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The ABCs of Job Interviews In North America

The one-on-one format is the most familiar and common format in job interviewing. It’s about two people sitting down to have a conversation. In this case, the conversation has a particular purpose: To determine whether there is a natural fit between the interviewer, the applicant and the job available. Both parties will leave this conversation with some kind of a judgment. The interviewer will know whether you can fulfill the responsibilities of the position, and you will know whether or not this is the right position, and company, for you to utilize and expand upon your talents.

The interview begins the second you and the interviewer initially meet -- this is the crucial nonverbal judgment. The interviewer is sizing you up: Are you dressed appropriately? Are you well-groomed and pleasant? Next, is the handshake -- do you offer a limp-fish handshake or is it firm and comfortable? A lot of close scrutiny takes place in those initial moments, and the interviewer can get a good idea as to how well the interview will or will not go based on his or her first impressions of you. After a bit of chitchat or warm-up, the questions begin.

The conversation will usually begin with the same request: "Tell me about yourself." The information you reveal as an answer to this question and throughout the interview allows the interviewer to get a clear picture of you, and certain pictures or patterns will begin to emerge. Each time a new subject is mentioned, the interviewer may want to dig a little further, and the picture becomes more focused.

Behavioral questions such as, "Tell me about your experience with...," give the interviewer clues about your past experiences that can be applied to solving the problems of the job in question. You must be prepared to talk about your achievements and past behaviors and have examples of the experiences you mention. For example, if you say, "I am very detail-oriented," or "I am an analytical problem-solver," there must be examples to back the claims. Show the interviewer that you are detail-oriented by providing him with an example of when your attention to detail positively affected your work. You should create a list of your accomplishments and experiences that validate these claims prior to interviewing.

If you don’t immediately offer this information, the interviewer can probe further. As an example, you might say, "I have excellent written communication skills." The interviewer can now follow up on this subject by asking, "What type of writing have you done?" Or, "Tell me about a project you have worked on involving written communication skills." If you aren’t able to come up with good examples, or success stories, there might be a credibility problem. Saying you can do something and actually giving an example of when you have done it are two different things.

Interviewers are attempting to get a picture of your abilities to perform in the position that is available. They are also looking to see how you would fit in with the corporate culture. Sometimes there will be a succession of one-on-one interviews within the same company. The process may begin with the human resources department, then move on to an interview with a prospective boss, or hiring manager. It may then continue down the line to other members of a department, and can sometimes include a CEO.

In each one-on-one conversation, you must be able to present good examples and tell about past successes. When this is done, you can leave the interview knowing that you have communicated a picture that is positive and accurate, no matter how many conversations it takes.


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