The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

February 09, 2012

Dissecting the Interview Process: Guidance for Both Candidates and Employers

For both job seekers and hiring managers in Accounting, Finance, IT and Administrative Support, interviewing is arguably the most difficult part of the employment process. From the candidate’s point of view, the idea of speaking directly to a potential employer can be stressful, as exact interview questions can never be fully anticipated.  Even if the candidate is confident in his or her ability to succeed in the new position, there is a possibility of error during the interview.

Interviews can be challenging for hiring managers as well; unlike resumes, which provide objective presentations of candidates’ qualifications, the interview is more of a subjective process – so employers may struggle to distinguish the interviewee from multiple, equally talented candidates. The concerns of both candidates and employers can be alleviated significantly with the appropriate preparation. 

Below, the typical interview is separated into topics with corresponding guidance for each. By incorporating these techniques into the interview process, the candidate can maximize his or her marketability and the employer can select the best individual for an open position.

  • Prepare for the typical interview question, “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

  • Concisely explain past employment experience, professional characteristics and key areas of interest that are related to the specific role.

  • The objective for candidates is to briefly and logically present themselves as suitable for the position.
  • Use this introductory question to determine how well the candidate can articulate his or her fit with the role.

  • Candidates who provide irrelevant personal information to introductory questions miss the mark.

  • Those who can effectively relate their current and past experience and accomplishments to the role have successfully answered the question.
Interest in the Organization
  • Demonstrate a genuine desire to work for the company.

  • Research the organization’s competitors, objectives, accomplishments and challenges, and incorporate into the interview.

  • Leverage this knowledge to convey the intent of making personal contributions to the firm’s growth.

  • Showcase further interest by asking the interviewer what he or she likes about the firm.
  • Determine whether or not the candidate truly wants to work for the firm.

  • Ideal responses include specific information about the organization and the industry.

  • Be wary of candidates who struggle to articulate their interest in the firm or provide superficial answers; such applicants are unlikely to be assets to the company.
Nature of the Position
  • Convey sincere interest in obtaining and excelling in the available role by providing specific examples.

  • Candidates must familiarize themselves with the responsibilities of the position in order to effectively explain how past experience, skills and knowledge will factor into their success in the role.

  • To gain additional insight and appear serious about the role, ask the hiring manager what challenges can be expected.
  • Ascertain the candidate’s competency in handling the specific position.

  • He or she should be able to speak knowledgeably and confidently about the technical aspects of the role.

  • A successful candidate will provide valid reasons as to why he or she would be a good fit for this position.
  • Be ready to supply at least three professional strengths.

  • Always be able to support strengths with very specific examples from positions held.

  • For example, if the candidate asserts excellent managerial skills, he or she can back up the claim by citing improvements made by a team under his or her supervision.

  • Questions about weaknesses are typically a bit more difficult, but the best suggestion for candidates is to discuss legitimate weaknesses that they are actively trying to improve and which do not affect their abilities to succeed in the positions being sought.
  • Discuss strengths and weaknesses to gauge what value the candidate can potentially add to the organization, and whether or not the candidate recognizes and is willing to learn from mistakes.

  • Candidates who provide a list of strengths without substantial evidence lack self-awareness, are being dishonest or a combination of both.

  • The same applies to questions about professional weaknesses; the candidate should be able to comfortably discuss traits that need improvement.
  • Never should the candidate bring up the topic of compensation or benefits.

  • If the interviewer asks for a desired salary for the position, the candidate should respond that “any reasonable offer that is in line with what the market is paying” is acceptable.
  • The objective is to emphasize that the job opportunity itself, rather than compensation, is the candidate’s major motivation for applying for the position.
  • Candidates who ask about compensation or benefits during an interview are not focused on the opportunity itself.
  • If asked, and the candidate provides a salary number that is too high, the employer should question why he or she feels such a figure is deserved.
  • On the other hand, a candidate who gives a number that is far too low seems to undermine their own value.
  • Be sure to be prepared to respond if asked, “Do you have any other questions for me?”

  • Relevant questions for the closing of the interview help to solidify interest and indicate that the candidate has done research.
  • A strong candidate will have some outstanding questions about the position or organization.
  • A weaker individual will draw a blank, conveying boredom or unpreparedness.

  • Let the candidate know the next steps in the firm’s hiring procedure.

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