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Interview handshakeLanding an interview is challenging enough, but that doesn’t mean that the hardest part is over. Your interview is often the only in-person impression you’ll get to make before you’re hired. Employers consider not only your experience, but also how you present yourself and how you will fit into the company’s culture. Meeting with your prospective employer for the first time can be intimidating. But if you go in prepared with the right talking points, and if you know what to expect, it doesn’t have to be. 

Employers are seeking people who are focused and mature, who understand the requirements of the job, and who can communicate how their skills can be used to meet those requirements.

Preparing in advance involves gathering the information you need to convince the employer that you have the skills, knowledge, and experience to perform the job, are motivated, enthusiastic about the company, and would fit well within the company culture.

Here are some resources to get you started.


Types of Interviews

Screening Interview
Also called an informational interview and is usually conducted over the phone by a gatekeeper such as a human resources person or recruiter. They are trying to judge whether you are a viable candidate for the position.

Behavioral or Situational Interview
Used to determine how you might perform by looking at past experiences and behavior. The best approach is to be concise and give answers using real-world examples.

Hiring Manager Interview
This is usually a second or third interview and addresses how well you match the job requirements and company culture. Questions could target past achievements, skills, strengths, and aspirations. You will be measured against other candidates and the focus may be on your areas of weakness.

Initial Face-to-Face Interview
This interview focuses on goals, achievements, skills, weaknesses, strengths, and how well you fit within the team. Good communication and interpersonal skills is critical.

Panel Interview
This type of interview can be especially difficult because you have a variety of personalities and types of questions being thrown at you. Calmness and giving specific answers is important.

Pressure Interview
This is used to assess your reactions under pressure using rapid-fire difficult questioning. The interviewer is trying to identify how well you think on your feet and how well you could survive in a critical situation.

Final Interview
This is the last reality-check. Questions are repeated and areas of concern are re-visited. It may involve questions regarding salary and benefits. Display your interest in the job and company, and ask relevant questions.


Top 5 Best Practices for Interviewing

It is no surprise that employers seek people who are focused and mature, understand the requirements of the job for which they are interviewing, and can communicate how their skills can be used to meet those requirements.  They want to hire people who are cooperative, organized, and are hard-working.

Listed below are some suggestions to help you build your interviewing skills and things to help you think a little more like the interviewer. Consider these five things to align your interview skills with an employer’s mindset:

  1. Purpose, Prepare, Practice
    • Purpose: Why do you want this job?
    • Prepare: Read the company’s website and know the job description. Try role-playing with a friend before your interview
    • Practice: Keep a journal of questions you might be asked and have answers formulated and get comfortable talking about what you have to offer
  2. Be Positive and Optimistic
    • Enthusiasm and confidence is infectious – be cheerful, energetic and have a good attitude
    • Highlight your accomplishments and don’t be afraid to sell yourself
  3. Listen, Think, Speak
    • Listen and understand what the interviewer has to say, and think before responding
    • It is ok to ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase the question
    • Be concise and give answers that are clear and direct
  4. Prepare Your Own Questions
    • Never say you have no questions
    • Well-thought-out questions show you’re really interested in the company and the job
  5. Say Thank You
    • Always thank everyone you interviewed with
      • Time is of the essence; send a thank you within 24 hours
      • Highlight your key selling points
      • Keep it short and concise and proofread before sending


Behavioral Interviews

In today’s job market, employers ask questions that are geared towards gaining insight on how you behave. They believe past performance is the best indicator of future performance. These are called behavioral interviews or situation interviews.  During the interview, you could be asked to provide specific examples that highlight skills necessary for the job.

When answering, leave out any negative information.  In order to shine and stay on track, we recommend that you use the “STAR” method when answering: ST for situation/taskA for action, and R for result.  Have three to five positive work related stories you can talk about.  Be short and concise, without rambling.  Know what you want to say and where your message is going.


Question: Have you ever lead a team before?

Situation/TaskYes; a relevant example being at my last company, where I was initially a software developer, on a team of six.  We developed a new finance module for our core accounting product.  The project was critical as launch dates had been set with a lot of sales and marketing investment riding on the product being ready.  However the project was behind schedule, when our team leader unfortunately became ill, and had to leave.”

Action: “I was the captain of my college’s baseball team and I loved the challenge and responsibility of leadership, so I volunteered to fill in.  By using my technical analysis skills, I spotted a few small mistakes that were causing sporadic errors and slowing us down.  Therefore, I negotiated with our product director, and got a small bonus incentive for the team – approval for two pizza evenings.  With that, we could pull a couple of late night shifts to correct the coding and catch up with the critical project landmarks.”

ResultThough this took us 1.5% over budget, the software was delivered on time with a better than target fault tolerance. The project was seen as a great success as the additional project cost was minimal compared to the costs of delaying the launch, and the negative affect on our product branding. The team members were delighted with the extra bonus and as a result, I was officially promoted to team leader.”



Mock Interviews

Mock interviews are a great way to try out the process and get an idea of how ready you are to answer questions about yourself and your experience.

With our online mock interviews, you can build your own interview with a variety of questions based on the type of interview you’ll be having, or you can choose and customize your questions for your own needs.

Our online mock interview tool even allows you to record and play back your responses with your computer’s webcam.

Practice a Mock Interview 

To create a new Interview, log into Optimal Resume and select Practice a Mock Interview, and follow these steps:

  • Watch the 20-minute video tutorial to learn how to create online mock interviews.
  • Select Create New Interview, name it and click Start Interview.
  • Select the Interview Type, Length/Format, and Interviewer. When you are doneclick Continue Interview.

(First-time users visit Online Career Tools to get login information.)


Elevator Pitch

Imagine you’re in an elevator with your potential employer, and you only have the duration of the ride to make an impression. You’d have to explain yourself in a clear, memorable way in 60 seconds or less. That’s the essence of the elevator pitch: It’s a one-minute-or-less explanation of who you are, and it’s essential that you have one.

Situations can arise in which you have a very small window of time to get someone’s attention. An employer may put you on the spot, or you may be introduced to someone in your industry at a networking function. Don’t miss out on these opportunities! When you have a well-practiced marketing message about yourself as an employee, you’ll be able to quickly and confidently sell your abilities in a professional manner.

By being concise, not only does it show that you value the listener’s time, but it also shows you’re keenly aware of your own skills, goals and accomplishments.

You can download these tools to help you create the foundation: