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Preparing for an interview

Types of interviews

There is a wide range of interview types:

These interviews are typically between you and one representative from the employer organization. This representative will likely be a:

  • manager
  • supervisor
  • someone from human resources

This could be the only interview you have or be part of a series of interviews.

Usually, one-on-one interviews include a set of questions or activities related to the experience, skills, technical knowledge and personal attributes that the organization is looking for.

In a panel interview, questions may be similar to the one-on-one interview, but with several interviewers. Your panel could include:

  • the job supervisor
  • someone from human resources
  • someone with an interest in the projects you'd work on

Interviewers may take turns asking questions, or one person may do most of the talking while the others listen and take notes. Panel interviews allow many interviewers to participate and give feedback on hiring for the position.

In a group interview, you may be interviewed at the same time as other candidates. This type of interview is usually used when an organization wants to hire many employees at once.

Group interviews often include a team exercise.

Adopt a balanced approach—speak up but don’t dominate the conversation.

The organization is looking at your ability to work on a team, so show that you can draw people together to work as a team.

This can involve contributing ideas, facilitating discussions and building positive relationships with group members and the interviewers.

Virtual interviews let you connect with the employer on screen. You can have some notes in front of you and may want to consider these tips:

  1. Prepare your space.
    • close the door
    • find a quiet spot with bare walls behind you
    • set up the webcam/monitor so it is eye-level
    • ensure you’re captured well on the screen
    • avoid clutter
  2. Don’t plan to multitask during the call; your full attention should be on the interview.
  3. 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.
  4. Practice an interview to get the hang of looking at the lens and speaking at the right volume.
  5. 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
  6. Log on about 15 minutes early.
  7. Test your settings and your voice levels/clarity. You might want to invest in an external microphone and headphones.
  8. Know whether your contact is expecting to see you on webcam or a voice-only call.
  9. Dress professionally. Even if the employer can only see the top half of your body, you’ll feel more confident.

Phone interviews let you have your résumé, cover letter and notes in front of you.

Your voice is an important tool during these types of interviews. Show your energy and interest by sounding confident and enthusiastic.

When you arrange the interview, schedule it when you’ll be uninterrupted, have a reliable connection and have no background noise.

Organize your notes and research about the organization, your résumé and any other documents you've prepared.

Ensure your phone is fully charged and your voicemail sounds professional.

Be ready early in case the organization calls sooner than expected.

Employers sometimes use one-way video interviews to screen candidates before a longer interview. In this type of interview, you'll answer pre-recorded video questions and have one chance to record your 45- to 90-second answer. 

Before the interview

  1. Make a note of the deadline to submit the interview and prepare to answer questions.
  2. Research what the company does.
  3. Prepare for frequently-asked questions.
  4. Think of examples of things you’ve done to illustrate your answers. These can be from university, your work experiences or your hobbies.
  5. Set up early.
  6. Find a space where you won’t be interrupted.
  7. Close the door and ensure that you have a neutral background and good lighting.
  8. Check your sound and video.
  9. Practice! Use a mirror or your camera to run through some questions.
  10. Place post-it notes on your monitor or near the camera to remind you of key points or of examples to use.

During the interview

  1. Make sure that your answers are relevant to the company.
  2. Speak clearly and confidently, keep your tone light and friendly, be positive and honest.
  3. Keep your answers short and focused.

After the interview

  1. Reflect on the interview. What did you do well? Would you do anything differently next time?
  2. Send a thank-you email or note.

Useful videos

The MMI format includes a series of 6-10 interview stations, each focused on a different question or scenario. These interviews are common for health care program applications.

How to prepare

Now that you've lined up an interview, it's important to prepare.

  1. Review the job description and familiarize yourself with the requirements.
  2. Research the employer—what is their vision/mission, services/products, organizational structure/culture, history/recent news.
    • Don’t just look up the employer’s website. Google the employer and look them up on LinkedIn and social media.
  3. Review your experience and skills as they connect to the job description.
  4. Consider possible interview questions and answers based on the job. description/posting/research about the employer.
  5. Confirm where and when the interview is taking place and make a plan for getting there on time.
  6. If possible, find out if you’ll be interviewed by one person or a panel and learn their names.
  7. Find out if there’s a written test or skill demonstration involved as part of the interview.
  8. Decide what you’re going to wear.
  9. Bring a copy of your résumé, portfolio or any other documents you’ll need to bring.
  10. Bring instructions about how to get to your interview and contact information in case you’re delayed and need to contact your interviewer.
  11. Plan to arrive 5 to 10 minutes early.
  12. Turn off your phone before entering the building.

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.

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 and 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. Focus on your relevant professional experience, education, attributes and interests.

What you should wear to your interview depends on the organization. Some, like banks, recommend formal business attire for your interview. Other organizations are more informal and “business casual” clothing like a dress shirt and blazer/cardigan with dress pants or a skirt is appropriate.

Find out what the usual dress standards are, and then dress one step above that (or dress like the person who will be hiring you).

Choose your clothing before your interview and try everything on, including your footwear, to make sure it’s clean, fits and is appropriate.

Ask a friend or family member for feedback on your outfit and appearance.

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

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
  • time, date and location of the 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

Sample interview questions


Tell me about yourself.

What three words would your previous supervisor use to describe you?

What are your skills related to this position?

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 make important decisions?

How do you coordinate multiple projects or deadlines at the same time?

In your opinion, what makes a team successful?

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?

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 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?

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 when you worked as part of a team to achieve a goal. What was your role? What made it successful?

What is a suggestion you’ve made at work that was implemented?


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 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?


If you could be any object in this room, what would you be?

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

If you were the Prime Minister of Canada, what issue would you tackle first?

Why are utility covers round?

About your goals

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

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 and why? What are your least favourite classes and why?

About the company

What do you know about our organization?

What's something we did recently that made the news?

What did you do to prepare for this interview?

What is the name of the president/CEO/executive director (person in charge of the organization)?

Questions for you to ask the employer

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.

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?

Questions related to accessibility and inclusive workplaces

You can see questions to pose around accessibility, workplace inclusivity and more.

During your interview

Keep these tips in mind during your interview:

  1. Engage in the interview.
  2. Make eye contact and shake hands firmly (if appropriate) when you arrive and meet the interviewers.
  3. Pay close attention to the names of the people.
  4. Listen carefully to the questions and ask for clarification if you need to.
  5. Try to make eye contact equally with all the panel members as you answer the questions.
  6. Do your best to stay focused and on topic when providing your answers.
  7. Be honest if you do not know something.
  8. Use the STAR method to help you talk about your past experiences (describe the Situation, your Tasks, the Action you took and the Result).
  9. Pay attention to the flow of the conversation so you can get a sense when the interview is drawing to a close.
  10. As the interview is ending, ask when the interviewers will be making their decision.

After your interview

It's a good idea to reflect on your experience when it's still fresh. This can help you identify what you did well and what you could improve upon. 

Post-interview checklist:

  1. Did you write down the questions asked in the interview?
  2. What questions do you think you answered well?
  3. What questions did you struggle with?
  4. Did you stay on topic and provide relevant information?
  5. Did you use the STAR method when appropriate?
  6. How well do you feel you knew the employer organization?
  7. Had you done enough research?
  8. Did you make appropriate eye contact?
  9. Was your body language showing interest and engagement?

Another source of interview feedback may be the employer who conducted the interview. You may also want to follow up with the interviewer to thank them for taking the time to interview you.