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Job interview preparation

The City of Calgary uses an interview method called behavioural based interviews to determine the best candidate for a job. Generally, when you are being interviewed for a job, the interviewer/s asks you a number of questions in relation to:

  • you - your skills, knowledge, abilities and attitude
  • your past employment and any previous experience related to the job
  • your ability and attitude to fulfill the requirements of the job
  • your knowledge of the job and of the organization
  • your future plans - career goals, coursework, post-secondary education

Behavioural-based interviewing

behavioural-based interviews is a method of interviewing used to learn about you, your experience and knowledge. behavioural based interviews interview questions ask you to provide examples of how you handled a situation in your past. The premise is based on how you handled a situation in the past is a good predictor of how you will handle a similar situation in the future; past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour. We will not ask hypothetical questions, "What would you do if…….?" We want you to give us real-life examples of how you handled a real-life situation.

If you can, get a copy of the job description and read it over in full. A City of Calgary job description consists of the following categories:

  • Title of the position you are applying for
  • Name of the business unit or division
  • Job ID/Reference number of the job
  • Location – where you will be working/what office you will report out of
  • Compensation/range of pay for the job 
  • Union and position information (i.e. union or non-union job, permanent or temporary)
  • Hours of work – Full time, part-time hours or on-call hours, etc.
  • Business unit information 
  • Responsibilities of the job
  • Reporting relationship - who you report to and who you work with
  • The qualifications/requirements needed to do the job: education, experience, certification, coursework, specialized training and know-how
  • Closing date of the job posting.

A panel interview typically has two or three interviewers on the panel. Typically, a panel includes the immediate supervisor, Human Resources and/or one or two people from the immediate business unit or work area.

Preparing for the interview

Prepare for the interview by focusing on the responsibilities of the job and list the skills required for each task. What are the key components of the job? What work-specific, transferable and personal management skills are required to do the work well? Do a personal assessment and think of situations in which you have used the skills the job requires (e.g. leading a team, project management skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, etc.).

The types of interview questions you will be asked depend on the requirements of the position you are being interviewed for. For example, if a job requirement is 'working to deadlines', the interviewers are looking for candidates to provide examples of:

  • organizational skills
  • the methodology used in prioritizing competing tasks,
  • and meeting deadlines. 

The situations you describe do not have to be directly related to work - they may be related to leisure activities, volunteer work or school projects. If you are a student, look through your research papers and list the skills you needed to complete the assignment/s or project/s. For example, did you work on a team project? What was your role on the team? Did you facilitate any of the team meetings? Were you the 'editor' of the final paper or project? Did you experience any 'people problems', problems with team members not delivering on time or not contributing to the assignment? Similar to working on a volunteer committee or being a volunteer, you have gained experience in dealing with people and we want to hear from you about how you handled these situations and what you learned from them.

Prepare short stories

Develop at least three short, but detailed and specific, stories about how you handled situations similar to those you might encounter on the job. Each of your stories should have a beginning, middle and end. Begin with a brief description of the situation (e.g. a problem you faced, a task you were assigned), then describe what you did. End by describing what happened as a result of the action you took. If possible, include numbers or statistics confirming the positive results you achieved.

Also, be prepared to provide examples of times when things did not turn out as you planned. What went wrong? What did you do? What contingencies did you have in place? What did you learn from the experience?

If none of your prepared stories fit the requirements of the questions asked during the interview, take time to think about your answers. You cannot anticipate all of the possible questions, so be prepared to think on your feet.

Be honest. City of Calgary interviewers may ask you follow-up questions if they require more details or need you to clarify information.

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