Interview-Ready: How to Prepare

You left no stone unturned during the job search, dazzled the hiring manager with your resume and landed an interview. Now it’s time to get prepared.

As you research the company and industry and try to anticipate what questions you’ll be asked, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all for job interviews. Hiring managers have many formats at their disposal as they assess candidates, and they sometimes employ more than one at a time to gain a broad picture of your skills, experience and personality. Here are a few of the most common interview scenarios—along with some tips for how to shine.

Behavioral interviews

One of the most common types of interview is the behavioral interview. “This kind of interview functions on the premise that past behavior is a good indicator of how one will behave in the future,” explains Ann Martin, career advising specialist in UMUC’s Office of Career Services and Alumni Relations.

You can spot a behavioral question by the language interviewers use as they try to get you to reveal how you react to situations. They may ask, “Tell me about a time when you had a tight deadline to meet,” or “Describe a situation where you had to manage multiple high-priority projects at one time.”

“This type of question is best answered with an example or story from the past,” notes Martin. “To prepare for these types of interviews, it’s best to think through past successes and challenges and to have a number of stories available that could be readily adapted to answer a wide range of questions.”

Stress interviews

Another interview format, although a less common one, is a stress interview. “Stress interview questions are designed to see how a candidate behaves under pressure,” says Martin. “They may be used for people seeking leadership roles or toward the end of the recruitment process.”

If you’re sitting through a stress interview, you’ll definitely know it. These tend to include hard-hitting questions that are designed to challenge the candidate. Sometimes there are multiple interviewers hammering you from all sides in this format.

“These questions may appear to be totally random and unrelated to the position in question,” explains Martin, “but the interviewer is more interested in how the candidate reacts or the thought process of formulating an answer rather than the answer itself.”

To prepare, get yourself into a calm mindset. Remember to remain focused and in control as you do your best to answer the varying questions. Your demeanor under pressure reveals more about you than your answers.

Case interviews

Some employers prefer to set their focus on your skill sets during an interview. In these instances, they may employ the case interview format.

“With case interviews, potential employers are looking to assess specific knowledge they may require,” notes Martin. These interviews may include case studies, problem-solving drills or some other type of competency-based assessment or challenge, either business or technically related depending upon the needs of the position.

Get ready for this kind of interview by having a clear understanding of the skills the employer is seeking. Then, make sure you can draw a clear connection between your past experience and education and the requirements of the job. That way, you help your interviewer see you as the perfect fit.

Video or online interviews

Sometimes you may be asked to participate in a video or online interview for an initial screening with a recruiter or even for an actual interview if you don’t live in the same location as the hiring organization. A video interview can encompass any style—behavioral, stress or case. Because it relies on technology, there are measures you should take to ensure it goes smoothly.

“With virtual or online interviews, it is important to test your technology beforehand and be aware of what other noise could be picked up by your camera and microphone,” advises Martin. “Treat a virtual interview with the same importance as any interview, taking care to dress appropriately even though you only expect to be seen from the neck up.”

Martin also suggests keeping a copy of your resume and any notes nearby—but off camera—so you can refer to them if needed. Also, don’t forget to smile. You still need to make a good impression, even if you’re not face-to-face.

Although you typically don’t know what you’re in for until you walk in the door for your interview, if you take the time to prepare for multiple interview styles, you’ll be ready to impress regardless of what kinds of questions come your way.

Click here for more information about UMUC’s Office of Career Services.