons. You can be ready for any of them.

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The Screening Interview

The screening interview is often the first interview.  This is usually an interview with someone in human resources. Your resume or application has been reviewed and your information has aroused someone’s interest. They want to find out more about you and your work experience.  If you satisfy the minimum qualifications for the job, you will be passed on to the next step in the interviewing process. This interview may take place in person or on the telephone.

Employer Advantages: These interviews may last 3 to 5 minutes and typically take place at career fairs.  Recruiters or company representatives will ask a few questions about your experience and the type of position you are seeking. The main goal is to collect resumes from candidates who will be considered for filling vacant positions. If you are not prepared and alert, you may think you are just having a general conversation and may not recognize that you are being screened.

Applicant Advantages: If you are a serious job seeker, you won’t be caught off guard. Always be prepared when talking to recruiters or headhunters. This is an excellent time to use your elevator speech. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the company or position.

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The Second Interview

It's great news if you are called back for a second interview but it does not mean that the job is yours.  It does mean that the employer is interested enough in you to call you back for more questions and maybe to meet other staff. The second interview is likely to probe deeper into your experience with more questions about your skills.

Employer Advantages: The employer wants to see if you will fit in with the company. It is a chance to ask more in-depth questions of a potential employee.

Applicant Advantages: You will have time to prepare your own questions carefully by doing your research on the company and the position. Be prepared to handle salary questions.  You should also have references lined up as you may be asked for a list of references after the interview.

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The Phone Interview

The phone interview may be between the potential employee and an employer, or a conference call with more than one person asking the questions. This is often the first step in the hiring process. Employers may use the phone interview to screen out less qualified candidates. This reduces the number of candidates to a more manageable number to be interviewed face-to-face. It is unlikely that you will be hired based on the phone interview. The phone interview helps to verify items of interest on the resume.

Employer Advantages: There is little or no cost for this type of interview. It is a quicker way to screen out weaker candidates than comparing resumes or  applications. Employers can use a standardized list of questions for each candidate. Upper managers do not have to be involved until the number of candidates is screened down for the face-to-face interview.

Applicant Advantages: Before the interview, you can write down the answers to anticipated questions and review them freely. You can choose a location for the interview where you can be comfortable with no distractions or disturbances. You don’t have to worry about what to wear. Schedule your interview time to your advantage. Consider if you are at your best in the morning or afternoon. To jog your memory, you can write down qualities that you really want to emphasize before the interview ends.

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The Panel Interview

A panel interview is when two or more interviewers are present. A group of interviewers may interview the candidate all at once or in smaller groups.  Sometimes the small group interviewers will each cover specific topics for a certain time period. The panel participants could include a prospective supervisor, manager, HR representative, and potential coworker from the department that is hiring. When applicable, a union representative may participate.

Usually, the panel consists of two to five people. There is usually a designated lead interviewer. If there isn't a lead interviewer, it may be difficult for the interviewee because questions may appear to be rapid fire and in no particular order.

The lead interviewer will introduce members of the panel.  He or she will then explain how the interview will be conducted.  The lead interviewer will probably ask the typical interview questions, leaving more specific and clarifying questions to the other panel members. All panel members should have thoroughly read your resume, application, or Curriculum Vitae (CV) before the interview.

Employer Advantages: Having multiple interviewers increases accuracy, allowing for clarifying questions from different perspectives. If there are panel members who are weak interviewers, other panel members can pick up the slack, making the most of the interview process. Panel interviewers are able to think more about the candidate's answers to the questions while other panel members ask questions. Each panel member has the opportunity to ask questions relevant to their departmental concerns and interests. When the interview is finished, the panel can discuss the candidate’s answers from each member's perspective before reaching a consensus.

Applicant Advantages: The panel might include your future supervisor or manager and if hired, you will have already made a good impression. A candidate has the opportunity to expound upon initial answers when follow-up questions are asked. The panel might ask for examples or for more clarification. This allows the candidate to reveal more information about his or her skills and qualifications. Job interviews conducted by a panel are seen to be fair and objective because there is more than one opinion taken into consideration when making the hiring decision.

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The Group Interview

A group interview is when more than one candidate is interviewed at the same time by one or more interviewers. The interviewers will consist of HR managers, prospective supervisors, and coworkers much like the panel interview. The process is used as an initial screening tool to select candidates for a second interview.

Employers may begin with a presentation about the company and the position. Questions and answers may be allowed afterwards. Several different exercise options may be presented. Groups of candidates may be given a hypothetical situation to solve that may or may not be work related. Candidates may be divided into groups and required to participate in problem solving sessions in the form of simulated work exercises, with the results presented at the end of the session. Candidates may be divided into teams that are given a work related task to complete.

Each candidate's contributions and participation are noted as interviewers watch closely. Interviewers observe how people interact with others, express thoughts, influence others, and reach decisions.

Employer Advantages: Interviewers create situations that call for certain skills to be resolved, such as skills of persuasion, leadership, teamwork, and conflict resolution. They then observe the candidates while looking for these skills.   Interviewers can discuss stand-out candidates at the end and compare notes.

Applicant Advantages: There are few advantages to this interview for the shy candidate, but if you know how to get noticed or have problem solving skills, you’ll do fine. If you don’t have these attributes and you still want the job, identify your strengths that can be used to help solve problems. Begin to practice being assertive when sharing your thoughts and ideas in small groups.

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The Stress Interview

When stress is an integral part of the position the candidate is applying for, the stress interview technique is used to screen out candidates who are unable to handle stress. The primary objective of this interview technique is to put candidates on the defensive and see how they cope with stressful situations.

One method the employer uses to introduce stress into the interview is by asking questions so quickly that the candidate doesn't have time to answer each one. Another method is the “silent treatment,” when the interviewer may respond to a candidate's answers with silence.  Long periods of silence typically make people uncomfortable because you are wondering if you’ve said something wrong. The interviewer may also ask questions unrelated to the job to see how a candidate responds. The most common technique is to constantly interrupt the candidate when he or she is answering a question, or ask another question before the candidate has finished the first question.

Employer Advantages: Employers believe that candidates who perform well under pressure in the interview will similarly handle work stress.

Applicant Advantages: If you really think that you are the best person for the job and you know that the job is very stressful, just stay focused on your goal.  Play the game. Don't make the mistake of taking this type of interview technique personally.

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The Behavioral Interview

The behavioral interview is designed to find out your past reactions to situations in your previous employment positions. The purpose of asking open-ended behavioral questions is that your past performance is the best predictor of future performance.  An example of a behavioral question is, “Tell me about a time when you had to confront a team member about poor performance.  How did you handle that?”

The interview is usually conducted face-to-face. During the course of the interview, the interviewer will be listening for answers that will show if the candidate has specific skills. This may include leadership, decision-making, commitment to tasks, ability to manage, problem solving, and communication skills.

Employer Advantages: Employers use the behavioral interviewing technique because they think you can't prepare for it. These interviews are discussions of behavior. The interviewer will ask probing questions for specific examples of past behavior.

Applicant Advantages: Before the interview, make a list of work situations that show positive behaviors involving your customer service skills, work experience, leadership, teamwork, and initiative. Be prepared to illustrate the outcome of each situation. This is an opportunity for you to show your past successful experiences.

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