Chapter 3: Interview Skills

3.1 What is an Interview?

An interview is an opportunity for a potential employer to learn more about you. In most cases, it takes the form of a question-based discussion. It is an opportunity for you to talk about why you would be a good candidate for the position. Many people describe an interview as an opportunity to “sell yourself”. An interview is a kind of oral argument about why you are a strong candidate for a particular position. However, it is not a monologue or a speech. Your job is to answer the questions the interviewer poses. Think of an interview as an opportunity for you to explain how you meet the qualifications for the position and will contribute to your potential employer and workplace’s goals.

Types of Interviews

Most interviews are individual. You will meet with a prospective employer and be expected to discuss how your skills, attributes, and experiences align with the position you applied for. Often, employers will have developed a set of questions that they will use for all candidates. This means that you and your competitors will have a consistent experience that will allow you to be assessed more fairly. Interviews can vary in type and length. Take a look at some of these common types of interviews.

  • Panel. A panel interview is when the candidate is interviewed by a hiring committee. Often, a panel includes the supervisor for the role, a human resources representative, and other members as determined by the organization and position being applied for. Usually, you won’t know who will be on your panel in advance.
  • Group. A group interview is when groups of candidates are interviewed together in the same place at the same time. The interviewers may pose questions to the group as a whole, they may question interviewees individually in front of the group, or they may segregate the group into subgroups and move through stations that combine different questions or even a combination of questions and tasks.
  • Virtual. Virtual interviews happen using virtual conferencing tools. Some happen on video while others may happen on the phone. Virtual interviews can take the format of any other type of interview. If you are interviewing virtually, ensure that you have the appropriate technology and that you get it working before the interview takes place!
  • Task. Some interviews may also include a test or other task. Follow the instructions carefully. In some cases, the materials for this task will be provided in advance. Other times, it will be presented at the time of the interview. If the interviewers want you to prepare something in advance, they will tell you! Tasks can take the form of tests, writing tasks, design tasks, role play, or, if it is a group interview, group exercises.
  • Presentation. One of the most common tasks in an interview is a presentation. The length and format will be determined by the interviewer. Again, if you are using technology, make sure you test it in advance. If you develop materials, send them to the interviewer in advance.
  • Informational. As we discussed earlier in this book, you can also reach out and request an informational interview from a prospective employer. In these interviews, you act as the interviewer and gain information about the workplace and the employer. An informational interview may help you early in your job search process, but it is not a job interview. Use the opportunity to ask questions and not to self-promote.


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This work (3.1 What is an Interview? by Deb Nielsen; Emily Ballantyne; Faatimah Murad; and Melissa Fournier) is free of known copyright restrictions.

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