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Interviewing & Resignation - Biographical Interview

What It is and What You Can do to Best Prepare for One

By JDA Professional Services, Inc.

With the IT job market as hot as it is, chances are good that you, as an industry professional, are in the market for or are at least open to the idea of a new position.  Perhaps you have the perfect resume, you’ve sent it off to several companies, and you’ve even been contacted a couple of times to set up an initial interview.  So now what?  In today’s corporate environment, it is likely that your first meeting with a company will consist of a biographical interview which encompasses a very traditional style based largely on the contents of your resume.  So what is the goal of a biographical interview, and what can you do to best prepare for one in the future?    

The Purpose of a Biographical Interview
In most cases, a biographical interview is conducted by an HR or office manager and consists of them reading through your resume and asking questions about different areas of your career history including education, work experience, professional memberships, training courses, and technical skills.  The biographical interview serves as a way to explore your past, confirm specifics, and assess whether or not you have the basic skills and experience needed to do the job successfully.  With today’s technology, companies are able to verify everything from work and educational history to criminal background, and most do, so it is imperative that everything written on your resume and discussed in the interview be true.

The Resume – A Vital Piece in the Biographical Interview
Keeping in mind that your resume serves as a guide during the interview, we strongly suggest that appropriate time and effort be put towards preparing your resume.  It is best to tailor your resume to fit the job and organization for which you are applying.  The format used to arrange your work experience section should depend both on the job that you are seeking and the career attributes you wish to highlight.  For example, if you have a long tenure with each of your previous employers and you wish to emphasize this strong level of stability, you would likely want to use the chronological format.  On the other hand, if your skill range is more impressive, you may want to sort previous jobs by skill set.  

Biographical Interviews Can Work in Your Favor
A biographical interview tends to create a friendly, relaxed environment between you, the interviewee, and the interviewer.  This gives you an opportunity to loosen up and to allow your personality to shine.  As human beings we often make decisions based on impressions more than anything.  In that case, this is a big advantage, especially for those who are socially gifted.  The biographical interview also ensures you a chance to expand on your broad range of talents by exploring every aspect of your career in depth.  Most other interview styles do not allow for this opportunity.

Preparing for a Biographical Interview
Prior to a biographical interview, you should study your resume thoroughly and be ready to discuss details including when and how skills were used, employment dates, promotions, salary histories, and reasons for change.  It is important that you be prepared to answer the difficult questions about gaps in employment, positions with short tenure, and jobs in which you were terminated.  You should also anticipate that the interviewer will ask opinion-based questions such as which position was your favorite and why, or what did you like and dislike about your former boss.  In addition, you should plan to discuss information that is not typically included in a resume such as positive attributes (e.g. strong work ethic and expert leadership qualities) or past successes that are relevant to the position, and you should be able to explain how each of these qualities or instances makes you a better-suited candidate.  By going that extra mile to promote your worth, you will increase your chances of getting the job.  In some instances, you may even need to guide the interview, without being too pushy, in order to ensure you get each of these vital points across.  

Biographical Interview Questions
Some of the questions you may encounter in a biographical interview include:

  • Tell me why you chose to attend this particular university.
  • Why did you choose this particular major?
  • Tell me more about this training you received or this course you attended.
  • What did you do during this gap in your career timeline?
  • Why did you stay at this company for such a short period?
  • What did this company do?
  • How did you help them achieve their goals?
  • Why are you pursuing a career that is not related to your degree?
  • Why should we choose you for this position?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What would be your plan for progression within this organization in your quest to achieve these goals?
It is important that you, as a job seeker, be very familiar with the biographical interview style and its best preparation practices, as it typically serves as an entry point into the sometimes strenuous hiring process of most positions today.  Knowing that the purpose of this interview is to both explore and verify your career history, it is important to ensure that your resume is 100 percent accurate.  Equally as important is your knowledge of your resume and your ability to discuss it in detail and handle questions regarding discrepancies from your past.  You should be sure to take advantage of the opportunity that a biographical interview provides to convey your true worth and demonstrate your winning personality.  It can be an effective way to break the ice and win an interviewer over.

Remember that JDA Professional Services, Inc. is a reliable, effective, and highly knowledgeable IT staffing firm specializing in the recruitment of strategic-technical to executive-level professionals in Houston.  We provide staffing solutions through full-time, contract, and project-based placements.  Since 1981, we have been helping companies build great IT departments while helping IT professionals find the right career opportunities.  Because of our experience, we are the leading provider of industry and career management information for IT professionals in the Houston area.  You can find other related articles on our website at or call us at 713-548-5400 to discuss your career needs in detail.  We wish you the best in all your career endeavors!

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