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Prepare for Ambush Interviews

The term “ambush interview” refers to an unscheduled interview that occurs because someone has forced or tricked another into on-the-spot participation. Although the press typically uses the term to describe a journalism interview tactic, it can also refer to a tactic used by some employers and job seekers. An ambush interview can have a negative or positive result depending on the ambusher.

Are you prepared for job interviews? Do you know what to expect? Do you know how to behave in unusual interviews?

There are numerous kinds of interviewers and interview styles. Most interviewers are competent, professional. Some can turn a formal interview into a cordial discussion, make you feel at ease, and elicit information. Others are less proficient.

Although all interviews involve evaluation of the applicant, interview styles differ. Two or more styles are often combined in a single interview.  Knowing something about each can help you prepare for interviews and boost confidence and performance.

- Screening interview. This initial interview is most common with entry level positions. It’s often used to eliminate candidates who don’t possess necessary qualifications.

- Structured interview. This directed interview proceeds from a pre-selected list of questions. After all candidates have been interviewed, their answers are objectively compared.

 To introduce more information about yourself into this lockstep procedure, politely ask if you could offer information.  Most interviewers provide opportunities for comments.

- Unstructured interview. This non-directed interview offers candidates the opportunity to take charge of the interview. Interviewers ask open-ended questions. One favourite question is, “Tell me about yourself.”

Demonstrate your employment objectives, qualifications, and accomplishments using concrete examples. Ask questions to obtain additional information and show interest.  Demonstrate how your strengths will contribute to the company.

- Board interview. This interview may be used to select candidates for high level positions. Several interviewers may ask questions focusing on their areas of expertise, while another may observe nonverbal behavior.

Ask, in advance, about people who will be in attendance. During the interview, talk to the person questioning you. Concentrating on one person at a time, enables you to appear relaxed, confident.

- Behavioural Interview. This popular style assumes past behaviour predicts future performance. Candidates are asked questions about how they’ve worked in the past. For example, “Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker and how you dealt with it.” Employers expect candidates to tell stories about themselves to give insight into behaviours such as teamwork, initiative, problem-solving, and flexibility.

When answering questions, describe the situation and task to set the stage. Next, review the action you took to demonstrate past performance. Finally, emphasize successful results. Ensure your answers are honest, concise.

- Case interview. Interviewers present you with a real task to complete. Usually, you complete the problem during the interview; sometimes, you may be asked to finish it at home. Show you understand the problem and can reach a conclusion through logical analysis.

Before you read the case, understand expectations such as time limit.  Ask questions to clarify understanding. Pay attention to hints. Analyze the case from many perspectives to demonstrate ability to think through many scenarios.

- Analytical Interview. This interview is designed to observe how you think on your feet and analyze data. You may hear some strange questions such as how many gas stations are located in your region.

Think creatively. Try to respond humorously. The interviewer is interested in your thinking process, not necessarily the correct answer.

- Stress Interview. Some interviewers intentionally introduce stress into the interview to assess candidates’ reactions to pressure. Stress techniques include silence, being unfriendly, asking sensitive questions.

Smile pleasantly, maintain composure. Ignore offensive comments. Answer insulting questions candidly. Imagine answering these questions when you’re with friends.  Reframe questions to demonstrate suitability to the position.

- The dining interview. You may be taken out to lunch if you’re in an all-day interview. While conversation may be informal, evaluation is present.

Maintain your guard. Order what you want in the medium price range. Avoid spaghetti, other food that could be awkward to eat; don't drink alcohol. Discuss common interests.  Don’t reveal more about yourself than planned.

-  Serial or successive interviews. After an initial screening, you may be given a series of interviews with several interviewers, each on a one-to-one basis.

Treat each interviewer as though he or she is the first. Establish a good relationship with everybody, and repeat information you may have given others with enthusiasm. Employment decisions are often made by a committee composed of these people.

- International interviews. Because different cultures have varied expectations and perceptions of appropriate interview behaviors, know the company culture. In some cultures, interviewers expect candidates to show modesty and wait to be asked before volunteering information. In Anglo America, interviewees are expected to show initiative, competence, and ask questions.

- Follow-up tips. Evaluate your interview performance. Did you create a favourable first impression? Were you prepared? Did you demonstrate your qualifications for the position? Other?

Write a brief thank you letter to the employer within 24 hours following the interview. State your appreciation for the interviewer’s interest, and restate your desire for the position demonstrating what you can contribute.

Don’t take rejections personally. These are normal. Use varied job search strategies, and persist.

Additional strategies for acing interviews are found in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life: https://www.amazon.com/Questers-Dare-Change-Your-Life/dp/1508408963 

Dr. Carole Kanchier, psychologist, counselor/coach, educator  and author of Questers Dare to Change Your Job and  Life, helps individuals and organizations manage change in uncertain times.  Email: carole@questersdaretochange.com; www.questersdaretochange.com