The Most Often Asked Question in The Job Interview

A one-on-one job interview is the most familiar and common format. This is where two people sit down to have a conversation. This conversation has a particular purpose: to determine whether there is a fit between the person interviewing, the applicant, and the job available. Both parties will leave this conversation with some kind of a judgment.

The interview begins instantly when the two people see one another. This is a nonverbal judgment made by both parties. Next, is the handshake. Is it weak, or firm and comfortable. These two people, the applicant and the interviewer, then sit down, most likely in an office setting, and begin to converse. After an initial bit of chit-chat or warm up, the questions begin.

“Tell me about yourself,” is often the first question asked to begin the conversation in a job interview. The information the applicant reveals when answering this question and throughout the interview allows the interviewer to get a picture of the person, and certain pictures or patterns begin emerge. Each time a new subject is mentioned, the interviewer may dig a little further, and the picture about this applicant becomes more focused.

Through past behavior questions such as, “Tell me about your experience with .” The interviewer listens to hear about past experiences that can be applied to solving the problems of the job in question. The applicant must be prepared to talk about achievements and past behaviors, and have examples of experiences mentioned. If the applicant says, “I am very detail-oriented”, or “I am an analytical problem-solver,” there must be examples to back the claims.

For example, the applicant might say, “I have excellent written communication skills.” The interviewer is now able to follow up on this subject. The interviewer might ask, “What type of writing have you done?” Or, “Tell me about a project you have worked on involving written communication skills?” If the applicant is not prepared with good examples, or success stories, there might be a credibility problem. Saying you can do something, and giving an example of when you have done it, are two different things.

Sometimes there will be a succession of one-on-one interviews within the same company. The process may begin with the human resources department, then move on to an interview with a prospective boss, or hiring manager. It may then continue down the line to other members of a department, and can sometimes include a CEO. Interviewers are trying to get a picture of the applicant’s abilities to perform in the position that is available. They are also looking to see how the applicant would fit into the company culture.

In each one-on-one conversation, the applicant must be able to present good examples, and tell about past successes. When this is done the applicant can leave the interview knowing that he or she has communicated a picture that is positive and accurate no matter how many conversations it takes.

— Carole Martin

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