Interviews

Students talking in a interview situation

AA&CC Services & Resources

Types of Interviews

To be prepared and help alleviate anxiety, ask what format your interview will be and who will be conducting it (number of interviewers, names, and titles). The most common types of interviews are:

  • panel interviews (more than one interviewer)
  • one-on-one interviews
  • telephone interviews (often used for pre-screening)
  • case interviews (commonly used in fields like consulting and investment banking)

Types of Interview Questions

In most interviews, regardless of the format, there is a common underlying structure:

The Icebreaker and Introduction

Good interviewers want you to be comfortable and relaxed. To establish this sort of atmosphere, they will use rapport-building statements such as "I notice you’re a squash player. So am I". They might also ask small-talk questions such as "Did you have any trouble finding our offices?"

Questions about you

You will be asked general questions about your skills and experiences:

  • What are your major strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why did you choose your program of study?
  • How do your skills and experience align with the requirements of this position?
  • Why are you interested in this position?

Questions about your relevant skills

You will also encounter questions that ask you to specifically relate your skills to the various duties and responsibilities of the position:

  • How long would it take you to edit a 2000 word article?
  • How would you analyze current economic and market conditions in Japan?

Behavioural questions

Interviewers want to determine how you will react in situations based on your past performance. Prepare your answers by choosing at least two relevant examples of your skills and accomplishments — preferably work-related. Use the S.T.A.R. method to help organize your thoughts: describe the Situation, the Task (or problem), your Action (what you said or did), and the Results (what was accomplished).

  • Describe a time when you faced a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Describe a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.

Case Interview Questions

The questions are geared around solving problems on the spot. The interviewer is trying to judge your logical thought process, general business knowledge and acumen, general knowledge, comfort with quantitative analysis, creativity, and communication skills. Case interview questions generally fall into three formats:

  • Brain teasers — There are eight balls, one of which is slightly heavier than the others. You have a scale that you can use for weighing, but you are only allowed to use it twice. How do you find the heavier ball?
  • Market sizing — How many iPads were sold in North America this year?
  • Project — The largest supermarket chain in the country is considering opening its own bank branches in its supermarket locations. What is your advice? 

Questions YOU Should Ask

The interviewer will likely give you a chance to ask some of your own questions. This is your chance to ask thoughtful and intelligent questions that involve the interviewer(s) in discussion and reflect how in-depth your company research has been. Be concise and brief with 2-5 questions, keeping in mind timing and if the interview has already run long. This also gives you a final opportunity to articulate why you are the best person for the position. Potential questions could include:

  • Could you describe a typical day on the job?
  • How does the organization handle recognition for a job well done?
  • What do you enjoy most about working with this company?

Tips for Doing Your Best

  • Do a practice interview first with someone you know acting as the interviewer or book a Mock Interview appointment at the AA&CC.
  • Stay calm! To compose yourself, arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Take a few deep breaths to release your nervous energy and to relax. This will greatly improve your performance and help make a positive first impression.
  • During the interview, you will be judged by your presentation skills and how effectively you communicate. Make frequent eye contact, smile, and don’t fidget. Be sure to dress professionally, turn your cell phone off and avoid distracting behaviour (e.g. chewing gum, clicking or tapping your pen).
  • Before you answer each question, take a moment to think about what skills the interviewer is really looking for. Ask for clarification if you are unsure about a question. Be concise and be sure to answer the question asked.
  • Canadian employers are limited to the types of questions they can ask. For example, questions about marital status or country of origin are illegal in Canada.
  • Follow up after the interview and send a thank you note/email. This is also an opportunity for you to clarify or add to anything you said in the interview and to restate your interest in the position.

Pre-Employment Tests

Tests are often included in the screening process - sometimes even unannounced. Do your best to find out if there will be a test and what it will focus on so you can prepare. Check out books like How to Pass Selection Tests and Ace the Corporate Personality Test in the Career Resource Library for advice and sample questions. You may also find the following articles helpful:

For those applying for government work through the Public Service Commission, you may be required to take a number of tests. These sites offer advice and test questions:

More on Interviewing