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Types of Interviews
In order to be prepared, it helps to 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
- stress interviews (interviewers deliberately introduce stress into the experience
— not common)
- telephone interviews
- case interviews (commonly used in fields like consulting and investment banking)
In most interviews, regardless of the format, there is a common underlying structure.
Here are some examples of questions you may encounter at each interview stage.
The icebreaker and introduction
Good interviewers wants 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?
- Why should we consider you for this position?
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?
This type of question is quite common. Interviewers want to determine how you will
react in situations based on your performance. Here are some sample questions.
- Describe a time when you faced a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping
- 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
Prepare your answers by choosing at least two relevant examples of your skills and
accomplishments — preferably work-related. Write your answers using the S.T.A.R.
method: describe the Situation, the Task (or problem), your Action (what you said
or did), and the Results (what was accomplished).
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 golf balls were lost in England this year? How many Air
Canada Aeroplan miles are outstanding?
- 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 could ask
In all types of interviews, the interviewer will 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 in discussion and reflect how in-depth your company
research has been. It 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 firm handle recognition for a job well done?
For further information on the different types of interviews, and more sample questions,
consult the books and websites listed on the right side of this page.
Tips for Doing Your Best
- Do a practice interview first with someone you know acting as the interviewer, to
rehearse possible answers. You can also sign up for a practice interview with a career counsellor.
- Stay calm! To compose yourself, arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your scheduled interview
time. Take a few deep breaths and 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.
- 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 what a question means.
- Canadian employers are limited as to the type of questions they can ask. For example,
questions about marital status or country of origin are illegal in Canada. For more
information read the Job Search Rights guide.
- Make sure you follow up after the interview. This is also an opportunity
for you to clarify or add to anything you said in the interview, and if relevant
to restate your interest in the position.
The tests are often included in the screening process – sometimes even unannounced.
Do your best to ascertain 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 to practice. You may also find the following web articles helpful:
For those applying for government work through the Public Service Commission, you
may be required to take a number of specific tests. These sites offer advice and