The Right Approach for the Right Interview

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

When most people talk about interviewing, they’re usually thinking about a traditional hiring interview. That’s the type in which you meet face to face with the person for whom you’ll likely be working directly. Much has been written about this type of interview, including an abundance of dos and don’ts. But there are actually many different types of interviews, and each presents its own challenges. Here are a few common types and some tips to get the most out of the experience.

The screening interview: This is a preliminary procedure usually conducted by someone other than the individual for whom you’d be working, most likely someone from human resources or a nurse recruiter. It might be done in person or by telephone. The purpose of a screening interview is to make sure job candidates meet certain minimum standards. It’s also an opportunity to weed through the applicants and eliminate those who don’t seem to have the “right stuff,” either by background or personality.

Because this is only a preliminary interview, you don’t have to elaborate on all of your work experience and special skills. You should answer the interviewer’s questions succinctly. There’s no need to ramble or elaborate. Don’t offer any additional information unless it’s particularly relevant to the position. You’ll have plenty of time for that later during the hiring interview. And while you don’t have to wholeheartedly sell yourself to this person because he or she won’t be making the ultimate decision, you do have to impress the interviewer with your character. Be friendly, courteous, and professional.

Technically, it’s not necessary to send a thank-you note after a screening interview, although it certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s an opportunity to express your interest in the job.

The phone interview: The telephone interview has become popular both as a screening tool and as a device to interview candidates at a distance. It presents a unique challenge for the job candidate because there’s limited opportunity to convey strong nonverbal communication. The interviewer can’t see you; he or she can only hear you.

Prepare for a phone interview beforehand just as you would a traditional interview. If this is other than a screening interview, write down some points you want to make and any questions you want to ask.

When the time for the interview arrives, be sure to go to a quiet location with minimal distractions where you’re not likely to be disturbed. Remember, the other party can hear what’s going on in the background, so if a radio is playing, a baby is crying, or you’re shuffling papers around or hitting computer keys, the interviewer will be able to hear it.

When it’s time to talk, put a smile on your face even though the person on the other end can’t see it. When you smile, there’s something in your voice that conveys friendliness and confidence. Be enthusiastic and assertive, and listen attentively.

If the phone interview is something other than a preliminary screening interview, send a follow-up note.

The group interview: In a group interview, you’re interviewed by more than one person, possibly a panel of people, in the same room at the same time. This is sometimes done as the preliminary interview in a series, or it might be the format for a subsequent interview. When making an appointment for the interview, it’s always a good idea to ask who will be interviewing you. Get the names and titles of those involved. Research their background on LinkedIn. That way, you’ll be well-prepared.

On entering the interview room, make eye contact with all of the participants and shake each person’s hand before and after the interview, even if you have to walk around a table to do so. Listen carefully to each person’s name; and, if possible, address every one by name during the interview. One person will likely take the lead during the interview and ask most of the questions, but be sure to direct your answers and your eye contact to everyone in the room. Afterward, send a follow-up note to each of them.

The follow-up interview: This is often one in a series of hiring interviews for a specific position. It might be done with the person who previously interviewed you or with different people. The purpose is to see how you fit in with the team and to get to know you better. Don’t let down your guard or become complacent. In other words, don’t assume you have the job because you’re being brought back. On subsequent interviews, dress and act as sharp as you did during the first one. It’s advisable to wear a different outfit for each event. Be prepared for more situational questions, such as “What is the first thing you’d do as manager if you get this job?” or “How would you handle this situation?”

It’s not necessary to send multiple follow-up notes to the same person for subsequent interviews. This is one occasion for which an e-mail follow-up would be appropriate. Send a traditional, typed, thank-you note to anyone interviewing you for the first time.

Knowing how to handle various types of interviews will make you feel more confident and in control. Using the right approach demonstrates your workplace savvy and conveys professionalism. The bottom line: It will help you to land the job you want.

Copyright Donna Cardillo, All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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