Job Interview Process


The intelligent job seeker views job interviewing as a logical process consisting of five stages: (1) Pre-­Interview, (2) Interview Opening, (3) Interview Devel­opment, (4) Interview Closing, and (5) Post-Interview. To progress successfully through the job interview process, the job seeker must demonstrate various skills at each stage.


STAGE 1: Pre-Interview

While an invitation to interview is a well-earned accomplishment, it is not the signal to start celebrating and stop campaigning. Arriving at the right location at the designated time is essential. Plan to arrive about five to ten minutes early so that you may relax for a few moments in the outer office, collect your thoughts, and be refreshed when you are called in to interview. Arriving late for the job interview is one of the worst things you can do. If for any reason you must be delayed, call the interviewer and explain the problem and ask for permission to arrive a little later or on another day. If you fail to call and explain and simply show up late, you may not be seriously considered further. Reliability is a critical trait that is first demon­strated by your punctuality on the job interview. Look businesslike when you arrive at the office and carry a briefcase that includes your job-getting documents, paper, and pen. Introduce yourself courteously to the secretary and state the purpose of your business. If you are not absolutely certain in the pronunciation of the interviewer’s name, ask the secretary.

STAGE 2: Interview Opening

In your greeting, use the interviewer’s name and apply a firm handshake. A favorable first impression can help a great deal in the interview. On the other hand, an unfavorable first impression can hurt. Do not smoke in the interview, even if asked. Show the interviewer that you recognize and respect his or her authority and position by allowing him or her to open the conversation. The Interviewer may attempt to put you at ease with “small talk” about your trip, some news events, or the weather. Respectfully react with agreement or appropriate thoughts of your own on the subject. Or, the interviewer may directly launch into business with a question about you. The inter­viewer may start telling you about conditions, needs, or problems around the company. Listen closely to this valuable information for a few minutes. Then, as soon as the opportunity allows, begin to inject your thoughts into the conversation.

STAGE 3: Interview Development

After a few minutes of opening remarks, you should begin to develop your sales presentation and score points. You have limited interviewing time in which to present your case. Therefore, find an appropriate opportunity to begin talking about those things you want the inter­viewer to hear. Throughout this stage of the interview, maintain a positive frame of mind and demonstrate your grasp of job getting interview techniques.

STAGE 4: Interview Closing

As soon as you sense the interview coming to a conclusion, start to close out the session on a “high note.” Use these last few minutes to (a) summarize a few key credentials in a final statement, (b) express enthusiasm about working for the company, and (c) express appreciation to the interviewer for an interesting time. The interviewer will probably tell you the next step in the procedure. If nothing is mentioned by the inter­viewer, however, you may raise the subject by saying, “What is the next step?” or “I would like to continue our discussion again soon if you feel there is a basis for another meeting!” Such closing comments encourage commitment. The interviewer may offer you a brief take-home project. If offered such a project, willingly and gra­ciously accept it, for this is a sign that the interviewer is interested in you and your thoughts. Before you leave the meeting, be certain that you have all the correct information concerning the next step in the selection procedure: Where, when, and with whom is the next interview? When can you expect to hear any word? Or, when is your brief project needed, if one is requested?

STAGE 5: Post-Interview

Immediately following an interview, record the key points of the discussion (important and interesting remarks made by both you and the interviewer). Note the names and key comments of all other people you talked with while you visited the company. On another sheet of paper, evaluate the success of your interview. Note your strengths and weaknesses. What things said by you interested the interviewer, and what things bored, irritated, or disappointed him? How could you improve your next interview presentation based on this session? Keep this evaluation sheet. Immediately following the interview, send a “thank-you” letter to the interviewer. In it express appreciation, comment on key points of the discussion, allude to others you met in a complimentary manner, reiterate key credentials, and if new events have occurred during the intervening period, provide a brief update on these accomplishments. Such a follow-up letter shows thoughtfulness, perseverance, and moti­vation.


“Do not be deceived by the
cordiality of an interviewer.”


During the job interview, the interviewer makes a series of judgments or evaluations about your ability to do the job. All these judgments go toward forming the overall impression that plays a crucial role in the selection procedure. Three factors are particularly important in the forming of the overall impression: appearance, oral communi­cations skill, and social skill. Another factor that is seriously considered in the job interview in “personality.” This factor, however, is more complex, less evident, and more subjectively judged by interviewers than the three factors just mentioned. The employment representative wants to know your attitude toward, and feelings about, your­self, your past, the company, the job, and the profession so that a prediction about your future performance with the company can be made. Whereas a candidate’s underlying motivations, atti­tudes, and feelings may not be clearly revealed in resumes and letters, these personality traits are sought out and frequently discovered within the face-to-face exchanges of the interview. A technique for exploring one’s personality is referred to as depth interviewing. Broad, open-ended questions are put to the inter­viewee, and the resulting responses are followed up by probing questions that elicit more details, revealing feelings and attitudes. Probing questions often deal with reasons behind an act and the feelings associated with the act.

Here is such a depth-interviewing exchange:

Broad, Open Ended Question:

“Tell me about yourself at Murphy’s Store.”

Probe 1: “How did you go about getting your promotion to assistant section supervisor?”
Probe 2: “Why did you handle it that way?”
Probe 3: “How did you feel when you received the promotion over Judy Stickler, who had been there three years longer than you?”

Depth-interviewing techniques have the appearance of casual conversation but actually reveal much infor­mation to the skilled interviewer about the inner workings of one’s personality. In any such conver­sation, be careful to reveal attitudes, feelings, and motivations that are desirable. Do not be deceived by the cordiality of an interested and curious interviewer; such behavior is essential to place you at ease, get you to talk, and make you reveal everything about yourself. Be as honest and frank as possible in revealing positive personality traits that will help on the job. But before uttering a negative, cynical, pessimistic, resentful, or antagonistic remark, think twice. The fact is that the prospective buyer will decide to buy your talents for your positive qualities and will decide to reject your talents for your negative qualities.

The following list contains many desirable traits:

  • · Professional appearance
  • · Good speaking skills
  • · Good listening skills
  • · Adaptability
  • · Enthusiasm and determination
  • · Self-confidence
  • · Practical and realistic approach
  • · Courtesy, appreciativeness, and consideration
  • · Believability and persuasiveness
  • · Willingness to work hard and assume responsibility
  • · Imaginativeness, creativity, and resourcefulness
  • · Good sense of humor
  • · Conscientiousness and dedication
  • · Insightful, thoughtful, and analytical
  • · Alert and attentive
  • · Honest and truthful
  • · Logical and well organized

The following list contains many undesirable traits:

  • · Poor appearance
  • · Inability to express oneself
  • · Poor listening skills
  • · Lack of common courtesy
  • · Lack of preparation for interview
  • · Lack of confidence, interest and enthusiasm
  • · Passiveness and indifference
  • · Conceit and overconfidence
  • · Negative, apologetic, and insecure
  • · Evasive, deceitful, and dishonest
  • · Bashing present or former Boss/Company
  • · Contradictory
  • · High-pressure selling
  • · Long-winded or abrupt

The likelihood is that you now possess many of the positive traits needed to make that favorable personal impression. Try not to be shy, meek, overly modest, or embarrassed in expressing your desire for the job and your reasons for qualifying. Only you can state your case.


Much of what you say in job interviews in the form of direct replies to important interviewer questions. This section deals with 15 of the most frequently asked questions. In addition to answering these important questions, you may be asked to verify and clarify parts of your resume, letter of application, or application blank. The interviewer’s attention will especially be drawn to “delay statements,” such as “To be discussed during interview,” written on the application blank. Therefore, have a thorough knowledge of all facts and figures submitted before the interview.

KEY QUESTION I “Tell me about yourself!” Reply Hints: A common opener, this broad question throws many unprepared interviewees, it is, in fact, a “sell-me” invitation. Impress the interviewer by expressing your interest in and desire to work for the company. Offer to discuss a number of your qualifications. Then present a few of your functional selling points and ask the interviewer to choose the ones he or she is interested in hearing about. You can also mention how you learned about the position and company.

KEY QUESTION 2 “Why are you interested in working for this company?” Reply Hints: Emphasize that you are very interested in working for the company, that you’ve considered joining the com­pany for a while, and that your decision to seek employment here is based on sound reasons. Then produce those reasons, supported by facts and figures from your Company Data Sheet.

KEY QUESTION 3 “Why do you want to leave your job?” Reply Hints: One of two conditions prevail: you’re either employed or unemployed. Obviously, being employed is the preferred condition, especially if you’re happily em­ployed and are merely investigating possibilities for even greater achievement. Being unemployed detracts from your bargaining position, especially if you were fired for incompetence, negligence, or other serious reasons. If you have already left or plan to leave a position due to poor working relationships, one of the worst inter­viewing errors you can make is to respond to this question by ventilating your negative feelings, accusing superiors, claiming unfair treatment, or condemning people with whom you’ve worked. By leveling personal charges against others in your self-defense, you make the interviewer conclude that you were unable to handle an interpersonal job situation to the point of separation, that you may have been the cause of the trouble, and that, after some period of invested time with your employer, you are displaying disloyalty and could be as disloyal to your new employer. You can sell yourself more effectively when you associate with successful people, programs, and companies. Build the image of your employer and you will be building your own. Respond to this question as positively as possible stating new job objectives rather than old job failures.

KEY QUESTION 4 “Why have you chosen this particular field?” Reply Hints: Here is a perfect opportunity for impressing the inter­viewer with your interest, knowledge of the field, and ability to perform successfully on the job. Explain that this type of work gives you a strong sense of purpose, identity, and accomplishment, a feeling that you could not derive from other types of work. Avoid discussion of fringe benefits. Emphasize your feelings for and knowledge of the work itself. Mention key functions of the job and claim that you are interested in and possess competency in them. Develop this claim and support your beliefs by presenting functional selling points.

KEY QUESTION 5 “Why should we hire you?” Reply Hints: This question is the most important question any interviewer can ask. Whether it is asked directly or indirectly, be certain that it is uppermost in the inter­viewer’s mind throughout the interview. It is a direct invitation from the interviewer to you to “sell me” and requires extra attention.

KEY QUESTION 6 “What are your long-range goals?” Reply Hints: This question is very popular in interviewing because it gathers a lot of useful information: (1) maturity, fore­sight, and realistic outlook; (2) degree of preparation in career planning; (3) knowledge of yourself, the occupation, and the company; and (4) commitment to the company and profession. In your reply, reveal a career plan. In your research, determine what position you could reasonably expect to reach in five years and in ten years. Read about and speak to others who have successfully advanced themselves in your field and with this company, if possible. In your answer note that you have the potential and capability, possess the knowledge and desire, and will acquire the necessary skills for growth within the organization.

KEY QUESTION 7 “What is your greatest strength?” Reply Hints: This is a direct “sell-me” question. Select one key quality you possess that you know to be in great demand on this job. State the quality, and then support your claim with past achievements.

KEY QUESTION 8 “What is your greatest weakness?” Reply Hints: This is a “suicide question” that has probably caused the downfall of many qualified but thoughtless inter­viewees. Interviewers pose this question to you in a fair-play manner, implying, “Well, everyone has weak­nesses as well as strengths; it’s only human!” You will be coaxed and prompted to answer this question. But before you volunteer anything negative, remember this important rule: “You are screened in because of your strengths and screened out because of your weaknesses.” In stating your reply to this question, emanate self-confidence, express a desire to further improve the good credentials you now possess, and possibly point to a relatively unimportant, non-job-related area that needs some improvement.

“There is a wrong time and a right time to discuss salary.”

KEY QUESTION 9 “What is your current salary?” Reply Hints: There is a wrong time and a right time to discuss salary matters. The wrong time is before you’ve had the opportunity to sell yourself in person during the interview. The right time is after the interviewer tells you that a specific job is available and that he or she wants you for the opening. Who should initiate the first figure in discussing salary, you or the interviewer? It is generally to your advantage to get the interviewer to throw out the first figure. If pressed for a figure say: Make me your best offer, or I’ll consider your best offer.

KEY QUESTION 10 “What is important to you in a job?” Reply Hints: The interviewer wants to hear that the things that satisfy you personally are the same things that con­tribute to the organization’s programs and objectives. One effective reply is, “What really motivates me at work is the personal pleasure and feeling of accom­plishment I can derive from doing a good job in an organization where my opinions and contributions really count!” Play down the importance of salary and fringe benefits in response to this question. First, impress the inter­viewer with your desire to do a good job; then, after you receive the job offer, you can negotiate for fair compensation.

KEY QUESTION 11 “What do you do in your spare time?” Reply Hints: From your reply, you want the interviewer to realize that: 1. You use your time wisely; 2. You are well rounded and have diverse interests and involvement’s in cultural, recreational, and civic affairs; 3. You would get along well with others in the company; 4. You are a participant and not just a spectator; a leader and not just a follower; a doer and not just a sitter. To make a favorable impression here, find out the preferences of successful people in your field as to sports, magazines, and books. If you are involved in these activities, emphasize them in your reply. Also, if you have a unique or special talent, hobby, or skill, mention it. This will make you more memorable and add to the uniqueness of your image.

KEY QUESTION 12 “Which feature of the job interests you least?” Reply Hints: This is another “suicide question,” as was Key Question 8. It can, however, be converted into a positive selling opportunity. Tell the interviewer that all aspects of the job interest you, which is the reason you have chosen this line of work. Do not admit that anything about the job bothers you, no matter how much you are coaxed to do so. If the interviewer mentions that the work is difficult and could require frequent overtime, unpredictable work schedules, or hard-to-handle customers, reply in a positive manner.

KEY QUESTION 13 “How do others describe you?” Reply Hints: Tell the interviewer that you get along well with your co-workers, have the respect of your subordinates, and are respected by your boss. Your ability to work well with other people is extremely important to the interviewer; therefore, paint a positive picture of your social relationships on the job.

KEY QUESTION 14 “What are your plans for continued study?” Reply Hints: Convey your desire for continued growth and self-improvement. Indicate that your studies will help you stay current and be better prepared to cope with the new and changing techniques of your profession.

KEY QUESTION 15 “Tell me about your schooling!” Reply Hints: The key to this question is to keep your reply positive. Speak well of your alma mater, for you are, in part, a product of your school’s educational programs. If you praise the programs, you indirectly praise yourself; and if you condemn its programs, you indirectly condemn yourself. If you are asked to explain some low grade, avoid being defensive or blaming others. Follow up with reasonable explanation of your priorities, indicating that you had to work 30 hours a week to help support yourself and family, if this was the case. Then add that whatever grade you earned, you learned a great deal from that course, much of which you still use today.