The job interview is perhaps the most crucial part of your job search because it is your chance to prove that you are the right person for the job. It is important that you prepare yourself for your interview so you can make a positive and lasting impression.
When you are contacted and invited for the interview, make sure to obtain the following information:
- Confirm the date, time and location of the interview.
- Find out who your interviewer(s) will be, including their names and titles.
- Ask for a contact person’s name and phone number in the case of an emergency.
- Ask if there is anything that you should bring with you.
- Advise if you have a disability and need any accommodations to participate in the interview.
Before your interview, it is important to do the background research to become familiar with Halifax Regional Municipality. This could include looking up current events, organizational priorities, or recent projects.
Find out everything you can about the specific position. The better you understand the position and the hiring manager’s needs, the more effectively you’ll be able to show how you can benefit their team.
In addition to the expected knowledge, ability, and skills type questions (for example: “Tell us about your experience with this type of work”), there are two other types of questions that you should be prepared to answer:
1. Behavioural questions
Behavioural-based interviewing is based on discovering how you performed in specific employment-related situations. One of the most important things about answering behavioural questions is to remember to summarize both the action that you took in the past and the result of your action.
The S.T.A.R method is a useful way to ensure that you address the key points in your response:
Situation – Task – Action – Result.
- Situation: Describe a recent situation that demonstrates your involvement. The situation may be from a previous job, a volunteer experience, school, or any other relevant event.
- Task: Describe the tasks that were involved in the situation.
- Action: Outline the steps that you took. What actions did you take? Focus on your individual actions or contributions even if you were working as a part of a team.
- Result: Discuss the outcome of the situation and any lessons learned.
To prepare for these types of questions, focus on what the hiring manager has described in the job posting and identify situations in the past where you demonstrated the qualities and skills they are seeking. Be prepared to talk about the roles you played, actions you took, and the results of your actions. Ask yourself “why do I want this job?” and “what do I have to offer?” and try to incorporate those answers into your responses.
2. Situational questions
Situational interview questions are similar to behavioural questions, but rather than focusing on a past experience, they focus on a hypothetical situation that you might face on the job. This style is designed to show how you would perform in a situation based on your present skills, knowledge, and abilities. The S.T.A.R. approach can help with these types of questions as well. Review the steps you have taken to solve similar problems and make corrections. You can also incorporate these experiences into your answers to show that you have experience in handling similar situations.
Review your experiences at work, at school and/or in volunteer activities so that you can draw upon them and relate the questions back to your own experiences. Think of examples and situations that demonstrate your abilities or strengths (e.g. a time you displayed good judgement, initiative, responsibility, or communication skills). Making a list of your accomplishments or achievements to reference during the interview may also help you to answer questions. Think about challenges you’ve faced in the past, and be prepared to describe how you dealt with these challenges and what you learned from them.
Practice your answers out loud. Be clear and concise. Choose key moments that you are most proud of and that demonstrate your abilities to the hiring manager.
Example questions and tips on how to prepare for them:
These are questions designed to discover more information about your work history, skills, or knowledge—as they relate to the specific job. Your answer to these question will be assessed and evaluated based on how well you organize your facts to show that you understand the position and how qualified you are. Be brief, and focus on how you are an ideal candidate for the position.
“Briefly describe why you are interested in this position and what skills and experience you possess to qualify you for this position.”
To prepare for this type of question, read the job posting and the job description and develop four or five points that link your work-related strengths, background, and experience to qualifications of the position. Remember: the panel has read your résumé already, so try not to just repeat what is in it.
Technical or job-specific knowledge questions
These are questions to assess your knowledge of specific programs, policies, or procedures that are related to the position. In most cases, you should have prior knowledge or experience that will contribute to a good response.
“Please describe your level of experience with Microsoft Office.”
“What are the principles of delivering excellent customer service?”
“When designing youth recreation programs, what policies, procedures, or best practices do you need to consider?”
Behavioural or competency-based questions
These are questions that draw on your previous experience to provide examples of how you behaved and demonstrated specific skills in previous situations. They are specific and challenge the candidate to provide concrete examples of their previous achievements in different types of situations. These are the most commonly used questions in interviews with the municipality. They look for how you do your work, not just what you do.
“Conflict is inevitable when working with others. Please describe a recent conflict you had with a co-worker and how you dealt with the situation. Also describe what you learned to help you work with that individual in the future.” OR “Tell me about a time when you had to design a solution to a problem facing your work unit. What did you do, and what was the result?”
To prepare for this type of question, think of job posting qualifications and develop responses including: what you have actually accomplished in the past, what your involvement was, what the scope of your assignment was, what you did, and what the outcome was.
Situational or scenario-based questions
These are questions aimed at presenting you with a hypothetical situation that you may be faced with on the job; you’ll be asked to suggest a solution. These questions tend to assess analytical and problem-solving skills and your ability to handle daily tasks effectively. It is important to formulate your own responses in an organized manner.
“You are working on a project that has to be completed by tomorrow morning. Your manager comes to your desk and gives you an assignment to be completed by noon tomorrow. You know you can’t meet both deadlines. What would you do?”
Take a minute in the interview before responding, so you can think about the process you would go through to address such an issue, who you would consult with, and what results you would anticipate obtaining.
The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you will be when the day comes for your actual interview. If you can combine this with a natural enthusiasm for the job, you will be able to present yourself in the best possible light. Here are some important tips to help you during the interview process:
- Come prepared. Bring any documents or forms that are relevant to the position or that you have been asked to submit (i.e., driver’s abstract, references, copies of presentation).
- Arrive on time.
- Be confident. Feeling nervous in an interview is perfectly normal; just don’t let your nerves overpower your interview. A calm, clear speaking voice is an excellent way to show your confidence.
- Be professional. This begins with a smile and a firm handshake. Remember, this is your first introduction to the organization, so be polite to everyone you meet and turn off your cell phone.
- Ask for clarification if you need it. Listen carefully to the interview questions so that you actually answer the question. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
- Let them know what you have to offer. Talk about your past experiences and accomplishments and tie those experiences to how they can contribute to the municipality.
Your responses to the interview questions are evaluated against pre-determined selection criteria, so be sure to provide as much detail as possible (while still being succinct). The interview panel will be taking notes throughout the interview so they are able to evaluate your responses and come to consensus at the end of the process.
You will be advised whether or not you are moving to the next phase of the selection process via phone or email.