Half of the battle when it comes to mastering and acing job interviews is understanding the interview method being used. The other part is being able to answer the questions asked in a way that demonstrates your listening skills and reveals your ability to communicate. Your answers should demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities in a way that a recruiter or hiring manager can clearly identify how you are the most qualified candidate for a job. Before we get into this post, I want to tell you that it’s important to deliver answers that represent truths, rather than memorizing what you find on the internet. Learn the lessons behind what leads someone to perform well in a job interview. Now, it’s time for you to Ace Your Job Interview By Mastering Interview Methods Being Used By Hiring Managers and Recruiters.
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In this blog post, I will walk you through behind the scenes hiring processes. But most importantly, I’ll tell you about the different interviewing methods used by recruiters and hiring managers. If you can understand the processes and methods, you’ll be one step further in your quest to ace your next job interview!
Who am I to provide you with this advice? As someone who sits on the other side of the job interview as a decision-maker, I know what hiring managers are looking for and what holds them back from moving forward through the recruitment process.
Let’s get started!
Recruitment and Interview Processes
Each organization has its own recruitment and interview processes. When it comes to interview processes, organizations may have formal or informal processes. There may be a standard procedure for making a hiring decision and what key decision-makers are involved in the interview and selection process. I have provided an example below of a typical process within an organization (not using an outsourced recruitment firm). This example also is not representative of small businesses where a manager may be responsible for their own hiring.
Once a job is posted, and applications start to come in for a job post, here is what usually happens…
- Applications reviewed by HR or Recruiter
- Depending on the role, the recruiter may proactively seek out candidates, especially if they feel the incoming application pool of qualified candidates is sparse
- HR/ Recruiter will complete a screening interview with top candidates (top candidates as determined by resume reviews)
- HR/Recruiter will debrief the hiring manager on the applicant pool, resumes received, candidates screened- if they do not have 3 qualified candidates, they will go back to the drawing board and search for more qualified candidates
- The top (usually 3-4) candidates will be presented to the hiring manager and an agreement is made to schedule an interview with the hiring manager
- Candidates interview with hiring manager
- Hiring manager debriefs with recruiter
- Top candidate(s) may return for a second/third interview(s) to meet with a second-level manager (hiring manager’s manager) or another key decision-maker
- Decision-makers debrief and either bring the final candidate in for a third interview or a decision is made, and an offer is given
So… here is the thing, if you have gotten past a phone screen and had an in-person interview, you are soooo close to landing that job! Now, let’s dive further into the actual interviews so you can “WOW” them …and start getting more job offers, with less overwhelm.
Interviewing Methods and Types of Questions
It’s important to understand the different kinds of interview methods/ techniques so that you can master them. Recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers are often trained to complete standard and structured interviews (all candidates asked the same set of questions) – so they can fairly evaluate one candidate from the next. There are usually 3 different methods/ types of interview questions : informational interviews, situation-based interviews, and behavior-based interviews. Most interviewers will often use informational interview questions and behavior-based questions, but you may also run into an interviewer that asks situation-based questions.
Let’s look at all three!
An interviewer will normally begin an interview with information-based questions. These are usually easy questions and often a means of getting the interviewee to relax and feel more comfortable. Informational questions will likely be asked at all stages of the interview process, so you may feel like you are repeating yourself. Here’s the thing, if you’re interviewing with three different people, they may look for consistency across all interviews and ensure that you delivered the same information to everyone. So…don’t lie, be consistent and honest in every conversation you have.
Here are some common questions you can expect during the information- based interview.
Tell me about yourself
Often a job interview will start with the common question
“Tell me about yourself …”
Here is where you can use your professional elevator speech. Don’t use this as an opportunity to get personal. Keep it professional!
Can you walk me through your resume?
When asking informational questions, they may ask you to go through your resume and highlight to them your responsibilities and achievements in your previous roles.
Review your resume with them (but don’t read it verbatim) – provide a summary. The keyword here is a summary. Don’t spend half an hour going on about yourself. Keep this brief and concise highlighting the information that is relevant to the job you are applying for.
Tell me what you like and dislike about your current (or previous) position
They may also ask you what you liked about your current or previous position(s) and what you didn’t like.
Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your positivity. Be cautious that you don’t say anything negative about a current or previous organization/ manager/co-worker as it may come across as a red flag.
As an HR professional this is how I tend to answer this question:
“Unfortunately, as a general HR practitioner, employee relations falls within my responsibilities and I dislike having to manage employee relations issues. As much as I dislike having discussions and conducting investigations that can be sensitive in nature, it is a strength of mine. (Insert big smile) But…I don’t enjoy it! The reason why I continue to work in this role is because there are so many positives as a general HR practitioner, that the good aspects of the job outweigh the bad. What I enjoy the most is…”
See how it doesn’t look like a negative, and I have managed to turn it around to I don’t like it, but I am good at it, and I do it anyway. Always think of a way that you can turn around any dislikes of your previous positions to prepare yourself for being asked such questions.
There are several other questions that they may and can ask you to get more information about you. Informational interview questions are a means of gathering information about who you are and often set the tone for an interviewer to start deciding as to whether you’ll be a good fit for the organization and position they are looking to recruit for. As you get into the situational and behavioral-based interview questions they will start looking to understand your competencies. Most importantly, whether you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job successfully.
Situational and Behavioral-Based Interviews
Although situational interview questions are not the “in” thing right now. It’s still a method that is widely used and important to learn about – so you can understand the difference between situational and behavioral-based interviews.
Situational-Based Interview Questions
Situational-based interview questions are asked in such a way that a candidate is given a situation and asked how they would handle the given situation.
“What would you do if…?”
Situational-based interview questions are used more often in entry-level positions where a candidate may not have experience that they can draw examples from (behavioral-based method).
Behavioral-Based Interview Questions
Are posed to a candidate by asking them to draw from their previous experiences.
“Can you tell me about a time you…?”
Behavioral-based interviewing is currently the most popular interviewing method used. Theory states that the best predictor of someone’s future behaviors are their previous ones. So how you responded to and solved situations in the past, and what you learned from those experiences, is a good indication of how you will perform in the future.
They might even ask a probing question.
“Looking back is there anything you might have done differently…?”
All of this is to understand your thought processes, problem-solving skills, and possibly your ability to take accountability for your actions and/or decisions.
Employers know everyone makes mistakes, and they might ask you a question about your mistake, not to learn about the kinds of mistakes you made, but how you problem-solved and most importantly what you learned from your mistake.
Those that don’t know the difference between the two styles, and candidates who may not be listening to an interviewer when they pose interview questions, often fail to recognize that a recruiter is looking for an exact example.
Situational vs. Behavioral Job Interviews Summary + Example
If you are still asking, what’s the difference between situation and behavior-based job interviews…? This summary and example should help to further clarify and help you understand what leads to a successful interview.
Situational questions – they are asking how you would hypothetically respond to a given situation
Behavioral questions – they are asking how you have responded to situations by providing an example
Here is why knowing the difference between the two is extremely important…
Quite often unsuccessful candidates fail to distinguish between the two. Inexperienced interviewees will usually respond with situational answers. When a candidate is not answering the question with a behavioral answer (an example) the interviewer will either give them a prompt, rephrase the question, or ask it again. This allows the candidate to answer the question again.
Here is an example of how a candidate is responding to a behavioral-based interview question with a situational answer:
Interviewer: Can you tell me about a time you had to handle an irate customer? What happened and how did you manage the situation?
Candidate: Oh, if I ever have a customer that is upset, I listen to them, communicate back that I understand they are upset and then I try to help them. If I cannot help them, I get my Supervisor for help.
Interviewer (probes): Okay, thanks, now can you provide me with a specific example of how you have handled an irate customer? What happened and how did you manage the situation?
The candidate repeats the same answer above. They are reiterating a general answer to how they handle irate customers. Not a SPECIFIC example. Usually, an interviewer will see a candidate raise an eyebrow in confusion because they believe they just answered the question. And an interviewer will think, this candidate is not listening, “they don’t get it”. Leading to a candidate getting eliminated from the candidate pool. An interviewer will red flag the candidate with poor listening skills or the inability to answer the question that was asked.
How a candidate should answer a behavior-based job interview question…
Interviewer: Can you tell me about a time you had to handle an irate customer? What happened and how did you manage the situation?
Candidate: “Yes! While working in a call center for a credit card company, I received a call from a customer that was irate about charges on their card. The customer claimed the charges were false/ fraudulent.
They were frantic over the very expensive charges that were made on their account and were unhappy with us as the credit card company for not flagging the charges and contacting them to validate that the purchases were real. I let them vent first and then let them know that I understood their concerns and wanted to walk them through the next steps when situations like this occur.
They calmed down and I walked them through our internal process for customers to report fraudulent claims (briefly describe process). I also let them know the steps that I would take on my end…… (briefly list steps taken). The customer had calmed down and thanked me for helping them.
After working through all processes with the customer, I then flagged this issue with our fraud team so they could investigate the charges, but most importantly why charges weren’t flagged and why the card wasn’t frozen by the company. I reported and escalated this to my Manager as well to ensure there was no break in process or system malfunction – because the system should have automatically frozen the credit card when a customer’s purchases were irregular.”
Can you see how this is different?
In this specific example (where you provide an example), an interviewer can identify:
- That you can listen and follow directions (you gave them an example)
- You have experience handling irate customers and can work through challenging conversations
- That you were able to provide customer service and actively listen to a customer’s needs
- You understand how to follow standard operating procedures within a company
- Your ability to take things one step further to escalate to your Manager to ensure there was no break in company process/ systems
Information-based interview questions are often used at the beginning of a job interview to get to know a candidate and also to get them to relax for the somewhat more challenging questions – behavioral-based questions.
If you are new to interviewing, it may be hard to decipher if an interviewer is asking you a situation or behavior-based interview question. The key here is to look at an interview as a regular conversation. Ensure you are calm and listen to them. Once the interviewer poses their question, take a moment to think about your response. Are they asking how I would respond, or are they looking for an example? If you are unsure, ask them to repeat the question. Also, it’s okay to take the time to think about your answer.
Now, you know some of the inside scoop as to what happens on the back end of recruitment processes. You should understand the difference between situation and behavior-based interviewing and what interviews are looking for when you answer their questions. Ensure that your answers are genuine. Now you are ready to ace your job interview!