The most important part of the job hunt

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2003

The goal of any job search is to land the job of choice. One of the hurdles job applicants must get over to reach that goal is the interview.

Since there are many types of interviews, knowing the type of interview you will have helps you better prepare, said Dr. Jacquelyn Robinson, a community workforce development specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Most interviews fall into one of three groups

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screenings, individual or committee.

The screening interview is designed to narrow or weed out the number of applicants to one or two, and maybe handled in one of three ways. Applicants may meet one-on-one with a company representative or interviewer who asks a set of pre-determined questions. The interviewer may be looking for inconsistencies between the applicant's answers to questions and the information provided in the applicant's cover letter or resume.

Robinson says it is a good idea to read both (resume and cover letter) prior to going to any type of interview. Keep answers factual and brief.

"If you volunteer too much information, you may be perceived as exaggerating; if you offer too little information, you may be perceived as unprepared. Leave the screener thinking that you are knowledgeable and professional and wanting to know more about you," she says.

Group interviews are another type of interview designed to screen applicants. During this type of interview, several applicants are brought together in an informal, discussion-oriented setting. The interviewer introduces a topic and facilitates the discussion. The objective of the interview is to check interaction with others. Those who do well are generally asked back for a second interview.

Companies sometimes set up telephone interviews. The purpose of telephone interviews is to see how well an applicant can "think on his or her feet." When preparing for a telephone interview, Robinson suggests making a list of possible questions with brief appropriate answers. Keep the question-and answer list, a pad and pencil, and a copy of your cover letter and resume next to the phone, she says.

When the call comes, be friendly, but professional. Don't be overly chatty or funny. Keep answers concise, focusing on your skills and experience. Take notes you can refer to when you have the opportunity to ask questions.

The individual interview is generally reserved for the top two or three candidates who have the necessary skills. The purpose of this type of interview is to establish how well the candidate fits into the company and to what degree his or her skills complement those of coworkers and colleagues.

Individual interviews may be conducted in an office setting or over lunch or dinner. Regardless of where it is conducted, the applicant's goal is to find common ground with the interviewer. The conversation should clearly demonstrate how the applicant's skills and experience would benefit the company.

The committee interview is also reserved for the top two or three candidates. In this type of interview, several people who have a stake in who is hired ask questions of the candidate. As with the individual interview, all or part of the interview may be over lunch or dinner.

It is a common practice in the committee interview to be asked to give a presentation or demonstration. In most cases, the candidate will be given advance notice. Remember, at this point, you want to convince each interviewer that you are the right person for the job.