Interviews don't need to be scary! These resources can help you prepare and perform your best on interview day.
An interview is a meeting between you and an organization, when you’re considered as a candidate for a job or position. The organization may interview several candidates before making a final selection. An interview is also your chance to learn more about a position or organization to determine if it’s a fit.
A traditional interview consists of a series of questions asked by the interviewers. You may also be asked to demonstrate your skills by completing short work-related tasks such as formal presentations, role-plays or written assignments (either assigned ahead of the interview or asked to perform them on the spot).
Interviewers want to know three main things:
- Can you do the work?
- Will you be a “fit” with the work culture?
- Are you motivated to do the work?
Skype, Facetime and other videoconferencing tools are becoming more popular for out-of-town interviews. Treat webcam interviews as a combination of a telephone and in-person interview. As in a phone interview, you can have some notes in front of you, but should avoid referring to them too often. Tips:
- Prepare your space—find a quiet spot with bare walls behind you, set up the webcam/monitor so it is eye-level, and make sure you’re captured well on the screen. Avoid being surrounded by clutter.
- Don’t plan to multitask during the call—your full attention should be on the interview.
- When you connect, the other person will be able to see certain default profile information. Ensure that your status, location and other profile details are appropriate and accurate.
- You may also want to practice an interview to get the hang of looking at the lens and speaking at the right volume.
- Ensure there won’t be other demands on your internet connection at the same time (like your roommate streaming movies!) An Ethernet connection is usually more reliable than wireless.
- Log on about 15 minutes early.
- Test your settings and your voice levels/clarity. You might want to invest in an external microphone and headphones.
- Ask permission before calling with any webcam tool. Your contact might be on the telephone, in a public place or otherwise not in a position to take your webcam call. Try instant messaging before making the call—a short text like “Is this still a good time for our call?”
- Know whether your contact is expecting to see you on webcam or a voice-only call.
- Dress professionally—even if the employer can only see the top half of your body, you’ll feel more confident if you're dressed in full interview attire.
Explore the organization’s website to review their services or products, structure, culture, mission statement, annual reports and recent news. Research the organization online and review information about this organization from external sources. Look for profiles of the directors and those involved in hiring by searching social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Get in touch with your personal, professional and academic contacts to see if they know someone who might have information about the salary range, working hours, work culture, projects and challenges at this organization.
(Complete the interview checklist before your interview)
Carefully review the job posting, job description and any information you gathered during your research to identify the skills and qualifications that are most important for the position. Practice speaking about these skills—make notes about times you demonstrated them and had positive results. If you’re moving into a new career area, try to think of situations from similar work environments. For example, if you’re applying for work as a policy analyst, use a story from a volunteer office job instead of from a restaurant server position. It’s also common for interviewers to ask about a time something went wrong, so think about an experience when a problem was not extremely dramatic and you were able to develop a solution. You’ll likely be asked to begin the interview by telling them about yourself, so prepare an answer for this, focusing on your relevant professional experience, education, attributes and interests.
(Read more about answering interview questions)
Select a slim, professional-looking folder and neatly organize your:
- Résumé and cover letter
- Reference list and reference letters
- Pen and paper
- Samples of your work (see portfolios)
You may also want to bring the following items to review before the interview:
- Instructions on how to get to the interview and contact information in case you're delayed
- Correspondence regarding the position (e.g. the time, date and location of interview)
- The job description and your research on the organization
- Notes you’ve made to prepare yourself for the interview
- Two or three questions to ask the interviewer
Have an interview lined up? We've got you covered.
Interviewers may ask a ton of different types of questions, depending on what they're hoping to learn about you. We've listed a range of samples below (you can also download these).
- Tell me about yourself.
- What three words would your previous supervisor use to describe you?
- What are your skills related to this position?
- What do your coworkers say about you?
- Name one of your main strengths and describe how you have used this strength effectively.
- Describe which skills you would like to develop in this position.
- How do you handle working under pressure?
- What do you do when you’re having trouble solving a problem?
- How do you go about making important decisions?
- How do you go about coordinating multiple projects or deadlines simultaneously?
- In your opinion, what contributes to successful teamwork?
- What role do you tend to play in a team?
- How do you build and maintain effective working relationships with co-workers?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- Have you ever encountered an irate customer? What did you do to resolve their problem?
- Describe a time when you took initiative.
- Describe a time when you had to persuade a person/group to do something they didn’t want to do. What was the result?
- Describe a time when you had to explain a complicated process to a group. How did you ensure they understood?
- Describe a time when you ensured positive communication and effective collaboration between teammates on a project.
- Describe a time when you worked on multiple projects concurrently. What strategies did you use to keep on track?
- Give an example of what you do when priorities change quickly. Describe the actions you took, as well as the outcome.
- Tell us about a time where you achieved a great deal within a short period.
- Tell us about a time when you worked as part of a team to achieve a goal. What was your role? What made it successful?
- Describe an event or experience where something you did made an impact on someone.
- What is a suggestion you’ve made at work that was implemented?
- Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed. How did you handle it? Why? Were you happy with the outcome?
- Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
- Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to with which you did not agree. Why?
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
- Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was your thought process? What was the outcome? What do you wish you had done differently?
- Describe a time when you had to work as part of a team with an unproductive team member. How did you resolve the situation? What would you do differently?
- Imagine you’re working to a tight deadline. Your co-worker in the cubicle next to you is being very chatty. You need to get your work done. How do you handle this?
- Your boss is critical of a project you have completed. How would you handle the situation?
- Your co-worker is consistently missing deadlines or asking for help at the last minute. What do you do about this?
- How would you manage a situation where you have a number of looming deadlines and know you can’t complete all the work within the time allotted?
- What would you do if you had to make an important decision and your direct supervisor was not available?
- What is one of your biggest challenges/weaknesses?
- What is the most difficult thing about working with you?
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker.
- What kinds of personalities do you struggle to work with?
- Describe a time when you became angry on the job.
- Give me a reason why we should not hire you for this position.
- Give me an example of a time where you were not a productive team member.
- Tell me about a time when were unable to meet a deadline.
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake and what you did about it.
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor.
- If you could be any object in this room, what would you be?
- If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
- Sense of humour is very important in our workplace. Tell us a joke.
- If you were the Prime Minister of Canada, what issue would you tackle first?
- Why are utility covers round?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Why did you apply for this position?
- How would you describe your ideal work environment?
- How does this position fit with your career goals?
- What motivates you to do your best work?
- What goals have you set for yourself as a student? How are you going about achieving them?
- What challenges are you looking for in a position?
- What are your favourite classes (or least favourite classes) and why?
- What do you know about our organization?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What did you do to prepare for this interview?
- Who is our president/CEO/executive director?
Most of the questions you’ll be asked will be about your experience (work, academic and volunteer) and your competencies (skills, knowledge and attributes).
These questions might be as broad as “Tell me about yourself” or “Why should we hire you?” In responding to very broad questions, try to summarize information about yourself so that it relates to the requirements of the position. Your response needs to build on the case you made for yourself in your cover letter and résumé. Show that you’ve thought about how you’re a good fit for the position and that you have confidence in your ability to do it.
These questions can also be very specific, such as: “What three words would your previous supervisor use to describe you?” or “Can you describe how you've used the advanced features of MS Word?” In responding to very specific questions, frame your response in relation to the information you gathered from the job posting and other sources. Speak to the key skills or attributes the interviewers may be most interested in.
Tell me about yourself.
My strength is written communication. That’s what led me to pursue a BA in writing. Most recently, I had a chance to put my writing skills to work as a volunteer with Focus magazine. I did a great variety of writing projects while working there, including hard news articles and lifestyle pieces. I also compiled events schedules and assisted with layout design. In my spare time, I do a lot of personal writing, including fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. I’ve even had a short story published in ‘The Prairie Review’. I’m particularly interested in trying kinds of writing that I’ve never done before. I think the more I learn about different styles, the better my writing will be. That’s why the work you are doing is so interesting to me. From the samples of the projects I’ve seen your office produce, I know you hold very high standards around written communication. These are some of the key aspects about myself and my experience that I believe would allow me to make a strong contribution to your organization.
What are your skills related to this position?
I think my strongest skills are in research and writing. I used these skills during a co-op work term I completed with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. My job was to research provincial initiatives for preventing violence against women and children over the last three years. I consulted a variety of existing studies and interviewed a group of women who had experienced violence. I then compiled the results into a draft report. As part of the same project, I helped create a mail out survey and collated the results with the other information I was collecting. The present position with your organization requires the same types of skills and focused attention.
These questions are designed to find out how the current position fits with your career aspirations, and could include: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “Why did you apply for this position?”
In responding to these questions, focus on how you can contribute to the organization, rather than how the experience will benefit you.
Where does this position fit with your career goals?
Right now I’m most interested in getting my career started in genetic research. This is the field I plan to stay in, so I do have some long-term plans to return to university for my Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. What’s important for me at this point is to get several years of practical lab experience to hone my skills and give me some ‘real world’ experience. This job is an excellent starting point for me because it’ll give me a chance to use the skills I’ve already developed in school and put them to use.
What kind of environment do you work best in?
It’s important for me to work in a cooperative environment where people value a team experience but also where there is an expectation of initiative and independence. I also really value working with people who are experts at what they do and where I can keep learning. I function best when the environment is a bit competitive. I like to be challenged to do my best so I work well under pressure and to deadlines. Working directly with clients is also important to me.
It’s very important to be prepared for these types of questions to show you care about the potential employer. Review the organization’s website to learn about their products, services, vision, mission and values. Think about how you’d fit into the organization and what you have to offer in relation to what they do. When they ask what you know about them, don’t just recite the website; use your own words and reiterate why you’re a good fit.
Why do you want to work here?
Arthur Walburg is a really respected firm that has a clear sense of direction. I was impressed when I read in the VIATeC Directory that the firm has grown over 80% over the last two years. I also feel that the company’s mission “to bring a youthful, forward and vibrant direction to the accounting field” was in tune with my own personality. I think I have that mix of traditional accounting skills and modern world vision to work well on your team.
What do you know about the services we offer?
I looked at your website and your promotional materials once I decided to apply for this position. I know that you specialize in developing educational software and multi-media tools for educational institutions. I’m really interested in your focus on blending IT with education. My own recent experience developing a multi-media presentation for a fourth-year university project gave me the chance to get my feet wet doing this sort of work.
Behavioural questions ask you to talk in detail about a specific experience. These questions usually start with “Tell me/us about a time when…” or “Give us an example of a situation where you…”
When responding to behavioural questions, give a specific example and not just general information on what you would do in a given situation.
Use the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result):
- Clearly explain the Situation,
- your role or Task,
- the specific Action you took, and
- how your action led to a positive Result (or learning experience)
Describe a time when you took initiative.
(Situation) Last term, I worked as a volunteer with one of the departments on campus that provides drop-in hours for new students who are seeking information about services, clubs, or other events on campus. (Task) After about a month, I noticed that there was not much student traffic and I figured that the volunteers could do a better job of marketing our services. (Action) I initiated a group e-mail to my co-volunteers and volunteer supervisor asking for ideas on how we could see more students and included my own ideas on how we could do this. As it turned out, many of them had great ideas that were supported by our supervisor. At my next drop-in shift, I drew up a marketing plan based on the ideas and we put the marketing plan into place this term. (Result) So far, drop-ins have significantly and steadily increased.
Tell me about a time when were unable to meet a deadline.
(Situation) During my final year of my undergraduate degree, I failed to hand in my Honours thesis on time. This was because I was heavily involved in cutting-edge research right up until the end of my course and was waiting for results from surveys being undertaken by researchers at other academic institutions. (Task) Considering this was my final piece of academic work, I wanted to ensure it was based on the most accurate and up-to-date sources of information available, even if this meant a delay in production. (Action) Before choosing to miss the deadline, I contacted my Thesis supervisor and reviewers two weeks before my due date to discuss my particular situation. I explained the delay, and was consequently allowed an extra two weeks to produce my work. (Result) Although my work was delayed, I feel that this delay was justified in that the work was of the highest quality it could be. Furthermore, I sufficiently organized myself in relation to my department, so that all relevant people were aware of a possible delay.
Hypothetical questions ask you to imagine yourself in a difficult situation and then describe how you would behave in that situation. They often begin with “What would you do if…?”
Interviewers ask hypothetical questions to learn how you problem solve. They also want to know that you would communicate in a timely manner and act in the best interests of the organization. When responding to hypothetical questions, describe how you would deal with the specific situation, detailing the sequence of specific actions you would take and the outcome you would work towards. If possible, back up your answer with a concrete example from your experience.
What would you do if you had three projects due on the same day?
As a student, I often have several projects due at the same time. I set mini goals for myself to have aspects of each project done early along the way, with each project being complete well in advance. This gives me room in my schedule to allow for unexpected projects or problems that may arise in the meantime. Last term, I had three large papers due the same day, and I had each one completed more than a week in advance. When I had a midterm scheduled for the same day, I was able to study effectively for it, and got good marks on all four projects.
How would you deal with an angry client who was screaming at you?
I always find the best way to deal with an angry person is to stay calm. I also find that when people are angry, what they want most is for someone to listen to them, so I would make sure that I hear them out and try my best to understand why they are mad, explain what can be done, and most importantly, do it! Last year I worked at The Bay in the china department, and a woman came in with a broken teapot. She yelled at me for packing it badly and getting it broken and that she needed it right away to give as a gift at a wedding. I apologized and told her I would call the other stores to see who had one in stock and get it sent over immediately. I did this and found one in stock in Vancouver and arranged to have it expedited to our location to arrive the next day. I explained all of this to the woman and she calmed down and was happy with the resolution. I feel it’s important to always listen to and respect the client and not get into an argument with them, but at the same time, follow workplace procedures.
These are bound to come up, but don’t panic—there’s a way to answer these questions honestly and come out with your confidence and job prospects intact. Employers use these questions to gauge how you cope, overcome, solve problems, and prevail in the face of adversity. When responding to negative questions, prepare ideas ahead of time so you know what you’ll discuss and how.
When answering, focus on competencies, events, or subjects that are not central to the job you're applying for. For example, if the job focuses heavily on computer skills, don’t choose this as your weakness! State the negative simply and factually. Don’t dwell on it, blame anybody or overstate. End with a positive: describe how you dealt with the difficulty, explain what you learned from the experience and if possibly, describe how you improved things. When asked for specific examples, it helps to phrase your answer in terms of STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
What’s your biggest weakness?
I have a really hard time saying no when someone asks me to do something. I tend to automatically say yes to things without checking to see if I really have the time to commit to getting it done well. As a result, I find myself struggling to meet deadlines with quality work. After putting in a lot of overtime at my previous job to get projects done, I have learned to realistically assess whether I have the time necessary to do a good job before I automatically take on more work. I have also learned to delegate tasks and accept help from others to ensure that the quality of work is excellent, as well as on time.
Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker.
In my last position, I worked as the assistant to the head secretary. She took a lot of pride in her work and was not comfortable assigning me tasks, so I found that I was often lacking in work to keep me busy for the day. At first I found it very frustrating that she didn’t trust me to do my job, but when I realized that I needed to earn her trust, I continued asking her to give me small tasks, and I ensured I did them well, and worked my way up to bigger and bigger tasks with more responsibility. After a few months, I was doing large-scale projects and was entirely responsible for the accounting for the office. When the head secretary went on vacation for two weeks, she even left me in charge of her time-sensitive work. That was a real vote of confidence, and I am proud of myself for earning her trust.
Employers may ask questions that seem unusual but are actually looking for insight into your creativity and analytical skills. If the question is asking for an estimation or a numerical analysis, the interviewer is typically hoping to hear about the reasoning behind your calculation. If the question is more open-ended and hypothetical, the interviewer is probably looking for how you respond to the unexpected. Think creatively and share the reasoning behind your answer.
- If you could be any object in this room, what would you be?
- If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
- Sense of humour is very important in our workplace. Tell us a joke.
- If you were the Prime Minister of Canada, what issue would you tackle first?
- Why are utility covers round?
In some interviews, you may be asked to imagine you are in the workplace-related situation and to act out how you would respond. Often, the interviewer will act as a client or co-worker and you’ll engage in a discussion to solve a problem or reach a positive conclusion. Role-plays often focus on working with a potential client or customer, or test your ability to cope with an urgent situation or a conflict. You may want to anticipate role play scenarios related to the position and practice with a friend.
You may be asked to complete a test or skill demonstration activity as part of the interview process. This might be an online test, a written assignment, a presentation or a typing, technical or math test. Learn as much about the test as you can and practice or study for it. Some employers may ask you to work from 20 minutes to a full shift to demonstrate your ability to do the job. This can be awkward when no training is provided and you have to jump in to demonstrate your competencies. If this will be part of the selection process, you may want to prepare by practicing your skills with friends, and visiting the work site ahead of time if it is accessible to the public. If you are asked to work for more than 30 minutes, the employer generally offers to pay you.
In BC, the British Columbia Human Rights Code ensures equal access to employment opportunities and fair treatment within the workplace by protecting individuals against discrimination. Employers must ensure that employment decisions—who gets hired and who doesn’t—are based firmly on job-related criteria and not discriminatory considerations. This means that employers cannot ask you about:
- Marital Status
- Physical or Mental Disability
- Political Belief
- Criminal Conviction
- Place of origin
- Family status
- Sexual orientation
- Age (19 years and older)
You are not required to answer questions relating to the above. It is fair to abstain from answering them or seek clarification as to their relevance. For more information, see BC Human Rights Protection or our equity and diversity resources.
At the end of the interview, most interviewers will ask you if you have any questions for them. You should have one or two questions prepared that will provide you with meaningful additional information about the position or the organization. Write these questions down and take them with you to the interview. This is your chance to learn what you want to know to decide if you would accept the position, and also shows that you're taking the potential position seriously.
- I’m interested in learning more about __________ (project or part of the organization). Could you tell me a little about it?
- I’m clear on the role. Will there also be an opportunity for me to ____________? (a skill that you'd like to get the chance to develop)
- What do you see as the greatest challenge or most rewarding aspect of working in this department?
- What does success look like for this position?
- How do you see this position changing or developing over the next few years?
- How would you describe the work environment?
- What training do you offer to new employees?
- What would a typical day look like?
- When will you be making a decision about the position?
Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) are used primarily for assessing students for admittance to health-related professional schools. This interview format consists of a series of short interviews (six to 10 minutes each) at separate stations on a circuit. MMIs were initially developed for medical school candidates, but they're now common for admittance to nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and veterinary schools.
MMIs allow selection committees to evaluate many candidates in a short time through a variety of exercises. Research shows that MMIs may be more effective than panel interviews in assessing non-cognitive competencies in areas like critical thinking, ethical decision-making, self-evaluation, communication, collaboration, empathy, ability to cope with ambiguity, attention to detail, respect for others, and knowledge of health and societal issues. MMIs also give you a fresh start at each new station, and some candidates find this less intimidating than a meeting with a large panel.
MMIs usually run for two to three hours and are structured along the following lines:
- Welcome and orientation
- A bell sounds and applicants move to an assigned station and have two minutes to read a question or scenario and consider their response
- A bell sounds and participants enter the station and answer the question or complete the task or role-play (six to ten minutes)
- Applicants may be offered a prompt by the evaluators to assist them with answering a question more thoroughly or to complete a task effectively
- Tasks may include role-playing, the use of equipment or written assignments
- Stations may have one evaluator or a number of people in the room: for example a station may have an evaluator and an actor who role-plays a task with an applicant
- Participants continue to move on a circuit, from station to station approximately ten to 12 times
- One or two stations may be designated as rest stations
- A tour of the school is often part of the MMI event schedule
- You're working alone in a convenience store as a cashier late at night. An older man comes in and buys a coffee. He is staggering, seems disoriented, and you smell alcohol on his breath. On the way out, he bumps into a shelf and knocks some cereal boxes off. He tries to put the boxes back, but cannot manage this task. What actions might you take in this situation, and why?
- You are on holiday at a Mexican beach resort with some friends who are staying one floor down from you. A large earthquake hits in the middle of the night, and the building you're in is severely damaged. You have injured your leg, suspect it might be fractured, and hear someone yelling for help nearby. What would you do?
- Practice expressing your ideas in a structured and organized way
- Consider how you might express your empathy, understanding and patience in your interpersonal communication
- Pay attention to news on healthcare and health-related issues and consider the ethical, economic and geographic challenges
- Research issues in your chosen healthcare occupation
- Be prepared to respond to scenarios where your integrity might be challenged—develop your awareness of ethics and standards of professional conduct
- Practice analyzing complex situations by looking at various sides of issues and discussing these points
- Practice sample questions and the MMI format with friends or other candidates
- If you have an MMI scheduled, contact Career Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ask about practice sessions