The Interview

An interview is a two-way communication process – a business meeting between a candidate and an organization’s representative(s), exploring fit between the abilities of the candidate and the needs of the company. Creating your agenda and managing it is key. This helps you realize that you both have an agenda – so don’t wait for them to manage it!

Although each participant in the interviewing process has a unique viewpoint, they share some common concerns. The hiring manager needs to fill the position with the applicant who can make the greatest contribution to the position. Accepting a position that is substantially below or beyond the applicant’s capacity can lead to disappointment and failure, good selection decisions benefit all parties involved.

Role of the Interviewer and the Interviewee

Reflect on what the role of the interviewer and interviewee might be.

Role of Interviewer

Role of Interviewee





















Preparation for the Interview

Know about the job

You are the product! Know your strengths, have a clear profile and career objective.

Package the product

Present the right image

Sell the product

Convey enthusiasm and confidence

Interview Preparation




E.g. – Educate yourself about the organization’s service

E.g. – Talk to positive, supportive people before your interview

E.g. – Visit the location beforehand and assess travel time needed, parking, cost etc.

Preparation and Presentation

Mental Preparation

As an applicant, learning about the organization is a way of evaluating the organization’s expectations. Assessing your own unique strengths, key skills and values confirms your suitability for a position. Finally, matching your own strengths with the organization’s needs prepares you for presenting a good fit to the interviewer.

Research the organization and be knowledgeable about its current news releases, market launches and members of the management team.

If possible, get a copy of the job description and learn about the roles, responsibilities, technology/systems/equipment used etc.

Review your resume and take 2 or 3 extra copies to the interview.

Match your skills and accomplishments with the needs of the company to determine how you add value.

Be able to articulate your strengths and your weaknesses.

Develop a presentation strategy that allows you to focus o those aspects of your background that are most relevant to the job and of key importance to the interviewer.

Anticipate questions and be prepared with good supporting examples from past experiences (STAR Stories – See STAR Concept). This will help to reinforce your confidence and reduce nervousness.

Find out the names and positions/titles of the people you will be meeting with, how much time you should set aside and whether there will be any testing involved.

Think about the questions you want to ask. They should be insightful and focused on Challenges facing the position and the company. You should also ask about next steps in the interview process and their timing.

Emotional Preparation

Preparing emotionally is another way to build confidence and project a winning attitude. A variety of techniques can be used to bring out this self-assurance.

Remember such things as relaxation. Controlling your nervousness and anxiety by deep breathing or meditation. Visualize how you see yourself conducting yourself during the interview. Replace negative thoughts of self-doubt with positive thoughts and images of a successful interview and sometimes acknowledging your nervousness (during the interview) can sometimes help you release tension.

Physical Preparation

A professional image makes a difference in how you are perceived. Communication studies suggest that, in many situations, two-thirds of what is communicated is through non-verbal means. In addition, within the first 3-5 minutes of an interview, an initial decision is made whether to screen a person out or into a future interview. It often becomes difficult to change this initial impression even though the interview may last an hour.

Appearance is the first thing you communicate to those you meet. An employer can make inferences about your character, competence and capabilities. This may not be fair, but it is a real reflection of how people make such decisions. People make judgments about others based on dress and appearance. By effectively managing your image, you can create positive messages about credibility and competence.

Dressing for the Interview

It is important to appear as though you can competently fill the position that you are applying for. Not everyone needs to wear tailored suits, but it is important to dress the part for the position you are applying for.

Consider your dress as an extension of your image and be aware that in today’s interviews there are many variations of acceptable interview attire.

  • Know the company. Are you interviewing at the head office or at a plant?
  • Know the location. Is it in the downtown business district or in the suburbs?
  • Know the culture and environment – are employees casually dressed or always in business attire.
  • Understand the industry. Are they retail, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals?
  • Know the interviewer(s). With whom are you meeting and at what level are they?
  • Do they have casual dress days? Many companies have a Casual Friday policy, if your interview is on Friday, always dress for a business meeting, but be aware of dress code.


  • Decide what is important dress for the interview.
  • Rehearse the interview process in order to increase your confidence.
  • Get a good night’s rest before the interview.
  • Pay close attention to your grooming.
  • Eat before the interview to avoid tummy rumbles, but avoid strong smelling foods that could result in odours etc.
  • Take extra copies of your resume and necessary supporting documents.
  • Take a note pad and several pens to jot down points of interest.
  • Inform the interviewer in advance of any special needs you have related to attending and participating in the interview, such as barrier-free access to the building, visual or auditory aids, etc.

The Elements of Image

Verbal – Be aware of correct speech and vocabulary.

Vocal – Show variety in your voice. Project energy and enthusiasm. Emphasize key words to stress ideas and beliefs.

Visual – Look appropriate for the position and the company. If in doubt, lean towards the conservative.

Behaviour – Keep good eye contact. This shows involvement and active listening. A positive attitude expresses confidence. Learn to smile under pressure in the same natural way you would when you are comfortable. Keep your hands and arms relaxed at your sides or your hands folded loosely on your lap. Gesture naturally to show enthusiasm and animation.

The power of image – Non-verbal body language

According to studies conducted by Dr. Albert Merhabian at UCLA, the following reflects the impact of first impressions:

Visual – 55%

Vocal – 38%

Verbal – 7%

These impressions are typically formed within 3 – 5 minutes of meeting an individual for the first time.

Making a good first impression

Be on time!

Make sure you arrive on time for your interview. Typically 5 – 10 minutes early is sufficient.

In the event of an emergency, call ahead and alert the interviewer that you will be delayed. Show your consideration and professionalism and most people will understand if they know the circumstances in advance.

Dress appropriately

Be neat, clean and well groomed.

Your professionalism is often judged by the way you look – it is better to overdress than to risk under dressing.

Be relaxed and friendly

Remember to be friendly and courteous with everybody you have contact with – the parking attendants, receptionist, security guard etc. These people can be asked for their feedback and negative comments can be damaging.

Start with good Greeting/Opening

Be prepared to shake hands with the interviewer and consider starting with a “thank you” example. E.g. “Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you”.

Remember to smile.

  • Speak clearly
  • Be careful in your pace (not too fast, not too slow).
  • Vary your tone of voice.
  • Make sure your words can be heard and understood.
  • Be positive about yourself.
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude, enthusiasm and confidence in your abilities.
  • Avoid volunteering any weaknesses you have.
  • Remember you are not boasting with demonstrating confidence. You are only helping the interviewer better understand your qualifications.


Look attentive, maintain eye contact and show some expression in your face.

Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question.

Let the interviewer(s) finish before jumping in with your answer or comment.

Keep your answers relevant

Organize your thoughts before you speak and try always providing an answer that illustrates your abilities through a specific example of a past experience.

Provide a combination of facts and feelings when deciding experiences.

In answering hypothetical questions, like “what would you do if…” remember there is rarely a “right” answer. Draw on any related successful experience to support your views.

Watch your non-verbal messages

You posture, gestures, facial expressions and tone all contribute to the message the interviewer receives. If your words say one thing and your body suggest another, people will more often trust what they see over what they hear.

Be careful of annoying habits

Fidgeting, drumming fingers, playing with hair are distracting to the interviewer(s).

Never chew gum or eat during an interview.

The selection process

A good interviewer will:

  • Analyze the role
  • Develop specific questions for this position
  • Conduct first round interviews
  • Possibly request training (either technical or psychometric)
  • Perform reference checks (including academic and business)
  • Evaluate candidates and develop a short list
  • Make final selection after a number of interviews with other invested parties.

Behavioural Competencies

A competency is an underlying characteristic of an individual, which causes and predicts behaviour and superior performance and can be observed and measured.

Behavioural interviewing is a technique used to assess an applicant’s past behaviour in the competency areas related to the job in question. It is based on the premise that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. The interviewers are therefore seeking to understand past behaviours in order to understand your future fit to a Firefighter role.

Competencies have become the most often used tool to predict behaviours on-the-job. More often than not, you are likely to be faced with answering behaviour-based questions when engaged in an interview. It can be beneficial to understand what behaviours are relevant to your occupation and identify where you have demonstrated and/or developed these types of behaviours.

Preparing examples of these specific situations can help address any nervousness that you may encounter when preparing for, and attending, an interview.

Visible and Hidden Competencies



Skills and knowledge are most easily identifiable. As the jobs gets more complex, other competencies become primary differentiators.



Knowledge and Skills


Years of experience

Information about a particular area


Behaviours that demonstrate expertise



Differentiating competencies, like most of an iceberg, are hidden and difficult to identify.





Motives and Values

Image projected to others


Sense of identity


General disposition to behave in a certain way

Examples of Interviews

Example of Competencies

Behavioural Anchors

Conceptual Thinking

Ability to understand a situation or problem by identifying patterns or connections

Conflict Resolution

Effectively resolve a dispute or conflict by listening to and providing opportunities to meet the needs of all parties

Communication Skills

Exhibits clear and well developed written and oral communication. Can hold an audiences attention and effectively listens

Creative Problem Solving

Solves problems with new ideas and approaches. Is not bound by traditional reasoning, or methods

Customer Service

Provides prompt, efficient and personalized service to clients. Goes out of the way to ensure individual customer needs are met


Adaptable; receptive to new ideas; willing and able to adjust to changing demands and circumstances

Results Orientation

Drives projects along; gets results; ensures that key objectives are met


Proactive and self-starting; seizes opportunities and acts upon them; originates action and actively influences events

Behavioural Interviewing Methods

Behavioural Interviewing


Past behaviour predicts future behaviour


Interviewer seeks an understanding of past experiences


Interviewer collects examples, “STARs”, for each behavioural component



















Feelings and Opinions

Theoretical or Future-oriented Statements

Vague Statements

“I thought I was…”

“From now on I…”

“I usually…”

“I was really good at…”

“I probably could…”

“Sometimes I…”


Question: Tell me about a time you took a calculated risk to get the job done?

False STAR answer: Sometimes I’ve been known to be innovative and try new approaches when working on difference projects vs. using a familiar solution.

True STAR answer: While I value not recreating the wheel to solve a problem, it’s also important to be creative and innovative and at times take a risk. For example, 6 months ago I was charged with working on a critical project that the client wanted us to bring a fresh approach to. So, I…(STAR story)

Interview Types

Traditional – effective

Behavioural – More effective, greater accuracy

The interview focus varies in each style, shifting from opinions and experiences to actual examples of past behaviour.

A review of over 100 research studies conducted by Behaviour Description Technologies compared and provided a breakdown of information gained in both styles of interview as follows:

Focused Around

Traditional Interviews


Behavioural Interviews

Opinions (Gut Feeling)




Credentials (Education)




Experiences (STAR)




Description (STAR)




Accuracy (in the hiring)




Accomplishment Memory Jogger

This worksheet is designed to help you remember and list your accomplishments. Complete it quickly, writing down everything that comes to mind and then go back and review later.

Behavioural Area

Examples and Situations

Describe a specific situation in which you solved a problem or took charge of an situation.


Give an example of something you created or built.


Describe an instance in which you developed an idea.


Recount a time when you achieved a goal by following instructions.


How have you increased sales or reduced costs for a organization?


List ways you have saved time or money.


What awards or commendations have you received? Why?


Have you been involved in a team effort that produced a specific result?


What on-the-job training programs have you attended?


What work related training courses have you attended?


What do you do better than you co-workers and why is this an advantage?


Interviewing Exercise

Summarize and define the position requirements from your ideal job (e.g. identify the key responsibilities, competencies, skills)

Identify your corresponding qualifications and success factors













Additional Differentiators

List any experiences or differentiators that would complement the above and help to set you apart from your competition.


Converting you Qualifications into STAR Stories

Position Competencies

Itemize the core competencies

Anticipate and Design Questions

For each question, prepare one question that an interviewer might ask

Prepare STAR Answers

Review your relevant qualifications and competencies and build STAR answers


Tell me about a key project you led and walk me through the planning and execution stages?

I implemented a strategic IT implementation project……….(STAR Story)





















Potential Gaps?

List any potential gaps you may have identified and determine what relevant experience you have that can offset this gap.

Your Questions

Questions content areas

Questions for the Interviewer

Job Content




Career Path




Financial Aspects








Expectations within first 3 months




Prepare a Closing Statement

Closing the GAP

You need to convey to employers the advantages you will bring to them:

Use position requirements and qualifications analysis to determine your unique qualifications and key differentiators.

Be prepared to answer the basic question – “Why should we hire you?”

You need to sell – do so proactively.

Responding to typical questions.

Tell me about yourself

Talk about your job titles and responsibilities in reverse chronological order. Mention a variety of achievements relevant to the job in question. Respond from a pre-planned mental outline that addresses the job requirements mentioned in the advertisement or job description. Close by asking the interviewer, if your background and skills are similar to what they are looking for in the ideal candidate.

Why do you feel you are a good fit for this opportunity?

Show a direct correlation between your background, previous accomplishments and how they directly relate to the current position. Illustrate your knowledge of their business such as new product launches etc.

Why should we hire you

This is your opportunity to pull together all the key points of the interview and remind them of all the things you bring to the table. If appropriate, you may want to say to the interviewer, “Well, as I understand the position, you are looking for someone who can…and as we have discussed I have an extensive background in…and x years experience in…” Always consider connecting the dots for the interviewer and illustrate why you are a strong candidate for this position.

Interview questions based on competencies

Conceptual Thinking

Describe a time when you defined a trend or needed a solution to a problem with limited information or incomplete data.


Conflict Resolution

Describe the most stressful situation you have dealt with and how you handled it.


Describe a time you were faced with problems or stresses at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do?


Communication Skills

Describe a time when you had to communicate bad news.


Tell me about a time when you had to present complex information to an individual or group


Creative Problem Solving

Tell me about the biggest problem you ever had to solve. What happened? What did you do?


Customer Service

Tell me about the most difficult customer situation you have had. How did you handle it?


Questions for you to ask

  • How did this position become available? Is this a new position, or are you replacing someone?
  • What are the key priorities and challenges you see during the first six months? Thereafter?
  • What competencies are most important in this position?
  • What are the key initiatives this position will be addressing?
  • What significant changes do you foresee in the industry, in the company, in the near future?
  • What are the major systems/equipment/processes used?
  • How is performance evaluated?
  • How is the department/section/branch structured?
  • What kind of support does this position receive in terms of people and finances?
  • What are some of the difficult problems facing someone in this position?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • What objectives would I be expected to meet or surpass? What are some of your longer-term objectives?
  • How would you describe the predominant culture of the company?
  • When you have a major problem to solve, what is the process taken?
  • Are there opportunities to participate in other projects within this department or company?
  • Does the company/department have a training plan for employees?

Closing Successfully

  • Have concluding comments practiced in advance.
  • It should have two key messages.
  • I am excited about the opportunity.
  • I believe I can succeed because…
  • If presented well, your closing might prompt the interviewer to verbalize their feelings about your candidacy. This helps solidify their commitment to consider you for the role.
  • Consider a bold question, if appropriate, like, “Are there any questions or concerns about my ability to succeed in the role?”
  • Ensure that you clarify next steps and timing.

After the Interview

  • Take final notes as soon after the interview as possible.
  • Be as specific as possible regarding what was said or inferred.
  • Note your general feelings about the meeting, points for further discussion, concerns, ideas for follow-up etc.
  • Send a thank you note by email or regular mail – depends on the competition and timing.
  • If you are invited to go back to the next round, leave a voicemail with the original interviewer to express your thanks and get possible preparation advice.

“Success represents the 1% of your work that results from 99% that is called failure”

Soichiro Honda (1946), Founder of Japanese automaker HONDA

Post Interview Reflection Guide

Below are things to think about after completing an interview.

Verbal – word chosen

Content (appropriate/inappropriate)

Clarity (clear/unclear)

Meaningful (direct/evasive)

Language (slang/jargon)



Vocal – voice

Projection (soft/loud)

Intonation (animated/monotonous)

Pace (slow/fast)

Delivery (confident/not confident)




Posture (slouched/erect)

Movement (fidgety/controlled)

Hand gestures (robotic/natural)

Facial expression (positive/negative)

Eye contact (good/poor)


Other factors to consider

Conversational style

Rapport building

Active listening

Grooming and general appearance


Reminders for Effective Interviewing

Pre-Meeting Preparation

During Meeting (Interview)

Post Meeting

Confirm location, parking, instructions etc.

Confirm your appointment time and number of people you will be meeting.

Dress to fit the situation, one notch above the company dress code is usually safe. The conservative look is best, with minimum or no perfume, cologne or aftershave.

Talk to positive supporters of yours beforehand.

Do your research. Be ready to speak knowledgably about the company and the industry by reviewing the latest news articles etc.

Review your resume.

Rehearse your leaving story.

Have 5 – 8 STAR stories that demonstrate your competencies and are relevant to their needs, and


Be on time – approximately 10 minutes early is appropriate.

Treat the receptionist and everybody you meet on your way to the interview with respect.

Stand and shake hands.

Relax, take a deep breath and be yourself.

Answer questions, be positive, and articulate your accomplishments and obstacles using the STAR formula.

Trust your intuition when reading the interviewer and plan your responses. Listen to the question and observe the interviewer’s reactions.

Maintain eye contact and smile.

Make sure you are giving full STAR answers.

Ask the questions you have prepared and allow the interviewer time to answer them.

Be enthusiastic when closing the interview by re-stating your interest in the position.

Thank them for the meeting.

Determine the next steps.

Make notes from your meeting.

Send a thank you note or voicemail.

Follow up with agency or any contacts you had to get the meeting.

Do any further research as required.

Make note of follow-up dates and times.

Follow up when agreed.


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