By Barbara Reinhold
Getting ready for an interview isn't what it used to be. Now you must contend with many different kinds of questions and formats. Here are three types of interviews you may face and how to prepare for them.
1. Phone Interviews
Employers want to do things cheaply these days, so many conduct their first screening rounds with Ma Bell's help.
Upside: You can prepare notes and keep them in front of you while you talk. Also, the absence of ties and pantyhose during the process is a big plus!
Downside: It's often hard on people who count on talking to a live person to get energized.
Strategy: There is hope for people who take a while to warm up or who like to read an interviewer's face as they talk. About 10 minutes before the interview, go to a quiet place, close your eyes, and visualize a time when you were really successful at something. It could be last week at a sales presentation or even when you won a fourth-grade spelling bee. Hold that memory for several minutes and absorb all the positive energy from it. Remember where you were, who was there, what people said to you about it and feelings, colors, smells and sounds you recall. When the phone finally rings, your voice will have the zip it needs to seem alive over the wires.
2. Case Interviews
The case interview is a widely used screening torture for consulting, finance and executive positions.
Problem: Case interviews test your ability to problem solve and think around corners without having real data in front of you. Questions like, "Why are manholes round?" or "How many square yards of pizza are eaten in Canada each year?" are just warm-ups. Sometimes business problems are presented, such as the following: "Toyota is considering the release of a new model. What issues does the company need to think about?"
Strategy: It's almost impossible to become a logical thinker who possesses business savvy overnight if you're not one already. But you could subscribe to The Globe and Mail, take a logic course, read some books, or contact the Bain & Company consulting firm for a copy of its monograph "How to Ace the Case Interview."
3. Behavioural Interviews
In an age of inflated egos and "creative" resume production, behavioural interviews involve lots of no-nonsense "show me" questions.
Problem: Employers want to have evidence to back up possibly exaggerated claims.
Strategy: Don't even think about saying, "I have excellent organizational skills," without having two or three examples of when you used those skills. For every positive statement you plan to make about yourself, prepare a STAR analysis:
** S = name a SITUATION facing you or
** T = a TASK you had to complete
** A = describe what ACTION you took
** R = tell the RESULTS of your actions
Interviewing for Success
The most important elements of interviewing success are preparation and practice. If you try to scrimp on either one, it will show and you'll get a disappointing "thanks, but no thanks" letter. The bottom line: Not since high school has homework been so critical.