Structure of an Interview

Fortunately, most interviews follow a similar pattern consisting of three stages: the introduction, the information exchange, and the wrap-up.

Your Arrival

Arriving early for an interview is a sign of respect to the interviewer. Make sure you have good directions and know how long it will take to get there. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.  The interview starts when you arrive in the building; you never know who you might meet in the elevator! Show respect for everyone; the receptionist's opinion can make or break your offer.

The Introduction

Although this may only last 3-5 minutes, the introduction is an opportunity to make a strong first impression.  When the interviewer approaches, rise from your seat to greet them. It is likely that they will extend their hand for a handshake. A good handshake demonstrates confidence. Be sure your grip is firm (not crushing), smile and look your interviewer in the eye.  As you walk to the interview room, this is your opportunity to develop rapport with the interviewer by engaging in small talk. Once seated, the interviewer may provide an overview of your time together.

The Information Exchange

The information exchange will be the focus of the interview and will likely be 15+ minutes long.  This is your opportunity to prove that you are the best candidate for the job. During the information exchange, the interviewer will ask questions about your experiences, skills, and interest in the position. Remember that your non-verbal behaviors, such as how you stand, sit, and listen, also impact your interaction with the employer. Although the questions an interviewer may ask are limitless, they typically fall within 4 categories of question type: behavioral, closed-ended, preference, and follow-up.

The Wrap-Up

The wrap-up may last anywhere from 5-10 minutes. It is common for the interviewer to ask, "Do you have any questions for me?" Your questions should address topics such as details about the position and skills/qualifications the organization is seeking. Avoid asking questions related to salary, benefits, and personal topics.

Interviewers usually tell you how long it will be before they will contact you after the interview. If they don't, you should inquire as this will show the employer that you are serious about wanting the position. Finally, at the conclusion of your interview, express your appreciation for their time and restate your interest. Leave with another firm handshake and great eye contact.