Understanding the Segments of an Interview

By Joe Stein

Once you have crossed the hurdle of generating positive attention with your Cover Letter and Resume, most positions are won or lost during the in-person interview process.  The modern era of interviewing has witnessed a shift from the intimidating personality-based interview, to the different, but equally intimidating behavioral-based interview. 

If you have not interviewed recently, you are probably not as familiar with behavior-based interviewing as more current job seekers.  If you are entering the job market for the 1st time, or are a victim of this tough economy after a lengthy stay with your previous employer, you should familiarize yourself with this type of interviewing.  Most every HR Professional will conduct some type of behavioral-based interview, while most non-HR individuals have also made the format switch.  You can take the intimidation factor away from behavioral-based interviewing by preparing for such an interview, and providing yourself with a competitive advantage.

Let’s ease some of the stress related to interviewing, by examining the steps found in most interviews:

• Introductory Stage – This “introductory stage” is where a variety of activities may occur, such as completing a formal application, any non-background/drug pre-employment testing, and/or a tour of the office/facility.  Make sure you are engaged during this section, as it may appear very informal but you are actually being evaluated.  This is especially true for the tour, as you will be observed regarding how you react to the environment and interact with others.

• The “Opening” - A behavioral-based interview will begin in a similar manner as the traditional interview.  This 1st segment I will label as the “Opening”.  Similar to a stage play, this section will serve as an introduction to the behavioral questions.  It is a time for both you and the organization to present yourself in a positive light with introductions and small talk.  There is nothing wrong with coming prepared with some small talk, whether it is the weather, or the previous nights’ Sabres game.  Tailor your small talk to the interviewer.  Read their body language for interest level on the subject.  The interviewer should use this time to establish the framework of the interview.  This should include an explanation of the behavior-based interview, and an estimation of the time that will be spent together on that day.  If this is a multi-person agenda type of interview where several people will meet you, this segment should also be used to provide some information regarding each person you will be meeting.  If you still have any questions regarding the process or the people involved, clarify before moving along to stage 2 of the process.

• The Interviewer Q&A (Questions & Answers) - During a behavioral-based interview, the Interviewer should be taking notes of your answers, so you should not be alarmed by this occurrence.  This will allow the Interviewer to remember your answers in comparison to your competition for the position.  Read the Interviewer's body language as they write (or don’t write) points, to determine whether a particular answer was successful.  This will help you determine the strategy for this portion of the interview.  The role of the interview is to mutually determine whether there is a good fit for both the position and the culture of the organization.  Behavioral-based interviewing flourishes in the belief that the best indicator of your future behavior is your past responses to situations presented to you.  Questions asked will be structured for you to describe a situation, or to discuss a time when, etc. in order to have you describe how you responded to challenges or opportunities.  Anticipate the potential questions to be asked, so that you can come prepared with examples that will really sell your candidacy.

• The Job Seeker Q&A – You will also be provided an opportunity to ask questions of the Interviewer.  Be prepared to ask a few questions related to either the company or the position you are pursuing.

• The “Closing” -   In this section you will be allowed to address any skills, experiences, etc. that were not asked in the “Q&A” portion of the interview.  Be prepared to provide references (if requested) during this portion. This request at this stage in the process would most likely be for more entry-level positions.  You should also receive information on the staffing process and next steps, during this segment.  Like the “opening”, if you have any process questions that the interviewer has not answered, ask before you complete the interview.  Close the conversation by thanking the interviewer for his/her time, and offer your availability to the Interviewer in the future if he/she has any additional questions.

The interview process does not have to be the burdensome beast that most of us consider it to be.  A savvy job seeker will understand the behavioral-based interview and prepare for this process.  Knowledge of the process and your preparation will prove to be essential for your success in this type of interview.