Nailing the Interview: Tips and Resources
Written by: Shanzeh Mumtaz Ahmed, MSc | Freelance Medical Writer & Editor
Do you feel nervous before a job interview? Do you worry about how to prepare and what kinds of questions might be asked? Read on to hear from Career and Employment Specialist, Sylvie Marko, and learn how to nail that interview!
On March 23rd, 2023, the Ottawa Chapter of S2BN hosted a webinar on how to ace your job interview. Our speaker, Sylvie Marko, brought a wealth of career experiences in a variety of specialties, ranging from rehabilitation work to law enforcement to a knowledge of science and technology. In this talk, she briefly discussed: different types of interviews, what to do during and after an interview, types of interview questions, and shared some resources. So, let’s dive in!
Types of Interviews
Overall, an interview can be either formal or informal. A formal interview is the one you’re probably imagining right now—structured and organized. An informal interview may be something like a virtual chat or a conversation with a potential employer over coffee.
Both these types of interviews can be in-person, but companies may also conduct phone interviews or as is becoming more common, virtual/video interviews.
These can be one-on-one, panel, or group interviews. It depends on the role. TIP: The best way to get better at giving interviews is to practice beforehand!
Interviews can also be accompanied or preceded by certain assessments. This could be an aptitude test or a simulation. You may also be asked to provide work samples or references before an interview is set to be conducted. TIP: your interview invitation will provide this information.
What To Do
Before an interview
Engage in some self-reflection. Talk to your friends, family, or partner to try and identify your individual strengths and weaknesses. Think about what you’re good at and what you’re interested in.
If you’re a recent graduate with no work experience, you may be finding it challenging to identify what skills you bring to a job. Think about your transferable skills—you have many! Skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and digital capability are all valuable to employers. Look through job postings you’re interested in and identify the skills of interest for your industry. TIP: Prepare examples of when you demonstrated these identified competencies beforehand to bring up during your interview.
Know your resume! You will be asked about it during the interview so make sure you’re fully aware of everything that’s in it. But also, make sure you research the employer, company, and position you’re applying for. Go through their website, LinkedIn page, and recent posts. TIP: Always come to your interview with pre-prepared questions based on your research.
If it’s a virtual interview, make sure you pre-check your audio and video settings. Make sure your lighting is good and that you have an appropriate background (or blur it).
Bonus tip: LinkedIn is a great way to network. Feel free to reach out to people who work at your companies of interest and ask them questions. Use your second-degree connections as well!
During the interview
Try to keep your answers focused and concise. If you have trouble with this, there are a few things to remember that can help. For example, it’s okay to ask for clarification or to repeat a question. You can even ask if you can take notes during the interview. Or tell them out loud that you’re taking a moment to think about your answer. Support your answers with real-world examples (You prepped for this remember, so don’t worry! Check out the ‘Resources’ section below for more information)
Make sure you have all your required documents easily at hand, so that you’re not flustered during the interview. Stay calm and try to keep your tone pleasant and conversational. If the interview is virtual, you can leave a post-it note by your camera to remind you to look at it throughout the interview. This makes it feel like you’re maintaining eye contact while you speak.
At the end of the interview, make sure you ask your interviewer any questions that you’ve prepared or that came up during the interview process. Just make sure your questions can’t be easily answered by skimming the company website. You can also take this moment to ask about the next steps in the application process.
After the interview
You can also send the company a thank you email 24-48 hours following your interview. If you’re not selected for a particular position, you may still ask for any feedback to better prepare for your next interview.
To look for more networking opportunities, you can look into upcoming events on EventBrite or through your school’s Career Centre or your Faculty.
TIP: You can even use AI like ChatGPT to come up with interview questions or look up interview tips.
Types of Interview Questions
Sylvie spoke about 5 types of interview questions:
General questions are ones such as “tell me about yourself” or “why should we hire you?” To answer these, use the PAWS acronym.
P – Personal – information that makes you stand out
A – Academic – educational background/relevant training
W – Work – past relevant experiences
S – Skills – relevant skills
TIP: Try to limit your answers to 2 minutes so that they remain focused and concise.
Behavioral questions require candidates to provide specific examples of how they responded in situations or how they used certain skills; such as, “Tell me about a time when you have effectively used your time management skills.” To answer these, use the STARR acronym.
S – Situation – when I worked at…
T – Task – I had to complete a project where…
A – Action – I developed a work plan…
R – Result/Lesson Learned – I succeeded in submitting the project on time…
R – Relevance – After completing this task, I’ve gained…
TIP: Try to come up with examples that ended on a positive note or where you learnt a lesson that you later applied.
Situational questions are based on hypothetical situations. How might you respond if…To answer these, use the SARR acronym.
S – Situation – explain the situation and your role in it
A – Action – what steps did you take
R – Result – what were the results
R – Relevance – how is this relevant to the job you’re now applying for
TIP: If they ask you a situational question for which you have a real-life example, feel free to use that and vice versa!
Knowledge-based questions test your knowledge of the field. Finally, simulation questions are as they sound; this can involve some role-playing to see how you may respond to a situation.
Some Final Tips from the Q&A Session
As the session wrapped up, attendees had the chance to ask Sylvie some of their burning questions. I’ve compiled some key takeaways from that discussion.
On battling pre-interview nerves. While practice is the best long-term solution, you could try something as simple as listening to your favourite calming music or eating a snack that brings you some comfort to help calm your mood and nerves. It doesn’t have to be complicated!
On questions about your biggest “weaknesses”. Think of this more as “areas of improvement.” We all have them! Answer honestly but also show the interviewer what steps you’re taking to work on those areas.
On doubts during the process, remember that you can also ask the interviewer questions if you have any reservations about why the position is vacant or about the job itself.
On questions about salary estimates, do the research beforehand. Resources like Indeed, Payscale, Glassdoor, can give you an estimate for your position of interest which you can then relay as an average range.
We hope you found this to be helpful. Happy interviewing!
Author: Shanzeh Mumtaz Ahmed, MSc
Freelance Medical Writer & Editor
Sylvie also provided the following resources. Please check these out for more information.
Interviews | University of Ottawa (uottawa.ca)