8. Interviews

Sarah Ladd

Introduction

The work you have put into your job search and career exploration journey will become incredibly useful to you again as you land yourself some job interviews. In this chapter, you will learn what to do to prepare ahead, and how to reflect and improve after each interview you attend. The largest part of this chapter introduces the different types of job interviews you may encounter, helps you recognize the types of questions you may be asked, and identifies an effective strategy to use when you answer each question. Importantly, you’ll learn how to draw on the knowledge you gained about yourself while conducting your self-assessment (see Self-Assessment chapter), and expand upon the information you put in your resume and cover letters (see Application Documents chapter) to show employers that you are a good fit for their position. Hopefully, as you implement the techniques here, your confidence in interview settings will grow, and you will represent yourself as more positive and self-assured.

Learning Objectives

After carefully reading this chapter, completing the exercises within it, and answering the questions at the end, you should be able to:

  • Understand what a job interview is and why they are conducted.
  • Prepare for an interview.
  • Distinguish between the different types of interview questions.
  • Describe the strategy you will use when asked each type of interview question.
  • Evaluate your interview performance.
  • Utilize your references at the job interview stage.

Overview: What is a Job Interview?

You’ve applied for a job. You’ve received an interview request! Congratulations! Now you need to prepare.

Job Interviews Defined

Employers review sometimes hundreds or even thousands of applications and make a short list of candidates they feel have a reasonable chance of being able to do the job; that meet or exceed the requirements, and have desirable qualities. This is where the term being “short listed” for an interview comes from. If you are short listed for an interview, this means the employer believes you can do the job. Now you must prove to them that you are the best candidate among those being interviewed. Employers spend time and money to conduct job interviews. They use valuable resources to meet you, because they believe you have potential. Remember this when you are feeling nervous about an interview: they already like you on paper, so you have every right to feel confident when you meet with them face-to-face.

A job interview is a two-way conversation between yourself and a potential employer. The employer must learn if you are the best choice for their position. Will you fit in with their team? Will you learn quickly and perform well in the short and long-term? Will you bring skills, ability, or knowledge that will make their company better?

You also need to find out if this employer can provide you with what is needed to meet your own workplace values (see the Self-Assessment chapter). Later in this chapter (During the Interview), you will learn how to ask great questions at the end of the interview to help you evaluate employers during job interviews.

Types of Interviews

 In order to determine if you have the right fit, skills and passion, employers must meet you and ask you questions. There are several ways in which they can do this:

  1. Pre-Screening

Some employers will speak briefly with a large number of possible candidates — typically by phone — before interviewing a smaller number of candidates. This is usually referred to as pre-screening.  Employers may use pre-screening to identify which candidates have the specific requirements for the position, or to see if a candidate is enthusiastic about their job. If you are contacted for a pre-screen interview, you should still prepare as if it were a full interview, just in case they ask further questions. It is always best to be prepared.

A forestry employer might require all candidates to have a valid Class 5 driver’s license, experience with camping or wilderness hiking, and knowledge of wildlife. They would not want to interview four great candidates and discover two of them only have a Class 7 driver’s license and cannot be hired. Therefore, a pre-screen of 5–10 candidates before scheduling interviews with three candidates will save them time and ensure they are only interviewing candidates who meet those absolute requirements.
  1. One-on-One and Panel Interviews

A common type of job interview is a one-on-one in-person interview with a single hiring manager, during which you will sit down together and you will answer a series of pre-determined questions. The questions asked will help them decide if you have the fit, skills, and passion for their job.

Often, you will be met with more than one interviewer, and this is referred to as a panel interview. Many people are nervous about panel interviews because they feel the pressure of having multiple people observing them as they speak. However, panel interviews are ideal because the more people are observing you, the more they learn about you collectively. Each person will see and appreciate different qualities about you. Another great benefit of panel interviews is that you can switch eye contact from one person to another while speaking, instead of making direct eye contact with one person for a longer period of time. This can be much more comfortable for you when you are nervous.

  1. Group Interviews

A group interview is where there are several candidates being evaluated at one time during one interview. This is not a common occurrence but does happen when a company is hiring large numbers of staff at one time. For example, seasonal hiring in the tourism industry sometimes requires the hiring of dozens of staff at a time. The employer may not have time to interview that many people one at a time. If the job requires group work, the employer may want to see how candidates interact with each other.

It can be difficult to stand out in a group interview. You will want to make sure that you step up, fully participate, speak whenever there is an opportunity, and join in any group activities during the interview.

  1. Long Distance Interviews

Long-distance interviews are growing in popularity with the advancement of technology in today’s more globally-minded world. It is now possible to interview easily for jobs in other cities using telephone conferencing, or even video conferencing, such as Skype, BlueJeans, and other software. While some employers still prefer in-person interviews, more and more are accepting long-distance interviews as a valid alternative for out-of-town candidates. There are both disadvantages and advantages to long-distance interviews. See Appendix C: Tips for Long Distance Interviews for specific tips on long-distance interviews.

  1. Informal interviews

All of the interviews described so far have been structured, formal interviews. Occasionally, you will find yourself in a casual or informal interview. Some very small companies with no set hiring practices may use this style of interviewing, and other times an informal interview occurs when you are being offered a job that has been created just for you as a result of your networking efforts. Informal interviews might occur in a coffee shop, over lunch, or even at a networking event.

No matter the reason or location of an informal interview, it is your job to make sure that you prepare just as you would for a structured interview, and then look for opportunities to offer the interviewer key information about why you are a good candidate for them. You might have to be creative in how you work this into your conversation with the interviewer, but it is especially important that you do so. Look for opportunities in the conversation to share stories about your skills, or gently return the conversation yourself back to the job if it goes off topic. Ask “Is there anything else you’d like to know about me to see if I’m a good fit for your position?” The good news is, most entry-level, student, and co-op job interviews will be structured interviews, and if you are invited to an informal interview, you can meet with a Career Counselor or Co-op Coordinator first to get advice.

Regardless of the type of interview you are being asked to attend, preparation and practice are essential in increasing your chance of receiving a job offer. The information and activities in section Before the Interview and section During the Interview will help you be at your best.

Unethical Questions and Discrimination

Each province in Canada has Employment Standards, which prohibit employers from asking questions that could lead to discrimination.

Some examples of illegal or unethical questions include, but are not limited to:

  • What is your marital status?
  • Do you have or plan to have children?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • What is your race or religion?

Employers are allowed to ask you questions that pertain directly to the job. For example, they cannot ask you if you are from a different country, but they can ask you if you are legally entitled to work in Canada. They cannot ask you about your sexual orientation, but they are allowed to ask about your gender if that is important for the job. For example, only women may be hired to work in a women’s shelter, where men may not be allowed to be present. Similarly, an employer cannot ask you if you are physically disabled, but they can ask you if you are able to lift up to 25 kilograms if the job requires regular lifting.

If you find yourself being asked illegal or unethical questions, this is a possible sign that the employer you are meeting might not be good to work for. Or, it might mean the interviewer is inexperienced and does not know what not to ask, so proceed with caution and try to suspend your judgement.

If you are asked an illegal question, or you are uncertain, the best thing to do is ask them why they are inquiring. If they cannot provide a valid reason relating to the job and you do not feel comfortable answering it, you should politely decline to answer and ask them to move to the next question. As a student, your next step after the interview should be to write down exactly what you were asked, and then advise someone in the TRU Career & Experiential Learning Department (https://www.tru.ca/cel/contact-us.html) that you were asked illegal or inappropriate questions.

Exercise 8.1 Understanding the Employer’s Perspective

Every employer must design their interview strategy and come up with questions. You can begin to learn to anticipate what you might be asked by understanding the employer’s perspective. To try this out:

  • Imagine you are an employer creating interview questions for a job.
  • Choose a job description that interests you from TRU Career Connections or other sources.* Since you are not actually applying, do not worry about the location of the job or whether you fully qualify; simply choose a position that sounds enjoyable to you.
  • Write a list of skills you’d like the candidate to have for that job. Include at least three technical and three non-technical skills in your list.
  • Reflect on what personal qualities you would want in a co-worker or employee.
  • Write out a list of possible questions you might ask in order to test candidates for those skills.

*A few other possible sources to find job descriptions include (but are not limited to): WorkBC, Indeed, Eluta, and Glassdoor.


Before the Interview

Importance of Preparation

The most important thing you can do before an interview is to prepare. This includes practicing questions you might be asked and having answers to standard questions ready in advance. In order to begin doing that, you must first understand the job, and you must learn more about the employer. You will need to conduct some research on this.

Start with the most obvious piece of information available to you; the job description! Tip: keep copies of all job descriptions you apply to; this will make your preparation much easier. Review the job description from top to bottom and look for keywords about the skills and qualities emphasized most, and highlight those items you are the best at. Review information the employer has included about their organization and the job duties — there are often valuable clues here that will tell you about the employer’s work culture.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the job description, it is time to look beyond that. Begin looking at the company website, and also at reviews about the company in the news or other media, on their own social media sites, and on sites like Glassdoor. Find out the names of your interviewers, look them up on LinkedIn and get an idea of their career progression. When researching, however, try to avoid just memorizing facts about the company. Look for reasons why you are a good fit for their team, the role, and the whole organization.

Choose your interview outfit. A good rule for choosing an interview outfit is to dress a little better than you would every day in that job. Here are some examples of interview outfits for specific types of jobs:

  • For a field-work job: hiking boots, khaki pants, and a button-up or polo shirt.
  • For an office job: a suit and tie or dress shirt.
  • For high-technology work: dark-coloured pants and a collared shirt or blouse.

Choosing an interview outfit can cause a lot of anxiety so you will need to use common sense and your own best judgement. Here are some basic rules that will work for every interview, no matter the industry:

  • Keep clothing neutral in colour, pattern, and style so as not to distract the interviewer(s)
  • Avoid large pieces of jewelry
  • Make sure your clothes are all clean, in good shape and not wrinkled
  • Groom your hair well, and if it is long hair, tie it back from your face
  • Attend to your personal hygiene (brush your teeth, trim and scrub your fingernails, use deodorant)
  • Avoid strongly scented body lotions, colognes and perfumes, as many workplaces have scent-free policies to protect those with allergies and sensitivities

If you still have specific concerns about your appearance, it is best to get advice from a Career Counselor or Co-op Coordinator. When in doubt, go for something conservative, but above all, do not worry too much about your interview outfit.

What to Bring

Find yourself a folder or notebook in which you can place 2-3 copies of your resume and cover letter, your reference list, a list of questions you wish to ask at the end of the interview, and any other documents you may need for the interview. This might include samples of your work, the interviewer’s address and contact information in case of emergency, or anything the interviewer may have asked you to bring. Remember to bring a pen and blank paper to make notes during or after the interview.

Arriving on Time

Canadian employers and most professionals have specific expectations about time and punctuality. A good way to remember North American Time Standards is: Early = On time; On time = Late, and Late = Unacceptable (see Figure 8.1).

Figure 8.1

North American Time Standards

Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.

It is best to arrive approximately 10 to 15 minutes before your interview and politely advise the receptionist that you have arrived. Never arrive exactly on time, as this may cause employers to perceive you as being unprepared, or that you might be someone who always waits until the last moment on tasks. This is not a good first impression. Canadians often remark that “time is money” or “the early bird gets the worm” because time is considered to be valuable. If you waste someone’s time by making them wait for you, they can become very upset.

Arriving too early may also make the employer feel uncomfortable. If you arrive more than 20 minutes early, it is better to find somewhere else to wait; at a nearby coffee shop, a sunny park bench, or even in your car if you drove. You can use this extra time to take deep breaths, relax, and practise your interview questions.

If you are running late because of something completely outside of your control (such as a car accident, or medical emergency), phone your interviewer and alert them that you are on your way but running late. Be sure to apologize when you do this and be prepared that they may choose not to continue with the interview.

Make Travel Plans

To make sure you are able to get to your interview on time (remembering that on time = early), plan your travel carefully. Look up the address on the internet and decide how you will get there. Will you take the bus? Check the bus schedules and plan to catch one that arrives well before your interview. Driving? Make sure you know where to park and bring money for parking. If you have never been to the location before, consider going there the day before to make sure you know exactly where it is, which entrance to use (especially for large buildings), and how long it will take you to arrive.

Greeting the Interviewer(s)

Politely greet the receptionist or other staff that you meet upon arrival. When your interviewer comes to greet you, make good eye contact, smile, and shake their hand firmly. They will likely make small talk with you after they introduce themselves and ask you a question such as “how was your weekend?” or “did you have any trouble finding our office?” You should make small talk in return and keep it light and positive. Complaining that you spent the whole weekend studying for an exam, or about how you had to drive around the block three times to find a parking spot will set a poor first impression. Of course, you should also ask them a polite question or two in response and start building that initial relationship with them.

It is normal to feel nervous about being interviewed. Preparation, practice, and research will help tremendously. To clear your nerves, breathe deeply, keep your posture straight before and during the interview, and remember that a certain amount of nervousness is normal and completely acceptable. Trust that your interviewers already believe you have good potential. This means that they already like you. Now it is your job to provide them with more proof that you have the fit, skills, and passion for their job. For a little more inspiration in overcoming interview nervousness, look at the YouTube video, Scared of a Job Interview? Watch This! (Goddard, 2016).

During the Interview

The interviewer(s) will ask you questions to determine if you have the fit, skills, and passion for their job. The best way to prepare for this is to understand the basic types of questions, and know the strategies for each. Then, no matter what question you are asked, you will be able to pause and think “What type of question are they asking me? What are they trying to learn about me? What is my best strategy for answering this question?” You will want to have a variety of stories in mind as well; starting with the skills and accomplishments you referred to in your resume and cover letter.

Interview questions come in several types or categories of question, and we break interview questions into six distinct question types:

  1. Introductory questions
  2. Behavioural-based interviewing (BBI)
  3. Strength and weakness questions
  4. Knowledge-based questions
  5. Scenario or situational questions
  6. Unusual questions

You can find a list of sample questions for each of the six categories listed in Appendix D: Six Types of Interview Questions – Samples.

Introductory Questions

At the beginning of every interview, you will likely be asked at least one introductory question to help the interviewer get to know you better. Introductory questions come in many different forms, but usually break down into a few key categories:

  • What can you tell us about yourself?
  • What do you know about our company or position?
  • What are your goals or interests?
  • Why do you want to work for us?

Essentially, all these questions are attempting to achieve the same goal: to determine if you are a good fit for the position or company. What the employer is really asking is “Why should we hire you?” Further strategies for answering introductory questions are included in Appendix E: Answering Introductory Questions.

Behavioural-Based Interviewing

Behavioural-based interview (BBI) questions are the most frequently asked interview questions. The name sounds complex but works on the heavily researched idea that past behaviour is the best predictor of future performance (Janz, 1982). BBI questions ask you to describe a specific example, or story, of a time you performed a task or demonstrated a skill.

Behavioural Based Interview (BBI) Question Examples

  • Tell us about a time you used creative problem solving in school or on the job.
  • Describe a situation where you had to resolve a conflict with a difficult customer or client.
  • Provide an example of a time that your attention to detail prevented a problem from occurring.

(See Appendix F: BBI Question Samples for more!)

Before the interview, review the job description and write a list of the transferable and technical skills you think are the most important. Then prepare examples ahead of time that are relevant to the job.

It is crucial that you have a collection of examples already in your mind that you can choose from.  This is sometimes called an example bank. This may still sound intimidating, but there is a very widely used technique called the STAR method (Figure 8.2), that you can use to help you prepare your example bank. Think of each example as a story, and STAR is a way to tell that story clearly and concisely.

Figure 8.2

STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Actions, Results

STAR stands for: Situation When and where?), Task What was it that happened?), Actions How did you o it? What steps did you take?) and Results How did it turn out?)

The actions are the most important part of the STAR example, because this is where you will go into very specific detail about the actions you took that showed your skills, knowledge, or ability. Here is an example of STAR to help you get started:

STAR Answer Example

At TRU last semester, during my geography course project (SITUATION), I worked in a team of three to write a short paper on climate change in Northern Canada. My job was to find data on temperatures, precipitation, and bird migration patterns (TASK).  To find this, I contacted Environment Canada to gain access to their archives, spoke with two faculty members for other places to find data, and I was able to compile all the data into several charts and tables (ACTIONS).  My information allowed the rest of the team to work together to draw several conclusions, and we did well on the report. This experience taught me that there are many ways to conduct research, and shows that I am able to find the information I need to complete tasks with minimal guidance when working in your office (RESULTS).

Once you have five to ten examples in STAR format in your example bank, you can begin practising behavioural-based questions. Before answering each question you practise, think about which example from your example bank would fit it best, then tell that story. If you find you do not have anything in your example bank, it is probably time to add another example or find a way to gain more experience through your school, hobbies, extracurricular activities, at a part-time job, or by volunteering.  Please see Appendix F: BBI Question Samples for a list of commonly asked behavioural-based questions.

Strength and Weakness Questions

Almost every interviewer will ask you about your strengths and weaknesses at some point during your interview. You can easily be ready for strengths questions by preparing two to three stories, using the STAR format, that describe the strengths you have that best match the job description. Appendix G: Strength Questions – Strategies talks about strategies for answering strength questions.

Weakness questions require a different strategy than strength questions. Many people believe weakness questions are used to uncover bad things about the candidate so that the employer can decide not to hire them. STOP!

Figure 8.3

Stop!

Do not create fake weaknesses or lie. Employers ask about your weaknesses to see if you are honest and self-aware and to find out if you have a plan to improve yourself in the future. You can find a list of do’s and don’ts and an example of bad and good answers for weakness questions in Appendix H: Weakness Questions.

Sometimes employers will ask you a strength or weakness question in a way that is not obvious. Here are some examples:

  • What would your last supervisor say are your best and worst abilities?
  • Could you tell us about a recent project you are proud of?
  • Can you tell us about a recent mistake you’ve made?
  • Of the skills listed in the job description, which skills do you think you will bring to the job, and which do you need to work on further?
  • What tasks might take you a bit more time to achieve in our role, and which ones do you think you can do well with very little effort?

Knowledge-Based Questions

A knowledge-based question tests your knowledge of a specific subject or concept. You can, and should, try to use concepts you have learned in your school studies if applicable, but unlike school, you should not think of knowledge-based questions as a test with an absolute right or wrong answer.

Instead, think of them as a sliding scale, with an answer of zero on one end of the scale and 100 on the other end.

Knowledge-Based Interviewing Technique (Ladd, 2021)

Your job in answering a knowledge-based question is to show the employer what level of knowledge you have. If you know 50% of the answer, describe every bit that you know. Be honest about your knowledge level, but do not stop your answer there. If it makes sense, you can explain what you think might be the next logical step or concept, or how you would learn. For example, you might say, “I have only learned to this point so far, but based on that, I would guess the next thing we will learn will be…” Even if you get the answer partially wrong at this point, you will show the employer that you are smart and can think.

If you make a mistake but your overall answer shows that you are smart, can think critically, and have the desire to learn more, the employer will be able to see that and will know exactly what training you might require to get you past your error. Simply do your best, and if you do not get the job because another candidate had more knowledge, this will be valuable practice for future interviews. Most companies will be happy to have you reapply the next time they have an opening, and they will be excited to see you are improving.

Scenario or Situational Questions

Scenario or situational questions test your judgement and decision-making ability. You are presented with a specific, hypothetical scenario or situation, and asked how you would react. There is no single correct answer to a scenario question, so your strategy should be to demonstrate how you think through the problem presented. Be detailed and specific in your answer, and do not be afraid to ask them to repeat the question if there were multiple components to the scenario. An employer asking this type of question will typically choose a scenario you might actually encounter in this job, to get a good idea of how you might react.

Scenario Question Examples

  • Your manager has asked you to complete an important task, and another senior-level coworker has also asked you to work on something important. Both have similar time frames and deadlines and you do not believe you can handle both. How do you deal with this scenario?
  • You are out in the field collecting animal population data, and your GPS equipment does not appear to be working correctly. What are some of the problems this may cause? What will you do?
  • A client has contacted you to complain about an error they claim that one of your colleagues made. What do you say to this person? What steps do you take next?

Unusual Questions

You may have heard of, or even been asked, an odd or unusual question during an interview, such as, “why are manhole covers round?” or “if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” Unusual questions are not favoured by all employers, but those who use them believe they can help understand how candidates think.

When asked an unusual question, pause briefly and think to yourself, “what are they trying to learn about me from this question?” Even if the question does not sound like it is about you, it is always about you. For example, in the case of the question “why are manhole covers round?” the interviewer does not really need to know why. What they do need to know is how you think, and how you express your thoughts. A good strategy here is to answer the question, but also provide the rationale as to why you came up with your answer.

For the question “if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” the employer is most likely looking to learn more about your personality, to help them see how you might fit into their team. With something like this, it is not important what tree you name, but how you describe yourself in terms of being that tree. Poor answers might include “I don’t know the names of any types of trees,” or “I’d be an apple tree.” These are poor because the employer cannot learn anything about you.  A better answer might be, “I would be an apple tree because they are very strong and useful. Apples can be used in hundreds of kinds of recipes to feed people, and I like that because I am very helpful and creative and have lots of different ideas.”

Questions to Ask the Interviewer

At the end of almost every interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions for them. This piece of the interview is one of the most important parts, and yet many people fail to ask questions or come up with only a few basic questions about the start date, work hours, or even salary. The reason you should ask questions at the end of the interview is to show further interest, and so that you can learn enough about the position and company to help you decide if this is the right job for you. You can find tips on how to ask questions, as well as sample questions in Appendix I: Questions to Ask the Employer.

Never ask questions about the salary during the interview. This is either posted on the job, so you will know what it is already, or it will become clear during the job offer stage. If you are interviewing for a full-time job, you will be in a better position to negotiate salary at the offer stage when the employer already knows they want to hire you. Asking at the job interview might make the employer think that salary is your only concern and they may choose not to make you an offer. For Co-op positions, which are generally paid well, the salary should not be your main priority; your learning experience should be your primary goal. If you have financial concerns, you should speak with your Co-op Coordinator who can help you navigate this to make sure you are not accepting a position that causes you financial distress.

    Exercise 8.2 Recognizing Interview Questions

One of the best ways to succeed at interviewing is to be able to recognize what type of question you are being asked so that you can use the correct strategy to answer it. The best way to do this is to practise!

  • Write out a list of interview questions you have heard of, or have been asked before. Make a note of which type of question each one fits best and reflect on the strategy that might be used to answer it.
  • Look back at the list of interview questions you wrote for Exercise 8.1 Understanding the Employer’s Perspective. Which types of questions did you choose? Would you change your questions now that you have learned more? What other questions would you add to that list?
  • For even more practice, look up common interview questions on the internet and try to determine what type of question each one falls into.

Exercise 8.3 Example Bank

Behavioural-based interviews are very common, and STAR examples are crucial. It is not easy to think of examples on the spot during an interview. To help you feel confident and prepared, you should create an Example Bank.

  • Prepare five to ten STAR examples that relate to the skills you identified from the job description you chose in Exercise 8.1 Understanding the Employer’s Perspective.
  • Create an example bank with these five to ten examples, and plan to add expand your bank over time by adding more STAR examples whenever you achieve something you think will be useful to share with employers.
  • Your example bank can be created using MS Word, an Excel spreadsheet, a handwritten journal, or you can get fancy and create colour-coded index cards. Your example bank should be in whatever format works best for you.

After the Interview

Post-Interview Reflection

Before you do anything else, take some time immediately after each job interview to write down the questions you were asked, and a brief summary of how you answered each question. Reflect on each question and evaluate your performance. Did you recognize the type of question being asked and choose an appropriate strategy? Do you feel confident you answered with relevant detail? Were your answers too short, too long, or were they just right? Make note of what you felt went very well so that you remember to repeat that in future interviews and reflect on what you could have done better so you can continue to improve.

Seek assistance from a Career Counselor or Co-op Coordinator to debrief the interview experience each time. Above all, be gentle with yourself and celebrate what went well. You are your own worst critic, and it is not healthy to only focus on what you feel might have been the negative aspects of the interview. See Appendix J: Post Interview Reflection Form for a sample post-interview reflection form you can print and use to help you track your progress.

Thank-you Notes

Within a day of the interview, you should contact the interviewer(s) with a thank you email. Keep your message short and to the point but also remind them that you are genuinely interested in the role. A personalized thank-you note shows the employer that you are respectful, eager, and professional.  Three samples of thank-you notes are included in Appendix K: Thank You Email Samples.

Contact Your References

Your reference list should already be prepared and ready when you begin a job search, but it is also important that you contact your references before the interview to ensure they are available and again after an interview to let them know that they might be called within the next few days. When you do this, you can also let them know more about the interview, and send them a copy of the job description. If the interview emphasized teamwork, computer programming, and customer service, you could let your references know that, so they can be sure to mention those skills if they are contacted. If you feel that the interview went very well except for one question you wish you had answered better, you could ask your references to help you by specifically mentioning something that they saw you do well that would improve upon your answer. Finally, be sure to thank your references, and update them on the status of your job search from time to time, especially when you are successful and get a job offer. They will be pleased to hear this and know that they helped you. Your references are not just ‘tools’ to be used to your benefit – they are real people with whom you have developed a working or personal relationship. They should be treated with respect and gratitude, and you should reach out to them from time to time to say hello without any expectations.

Follow up with the Employer

The interview is complete, you have sent a thank-you note, and now you must wait. It is not acceptable to contact the employer repeatedly for a decision. If you have not heard from, them and have followed up by phone or email one or two times, you might send one final message stating that you are still interested and hope to hear from them. If you do not hear back after that, then it is probably safe to assume they are not interested in hiring you.

If you do hear back and are told that you are not being offered the role, you should politely and tactfully accept their decision and thank them for their time. You are certainly welcome to ask them if they would be willing to provide you with some feedback either right then, or at a time that would be convenient for them. You might say something like “I am sorry to hear that, but hope you found the perfect candidate. I am still committed to one day working for your company and would love to know if there is anything I can do to improve for the future. Would you have time to share some feedback with me?”

Never Give Up

Above all, if you are not offered a position, do not give up. Some students are lucky and receive a job offer after their first interview, but the majority of job seekers attend multiple interviews before a job offer comes. It is difficult to learn that you were not the successful candidate, but try not to take it personally. Look back at what you could have done differently and look for ways to build whatever skills you might still be lacking. Keep applying to more jobs; your turn will come so long as you keep trying and never stop improving your own skill set. Meet with your Co-op Coordinator or a Career Counselor after interviewing to debrief and continue improving.

References

Doyle, A. (2019, January 28). Weird Interview Questions and How to Answer Them. The Balance Careers. [Web Log] https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-weird-interview-questions-2059482

Dayvon Goddard. (2016, August 13). Scared of job interviews? Watch this! (Video). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSDBY1Eeqyw

Eluta (n.d.). http://www.eluta.ca

Glassdoor (n.d.). https://www.glassdoor.ca/index.htm

Indeed (n.d.). http://www.indeed.ca

Janz, T. (1982). Initial comparisons of patterned behavior description interviews versus structured interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67(5), 577–580. . https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.67.5.577

TRU Career & Experiential Learning. (n.d.). TRU career connections [Symplicity.com app]. Thompson Rivers University. https://tru-csm.symplicity.com/students/index.php?signin_tab=0)

WorkBC (n.d.). http://www.workbc.ca

Media Attributions

  • Figure 8.1 North American Time Standards, by author.
  • Figure 8.2 STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Actions, Results, by author.
  • Figure 8.3 Watercolour Stop Sign by Prawny on Pixabay

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