Introduction to Job Interviews

Job interviewing isn't really that difficult. It seems difficult because we don't interview that often. The keys to successful job interviewing include information, preparation, and relaxation.

Purpose of a Job Interview

Job interviews are used to assess three things:

  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you do the job?
  • Will you fit in with the work team?

Since the interviewer has your resume and you've been called for an interview, it is assumed that you can likely do the job. Interview questions will be asked about previous jobs and your ideas on handling the new job. But these questions and your answers are used to confirm or contradict the interviewer's assumption that you have the ability to do the job.

Since you have applied for the job and have come to the interview, the interviewer will assume that if hired you will do the job. Your answers to questions and the way you interact with the interviewer will help to confirm your motivation to perform successfully on the job.

What remains is your fit for the job and work team. Interviewers are most keen to determine if you are the right person for the job; if you will fit in with the people who are already working in the office and/or organization. When applicants are closely matched in their skills and motivation, interviewers base their decision on whom to hire often on who they believe will be the best fit. Your attitude, enthusiasm, and ability to quickly build rapport with the interviewer will help you to stand out. Showing genuine interest in the job and the people you meet during the interview process (including the secretary or receptionist), will help you connect in a positive way.

Remember, however, that this determination of “best fit” is a two-way street. You need to evaluate whether or not this job and work team are right for you. Just because you can do the job, may get a raise, or achieve a promotion doesn't mean that you will be happy if you are hired. The interview is an important time for you to evaluate the situation and see if it is the best one even as you are being evaluated.

Interviewer Styles

Interviewers tend to fit into three categories:


Most of the time you will be meeting with an inexperienced or unprepared interviewer. Just as you may not have been on a lot of job interviews, the person interviewing you likely hasn't done a lot of job interviews. They may not even want to be interviewing and may be unprepared. Your preparation is, therefore, extremely important. Make sure you know what you want the interviewer to know about you and what questions you want the interviewer to answer about the position. In addition, be prepared to discuss your background and how you will be the best fit for this job.


In government and some business settings, the structured interviewer is becoming more the norm. This interviewer will have a set list of questions (s)he asks of all applicants and will likely deviate very little. This is supposed to make the interview process “uniform” for all applicants. Instead, it can make the process flat and dull. Again, it is important that you show your interest and enthusiasm, while directing the interviewer to areas of your background that will help you stand out from other applicants.


The non-directed or open-ended interviewer style is used less frequently but you might run into it so you need to be prepared. This type of interviewer uses a relaxed, presumably unfocused approach to put you at ease. The initial questions may be about your day, the weather, or other seemingly unrelated topics. As the interview progresses, the interviewer uses this relaxed approach to ask questions that (s)he hopes will reveal more about your personality and work style. Stay aware of what you say during such an interview. Don't allow yourself to become so relaxed that you say something you later wished you hadn't (such as commenting about a bad boss or something similar).

For help with job interview preparation or any other career assistance, contact a TSA Career Coach.