Chapter 9: Interviewing in Organizations

9.4 Applicant: Preparing for an employment interview

Just as the interviewer has a variety of things to consider when preparing for an employment interview, so too does an applicant.  The following is a list of things to consider when preparing for an employment interview.

  1. Type of interview. Understand the nature, format and expectations of the interview.  Will you be asked technical questions or given a work sample? Or will you be interviewed over lunch or coffee, where your table manners and social skills will be assessed? Will it be a panel interview?
  2. Type of Dress. Office attire varies by industry, so stop by the workplace and observe what workers are wearing if you are unsure. If this isn’t possible, call and ask the human resources office what to wear—they will appreciate your wish to be prepared.
  3. Research the company/organization:  Do a thorough exploration of the company’s website. If it doesn’t have one, look for business listings in the community online and in the phone directory. Contact the local chamber of commerce. Check for any items in the news in the past couple of years involving the company name. If it is a small company, the local town newspaper will be your best source. In addition, look for any advertisements the company has placed, as these can give a good indication of the company’s goals.
  4. Analyze the job announcement: Carefully read the job description and reflect on what it says about the qualifications and responsibilities. Make a written list of the job tasks and annotate the list with your skills, knowledge, and other attributes that will enable you to perform the job tasks with excellence
  5. Anticipate common questions: Employment interviews involve a degree of uniformity across settings. Here are eleven common questions you are likely to be asked in an employment interview (McLean, 2005):
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • Have you ever done this type of work before?
    • Why should we hire you?
    • What are your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
    • Give me an example of a time when you worked under pressure.
    • Tell me about a time you encountered (X) type of problem at work. How did you solve the problem?
    • Why did you leave your last job?
    • How has your education and/or experience prepared you for this job?
    • Why do you want to work here?
    • What are your long-range goals? Where do you see yourself three years from now?
    • Do you have any questions?

You need to be prepared for standard questions about your education and background, but also see the opening in the conversation to discuss the job duties, the challenges inherent in the job, and the ways in which you believe you can meet these challenges. Take the opportunity to demonstrate the fact that you have “done your homework” in researching the company.

6. Prepare thoughtful questions as a sign of interest and dedication. You can also anticipate that the last few minutes will be set aside for you to ask questions. This is your opportunity to learn more about the organization and reinforce your positive attributes with the interviewer(s). Keep your questions simple, your attitude positive, and communicate your interest. Do not use this as an opportunity to ask about salary and benefits (e.g., how much vacation accrual you will get, when do pay increases happen). These questions can be asked when you are offered the position.

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Organizational Communication Anthology by See each page for attribution information. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.