NEMNET - The Interview

What Happens During the Interview?

The interviewing process can be scary if you don’t know what to expect. While each interview will differ, most interviews conform to a general format. Preparation is the key!

A typical structure is as follows:
  • Small talk
  • A mutual discussion of your background and credentials as they relate to the needs of the employer
  • Teachers may be expected to teach a mock class. [Most employers will notify you in advance and supply you with the topic]
  • Time for your questions
  • Conclusion of interview

A typical interview may last from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Some interviews may involve various departments and can span the course of a day. Oddly enough, there is often very little time to state your case. The employer may do most of the talking. When you do respond to questions or ask your own, your statements should be concise and organized without being too brief.

It Starts Before You Even Say Hello
The typical interview starts before you even get into the inner sanctum. The recruiter begins to evaluate you the minute you arrive or are identified. You are expected to shake the recruiter’s hand upon being introduced. Don’t be afraid to extend your hand first. This shows assertiveness. It’s a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes early. You can use the time to relax.

How’s Your Small Talk Vocabulary?
Many recruiters will begin the interview with some small talk. Topics may range from the weather to sports and will rarely focus on anything that brings out your skills. Nonetheless, you are still being evaluated. Recruiters are trained to evaluate candidates on many different points. They may be judging how well you communicate on an informal basis. This means you must do more than smile and nod.

The Recruiter Has the Floor
The main part of the interview starts when the recruiter begins discussing the organization. If the recruiter uses vague generalities about the position and you want more specific information, ask questions. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the job and the organization.

As the interview turns to talk about your qualifications, be prepared to deal with aspects of your background that could be construed as negative, i.e., low grade point average, no participation in outside activities, no related work experience. It is up to you to convince the recruiter that although these points appear negative, positive attributes can be found in them.

A low GPA could stem from having to fully support yourself through college; you might have no related work experience, but plenty of community or volunteer experience that shows you to be a loyal and valued employee. Many times recruiters will ask why you chose the major you did or what your career goals are. These questions are designed to determine your goal direction. Employers seek people who have direction and motivation. This can be demonstrated by your answers to these innocent-sounding questions.

Evaluations Made by Recruiters
  • How mentally alert and responsive is the job candidate?
  • Is the applicant able to draw proper inferences and conclusions during the course of the interview?
  • Does the applicant demonstrate intellectual depth when communicating, or is their thinking shallow and lacking depth?
  • Has the candidate used good judgment and common sense regarding life planning up to this point?
  • What is applicant’s capacity for problem-solving activities?
  • How well does candidate respond to stress and pressure?

It’s Your Turn to Ask Questions
When the recruiter asks, “Now do you have any questions?” it’s important to have a few ready. The questions should bring out your interest in and knowledge of the organization. Questions should elicit positive responses from the employer.

By asking intelligent, well-thought-out questions, you show the employer you are serious about the organization and need more information. It also indicates to the recruiter that you have done your homework.

The Close Counts, Too
The interview isn’t over until you walk out the door. The conclusion of the interview usually lasts five minutes and is very important. During this time the recruiter is assessing your overall performance.

It is important to remain enthusiastic and courteous. Often the conclusion of the interview is indicated when the recruiter stands up. Shake the recruiter’s hand and thank him or her for considering you. Being forthright is a quality that most employers will respect, indicating that you feel you have presented your case and the decision is now up to the employer.

Expect the Unexpected
During the interview, you may be asked some unusual questions. Don’t be too surprised. Many times questions are asked simply to see how you react. For example, surprise questions could range from, “Tell me a joke” to “What time period would you like to have lived in?” These are not the kind of questions for which you can prepare in advance. Your reaction time and the response you give will be evaluated by the employer, but there’s no way to anticipate questions like these. While these questions are not always used, they are intended to force you to react under some stress and pressure. The best advice is to think and give a natural response.