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What is a Job Interview?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A job interview is a conversation which occurs between a potential employer and a job applicant. During the job interview, the employer hopes to determine whether or not the applicant is suitable for the job, while the applicant tries to learn more about the position while also impressing the employer. As a general rule, a job interview is an important part of the process of applying for a job, and it may range in formality from a casual conversation to a series of serious discussions with an assortment of people working within the company.

If a job applicant manages to land a job interview, it indicates that the employer has at least some interest. Typically, an applicant responds to an advertised job opening, providing a resume and other requested materials. The employer or a representative reviews all received applications, and decides who should be invited back for an interview. In some cases, a preliminary interview may be held on the phone, to save resources and time for both parties.

Depending on the size of a company and its organization, an applicant may only have one job interview. This is common with small businesses, in which candidates are often interviewed directly by the employer. In other cases, a representative of the human resources department may interview a candidate first, and then he or she will go through a series of interviews with potential supervisors and other personnel. Larger companies may also have interview panels with multiple members who cooperate to make a decision.

There are a number of styles and techniques which are used in a job interview. Many interviews include behavioral questions, questions about hypothetical or actual situations, in an attempt to learn more about a candidate. For example, the interviewer might ask “What was the worst retail situation you have ever had to deal with?” For some jobs, a so-called “stress interview” which keeps the interviewee on the spot may be used. Typical stress questions include “How do you think this interview is going” or “What makes you think that you would fit in well at this company?”

Coaching for job interviews can get quite extensive. As a general rule, it is a good idea to dress neatly, as though you are dressing for work. In addition, it helps to be organized and well put together. It helps to be able to answer questions about material on your resume, for example, and it is an excellent idea to put together a list of questions of your own. After a job interview, it is conventional to shake hands with the interviewers, and to follow up with a thank-you letter to keep your face fresh in the mind of your potential employer.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By cafe41 — On Jul 13, 2010

Moldova- I agree but I also want to add that a job applicant should prepare a list of questions, like the writer suggests and be ready to supply information regarding tangible performance-based data.

For example, if the potential job involves sales, the candidate should be ready to supply the interviewer about how the candidate met and exceeded sales quotas.

In addition, marketing strategies and any rewards or accomplishments should also be expressed. Gains in market share and an increase in the percentage of sales volume should also be mentioned.

By Moldova — On Jul 13, 2010

Thank you for the helpful suggestions. I would like to add that learning as much about the company is critical.

Companies are impressed with applicants that take the time to learn about a firm as well as the potential position because many job applicants fail in customizing their presentation this way.

The job applicant should know and understand the hiring company’s strategic outlook and what the potential projects are. Any information on the company culture should be demonstrated.

An applicant should appear to mirror the company’s culture.For example, if the company requires formal suits and weekend work, the job applicant should be able to provide examples of how they worked extra hours to complete certain projects.

Also if a company frequently relocates its employees, the job applicant should explain that they are flexible and able to relocate.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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