Before, During, and After Interviewing

By Dr. Daniel J. Eustace, ACS Career Consultant

In this article, Dr. Daniel J. Eustace draws on his years of experience in industry and academia to explain the Before-During-After (B-D-A) continuum of interview opportunities. Read more to learn how to make the most of the interview process

Look in the mirror, and see yourself as a candidate for a professional position. Would you hire the person you see in front of you? This is the question you effectively ask each representative who interviews you. What you might consider, then, are the Before-During-After (B-D-A) steps in the interviewing continuum that will be offered to qualified applicants.

The Many Forms of Interviews

Interviews take on many forms. Yet despite the various forms your interactions with potential employers may take, the expectations of you, the interviewee, will always be similar. Essentially, any type of interview boils down to an exchange of confident and capable impressions and purposeful actions. Every person you meet will be part of the interview process. So, make your image look sharp, keep your interactions courteous, and realize that you are communicating with much more than your words—your tone, your language competence, your friendly and upbeat greeting, your courtesy over a meal…

Too often, interview preparation emphasizes the questions that could be asked and the right answers, along with the proper clothes to wear. While these are certainly relevant, it is important to remember that “people hire people.” It is the in-person impact and impression that signals a successful interview. Understanding the various forms of interviews and what kind of opportunity each one offers for the interviewer and candidate can lead to understanding the B-D-A steps.

BEFORE: Preparation, Planning, and Practice

Informational interviews are a crucial part of your evolving career that entail connecting with people currently in the field. In this situation, you meet with someone who has good insight into your area of interest to ask questions. It should be clear that you are not seeking a job—only information. These meetings can take place in person or remotely. Informational interviews help you identify knowledge that will help you in your career or job search, actions to take as your next steps, and the identities of influential and powerful people in your field. They give you insight, ideas, and information.

The people you ask for informational interviews can be professionals in your immediate or extended network, and consequential strangers.

Networking interviews. While networking interviews can be viewed as a subset of the informational type, another perspective is to see them as seeking an object of shared action. A networking interview commonly offers to provide help, rather than asking for help (as is the case in an informational interview). Your internet presence in professional networks such as LinkedIn and the ACS Network offers opportunities for networking interviews where multiple inputs and outputs benefit all the participants.

Mock interviews. Because interviewing is a communication performance, it resembles acting in a play or competing in a sport in that practicing in simulated circumstances hones your ability and improves the way you come across during the actual event. A mock interview lets you rehearse for the real thing, helping you practice responding and behaving under simulated pressure.

Observing and participating in mock interviews imbeds positive behaviors and thought processes, including listening skills, the ability to make small talk, nonverbal behaviors, and storytelling in your mind. All are key ingredients in the image you project and are selling to a prospective buyer: the hiring organization.

It might even be helpful to engage in several mock interview scenarios for continuous skill improvement. Come to each one as if it were a live performance, wear clothing suitable for a real interview, and treat each nonverbal communication, question, and response civilly and professionally.

DURING: Presenting a Match for the Employer’s Needs

Initial or screening interviews. Now “the rubber meets the road!” Your resume looks like you might be a suitable candidate for a position. It shows key skills and accomplishments that might lead to an employer’s hiring you. Screening interviews serve to confirm the information on your resume and allow you to form your first impression on an organization. They last less than an hour, and your best preparation lies in knowing yourself, where you wish your career to go, and in having a story or two demonstrating your strengths. It will be important to show that your skills match the position. You will want to portray yourself as an individual who stands out positively from the crowd, so that the employer will want to invite you in for an on-site interview.

Telephone interviews. A cost- and time-effective means for conducting a screening interview is to perform it on the telephone. Unlike the in-person screening, a telephone interview will not let you take advantage of visual and physical cues. All the advice in the screening paragraph above applies here. In addition, note that you should be prepared to engage in a telephone interview any time after you have submitted your resume. Accept all phone inquiries civilly and agree to an interview at a time when you are ready.

Act as if you are interviewing in person. It will come through as genuineness in your manner and in your voice. Keep your comments shorter than they are when you speak in person.

On-site interviews. Following a successful candidate screening, the hiring organization will invite you to visit the site and to meet the staff and leadership. You will exchange impressions with your interviewers via in-depth meetings and in a formal presentation. In many cases during an on-site visit, you will converse with a series of interviewers one right after another. Your goal is to display energy, drive, interest, and whatever important attributes the interviewers desire for this particular position. You can also expect a series of tours, meals, and activities meant to sell the company to you. You should plan to bring and do things that will sell you as being the best candidate for the job.

Group interviews. Several members of an organization may meet with you at one time in a group or panel. It can be helpful to know in advance who will be present and the nature of their responsibilities. The group will ask a question first, and they will observe your answer and perhaps follow up your response with more questions. This is your chance to display your confidence and humility to your future co-workers and supervisors.

Mealtime interviews. A more social context of an on-site interview is a meal interview. During these meals, you have the opportunity to show how you fit in with the group through small talk and listening, and you also give your interviewers a sense of how you may interact with customers and collaborators. You will be expected to display your social skills and to show that you are at ease in different situations.

Situational interviews. In a situational interview, you are given a selected problem or situation and you are asked, “What might you do?” Or, “What might your thought process be?” Your interviewers will observe how you ask for clarification, your demeanor in dealing with either a familiar or an unfamiliar situation, and any out-of-the-box thinking that may yield new insights.

Behavioral interviews. Behavior-based questions are similar, but focus on how you have responded to situations in the past. t It is commonly perceived that past behaviors serve as good predictors of future performance. You are best served by offering a detailed self-assessment yielding example stories. Before you begin responding, sometimes it will help your thinking to ask for clarification. This way you can respond with the information the interviewer is really seeking.

AFTER: Communicate Strong Interest and Remain in the Loop

It is imperative that you be organized and understand both what your next steps are and what actions are expected of you.

Thank you notes. Not formally an interview, thank-you notes are nevertheless a form of interview communication. They portray you as a professional the company would be better off employing than finding part of a competitors’ organization. The timing and tone of these notes often seem critical for conveying a professional impression.

Follow-up actions. If you have not heard from your interviewers or you have received an offer that does not meet your family’s needs or is not competitive, remember that your responses are also critical forms of interviewing. They reveal how much background you explored, your competence, and your business savvy.

Many very capable authors have written about interviewing. The B-D-A perspective helps you think of interviewing as a continuum of interactions that collectively allow you to offer a larger impression of yourself than responses to questions and business attire alone. It can help you present the professional image you see in the mirror.

Dr. Daniel J. Eustace, an ACS Career Consultant and adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut, had a 33 year industrial career working in regulatory compliance, R&D, and technical management. Dr. Eustace regularly lectures on recruiting and career development at events such as the Preparing for Life After Graduate School workshop and maintains a blog related to these topics. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Brandeis University.