Interviewing Goals

The interview: the most important part of the job search process. Image shows a student being interviewed.

Goals of an Interview

Before you start preparing for an interview, it is important to understand the goals of the interviewer and your related goals. The overall goals are fairly obvious.  The interviewer wants to identify the best candidate for the position and your overall goal is to receive a job offer or at least make it to the next round of interviews.  However, beneath these high-level goals, each party has a set of sub-goals or objectives for the interview.  Understanding these objectives is key to having a successful interview.

The Interviewer’s Objectives

The basic objective of the interviewer is to develop a good understanding of a job candidate’s qualifications, interests and character traits that are relevant to the position being filled.  Different things are valued for different positions but recruiters are basically all trying to answer these four questions:

  • Is the candidate a person of good character who will exhibit the necessary level of professionalism?
    • Traits that align with good character include: Honesty, dependability, flexibility, respectfulness, and being hardworking, team-oriented, and self-motivated.
    • Many employers indicate that the biggest challenge they have with new employees is personality/attitude issues (i.e., coachability, motivation, etc.).
    • Ways to convey that you are a person of good character:
      • Include statements that indicate good character
        • Responsibly managed store cash register or student org bank account
        • Trusted to open and close the business
        • Provided compassionate care to the sick or elderly
        • Volunteered at a foodbank to help the less fortunate
      • Share credit for success with teammates and others
        • I was part of a team that had great success doing….
        • I contributed by…..
      • Never speak ill of anyone
        • If asked about conflicts you have had with others, quickly describe the situation and then talk about how you got past the conflict
  • Does the individual have the knowledge and skills needed to do the job or can he/she be trained in a reasonable amount of time?
    • It is important to identify skills/traits that are particularly important to an employer (later discussed in the Preparing for an Interview section) and emphasize your experiences that match those skills/traits during the interview.
  • Is the individual a good fit for the position so he/she and rest of the team will be happy and productive?
    • These individuals will:
      • Have a strong interest or passion for the type of work that needs to be done.
      • Put more effort into their work.
      • Take more pride in their work.
      • Enjoy their jobs more.
      • Stay with the company longer.
    • Employers also want a good fit with the team and company culture. When the fit is good, teamwork is more effective, people enjoy being at work more, and turnover is reduced.
    • To assess your fit for the position/team, employers want to hear that you have an idea of what you want to do, so spend some time talking about your passions and values that align with the position/company. They also want to know that you have spent some time researching companies and have identified them as one of your target companies.
  • Is the individual likely to become a good, long-term employee of the company or organization?
    • Employers are looking for someone that has the potential to become a good, long-term employee.
    • It often strengthens your position when you mention connections to the company or anchors to the area.
      • “I’m from the area and would like to remain near my family”.
      • “I grew up in a small town and like the lifestyle”.
      • “I really like your corporate culture and could see myself fitting in well here”.

The Interviewee’s Objectives

The interviewee’s objectives mirror those of the interviewer for the most part.  The interviewee should communicate that he/she can do the work and is a good fit for the position.  This is accomplished by:

  • Demonstrating good character traits and professionalism.
  • Effectively presenting relevant knowledge and skills that convincingly indicate an ability to do high quality work.
  • Showing a high level of interest in the position, the type of work being offered, the products produced and/or services offered.
  • Mentioning preferences for the work location, the size of the community, the type of organization, shared values, etc. that indicate the potential for a long-term employment relationship.
  • Showing an interest in learning more about the position and the company by asking good questions.