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During the Interview

If you have an upcoming job interview, or frequently feel nervous before or during a job interview, a one to one appointment for 'Mock Interviews and Interview Tips' is available with a Career Consultant at the Career Centre.

Here is what you can expect with your face to face meeting with the interviewer(s).


An employer can make a judgment on you within the first 30-90 seconds of meeting you. To make sure you make a great first impression remember the following:

  • Arrive at the employer's office 10-15 minutes before your interview. time; a late arrival will more than likely ensure you do not get the job
  • Plan out your route beforehand and arrive in the area 30-45 minutes ahead of time.
  • Remember to take weather, and traffic / public transit conditions into consideration.
  • Be polite with every person that you encounter on your way and at the employer's office.  This is especially true of the receptionist as their opinion of you may be considered.
  • When you meet the employer, smile and be positive.
  • If the employer offers to shake your hand, provide a firm handshake, not soft or too hard.
  • Complimenting the employer on their office space can be a good way to break the ice (but be careful not to overdo it).
  • If you are offered a drink, take water only.
  • Wait for the employer to ask you to be seated and to take the lead on the next steps.
  • Though you may be nervous, remain positive.


Oral & Physical Communication

There are three ways a person communicates, and all three work together to create a positive impression and successful interview.


What Is Said

This refers to the actual words used by the interviewee. It is important you use clear language and avoid jargon and abbreviations that are not common to the field to which you are applying. Make sure that your answers are detailed, but not overcrowded with information. Avoid using fillers such  as ‘like’, ‘um’ or ‘you know’. Use professional language such as ‘multiple items’ instead of ‘a lot of things/stuff.”


How It Is Said

This is how the interviewee sounds. Speed, volume, pacing, tone, and vocal inflection all play a role. It is very important a candidate does not mumble or sound monotone. You want to be clear sounding and take your time speaking, making sure the employer can hear you.

It is also important to “mirror” the interviewer. If they are quiet and reserved, you may not want to be too loud or boisterous.


How You Act (Body Language)

This is what the interviewer sees. There have been several studies done on communication, and the results found that out of the 3 forms, a person’s body language is what gives others the greatest perception about them. This is then followed by how they sound, and last by what they say.

Two types of body language to avoid in an interview situation:

  1. Excessive Body Language:  This is when the candidate is doing some form of extreme external body language, such as tapping fingers, clicking a pen, rocking in their chair, or making excessive hand movements. If you are prone to these kinds of body language, you should slow down, calm down, and do a self check throughout the interview to ensure that you are not conducting distracting behaviour.

  2. Recessive Body Language: This is the opposite of the excessive. This candidate does very little in their external movements and facial expression. This can make you seem disinterested, lacking in confidence, and difficult to connect to as an employee.


Having a great smile and positive eye contact can often give a far more positive perception than just good words.

Interview Question Types

There are many types of questions an employer may ask. The key to success is to remain positive and detailed in your responses. Although answer times will vary depending on the question, most answers should take between 1–2 minutes.


Technical Questions

Technical questions are designed to evaluate your knowledge and skill set. Be as thorough as possible in your answer, using technical terminology that the employer would understand. If possible, quantify your answers as to add “weight” to the response. For example, “I designed a 35,000 square foot building using AutoCAD.”

If you are asked about something you do not know or understand well, avoid simply saying “I don’t know.” Instead, state something similar that you do know, and then bridge the two situations or skill sets.


Negative Questions

These are questions that seem like they are trying to evoke a negative response. Examples include:

  • “What is your greatest weakness?”

  • “Why are you leaving your current job?”

  • “What gives you stress?”

  • “What kind of customers don’t you like dealing with?”

  • “How did you feel about your last boss?”

When answering negative questions, be honest. Do not avoid the question, but remain positive and professional. Use diplomatic language when describing difficult situations or interactions. Your greatest weakness should never be related to a core skill needed for the job, and when speaking about a mistake, choose one which did not have a major negative impact. Always finish on a positive note by outlining what steps you are actively taking to improve an area of weakness, how a situation was corrected, or what lesson was learned.


Positive Questions

This is your chance to shine so take the opportunity to elaborate on and be specific about what you have to offer. Be positive and focus your answers on skills pertinent to the job. Examples include:

  • “What are your greatest strengths?”

  • “Why should we hire you?”

  • “What can you contribute to this company?”


Company, Product, and Service Questions

Questions about the company, products or services help to determine how well prepared you are and how interested you are in this particular company. These questions will be covered in detail in “Preparing for the Interview.”


Behavioral / Situational Questions

Behavioural questions are designed to gain a deeper understanding of the candidate’s personality, and are very popular in modern day interviewing, even in “technical” jobs and industries. 


Responding to Questions

Behaviour interview questions can be general, such as “Give us an example of teamwork.” or more specific, like “Tell us how you would handle an upset customer.” Regardless of general or specific, the same technique can be used: telling a story.

The key to success here is to be as specific and detailed as possible. To do this, we recommended using the S.T.A.R. approach to your story.

S - Situation

What was the context?

T - Task

What was the task/challenge/problem at hand?

A - Action

What did you specifically do in this situation?

R - Result

What happened? Make sure that the result is positive and related to the question.

Remember to quantify your story response whenever possible; for example, “I lead a team of 4.” Your story should be 1-2 minutes in length. We recommend you have at least 5-7 stories prepared before the interview, since it is likely you will be asked multiple questions and the same story cannot be used multiple times.

Stories should preferably be drawn from direct experience to the applied job, however, other sources are also acceptable. School projects, volunteer work, and non-related work experience can convey transferable skills. Avoid personal stories wherever possible.

Asking Great Questions

At the end of an interview, the employer will often ask you “Do you have any questions for me?”

One of the largest mistakes a candidate can do is not having any questions for the employer. By not having questions, you can look either unprepared or uninterested in the position. Having great questions prepared can help you stand out.

Typically you will be able to ask 2–4 questions, but that is more of a guide. We recommend that you come prepared with at least 10 ready. This way you can assure that you can pick the best ones at the end. To help remember them you can type them out before hand on their own sheet, and during the interview even pull the sheet out and ask if you can take notes.


General Questions

These are the types of questions that can be asked during any interview for any field. Some examples are:

  • “What is a typical day like?”

  • “To whom will I report?”

  • “What kind of training will I receive?”

  • “What do you look for in a candidate?”

We recommend limiting the amount of these questions as many other candidates will be asking similar ones.


Specific Questions

These are questions that are specifically designed for this job and company. They are pulled from the job ad or your research done on the company. These types of questions help you stand out, as it shows that you went further in your preparation. Questions can be about current projects, expansions, and other areas specific to the job or company.


What Not To Ask

Avoid asking about salary, benefits, or vacations unless it has been brought up by an employer, or unless this is your second or third interview. Asking about these can give the impression that you are only really interested in the perks and not the job.

For more tips, read: 'Interviewing & the Job Offer' on pages 48 - 60 in CAREER COMPASS

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