- Cracking Interviews Tutorial
- Cracking Interviews - Home
- What Employers Want
- Types of Interviews
- Structured Interviews
- Unstructured Interviews
- One-on-One Interviews
- Panel Interviews
- Group Interviews
- Stress Interviews
- Informational Interviews
- Competency-Based Interviews
- Assessment Center Interviews
- Telephonic Interviews
- Types of Interviews Questions
- Behavioral Questions
- Traditional Questions
- Case Questions
- Role-Play Questions
- Industry-Specific Questions
- Stages of Interviews
- Body Language
- Avoidable Questions
- Useful Resources
- Cracking Interviews - Quick Guide
- Cracking Interviews - Resources
- Cracking Interviews - Discussion
- Selected Reading
- UPSC IAS Exams Notes
- Developer's Best Practices
- Questions and Answers
- Effective Resume Writing
- HR Interview Questions
- Computer Glossary
- Who is Who
Cracking Interviews - Quick Guide
What Employers Want
An interview, in a very broad sense, is a conversation between two or more people where the interviewer attempts to elicit information from the interviewee. Employers use interviewing as a method of conducting research and understanding the experiences of the candidates, so that they can be recruited according to suitable profiles and job responsibilities.
Can you work efficiently in a team? Can you take split-second decisions? Do you have problem-solving abilities? These are some of the most important skill-sets a company looks for in graduates who apply for jobs with them. The most important of them all − ability to communicate with people inside and outside the organization.
Cracking an Interview
Let’s discuss how to crack an interview by projecting yourself as the right candidate for the profile you have applied for −
Market yourself with sincerity and confidence, so that the interviewer knows your strengths and areas of expertise as clearly as possible.
HRs expect candidates to give honest answers under every circumstance, as that proves their integrity and truthfulness.
Listen and think for some time before giving an answer. It gives the impression of a person who takes time to analyze the information.
Be prepared to answer some intensive behavioral questions. These questions will test a candidate’s ability of handling responsibility and resources.
Be informative but try to convert the interview to a conversation. The interviewer should feel like a part of the interaction, so explain your answers to him as often as you can.
Give specific and exact answers, rather than giving generic answers. Companies prefer candidates who can give precise details, rather than vague estimates.
Personality is important. Try and build a good rapport with the interviewer. Your interpersonal skills play a major role while working with a company, as you will need to communicate a lot with co-workers.
If you are asked to solve a problem, talk through your process. This will help the interviewer to understand your logical approach towards problem-solving.
Focus on what value you can add to the company beyond the job responsibilities. Candidates who manage to convince the interviewer of their contribution to the company beyond the ones mentioned in the job profile are often preferred.
Graduation degrees and good scores undoubtedly matter, but in addition to that, what employers really look for in a candidate is his decision-making skills, communication, team-player attitude, and the ability to plan and prioritize work.
Types of Interviews
A lot of candidates face difficulty in an interview purely because they don’t understand which type of interview they are appearing in. Depending on the interview you are a part of, your answers, concentration levels, preparation, interpersonal skills, and responses need to vary.
Here are the types of interviews that we are going to cover in this tutorial −
- One –On -One
- Panel Interview
- Stress Interview
- Competency Based
- Assessment Center
- Telephonic Interview
Types of Interview Questions
Interview questions vary depending on the kind of interviews you are appearing in. While there are different sets of questions asked to people getting recruited for different jobs and job responsibilities, some questions are considered to be standard.
We will explain the following types of questions in this tutorial −
- Behavioral Questions
- Traditional Questions
- Case Questions
- Role-play Questions
- Industry-specific Questions
Stages of Interview
Interviews can be considered similar to meeting with a friend’s friend for the first time. You tend to be friendly, yet formal in your manner and behavior. The approach should be exactly the same in case of an interview, however the preparation needs to be more extensive. Preparing for an interview could be divided into three stages −
Stage I: Pre-interview − Preparation you do a day or two before an interview.
Stage II: Interview − What to do during an interview, till the time you step out.
Stage III: Post-interview − What to do after an interview.
In a structured interview, the interviewer asks a set of close-ended questions that have been standardized by the industry and will not deviate or ask clarification on the interviewee’s answers. These interviews are conducted when the number of candidates is high and the objective is to screen candidates as per the company’s requirements.
- The interviews are easy to conduct, as a fixed set of closed questions are asked.
- Structured interviews are concluded in a short duration due to their fixed format.
- New questions are not asked in adherence to the fixed schedule.
- Interviewees answer only closed questions which don’t explain their motive.
In an unstructured interview, you may have to answer open-ended questions that can be asked in any order without any fixed schedule. They are more conversational. Almost all interviews, except structured interviews, are of this nature.
- Unstructured interviews are flexible, as questions don’t follow an order, rather depend on answers.
- The open-ended questions make candidates talk and explain his understanding of a situation.
Unstructured interviews are time-consuming, as one would require sufficient time to analyze the information before arriving at a conclusion.
The interviewer must have certain skills like the ability to establish a good rapport and knowing when to probe.
In an one-to-one interview, the candidate is interviewed in multiple stages, with each interviewer asking questions on a specific area mentioned in the CV. Generally, these stages are categorized as general, technical, and operational.
- The easiest and the most common type of interview.
- In an one-on-one interview, it is quite easy to build a rapport with the interviewer.
- Specialists take turns to interview a candidate in stages in specific and focused areas.
- The candidate needs to exhibit the same level of enthusiasm through all the stages.
- The multi-stage structure tests the candidate’s ability to switch between different areas of expertise.
Widely adopted in organizations, panel interviews give the candidate a chance to interact with representatives from the top management heading different departments, and all at the same time. The interviewee needs to remember that he needs to address everyone in the panel and maintain eye-contact with everyone while answering anyone of the panel’s question, as they all are a team.
- Widely adopted by large organizations.
- The interviewee faces a team of interviewers, instead of one.
- More challenging, as interviewers ask many questions on their area of expertise.
- The interviewee needs to answer multiple questions at the same time.
- Inter-personal skills with multiple people need to be exhibited at the same time.
Group interviews are conducted in the process of recruiting team-leaders or employees with either team-leading, work-distributing, and prioritizing qualities. A group of candidates is given a hypothetical question like – “How would you pitch a real estate sale to me as a team?” The group needs to distribute responsibilities and give presentations.
The group is asked to answer individually or as a group, to check team-spirit.
A group of applicants is given the same question(s) at the same time, so creativity can be easily showcased.
It is time-consuming, as individual applicants participate in the presentation.
It might lead to a confusing situation, as two or more people could opt for the same responsibility in the group presentation, like introducing/concluding.
In what is considered to be one of the toughest interviews of all, stress interviews test a candidate’s ability to stay focused under pressure and uncomfortable circumstances, more than anything else.
The interviewer could use various intimidating techniques such as asking irrelevant questions, staring silently, not paying attention, and speaking sternly. The candidate is expected to stay calm and professional under all circumstances.
- The interviewer tries to evaluate the applicant’s response and manner under stress.
- It is a chance to showcase your talent directly in a role-play kind of situation.
- The interviewer may act uninterested, talk arrogantly, and behave aggressively.
- The interviewer may ask difficult questions like – “Why were you fired?”
Unlike the rest of the interviews, informational interviews are conducted not to select candidates or offer jobs. It is scheduled from the candidate’s end by requesting for an interview with the HR of a company, so that he can understand details like the working environment, current processes, job responsibilities, etc.
The candidates get a clear idea on what the company wants of its employees.
An information interview reduces the problem of wasting time with unqualified candidates or unsuitable workplace.
Informational interviews are not about hiring and not about a specific job.
Difficult to schedule, as it depends on the interviewer’s availability.
A potential candidate might ask questions about the company or the industry, however, the interviewer is at his discretion to either answer or pass a question.
Competency-based interviews check a candidate’s skills of performing in a specific hypothetical situation. One needs to have a detailed knowledge of his or her area of expertise to answer the questions that the interviewers will ask.
- Organizations check communication, problem solving, and team work.
- Asking examples or creating hypothetical situations to check for these qualities.
Multiple education-related or experience-specific questions are asked.
Competency-based interviews can be quite challenging, as the candidate is required to provide detailed and specific answers to the interviewer’s persistent questions.
Assessment Center Interviews
Assessment Centers are all interviews rolled into one, and as a result, they are carried over two days. The candidate needs to be at the top of his game, and have in-depth knowledge on all spheres of his work.
- Multi-staged and layered manner of assessing applicants.
- Applicants get to interact with the top management and create a positive impression.
The interviewer needs to be prepared to conduct all types of interviews.
Generally involves two to three days of intensive skill-testing and interviews, so the candidate needs to be patient too.
Telephonic interviews are fast replacing traditional “on-venue” interviews due to the logistics and the time they can save. It is much easier for candidates to have a conversation over the phone nowadays, as compared to travelling to a distant place to do the same.
Although the obvious advantages of a telephonic interview are many – one being that the person doesn’t have to be physically present during the time of the interview – this could also be one of its distinct disadvantages.
Around 70% of a candidate’s responses are non-verbal and related to his Body Language! In a telephonic interview, you have to make up for that 70% with your voice projection, tone, and modulation.
Tips to Clear a Telephonic Interview
Given below is a set of tips that you can apply to do well in a telephonic interview −
Speak loud enough to be heard clearly.
Let the interviewer do most of the talking, as he will be explaining the instructions initially for you to understand. Also, speaking out of turn could irritate the listener.
Smile and speak in a conversational manner. Smiling while talking changes the shape of your mouth when you pronounce the words, and this change in tone is easily picked up by the listener.
Place a notepad, pen, and a copy of your resume near you for reference and jot down important information.
While attending a telephonic interview, try to be in a place with minimum background noise and interference. If you are stuck in a traffic or a noisy place and an employer calls and asks if it’s the right time to talk to you, excuse yourself politely and offer to call back in 5-10 minutes. This will give you time to go to a silent place to prepare your mood and mind for the interview.
Even if it is telephonic, it is advisable to dress the part for the interview. This will help you in maintaining a professional mindset throughout the interview.
Turn off call-waiting and applications that give beeping notification during calls.
The standard rules of one-one-one interview apply if you are attending interviews via tele-conferencing (or video-conferencing). We have furnished here a set of do’s and don’ts that you should keep in mind while attending an interview via tele-conferencing −
Dress up for the part and look professional.
Try to be in a well-lit area with a suitable background. The ideal background is a white wall or screen.
Check the internet connection, camera visibility, and microphone audibility well before the interview time.
Keep a notepad, pen, and copy of the CV near you.
Inform the people around you to not disturb you for the duration of the interview.
Keep your phones in silent mode and out of sight to avoid getting distracted.
Always keep in mind that interviews are not examinations where there are correct or incorrect answers to questions. Unless you are appearing for a competency-based round, you don’t need to worry about the right answer, until you know what you are saying won’t be taken in a negative sense.
To crack an interview, you need to have the ability to hold meaningful and enjoyable conversations, building rapport, and understanding the underlying reasons behind asking specific questions. With constant practice, and a little bit of luck, we don’t see why you won’t get your dream job in a short time!
Behavioral or Situational questions are used to analyze how you behaved in various scenarios in the past to predict your behavior in similar scenarios in the future. Behavioral questions are of a probing nature and are generally asked in interviews where the job needs skills and experience in the following areas −
- Taking initiatives
Sample Behavioral Questions
Here is a list of a few sample behavioral questions that you might have to answer in an interview −
- Describe a situation where you had to handle pressure or tight deadlines.
- Describe a situation where you had to think on your feet faced with a difficult situation.
- Describe a situation where you persuaded a person to do something he wasn’t willing to.
- Describe a situation where you adapted to a variety of situations and environments.
- Describe a situation where you had to convince someone to see things your way.
- Describe a time in job when you faced problems that tested your coping skills.
- Describe a time where you went above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
Compared to Behavioral Questions that deal with your situation-handling in a past scenario, Traditional or General Interview Questions tend to be more hypothetical. They can be asked in any interview and they don’t specifically cater to any particular job responsibility.
Simple Traditional Questions
Here is a list of a few sample traditional questions that you might be asked in an interview −
- Tell me something about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Give examples of when you worked in a team.
- Explain the reason for leaving your current job.
- What interests you about this job and organization?
- What would you like me to know about you beyond your CV?
- Give an example where you displayed leadership qualities in a team.
Interviewers asking Case Study based questions want to test the analytical skills and problem-solving abilities of the applicant. The answers are detailed, specific and require a detailed knowledge of the industry and domain of expertise.
Simple Case Questions
Describe a successful company and explain the following −
- a. The reason of its success
- b. Its potential business issues
- c. Your prediction for its future
- d. Your suggestions to improve their operations
In Role-play interviews, the interviewer gives you a scenario and asks you to imagine yourself as someone else and solve a problem. These questions test your creativity and allow the interviewer to have a clear idea on how you would fill in someone else’s shoes.
Sample Role-Play Questions
There is no limit to what an interviewer might ask you to imagine yourself as. It can be anything. Here is a set of role-play questions that one might ask you in an interview −
You are Tin Tin. Now tell us how you would deal with a sea-storm, when sailing on a small boat.
You are a cop. How would you stop a bank robbery, when the robbers are armed and you are not?
Industry-specific questions need the interviewee to be acquainted with the latest trends or issues in the industry. Questions could be related to domain-specific details and may involve explaining the details.
Sample Industry-Specific Questions
Here is a list of a few sample industry-specific questions −
- If you were Jimmy Wales, how would you generate profit from Wikipedia?
- If you were Mark Zuckerberg, how would you generate revenue from WhatsApp?
Brainteasers are quick questions where the obvious answer is not necessarily the right answer, and such questions are normally asked to check an applicant’s presence of mind and sometimes, his sense of humor.
Sample Brainteasers Questions
Here is a list of a few brainteaser questions that you might be asked in an interview −
Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain?
Bonny’s father had four children. The first child’s name was April. The second child’s name was May. The third child was named June. What was the fourth child’s name?
Making a thorough preparation before the day of the interview not only saves time but also helps the candidates in calming the “big day” jitters. Here, we discuss all the preparation that you have to do a day or two before the interview.
Before the day of the interview, you should complete your preparation on these following areas −
Documents − Resumes, certificates on education, experience and achievements.
Professional Attire − Clothes and accessories you should wear to the interview.
Answers to possible questions − Practicing answers to the standard questions.
Route to the venue of interview − The directions to the place of the interview.
There are certain things that are considered as standard for the interview preparation process, ignoring which could cause a serious “faux pas” or social embarrassment.
Remember the interviewer’s name. It will help to build a rapport with the interviewers quicker if the HRs know that you have remembered their names.
Blue/Black ball-point Pen and plain paper. Carry a plain paper-sheet with you, in case you need to do any calculations. Gel pens and fountain-pens have inks that can spill or soil on contact with water.
Carry two copies of your CV, one to be presented to the HR and the second one for other referential purposes.
The questions you will ask the HR at the end of the interview. This preparation is essential, as your questions should sound natural and not something you have memorized.
Documents supporting experience and education as per company specifications for verification purposes.
There’s a saying that “God made man, but the tailor made gentleman.” Nothing could be truer than this in an interview scenario. Interviews are opportunities for first-time interactions with people, hence candidates are expected to put their best step forward.
Let’s discuss a few guidelines for checking the dress code −
Wear the clothes that you have planned to wear on the day of the interview to see if they look good and professional on you.
Check for fit of the clothes − the clothes shouldn’t fit too loose, or too tight, as they will not give a formal look.
Check for stains, rips, runs, missing button, creases, fade-ups, etc. Mend them before time so that you don’t have to face embarrassment.
Coordinate accessories (tie, belt, socks, shoes, jewelry, etc.) There is a color-code that we need to follow in formal meetings, e.g., the belt, watch, and shoes should be of one color.
Dress one step above. If you are applying for the post of a programmer, dress up like a team manager. The message it sends is that you are ready to take on higher responsibilities, other than the ones mentioned in the job description.
Prepare Your Route
A lot of candidates tend to arrive late on the day of the interview, simply because they were either completely new or vaguely familiar to the address the venue was at.
The following steps will help candidates save time in the interview −
Confirm the address and visit it once (dry run). This will help you save time in finding the exact location on the day of the interview.
Check parking spaces and facilities. This will also save you time and energy, as you would know the exact area to park your vehicle when you come for the interview.
Prepare Your Answers
Don’t be guilty of giving rambling, directionless answers that are not relevant to the job or skill-set needed for the job. Here is a list of a few pointers that you can utilize to prepare your answers −
Avoid casual talk and stick to facts. Recruiters like people who can speak accurately and to the point.
Use jargons (industry talk) and acronyms. This shows that you are familiar with the industry.
Answer the questions in a way that showcases your skills. Try to add your talents and recent achievements into your answers in the form of examples to prove your point and eligibility.
Use numbers, time-frames and percentages while describing your achievements. This gives the impression of a particular and accurate observer.
Visit the Company's Website
Experts say that almost 70% of the questions interviewers ask are related to the information mentioned on their company’s website regarding details on the company’s history and achievements. That means, a good way to prepare for any interview is to visit that company’s website and note the following details −
- Name of the CEO
- Organization structure and culture
- Main competitors
- Current business in which they operate
- Products and services
- The locations and annual reports
- Positions available in different areas
- The skill-sets needed for the designation
Tips for Your Arrival
Contrary to common perception, especially in the minds of relatively inexperienced job-seekers, an interview doesn’t start from the time you enter the interviewers’ cabin; it starts from the time you step inside their premises. Be careful of the way you interact with anyone inside and be courteous, respectful, and polite to all.
Arrive 15 minutes before the appointment time. This will give you time to set your mood and look presentable before you enter the interview chamber.
Inform the interviewer if you’ll be late and explain the circumstances so that he understands your urgent situation and considers your case.
Pleasantly greet the receptionist and identify yourself. Treat everyone you meet inside the office with as much politeness as you would with the interviewer.
While waiting, practice your introduction and other answers. This will help in building confidence and fluency.
Avoid fidgeting, chewing gum, talking on cell phone, or texting. This gives an impression of nervousness, carelessness, and unprofessional conduct.
Here, we will discuss what you have to do during an interview, till the time you step out of the room.
Five Stages of an Interview
While discussing an interview, it’s important to understand the different stages through which an interview courses through. Broadly speaking, there are five stages in an interview −
Introduction and rapport building − This is where the candidate introduces himself and builds a friendly image in the HR’s eyes.
Discussing interviewee’s experience and skills − The candidate runs the HR through his education, experience, and areas of expertise.
Interviewee Profiling − The HR asks questions to understand the department or the process the candidate will be a perfect fit for.
Questions to the Interviewer − The candidate uses this opportunity to put any queries in front of the HR related to the company and the working environment.
Concluding − Includes final formalities like shaking hands and wishing.
Understanding the Interviewer
An interviewer, in order to do an effective hiring, needs the answers to THREE basic questions −
- Can you be someone whom the company can rely upon?
- Who are you? Would others be comfortable working with you?
- Are you sufficiently experienced, educated and interested to work satisfactorily?
You must realize that there are no right or wrong answers; the interviewer’s intention is to accurately profile you according to your skill-sets.
Important Tips to Use
Here is a set of important tips that you should apply while appearing for an interview −
Give a good first Impression − An interviewer draws a mental image of you in the first four minutes of the interview. Your appearance and nonverbal cues play a huge role in creating that image. Smile while greeting the interviewer, offer a firm handshake (be mindful of perspiring palms) and establish eye-contact.
Body Language − Look the interviewer right in the eye while greeting him the first time. By doing so, you project a confident and assertive image in the mind of the HR, but try not to stare. When offered a seat, sit straight instead of slouching. Speak in a clear voice; avoid mumbling.
Listen before Answering − If you aren’t sure that you have understood the question, request the interviewer to repeat it.
Smile − Smiling at the right time gives you a confident and exuberant image.
Give Exact Answers − Your answers need to be precise and exact.
Ex-employers − Never bad-mouth ex-employers.
Be Honest − Never lie. They might ask you to talk in detail about what you say.
Know your Resume − Be ready to discuss anything mentioned in the resume. The interviewers can ask a question on any topic mentioned there.
Look for shared Attributes − If the interviewer and you happen to have common interests, it gives you an edge. If you come to know that he and you are alumni from the same school, mention it in passing. Above all, be truthful.
Keep things at a professional level − Even if a great rapport has been built, it’s always advisable to maintain a professional attitude. Getting too comfortable might lead you to say something that compromises the interview.
Experts say that only 30% of what you speak inside the interview room matters to the interviewers and 70% comprises of Body Language. The way you walk, talk, sit, shift in your chair, touch your face, lower your eyes on specific questions, or look away – all bear tremendous weight when it comes to leaving a positive impression on the mind of the interviewer(s).
Here is a set of common guidelines that you should follow while in the interview room or waiting for your turn −
Don’t cross your arms and legs. This signifies nervousness and restlessness.
Don’t rub your nose or bite lips. The interviewers tend to interpret this as lying.
Don’t slouch or sit on the edge of the chair. This gives a careless impression.
Nod when you agree but don’t bob your head as that signifies inexperience.
Don’t stare when looking directly at the interviewer. That will look intimidating.
Don’t sit too close to the interviewer. Allow personal space.
Don’t look away or turn your face down while answering.
Don’t use excessive hand movements. Articulate and be expressive but moderately and at desk-level.
Don’t make any sudden movements. Make relaxed adjustments in your posture.
Some recruiters might ask you for certain sensitive data like age, marital status, nationality, that might not have any apparent bearing on the profile you have applied for. However, the job might have specific requirements in these areas.
Here is a list of questions that are generally considered avoidable for an employer to ask of an applicant. These questions are provided for your reference and they need not be answered.
- How old are you?
- Are you single/married?
- Tell me about your family.
- Do you have any children?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- What is your maiden name?
- What are your political views?
- What is your sexual orientation?
- Were your parents immigrants?
- Do you have any health problems?
If you are asked one of the above-mentioned questions, and you want to work with the company without compromising your rights, you could respond with a counter question −
“I’d love to answer the question. Would you mind telling me the reason for asking it?”
The applicant must note that the interviewer can still obtain these details by asking these alternative questions mentioned below.
- What’s your address and phone number?
- Are you over the age of 18?
- Do you have any commitments that may conflict with your work schedule?
- Are there restrictions that conflict with your work?
- Have you ever used a different name?
- Can you perform duties of this position?
- Do you speak/write any other language?
- Are you authorized to work in this country?
We would discuss here what to do after the interview is over; from the moment the interviewer is done asking questions till the time you walk out of the premises. This is a very under-rated and yet, extremely important step of an interview process.
Closing the Interview
Closing an interview gives you the final chance to leave a positive impression in the mind of the interviewer about you as a prospective employee with the organization.
The following few steps will help you in leaving a lasting impression in the mind of the interviewer well after the interview is over.
Ask questions to the interviewer. The HR will feel that you have done your research on the company.
Shake the interviewers’ hands confidently, if he offers you the hand first. Don’t offer a handshake from your side first, as it is still against customs in some countries to shake hands, especially if the interviewer is a lady.
Thank the interviewer(s) for the opportunity and rephrase your interest to work with the company which will leave a positive, enthusiastic impression.
Greet the interview appropriately as per the time of the day and walk out gently and maintain composure till you step outside their campus. You will be under evaluation till the time you step outside their working premises.
Questions to Ask the Employer
The questions that are asked to the interviewer at the end of the interview are also considered to be a part of the closing process. By offering to ask a question back to him, the interviewer is trying to address any queries that might be there in your mind about the company’s way of operations or future projects. Some of the questions that can be asked are −
- What is the next step in the hiring process?
- What are the challenges specific to this job?
- How is feedback provided on job performance?
- How would I be trained or introduced to the job?
- Are there facilities for employees’ educational growth?
- Do you have an Employee Training Program? Can you describe it?
- What are the areas of performance for the person in this position?
- Can you describe the formal performance review process in your company?
Questions NOT to Ask the Employer
Some candidates, after being encouraged by the interviewer, tend to ask questions on those areas of the job that are confidential and can only be disclosed to employees. By asking questions on those areas, people send a wrong signal that they assume that they have cleared the interview and gotten the job. Here is a list of such questions that you should not ask to an interviewer −
- Questions about salary, raises, benefits, flex-time, and leave/vacations
- Questions on position/company whose answers are found on company website
These questions can, however, be asked by working professionals, or by those who have impressive track-records in experience, as they can negotiate their terms openly with the interviewers.