Interview with the (information) vampire

That’s what interviews feel like sometimes, a meeting with an information-sucking fiend that always wants more than you’re prepared to give.

Well, that may be overstating the case  just a little. Mosquito more than vampire, maybe — a necessary evil, more irritating than life-threatening. And the amount of blood lost is directly proportional to the amount of repellent used — the repellent in this case being preparation.

Depending on the nature of the job you’re applying for, and the company you’re applying to, the interview is likely to take one of two main forms: the traditional interview and the behavioural.

The traditional interview is the one we all love to hate — the one where they ask your strengths and weaknesses, why you want to work for that company, where you want to be in five years, yada yada yada. Very easy to learn your lines once you’re aware of the script — and these days, with all the information on the Internet, you’d be foolish not to be aware of the script. According to the website, “Employers are looking for the answer to three questions: does the job-seeker have the skills and abilities to perform the job; does the job-seeker possess the enthusiasm and work ethic that the employer expects; and will the job-seeker be a team player and fit into the organization.” If you can answer those unspoken questions to the employer’s satisfaction, you’re in.

The behavioural interview is a serious weeding tool. These interviewers want to hear all about your worst day on the job, how you handled it and what you learned from it.  They want to hear what you did an a kazillion different situations. They want you to probe your professional psyche for them on the theory that past behaviour will indicate future behaviour. Compared to this stuff — particularly if your work history is a minefield big mistakes and inability to play well with others — the traditional interview is a breeze, a mere trifle. That’s not to say that there isn’t a script for the behavioural interview (which I understand is a favourite of the Canadian government), it’s just Hamlet instead of Twelfth Night. Longer, more intense, and someone goes insane before it’s over. offers this suggestion for preparing your script for the behavioural interview: “Job-seekers should frame their answers based on a four-part outline: (1) describe the situation, (2) discuss the actions you took, (3) relate the outcomes, and (4) specify what you learned from it.” And don’t go off-book if you don’t have to.

That’s not where the interviewing story stops, either. There are many more types of interviews. Phone interviews are among my favourite — I’m comfortable with them because as a desk-bound journalist I’ve done a lot of (non-job) interviews that way. I’m good on the phone. I know my voice is pleasant to the ear, the interviewer can’t see you roll your eyes or do your impression of The Scream

if you don’t like the question. You don’t need to dress up — though actually it doesn’t hurt, just to get you in the mood — and you can sit in your comfy chair in any pose you like if it helps you to concentrate.

No matter what form the interview takes, take your cue from the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.