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The interview structure

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This article describes the structure of a Job Interview.

Before receiving a job offer from an employer, you will typically have a series of interviews. The first interview is a screening interview conducted either over the phone or at the employers office. On-campus interviews are considered screening interviews. Screening interviews are brief, usually lasting 30-60 minutes. During that time, the employer will want you to elaborate on experiences and skills outlined in your résumé.

Many employers use the screening interview as a chance to describe the organization and the position. If the employer is impressed with your performance in this interview, you will be invited to a second (and perhaps third or fourth) interview. The second interview is longer, lasting anywhere from two hours to a whole day. It could include a variety of questions, some form of testing, lunch or dinner, a tour, as well as a series of interviews with various employees. You should come away from the second interview with a thorough understanding of the organization's culture and environment, job responsibilities, and have enough information to decide on a job offer - if one is extended.

The Warm-Up

Each interview follows a rather predictable pattern of warm-up, information exchange, and wrap-up conversations. During the first few minutes of the interview (the warm-up), an employer will be formulating a first, lasting, impression of you. The way you greet the employer, the firmness of your handshake, and the way you are dressed, will all be a part of this initial impression. An interviewer may begin by asking common-ground questions about shared interests, the weather, or your travel to the interview. Some interviewers might start by saying "Tell me about yourself." This is an opening for you to briefly and concisely describe your background, skills, and interest in the position.

The Information Exchange

The information exchange will be the primary part of the interview. This is when you will be asked the most questions and learn the most about the employer. In screening interviews, many employers will spend more time describing their opportunities than asking you specific questions. The reverse will be true in second interviews. Interview questions may range from "Why did you choose to pursue a business degree?" to "What are your strengths/weaknesses?" and "What are your long-range career goals?" If you are prepared for the interview, you will be able to emphasize your qualifications effectively as you respond to each question. By practicing for interviews, you will gain confidence and have more polished answers.

The Wrap-up

Eventually the employer will probably say, "Do you have any questions?" This is your cue that the interview is moving to the wrap-up stage. Always ask questions. This demonstrates your research and interest in the job. Your questions might be direct, logistical questions such as, "When can I expect to hear from you?" (if that has not been discussed); questions to clarify information the employer has presented; a question regarding the employer's use of new technology or practices related to the career field; or a question to assess the culture and direction of the organization such as "Where is this organization headed in the next five years?" or "Why do you like working for this organization?" Do not ask specific questions about salary or benefits unless the employer broaches the subject first. The employer may also ask you if you have anything else you would like to add or say. Again, it's best to have a response. You can use this opportunity to thank the employer for the interview, summarize your qualifications, and reiterate your interest in the position. If you want to add information or emphasize a point made earlier, you can do that, too. This last impression is almost as important as the first impression and will add to the substance discussed during the information exchange.

 

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