Tips | Effective Interviews

The secret to performing well in an interview is to be prepared. This tip sheet is designed to guide you through your preparation and to highlight some of the key resources you may want to consult for further advice. Interview preparation consists of three things:  

  1. Know yourself: Know what you have to offer. Your education, your interests, and your experiences have given you a wide range of skills. Be able to articulate the skills you have and how you developed them, using recent examples (within the last few years) of how you used them.  
  2. Know the position for which you are interviewing: Be able to relate your skills to the duties and responsibilities of that position. Think of examples of when you demonstrated required skills, experiences and values such as team playing or integrity. 
  3. Know the organization: Research! Research! Research! Try to go beyond the obvious easy-to-find information about the organization and its needs. Begin with the organization’s web site, and then research external sites for background information. Keep up to date with company/industry press releases via http://www.canadanewswire.ca. Learn about organizations by speaking to company representatives – attend panels, career fairs, make direct contact, and network. 

 

Here are some questions to consider in your research: 

  • What is the nature of the organization’s business? 

  • What have they done (get a sense of its history and accomplishments)? 

  • Where are they headed in the next year (objectives, strategy, shared vision and growth)? 

  • Who are their competitors? 

  • How would this organization define success? 

  • What are the organization’s values (e.g., mission statement)? 

  • Are there any organizational changes occurring? 

  • Are there industry, labour market trends, or technological changes that will impact the organization? 

 

1. Types of Interviews  

Interviews don’t come in one standard format. The most common types include behavioural interviews, panel interviews (more than one interviewer), one-on-one interviews, case interviews, telephone; video interviews (e.g. using Skype, MS Teams and Zoom, etc.) and recorded one-way video interview. To prepare, ask what format your interview will be in and who will be conducting it (write down interviewer’s names and positions).  During C0VID19, expect more virtual interviews. For helpful information on conducting virtual interviews check out  https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/careers/jobs/resources-links/video-and-skype-interviews 

 

Once you have done the research, prepare for the interview by: 

  1. Identify the key assets that you have that meet the employer’s needs, based on your research of the position and the organization.

  2. Anticipate the types of questions you may be asked and rehearse your responses. 

  3. Prepare questions you want to ask the interviewer. 

 

2. Typical Questions  

In most interviews, regardless of the format, there is a common underlying structure. Here are of some examples of the types of questions you may encounter at each interview stage. 

 

1.  The Icebreaker and Introduction 

A good interviewer wants you to be comfortable and relaxed.  To establish this sort of atmosphere, they will ask you a few rapport-building or “small talk” questions (e.g., questions about the weather, parking difficulties, current events in the news, or one of your hobbies).  Not all interviewers are skilled in small talk—don’t be put off by quiet, serious, non-communicative interviewers. 

 

2.  Questions about You 

You may be asked general questions about your skills and experiences: 

  • What are your major strengths/weaknesses? (Remember to select those that, based on your research of the position/organization, will be of most relevance to the employer. When stating your weakness, explain thoroughly how you are making an effort to improve that particular weakness.) 

  • What kind of environment do you work best in? 

  • What are your career goals? 

 

You may also encounter questions that ask you to specifically relate your skills to the various duties and responsibilities of the position. 

  • How long would it take you to edit 2000 words? 

  • How would you analyze current economic and market conditions in Japan? 

  • What methods would you employ to present the data from your microbial testing to senior management? 

Before you answer each question, take a moment to compose yourself and think about what skill the interviewer is looking for. When you answer the question, be sure to give a recent example of a specific situation (from work, academic, volunteer or extracurricular experiences) where you used or developed that skill. Provide clear and concise examples by using the S.T.A.R format. (See point 3—Behavioural Questions) If you lack direct experience, think of other situations where you have used related or transferrable skills. No one expects an undergraduate or recent graduate to know it all. Demonstrating relevant experience you can draw from and build on leaves a good impression. 

Remember: Interviewers are also looking for things such as confidence and poise, personality traits, presentation, the ability to think quickly, level of energy and drive, and resourcefulness. These are critical aspects to help them determine your suitability or ‘fit’ with the organization and the position. 

 

3.  Behavioural Questions 

This type of question is quite common.  It is based on a belief that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. Interviewers want to determine how you react in situations that could occur in the position for which you are interviewing. Using STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) can be an effective way of answering behavioural based questions. We discuss the STAR method in the Effective Interviews Workshop offered at the Career Centre). 

  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker. 

  • Describe a time when you faced a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills. 

  • Give a specific example of a time when you used good judgment in solving a problem. 

 

4.  Case Interviews  

Case interviews are broadly defined as an interview geared around solving problems on the spot. They are commonly used in fields such as consulting and investment banking. The problem can be presented in many formats, but in every case interview, the interviewer is trying to judge logical thought process, general business knowledge and acumen, general knowledge, comfort with qualitative analysis, creativity, and communication skills. Case interview questions generally fall into these three formats: 

 

  • Brain Teasers: e.g., there are eight balls, one of which is slightly heavier than the rest. You have a scale that you can use for weighing, but you are only allowed to use it twice. How do you find the heavier ball? 

  • Market Sizing: e.g., how many golf balls were lost in England this year? Or, how many Air Canada Aero plan Miles are outstanding? 

  • Project: e.g., you are consulting for one of the largest supermarket chains in the country. This chain is considering opening its own bank branches in its supermarket locations. What is your advice? 

 

This article from The Muse has some great tips. 

 

5.  Unstructured Interviews 

Sometimes interviewers prefer to use an informal approach with few and often unstructured and/or closed questions (e.g. Do you have experience with preparing spreadsheets?)  It can be more difficult to sell yourself with this type so a good strategy is to find opportunities to link your qualifications to your examples (S.T.A.R. stories). 

 

6. Closure and Questions Asked by YOU 

After the interviewers have asked all of their questions, they will give you a chance to ask your questions (prepare 3-5 questions in advance).  Ask thoughtful and intelligent questions that involve the interviewers in discussion and reflect how in-depth your company research has been. It is a final opportunity to articulate why you are the best person for the position. Potential questions include: 

  • What are this year’s goals for this position and department?  

  • How does your firm support further learning and skills development in this position? (e.g., via attending   professional development sessions, seminars, membership with industry associations etc.). 

 

3. Tips and Strategies 

  • Do a practice interview first, with someone you know acting as an interviewer.  This will give you a chance to rehearse possible answers.  Also, book an appointment at the Career Centre for a practice interview with an Employment Strategist or Career Counsellor.  

  • Be on time (preferably 10 minutes early) for the interview. If you have an emergency such as unexpected traffic delays, be prepared to call your interviewer to explain and apologize.                    

  • During the interview, you will be judged by how effectively you communicate, verbally and nonverbally.  Make frequent eye contact with each interviewer, smile, and dress in professional attire. 

  • Before you answer each question, take a moment to compose yourself and think about what skills the interviewer is really looking for. Ask for clarification if you are uncertain what the question really means. 

  • Employers are limited as to the type of questions they can ask.  For example, questions about marital status, country of origin, or religion are illegal in Canada.  For more information visit: http://www.ohrc.on.ca  

  • Make sure you send a thank you email within 24 hours.  This is also an opportunity for you to clarify or add to anything you said in the interview and to re-state your interest in the position. 

 

UTM Career Centre Resources 

Interview Books From Our E-Books Collection 

https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/careers/covid-19-employment-tips-and-resources 

 

Please note that this information is subject to change. It is best to refer to the original sources for the most up to date information. Updated August 2021.