Job Interview Guide
Looking to ace your next job interview? This guide will help you prepare for various types of job interviews, review common interview questions, and learn essential interview techniques.
Job Interview Guide

Understanding Different Types of Job Interviews

There are many types of interview formats used by recruiters today.  Depending on the position, the purpose, the setting and industry, a recruiter will select an interview type that will yield the best information relative to the position in consideration.  Some formats include Behavioral, Case, Panel, Phone and Video interview categories.  Regardless of the format, for each interview, the candidate should research the organization, review the job description and compare requirements against skills, and prepare answers for various questions - in advance. 

Behavioral Interview

A Behavioral Interview is a conversation where the recruiter is evaluating the candidate based on past experiences.  Most behavioral interviews begin with questions like:  “Describe a time…” or “Tell me about a time when”.  You will want to paint a picture of how you will handle a situation so that the recruiter will clearly understand the full scope of your capabilities through your story.  The recruiter will consider past events to predict your future viability for the position.  The best response to a Behavioral Interview is by using the STAR response.   SITUATION; TASK; ACTION; RESULTS

There are basic questions common to most Behavioral Interviews.

  1. What is your most successful project? By answering this question you will not only provide information about a prior success experience, but will also reveal your competence in certain areas, such as: leadership skills;  a time you worked well on a team; or had to manage multiple tasks simultaneously.
  2. What was your least successful project? This question is not meant to find out about your weaknesses or failures, but to understand how you learned and processed from a difficult situation.  How did you handle the situation? Did you pivot during setbacks? How do you regroup after failure?  Your answers will let the recruiter know how you might respond to challenging circumstances in the new job.
  3. Who were the most difficult stakeholders - customers, clients, bosses or coworkers? Your answer will provide insight into your ability to deal with people who are not cooperating; how you handle disagreeing with someone who might be at a superior level.
  4. What is your passion project - past or future? What is your ideal project - or ideal place of work?  When answering this question, you should talk about successful past projects, why you are proud of the work you do, and what you find rewarding about your job, in general. A story about a time when you were really excited to do your work will demonstrate that you are a dedicated, hard-working future employee.

The best strategy to answer any a/o all of these questions is to use the same story, repeatedly and applying the STAR response.  Review the details of a few prior successful work experiences, in advance, and be ready to refer to these stories when asked behavioral questions in an interview. 

Case Study Interview

Case Study interviews are becoming increasingly common.  In general, this type of interview presents the candidate with a situation, puzzle or strange situation to assess your analytical and logical skills, as well as your creative problem solving skills - usually within a time limit.

Case Study interviews are often used when recruiting consultants, or for positions that require strategic thinking and strong analytical skills, such as marketing or operations roles.  A case study interview will present the candidate with a specific case in real-time, typically a situation that the company has faced, and the candidate will be required to analyze the problem and provide a suggested solution.

Companies not only want to assess your strategic thinking and analytical skills, but they also want to determine whether you may offer a creative approach.  The interviewer will use the responses to these cases, and project how the candidate might respond.  The case study interview is meant to assess one’s ability to perform at a particular job.  The recruiter will evaluate your approach to business problems and how you will use your skills to solve their unique problems. 

In order to prepare for a Case Study interview, practice questions specific to your industry and role.  It is easy to source Case Study questions online.  Practice them with a colleague or friend.  Always ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand the problem and parameters.  You should always be prepared to take notes in order to break down your analysis and respond in a cohesive way.  As the recruiter details the case, you should write down the relevant information. Highlight or underline the key issue in the specific case, such as loss of profitability.  While taking notes, you should also think about questions you may want to ask.  With the information at hand, you may already have formed some hypothetical ideas about the solution, which will inform additional questions.  As your questions are answered, you will be gathering more data to formulate a proper solution.  Finally, based on your analysis, you will present your recommendation and next steps.  Always include any risks attendant to your suggestion, as well.  A Case Study will also include math and calculations.

Another approach to successfully respond to a Case Study interview is called a “Trade-offs and Assumptions” framework

  1. Identify unknowns - consider additional questions you might ask in a real-time work situation
  2. Identify assumptions - you will never have all of the information and will have to make some assumptions in order to move forward. For example, you will assume certain metrics being used.  In your response, clearly explain your reasoning behind these assumptions.
  3. Identify the decision you are making in the “trade-offs” that come with making that decision in order to propose your own solution

In your Case Study interview, when you are ready to present, reiterate the problem and highlight the biggest takeaway of what you will be presenting.  The rest of your presentation will show how you got there.  Follow with a process overview, outline steps to be taken, and proceed with each step - ultimately supporting your conclusion.

Panel Interview

Panel Interviews are when a group of people interview one candidate - all at the same time.  The group may include the boss, prospective colleagues and HR professionals; all will have some invested interest in your work.  Your future performance will affect each of them in some capacity.  The best approach is to treat each individual as if they were equal, and respond to each panel member in the same manner.  They will all have a role, ultimately, in your success.

A Panel Interview is an efficient way for the company to conduct multiple interviews simultaneously, and the interviewers will collaborate after the meeting to decide on your future candidacy.  As the candidate, you have the opportunity to see how this specific group interacts, and gain insight into the culture of the organization.

Before the interview, it is important to research the individuals who will be participating.  Check the website and their LinkedIn profiles, as there may be some common threads you share.  Also, prepare questions in advance.  Practice your communication skills, and during the interview show your enthusiasm.  Make eye contact and respond by looking directly at the individual who is asking the questions.  Preparing in advance and responding personally to each question, will impress the panel of interviewers.

Phone or Video Interview

A phone interview is typically the first step in the interview process.  Having already read your resume, the recruiter will know if you possess the technical skills; they want to learn more about your style, personality and overall vibe.  It is very important to prepare for a phone interview in order to have a successful conversation and impress the recruiter.

A phone interview is used to prescreen candidates and evaluate whether they are a fit for the organization, and whether the job matches the candidate’s expectations, as well.  If you receive a call from a recruiter, present yourself as if you were expecting the call.  Answer the phone professionally - typically answering with your name, such as:  Hello, this is (name).  How you answer is the recruiter’s first impression and will set the tone for the rest of the conversation.  Some additional tips for a phone interview include:

  • In the event you might miss a call, make sure that you have recorded a professional voicemail.
  • Find a quiet location where you will not be interrupted or have background noise interfering with your conversation.
  • Be prepared to provide a concise overview of your background, without spending too much time or offering too much detail. For example, listing the companies where you have previously worked, the titles held and a few brief responsibilities in two or three quick sentences, is sufficient.  The recruiter will follow up with details in which they are interested - so be brief.
  • Make sure that you have thoroughly read the job description and researched the company in advance. Review the company’s social media, website and recent activity to learn more about their culture, values and goals.  Make note of any details you find relevant to the interview that you might use during the conversation - or that might prompt questions.
  • If you know who will be calling you, make an effort to research on LinkedIn, or in the company profile, details and the background history of the individual. Also, the title of the caller often dictates the level of questioning.  For example, a recruiter may ask more generic questions whereas a line supervisor may ask more in depth questions related to your industry and prior positions.
  • Phone interviews place more emphasis on your actual communication skills, which include actively listening, not interrupting and briefly responding to any question or comment. Listen carefully to the recruiter’s information, clarify any questions and ask them to repeat the question, if you are not quite sure you understood.  It is important that you not interrupt while the individual is speaking.
  • Be prepared with a few insightful questions that are genuinely of interest to you. This will demonstrate your sincere interest in the opportunity.
  • It is always a good idea to practice with friends, and even though there is no video attached, try to smile during the conversation.
  • Make sure that your phone is charged, and have your resume and notes ready. Again, although this is a phone conversation, dressing professionally will elevate your attitude and confidence.
  • Prepare notes and consider possible interview questions.
  • At the end of the conversation, thank the interviewer and restate your continued interest in the opportunity. You should also ask what the next steps might be, so that you clearly understand their process. 

Telephone interviews are very important.  If managed properly, you will distinguish yourself from other candidates who may not have prepared or presented themselves professionally.  Some important questions to ask during the phone interview include:

  • Please tell me about the overall structure of the department, and the reporting chain.
  • Is this a newly created role or a legacy role?
  • What are the top skills the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate?
  • How long has this position been open?

During the prescreening phone conversation, try to include language from the job description so that you are matching the recruiter’s check list. At the end of the phone interview, ask the recruiter:

  • What are some important details that I should bring up when meeting the hiring manager?

In a Video Interview, you should always prepare for the interview and communicate as if you were there in person. 

  • While it may be tempting to have notes in front of you while speaking with the recruiter, they can usually tell when a candidate is reading from notes. Often, that will impact the impression you make, as the interviewer can watch your eye movement. 
  • Make sure that your computer is at eye level, and put your phone on silent to avoid interruptions. Using natural light, or a ring light, will make a better presentation.
  • If on Zoom, check your appearance and preferences to preview how you will be seen by others. Use touch ups, if beneficial.
  • Avoid using a swivel chair. The swivel movement is distracting to recruiters, so choose a stationary chair.
  • Dress professionally and present an appearance as if you were in a one-on-one meeting. Appearances matter, so pay attention to hair, makeup (if appropriate) and posture in front of the screen.  For both men and women, Blazers, collared shirts or similar attire appropriate for the job will not only distinguish your presentation from others, but will give you added confidence.
  • Make sure that the background is free of clutter or distractions; choose a location that is business-appropriate and quiet.  (No dogs or people wandering around during the meeting.)
  • Use common sense when asked a complex question. The answer is less important than the logic you use to support your answer.  Be brief and concise - don’t ramble.
  • Smile and use eye contact. Making eye contact means looking at the camera at the top of your screen, and not at the image on the screen.
  • Present yourself in a genuine and personable manner
  • Make sure you know the correct pronunciation of both the company name and the recruiter’s name - and any other important individuals.