Step 3: InterviewStep 3: Interview

The job interview is one of the most important steps in getting a job in the construction industry. At the same time, it is the most challenging – for the interviewee it can be nerve wracking, while for the interviewer it can be challenging to assess accurately who the best candidate is for the job. This section will help both parties understand what the other is looking for to simplify this step in the hiring process.

Interview Preparation Tips for Aboriginal Candidates

ASET holders should review this section with their client to facilitate success at the interview.

1. Do Your Homework:

  • The organization likely has many different opportunities. Make sure you find out about the jobs that are available by looking at the website, talking to people who work there, and asking questions of your employment counsellor.
  • The skills needed will vary with the specific job. Look at the job descriptions to see what skills are needed for the job that interests you. Are your skills a good fit? Make sure you can describe how they fit – think of examples from your work experience, community involvement, education and hobbies.
  • Know what the company does and which services and products it provides. Be sure you can explain this to another person, so you can do it for an interviewer.

2. Preparing For the Interview

  • Make sure you know where the interview is and how to get there. Just in case, bring the interviewer’s phone number so you can call if you are delayed.
  • Be well rested.
  • Arrive early so you do not feel rushed.
  • Bring at least two copies of your resumé with you to the interview: one for you and one for the interviewer.
  • An ASET holder can find out the interview protocol and offer to sit on interview panels or get the process clear in order to prepare you.
  • Bring with you the name and contact information of three references. Before the interview, ask your references if you can provide their contact information to an interviewer and make sure they will provide positive comments about you and your work.
  • If you have samples of your work, bring them to the interview as well.
  • Bring paper and a pen with you to make any notes.
  • Ask the interviewer how many people will be interviewing you. Be prepared for a panel of company representatives, who may all ask questions.
  • If you are called to schedule an interview, ask the recruiter to tell you what skills and characteristics are important for the job. Think about how you can explain that you have these skills: Where did you learn them? How have you used them in your past experience? What successes have you had?
  • “Tell me about yourself” means “Tell me about your qualifications.” Prepare a one- to two-minute presentation of your qualifications.
  • Interviewers usually ask candidates to give examples of situations where they have shown characteristics such as good decision making, initiative, safe work practices or teamwork. Think about situations you can describe during the interview. You might not be used to bragging about your accomplishments, but remember that interviewers want to know specifically what YOU did and what YOU achieved.
  • If you have questions about the company, the job or anything about the position, such as when the job starts or when you will be notified if you get the job, be prepared to ask these at the end of the interview.

3. Appearance at the Interview

  • Make sure you look clean and well-groomed. Fingernails, hair, clothing and shoes should all look well cared for.
  • Choose your best clothing that seems appropriate for the job you are applying for. Office workers would typically dress more formally than tradespeople.
  • Jewellery should be kept to a minimum.
  • Turn off your cellphone before you arrive at the interview.

4. During the Interview

  • Arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before the interview (but no later than five minutes before the interview).
  • Review your notes and go in with confidence.
  • When answering questions, include short stories involving problems or challenges and how you were able to solve or overcome them. Describe the results you achieved.
  • The interview should be a two-way conversation. Ask questions of the interviewers. This shows your interest in the organization and the position, and enables you to gather information to make a decision afterwards. You might want to ask about work hours, training that is provided, who you would be working with, and any costs that are covered, such as safety gear.
  • At the end of the interview, tell the interviewer or panel why you think you would be suited for the position. Don’t forget that if you are currently studying or in the process of obtaining your driver’s licence, you need to let the selection panel know.
  • Be yourself!

How to Reduce Bias When Interviewing

To make sense of a complex world, everyone makes generalizations about situations, people and the world. The impact of personal or cultural bias on how a candidate is assessed during a job interview can be significant. Stereotyping and personal bias based on cultural difference may get in the way of hiring an otherwise qualified candidate. For First Nations, Métis and Inuit candidates, culture may be a real barrier in presenting one’s skills and abilities in a non-Aboriginal Canadian interview setting. To check how inclusive an interviewer you are, use this tool: Inclusive Interviewing Checklist.

Many organizations, where size and diverse workforce permit, have begun to use diverse hiring panels to decrease the impact of cultural and personal biases on interviewing. The following information may allow for better communication and assessment of candidates during interviews and, at the same time, present your organization in the best light, enhancing your reputation as a diverse and inclusive employer. Many of the barriers presented below are related to cultural values differences and cross-cultural communication. Before an interview, look at the overview of Aboriginal cultures.

Aboriginal Cultural Norms & Interviews

Display of Emotions: In non-Aboriginal Canada, candidates are expected to display excitement about the position but not to show strong emotions. Candidates who display little or no emotion may be judged as not having a sincere interest in the position.

Conversational Turn Taking and Silence: Consider different meanings of silence. The non-Aboriginal Canadian communication style allows for only a short silence between speakers before people start to feel uncomfortable. A candidate may simply take some time to reflect on the interviewer’s question prior to formulating his or her response. In some Aboriginal cultures, silence itself is a means of communication. It may communicate that the last point made deserves further reflection. This silence can last for what may feel like an eternity. Be careful not to infer that a person is passive, is withdrawn or does not know the answer based on how he or she uses silence. Think of different ways of asking the same question. Use prompting.

Respect for Authority and/or Age: Aboriginal cultures tend to focus on the importance of social and organizational hierarchy, and will often treat the recruiter with more respect and deference than non-Aboriginal Canadians would expect or find appropriate. This situation can be heightened if there is an age differential. This behaviour can include continually referring to the interviewer as Sir or Madam or by their title, speaking only to the highest-ranking person in the room, or maintaining less eye contact.

Team and Individual Accomplishments: Individuals from cultures that tend to see the collective group and relationship as vitally important (collectivist cultures) focus on accomplishments achieved by the entire team, not the individual’s role, responsibilities and contributions to the project. When interviewers probe candidates for their contributions or accomplishments, the individual may refer to “We” rather than “I.”

Modesty: Individuals from cultures that value modesty tend to be humble about their accomplishments and are often uncomfortable talking about themselves. In a job interview, they may hesitate to explain to the interviewer why they would be a good candidate. They may wait to present their achievements until the interviewer asks the specific question, instead of proactively including them whenever an opportunity presents itself. This is certainly the case in many Aboriginal cultures. If you feel that this modesty is making it difficult to assess the candidate, it may be best to ask candidates how they overcame obstacles or achieved results in previous jobs instead of asking specifically about strengths or accomplishments.

What is Important: Candidates from different cultures have different notions of what is important and what should be highlighted to the interviewer. Depending on what they perceive as important achievements, candidates may focus on their network or family, loyalty to an organization, their titles, number of direct reports as opposed to the accomplishments of those projects, accolades from management, or the ranking received from their university.

Telephone Interviews: As a cost-effective measure, many companies screen short-listed candidates by phone. If the candidate’s mother tongue is not English or French and he or she is being called at home, this often requires quickly shifting from his or her mother tongue, which is most likely spoken at home. As well, the lack of non-verbal communication may put candidates at a disadvantage on the phone. Don’t place too much emphasis on verbal communication during a phone interview unless it is a bona fide requirement; also consider scheduling phone interviews rather than calling unannounced.

For candidates from rural or remote areas, travelling to an in-person interview can be expensive, time consuming, or especially challenging for individuals who are the primary caregiver. Consider whether, for the first interview, a phone call would meet your needs, and offer this as an alternative.

The Impact of Culture on the Effectiveness of Behaviour-Based Interviewing

Many interviewers are using a behaviour-based interview approach on the assumption that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. This is a useful and scientific approach if the candidate’s experience stems from the same culture, but what if the behaviour was displayed in a different culture, governed by different values?

Take a moment and reflect on the following behaviour-based and other common interview questions and consider the impact of your own and the candidate’s cultural values when defining the “best” answer. Be aware that a candidate’s response may be influenced by these cultural values. Review all your interview questions for cultural bias before commencing an interview. Consider having an Aboriginal staffing person on your interview committee.

It is not inappropriate to ask these questions. Simply be aware of how the answers can differ depending on the candidate’s cultural background.

“Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker.” This question aims at measuring assertiveness and the ability to give constructive feedback based on the non-Aboriginal Canadian value of individualism, which puts the importance of the individual over the group. What if a candidate is very relationship-oriented and comes from a culture where group harmony is very important and where open and direct criticism would cause someone a serious loss of respect?

“What would you hope to achieve in this position in the first year?” This question aims at measuring how driven and achievement-oriented a candidate is. What if the candidate comes from a culture where it is the manager’s job to define achievement for the employee, or from a culture where the team is more important than the individual?

“What are your long-term career goals?” This question is based on the Western value of having control over one’s life and being able to achieve anything one really wants. What if the candidate’s cultural orientation is one of living in harmony with family, friends and the earth?

“What are your strengths?” This is a great question for a person who feels comfortable “tooting their own horn.” it also measures self-awareness. What if a candidate comes from a culture where modesty is valued?

For questions you cannot ask under any circumstances, refer to A Guide to Screening and Selection in Employment, published by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

Tool: Inclusive Interviewing Checklist

  • Have I reviewed my questions for cultural bias?
  • Have I reflected on more than one possible answer to my question?
  • Did the candidate have time to plan their answers?
  • Was there something in the candidate’s behaviour that I found inappropriate? Why?
  • How relevant are personality traits I am looking for? How can they be interpreted across cultures?
  • Do we have a hiring committee that includes Aboriginal people?
  • Am I flexible in my communication style?
  • Have I considered the information on Inclusive Resume Screening?