You should always go into a job interview with a clear sense of what you want to accomplish. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s not always as obvious as it seems.
The challenge is in the nature of the interview process. From the employer’s perspective, interviews fall into three categories based on what the employer wants to accomplish.
The three main categories are:
- Screening interviews
- Selection interviews (employment decisions)
- Confirmation interviews
Here’s a closer look at each:
The screening interview
The purpose of a screening interview is to narrow down a relatively large number of likely candidates to a smaller list of top choices. In large companies, these preliminary interviews are generally handled by the human resources department or a recruiter. In smaller companies, the screening interview may be conducted by an assistant of the key decision-maker.
Regardless of who’s doing the interviewing, your strategy in a screening interview should be to concentrate on one purpose: to stay in the running and move ahead to the next phase of the process. Don’t think about getting the offer yet – one step at a time!
The main thing that people who conduct screening interviews care about is how closely your skills and qualifications match the criteria that have been developed for the job at hand. Other key hiring criteria – how well you fit into the company or your motivation – are obviously important; but not vital at this stage of the interview process. So as long as you don’t come across as someone who clearly won’t fit, you don’t have to worry as much about these two aspects of your interview performance as you do in later interviews.
The important things to focus on during a screening interview are:
- Being able to cite specific examples that verify the information in your resume.
- Being able to articulate a clear, concise, and convincing reason for why you are interested in this particular job.
- Being able to defend any obvious weaknesses in your resume (the fact that you got to the screening interview to begin with probably means that you don’t have any apparent weaknesses to defend).
- Responding to questions in an open, direct way that communicates to your interviewer that you have nothing to hide.
- Gathering information about the position that can give you a clearer idea of the job, the company, the culture, and the person who will make the final hiring decision.
Even though the person interviewing you during a screening interview may be a mid-level employee with little influence on the hiring decision and no in-depth knowledge of the position, act as though he or she does. Be respectful and convey patience. Remember, before you can proceed to the next stage of the interviewing process, you have to get by the screener.
The selection interview
In a selection interview, you can assume that your basic qualifications are no longer a primary issue in the hiring decision. If you weren’t qualified for the job, you wouldn’t be talking to the decision-maker(s).
Your strategy should be to focus on what you can bring to the company in addition to those basic skills and qualifications. What you want to sell more than anything else in a selection interview is value.
The confirmation interview
In most but not all cases, confirmation interviews are making-it-official matters. The person responsible for the hiring decision has decided that you are the candidate of choice but, as a matter of courtesy, is introducing you to his or her boss before finally making the offer.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to sell yourself too hard during a confirmation interview. You simply have to be on your best behavior and not do anything that would cause anyone to flinch! Stay somewhat guarded, and keep your opinions to yourself! If you’ve made it this far, you should be able to handle the confirmation with grace and confidence – moving toward that written offer and your new position!
What are your thoughts about the three phases of interviews? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.