There are many kinds of job interviews and many ways to answer the questions asked. This leaflet looks at the types of interviews and questions you’re most likely to encounter from the point of view of recruiters. Having the right answers, of course, is up to you.

A job interview may seem like a minefield. In fact, it’s nothing other than a procedure for exchanging information. From the employer’s perspective, an interview is a chance to find out more about a selected applicant. From your perspective, it’s an opportunity to show that you are qualified for the position and distinguish yourself from other applicants. It also lets you learn more about the responsibilities associated with the position, the organization’s management style and work environment and any other aspects that can help you make an informed decision.

Given the current context, companies are very cautious in their approach to recruitment. Human resources specialists select applicants based on capabilities linked directly to specific tasks. During job interviews, they not only verify the applicant’s skills but also assess the person’s ability to adapt to change and fit into the company’s work environment. Above all, they look for applicants who can deliver expertise that exceeds the job’s requirements.

The recruitment process involves at least two interviews. Third and fourth interviews are not unusual, however, and applicants may also be invited to take tests. Companies with a human resources department assign recruitment specialists to meet applicants for an initial screening. The goal of this meeting is to examine the applicant’s attitude, motivation and ability to adapt and perform tasks within the organization. The recruiter does not always have the technical knowledge to assess the applicant’s level of experience but can generally complete a preliminary assessment. It is also the recruiter who recommends further consideration of the applicant.

The second interview is more technical. It tests the applicant’s skills and brings relevant experience to light. Subsequent interviews are used to decide among applicants who appear to be of equal value and allow managers to meet the applicants. In SMEs and companies without a human resources department, it is common practice for owners themselves to meet applicants, conduct job interviews and make hiring decisions.

Employment interviews can take a number of forms. They may be conducted by telephone, in a one-on-one setting, with a selection committee, in groups or in a restaurant. Telephone interviews are the most difficult for applicants, who may be caught off guard. The point of this initial contact is to screen applicants for certain key skills and eliminate those who don’t match the profile. If possible, tell your interviewer that you are available to meet in person; doing so lets you turn a telephone screening into a standard, face-toface interview. During the interview, one or several people may ask you questions. The interview may be structured or unstructured, and the opportunities for free and spontaneous discussion will vary accordingly.

Interviews with selection committees are similar, but involve people from different levels within the organization who will have to work with the chosen applicant. For example, the committee may consist of the future employee’s immediate superior, a colleague and a subordinate, as well as a representative of the human resources department. The interview is structured and everyone has a role to play. By creating a committee, the employer involves company staff in choosing the applicant and sets the stage for a more rapid integration of the newcomer. This approach often requires fewer interviews.

In group interviews, several applicants are brought together at the same time, allowing the employer to observe how they interact in a predetermined situation. This type of interview is rarely used. Restaurant interviews are generally variations on the standard interview, though the setting includes more distractions.

For job interviews, keep in mind that the best indicator of future performance is past performance. Give examples of your achievements and don’t be afraid to let your engineering smarts stand out!

What Recruiters really want to know

Typical Interview Questions

Recruiters use questions to get a sense of who you are, what you can bring to the organization and what kind of support or training you will need in order to adapt to the organization and your new job. Give clear answers and provide specific examples. Find the happy medium between rambling statements and simple “yes” or “no” answers. Remember that this is an exchange of information about you, your accomplishments and your potential.

To help you prepare for interviews, we present an overview of the questions recruiters are most likely to ask and what they really want to know. Needless to say, there is more than one way to answer these questions and put a positive spin on your experience.

1. Tell me about yourself.

Your recruiter wants to get both an over-all picture of who you are and a sense of how well you organize your thoughts. Can you select and present a few key ideas in just a few minutes?

2. Why did you choose to become an engineer?

Your recruiter wants to find out more about your interests. What motivates you on a professional level? What are your expectations? What is the link between your studies and work?

3. What do you know about our company?

Have you taken the time to learn about the company’s activities? How serious is your application?

4. Why do you want to work with our company?

Your recruiter wants to know how you perceive the company and what you know about the sector in general (challenges, competition, etc.).

5. What interests you most about this position?

Your recruiter want to ensure that the position, company and sector correspond to your expectations and career path.

6. Why did you leave your last job?

What led you to change jobs? Are you likely to leave the new job for similar reasons?

7. What are your salary expectations?

Are your salary expectations in line with the company’s remuneration policy?

8. Why should we hire you?

Your recruiter wants you to demonstrate that you have the skills to effectively perform the duties related to the job.

9. What can you contribute to our organization?

What added value can you bring to the organization?

10. Don’t you think you would feel more at home in a different kind or size of organization (larger, smaller, manufacturing, services, etc.)?

Because you come from a different context, your recruiter wants to ensure that you will be able to make the transition and are intending to stay in the medium term.

11. What are your medium and long-term objectives?

Your recruiter wants to determine if the position is likely to interest you in the medium term and whether the firm can offer you challenges that will interest you in the long term. In other words: are you likely to leave again soon?

12. What do you expect from your superiors, your colleagues and your subordinates? Is the kind of framework you are looking for compatible with the style of company and service?

Your recruiter wants to verify if the environment you’re looking for corresponds to the context of the company or department in which you will work.

13. What were your greatest achievements in your last job or studies? What are your strengths?

Your recruiter wants to know to what matters most to you at a professional level, in order to identify your strengths and areas of expertise.

14. What are the biggest hurdles you have had to overcome during your career or your studies? What are your weaknesses?

Your recruiter wants to find out in what areas you will need help or additional training and ensure that the organization is capable of giving you the necessary support.

15. You resume indicates that you have frequently changed jobs. Explain why. What is the common thread in your career?

Your recruiter wants to find out how reliable your commitment is and ensure that the kind of job offered corresponds to what you’re looking for. In other words: are you likely to stay in the medium term?

16. According to your resume, you were unemployed for a period of X months. What did you do during that time?

Your recruiter wants to evaluate how dynamic, energetic and organized you are in the context of an unstructured job search.

17. What have you done to stay up to date with technical advances in your field?

Your recruiter wants to know how interested you are in your field, how capable you are of applying current methods and how up-to-date your training is.

18. Are you a leader?

What degree of credibility and influence do you have in a work environment and on a team?

19. How do others perceive you?

How do you interact with other staff members?

Role Playing

Role playing exercises reproduce events likely to occur in the work environment. For example, you may be presented with a scenario based on current or past events and asked how you would respond. Increasingly, instead of proposing what-if scenarios, recruiters are asking applicants to give examples of their behavior at work. They may ask you to give examples of how you manage priorities, solve problems, influence decision makers or display leadership.

In either situation, the interviewers want to find out how you respond to problems, how you analyze them and what strategies you apply to solving them. Take the time to think about the various aspects of the problem. Above all, remember to refer to you own experiences and be yourself.

Questions you may wish to ask

  1. What does the job involve?
  2. Does the job offer opportunities for promotion?
  3. How long has the position been open?
  4. Who would I work with? Who would I report to? Who would report to me? Who would be my colleagues in related services?
  5. What are the department or organization’s objectives this year?
  6. Does the organization have a professional development program?
  7. Does the position involve travel out-of-town? How often? For how long?
  8. May I see your organization chart?
  9. Would it be possible to visit the company’s installations?
  10. What is the first challenge or problem that the selected applicant will have to take on

Before the Interview

During the Interview

After the Interview