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Typical Interview Format

Of course not every interview is the same. Interview style and format will be influenced by:

  • Any policies of the organization / company / agency with which you are having an interview, and
  • The style, personality, technique, and skill of your interviewer(s).

Therefore you might experience a variety of approaches and styles with different employers and interviewers. The length of time can vary. A campus interview usually lasts 30 minutes, but not always. An on-site interview may last a full day, with multiple interviews and meals as part of the evaluation process. Interviews can range from very structured to seeming like a friendly conversation. Be aware that a skilled interviewer will use techniques to discover the real you. If an interview feels like a friendly conversation, be aware it is a professional conversation and conduct yourself accordingly.

Most interviews include these stages:

1. Introductory stage. | estimated length of a few minutes.

The interviewer will greet you and establish rapport. Extend your hand for a handshake as you meet. Listen carefully to your interviewer's name. State your full name, and don't speak too quickly. During this time, the interviewer gets the very important first impression of you, based on your greeting and introduction, handshake, appearance, and demeanor.

There might be friendly small talk as you are greeted and escorted to the interview room. Be alert to signals, listen, and give short responses. For example if asked if you had trouble with directions to the office, respond that you did not. (If you got lost, no need to expound.)

Sit when you are directed to do so, not before.

Address your interviewer as Ms./Mr./Dr. [lastname]. If your interviewer insists on being addressed by her/his first name, you can do so. Don't use her/his first name until told to do so. Starting with formality and moving to less formality is appropriate. If you start informally, and that is not welcome, this can be awkward and embarrassing.

There might be brief discussion of logistics, what will happen during the interview, verification that the interviewer and candidate each have appropriate information, etc. You could offer an updated copy of your resume, and any other paperwork you were asked to bring.

2. Information from the interviewer to the candidate. | estimated length of a few minutes.

The interviewer might give you more information about the position or the organization. Ideally, you would have received much of that information in advance, because you needed it to prepare for the interview. However there could be more current or detailed information the interviewer provides.

For on-campus interviews, some employers hold information sessions, usually the evening prior to the interview day, in order to share that information in advance. This way more interview time can be spent getting to know you, and the interviewer does not have to repeat the same information over and over with individual students. If an information session is offered, make it a priority to go if you can; it's to your advantage to be there.

3. Questions from the interviewer(s) to the candidate. | majority of the interview time.

Prepare for a wide variety of typical interview questions, and be ready to think on your feet if a question surprises you.

The purpose of an interview is to determine:
- If there is a match between your qualifications and the requirements of the job;
- If you are truly interested in the employer and the job; and
- If there is a good fit between you and the employer.
So you must go in to an interview knowing yourself, knowing the field/industry, knowing the employer, and knowing the position.

Although you could be asked about your understanding of issues related to your career field, an interview is not a test or quiz to see if you have memorized correct answers. It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your preparation and your thought process.

Behaviorial questions [that ask you to describe how you behaved in the past] are used because past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Focus on what you can do for the employer, not what the employer can do for you.

Present positive information; don't focus on what you don't have.

Be concise but also thorough in responses to questions; don't make the interviewer work too hard to get information from you. If the interviewer is talking more than you are, this might indicate you are not providing complete responses.

4. Opportunity for you as interviewee to ask questions. | estimated length of a few minutes.

Interviewers expect candidates to have questions. Having none will send the message you were not prepared or interested. If all the questions you wanted to ask were already answered, you can explain that (and thank the interviewer for sharing that information).

5. Conclusion. | estimated length of a minute or a few.

Before you depart, the interviewer should explain what the next steps are in the hiring process for the organization (if not already explained), anything else expected of you, and when and how the employer will next be in contact with you.

Before you depart, thank your interviewer for her/his time and consideration. Stand when you offer a handshake. Be pleasant and cordial to any individuals you encounter as you depart. 

Your follow up after the interview.

Your work is not over with the conclusion of the interview. Do anything the employer told you to do. Express your thanks promptly in writing.