Most managers are expert interviewers and they know that you're going to be nervous (whether you're just starting out or are a seasoned work veteran). To help you relax and feel comfortable, they'll conduct the interview as a casual conversation.
But it's not.
Always be aware that although the interview may be informal and "friendly", all of the questions are designed to answer three important issues:
1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you do the work?
3. Will you get along with all the people in the department (and will you fit in with that particular corporate structure)?
Also bear in mind that your answers will have more than a simple meaning.
For example, I have a brother who has been self-employed for several years now. He's been on a round of interviews, seeking a return to the world of 9-to-5 employment (a reluctant return, for he loves what he does-independent auto dealing-but due to the economy.....).
At one point, the manager asked my brother what he misses about self-employment.
He replied "My freedom".
I don't know yet if my brother got the position. I know he was being totally truthful, but I'm worried about that particular response.
The manager may hear something different: "Uh oh, if I hire this guy and spend months training him, will he leave for 'greener pastures' once the auto industry picks up? Will he leave if he feels like he's on a tight leash?"
I would have said: "I miss the daily challenges and goals I set for myself. I've researched your company, and have found that this position will enable me to continue those high expectations. I've had the extra benefit of working as part of a team and I can also work independently to get my share of the work done."
Now all interviews are different and each one has a different style, but here are a few routine questions (with a suggested answer; you can also do your own variation) you can expect:
"Tell me a little about yourself"-Talk about your work experiences, accomplishments and job qualifications -not your childhood, family or hobbies.
"Why do you want to work as a...?"-Talk about the interesting details of the job and why they fascinate you. Do some research.
"Tell me about my company" or "What do you know about our company?"-Do research! Before you go on the interview, visit the company's web site or call the Chamber of Commerce.
"How long do you plan to work here?"-You can say "A long time. This is the job I've been hoping for".
"Do you plan to continue your education?"-Yes, because adding to your education conveys that you want to grow and prosper, professionally as well as personally.
"What do you plan to be doing work-wise five years from now?"-Figure the promotions you should get if you work hard for the company over the next five years. Tell the manager you plan to be working for him or her in that position.
"What major problem have you faced and how did you resolve it?"-Think of something related to work, school, civic or leisure activities. Tell it as a story and include a few details . The manager wants to see how you (1) define problems, (2) identify options, (3) decide on as a solution, (4) handle obstacles and (5) solve the problem.
"What is your greatest weakness?"-Never give character weaknesses. Focus on work and turn this into a positive. Say "I tend to be a workaholic. I like to stay and get caught up on the odds and ends before I go home at night."
Remember to keep your answers short (the average American listens for 28 seconds before getting distracted).
The manager will most likely ask "Do you have any questions for me?" You can say "Yes, thank you. I do".
And here's a few for you to ask:
1. Would you describe a typical work day and the things I'd be doing?
2. Would I need any training?
3. Who are the people I'd be working with and what do they do?
4. Could you give a brief tour?
5. If hired, would I report directly to you or to someone else?
6. Which duties are most important to this position?
7. I want this job. Would you consider hiring me on a 30-day trial period-to prove myself?