The Virtual Job Interview
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One of the best ways to ensure success in any activity is to
have a plan and follow the plan as best you can. This is also
true for an interview. Let’s take a look at how to prepare for
and conduct yourself in an interview.
Before the Interview
The time you take to prepare yourself for an interview will
significantly help increase the likelihood of success. The
first part of preparing for the interview is to gather as many
facts about the company as you can prior to the interview. For
Key people and structure of the organization
The name of the individual(s) that will be interviewing you.
Major products or services
Size of the organization
Locations other than your area
View of the company by clients, suppliers, and competition
Latest news reports on the company or on local or national news
that affects the company.
The purpose of this information is to provide you with insight
for possible questions that may come up during the interview.
It further allows you to speak from a knowledgeable reference
thus communicating to the interviewer that you are genuinely
interested in the company.
Many interviewers expect you to ask questions. Here are some
examples of questions you may ask:
Please describe the type of work I’ll be expected to do.
What type of training will I need and how will it be done?
What opportunities exist for professional growth and
What do you expect of me in terms of developing my knowledge and
What are the company’s plans for future growth?
Please describe the work environment or the typical day.
Try to frame your questions so as to communicate that you are
interested in the company, it’s image, and how you can help them
You’ve spent a great deal of time and resources getting ready
for the interview. You’ve made sure your wardrobe is perfect.
You’ve prepared and submitted an effective resume that opened
the door of opportunity. You’ve learned all you can about the
company and the job you are applying for. Now the moment has
arrived. A key point to remember is to try to relax. Some
nervousness is normal, but don’t let it control you. Take a
deep breath and go for it! Here are some tips to help make the
interview an overwhelming success.
Arrive at least 10 – 15 minutes early -
If you think you will be late, call immediately. Being there a
few minutes early gives you a chance to relax and get your
thoughts together. Being there a few minutes early also gives
the impression that you are genuinely interested in the job and
have a good work ethic. While waiting, and if it is available,
read company materials. If there is a receptionist or office
worker there, speak pleasantly to this person.
Have your documents ready -
Have your pen and notebook ready. Have extra copies of your
résumé ready and your reference list in case it’s asked for.
During the interview -
Your job during the interview is to convince the interviewer
that you are the most qualified person for the position.
Introduce yourself in a courteous manner.
Have a firm handshake and make good eye contact.
It’s ok to accept a cup of coffee or soft drink if offered.
Do not sit down until offered a seat, and then wait for the
interviewer to sit first.
Maintain even eye contact while speaking, but don’t stare or
glare at the person.
At the appropriate time, ask what the next step is in the
Thank the interviewer for his or her time and consideration and
ask if there is any more information they need.
As you leave, thank the receptionist or office worker that you
originally spoke with coming in.
Write a thank-you note to anyone you have spoken to.
What Not To Do -
After all the work you’ve done to prepare, you don’t want to
jeopardize your chances by making mistakes that cause you to be
viewed in a negative way. Although there are no absolutes, here
are some actions you want to avoid.
Don’t address the interviewer by his/her first name
unless invited to do so.
Don’t let the interviewer’s casual approach fool
you—maintain a professional image.
Don’t dominate the interview.
Don’t criticize yourself, but don’t brag either.
Don’t discuss personal problems.
Don’t speak or act in a nervous manner.
Don’t be a “yes/no” person—elaborate on your answers.
Don’t interrupt when the interviewer is talking.
Don’t bring up negative information about past jobs,
co-workers, or former employers.
Don’t be discouraged—If you don’t succeed at first, keep
So far we’ve given you general information on preparing for and
during the interview. Let’s look at details about two common
types of interviews: the technical Interview and the behavioral
interview. Although there are other methods of interviewing,
these types are generally the most common. It is also possible
that an interviewer will use a combination of these types.
The Technical Interview
The purpose of the
technical interview is to determine if the applicant has the
type of background and training the company needs. This
interview is often used to quickly screen applicants when
several have applied for a job. The focus is on what knowledge
and skills the person possesses that meet the qualifications
specified for the job. The focus of your answers and questions
you ask should be directed towards job specific issues.
Tips for the Technical Interview
Highlight your accomplishments and qualifications.
questions directly and briefly unless asked to elaborate.
interview is conducted by phone, it is helpful to have your information sitting next to the phone
so that you will be able to transition into the interview
The Behavioral interview
Unlike the technical interview, the behavior interview focuses on
you the person. This type of interview is based on the idea
that the best predictor of future behavior is how one behaved in
the past. If you have little or no previous related experience
with the position, the interviewer will look for behaviors in
situations similar to those of the target position.
Here are some sample questions an interviewer might ask:
Describe a major problem you have faced and how you dealt with
an example of when you had to work with your hands to accomplish
a task or project.
class did you like the most? What did you like about it?
Tips for Preparing for a Behavioral Interview
recent situations that show favorable behaviors or actions,
especially involving related course work, work experience,
leadership, teamwork, initiative, and planning.
Prepare short descriptions of each situation and be ready to
give details if asked.
sure each story has a beginning, a middle, and an end
(situation, your action, and the result).
sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you.
honest. Don’t embellish on any part of the story.
specific. Don’t generalize about several events; give a
detailed accounting of one event.
ready for follow-up questions from the interviewer.
We’ve given several examples of questions asked during an
interview. It is likely that you will be asked some questions
about yourself that are difficult to answer. Let’s look at some
of these types of questions and some suggestions on how to
Sample Interview Questions
are your weaknesses? – Answer by minimizing your weakness and
emphasizing your strengths. Stay away from personal qualities
and concentrate on professional traits. Give examples of
actions you are taking to change from a weakness to a strength.
Example: “Sometimes I get impatient while solving
problems. I’ve learned to use a systematic approach to help me
stay on track and ensure optimal results.”
should we hire you? - Summarize your experience and how it will
directly benefit the company. Give reasons why you will be a
strong member of the team. Example: “I noticed that
your company is expanding into Web development. My education
and experience included some of the latest software for Web
you want to work here? - The interviewer is listening for an
answer that indicates you’ve given this some thought and are not
sending out resumes just because there is an opening. Convince
the person that you’ve researched the company and have the
knowledge and skills to help them meet their goals as well as
meet your own. Example: “Everything I’ve heard and read
about the company shows that you want to grow and expand. I’m
looking to be a part of this exciting opportunity. It matches
are your goals? - Sometimes it is best to talk about short-term
and intermediate goals. Be prepared with some specific personal
and professional goals. We will cover this in detail in Module
C, Goals and Goal Setting. Example: “My professional
goals are to continue developing my knowledge and experience in
this industry. My personal goals include continuing my
education so I can grow with the company.”
did you leave (are you leaving) your current job? - If you’re
unemployed, state your reason for leaving in a positive context
(I’ve survived recent downsizing but was included in the second,
more larger one). If you have a job, focus on what you want in
your next job in terms of growth opportunities and chances for
greater achievement. If you are a recent graduate looking for
an entry level position, focus on the opportunity to grow and
learn and apply what you’ve learned. Example: “My
current company was looking at cutting back in my area so I
wanted to continue developing in that field. This company
offers that opportunity.”
were you most satisfied in your job? - The interviewer is
looking to see what motivates you. Try to relate an example of
a job or project when you were excited about the work or its
outcome. Example: “I was most satisfied when I saw that
the project I was working on was successful and we were able to
positively impact on the company’s profit as a direct result.”
can you do for us that other candidates cannot? - A key point
here is to not be negative of other candidates; focus on your
strengths. Talk about what makes you unique. Focus on your
knowledge and skills and your desire to be a part of the
organization. Example: “I’ve not met the other
candidates so I can’t speak about them. But, as you can see
from my knowledge and experiences, I have what you are looking
for. I have current knowledge and skills and a proven record of
would someone say about you that is positive? - This is a way to
brag on yourself through another person’s words. Be honest
because they may call your former supervisor or reference.
Example: “I have had a good relationship with the people
I’ve worked with and my supervisors. I think they would say
that I have a positive attitude and work ethic and I focus on
the job at hand.”
salary are you seeking? - Often the interviewer will discuss
salary if they are truly interested in hiring you, so consider
this as a positive question. Be prepared by knowing the going
rate in your area for someone with your knowledge, skills, and
experience, and your bottom line or walk-away point. It is best
if the employer tells you the range of salary first. Try to
reverse the question back to the interviewer. Example:
“I am sure when the time comes, we can agree on a reasonable
amount. In what range do you typically pay someone with my
Most interviewers are trained and experienced with asking questions
during an interview. However, sometimes you might be asked
questions that are improper. Let’s review some improper
questions and what to do if asked.
Handling Improper Questions
Various federal, state, and local laws regulate questions an
employer can ask. These questions should be related to the job
you are seeking and your knowledge, skills, and experience to do
the job. If asked an improper question, you can decide to
answer it, however, you might be giving information that isn’t
related to the job and that might keep you from getting the
job. You can refuse to answer the question but you run the risk
of appearing uncooperative or confrontational, again, harming
your chances for getting the job.
You can examine the question for its intent and respond with an
answer as it might apply to the job. For example:
- Are you a US citizen? Possible answer – “I am
authorized to work in the United States.”
– Who is going to take care of your children if you have to work
extra hours? Possible answer – “I can meet the work
schedule that this job requires.”
Another technique you can use is to ask, “I’m not sure what you are
asking. Could you rephrase the question please?” This gives
you time to think and a chance to find out what the interviewer
is really asking.
Examples of Categories of Improper Questions
National origin/citizenship (This question might be acceptable
if it is a requirement for national security reasons.)
Marital or family status
or club affiliations
Personal questions such as height, weight (Might be acceptable
if essential for the safe performance of the job.)
record (conviction is allowable, but not simply being arrested)
Characterization of Military service or discharge (It is
permissible to ask what branch of the military you might have
served in, or if you have had training or education received in