How to Master the Open Interview (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Open interviews can be tricky beasts. Unlike traditional approaches, you don’t submit a resume in advance and then get a set appointment to discuss why you’re a great candidate for a job. No sirree. Instead, you simply march on in, tackle the application, and hop right into the interview.

Intense, right?

Mastering the open interview means taking a different approach. Luckily, we can help you nail yours. So, if you’re ready to learn all about what an open interview is and how you can stand out among a sea of applicants, here’s what you need to know.

What Is an Open Interview?

Alright, while we tapped on this a bit above, it’s important to know exactly what an open interview is and how it works. Also called a walk-in interview, open interviews are when a company sets up a window of time where anyone interested in a job can waltz over, apply, and get interviewed right on the spot.

In some ways, it’s a bit like a job fair. While the process has specific steps, there’s less structure to the overall experience. People can show up and throw their hat in the ring at any time during the designated period. The main difference is that essentially everyone will get an interview.

One of the most uncomfortable aspects of open interviews is being face-to-face with your competition. With traditional interview approaches, you usually cross paths with two other contenders at most, one when you arrive for your meeting and one when you leave. With walk-ins, you might see dozens of other applicants. That’s intimidating.

Additionally, the interviews tend to be incredibly brief. The hiring manager or recruiters will skim your application and have a very focused chat about what you bring to the table.

In some cases, top contenders will be asked to stay for a longer discussion after this initial meeting or may even be invited to a second interview that happens at a later date. Essentially, you’ll just need to make a strong impression, ensuring you move forward

However, it’s also possible that a hiring decision will be made on the spot. For example, Amazon hosted massive hiring events to hire tens of thousands of new employees fast. During one such event, the retail and tech giant aimed to bring on 50,000 people, extending job offers on the spot.

While Amazon is a bit of an extreme example, the approach is common. A smaller employer might need to fill several openings right away, if not dozens. So, they could make decisions quickly, though this isn’t always the case.

Common Open Interview Mistakes to Avoid

If you attend a walk-in interview event, even small mistakes can cost you the job. Usually, there are going to be a ton of applicants in attendance. If you don’t shine during the open interview, there’s a good chance someone else did.

By avoiding common open interview mistakes, you increase your odds of standing out for the right reasons. That’s vital if you want to land the job.

First, not being prepared for everything that may go down is a big no-no. Ideally, you want to have several copies of your resume ready. Also, you want to wear proper interview attire.

If there is going to be a paper application, it doesn’t hurt to bring your own pen along, too. After all, there’s always a chance that pens will slowly disappear throughout the day, so better to have one and not need it than need one and not have it.

Another one of the biggest mistakes candidates make during open interviews is showing up near the end of the allotted time window. At this point, the hiring manager or recruiters are usually exhausted. Plus, in some cases, a hiring decision may have already been made.

MIKE'S TIP: One of the worst things you can do is arrive right before the open interviews end. If it’s minutes before the event closes, there’s a good chance the hiring manager won’t be thrilled that you might prevent them from wrapping things up on time. In fact, they may even decide you’re not right for the role then and there, as they can view this move as being disrespectful of their time.

A surprising mistake many candidates make doesn’t involve how they interact with company representatives. Instead, it’s how they interact with other candidates.

During an open interview, there’s a good chance you’re going to cross paths with other job seekers hoping to land the position you want. In many cases, that makes things a bit… contentious. If you’re rude or aggressive to other candidates, there’s a good shot that won’t go unnoticed. That alone can cost you the job.

Top 5 Open Interview Tips

If you want to nail your walk-in interview, here are five open interview tips that can help you excel.

1. Arrive Close to the Start Time

Ideally, you want to be one of the first applicants. If you can arrive at the location a few minutes before start time, do it. That way, you can guarantee you’ll get a chance to interview.

Otherwise, aim to show up as early as humanly possible after the event begins. As we mentioned above, getting there near when the event is coming to a close can work against you, so it’s best to plan to get there closer to the beginning.

2. Practice Standard Job Interview Questions

Overall, about 74 percent of hiring pros use structured interviews. The odds that you’ll encounter one during an open interview is almost guaranteed. After all, during walk-in hiring events, decisions need to be made quickly. And the easiest way to compare candidates to each other is to make sure they all get asked the same questions in the same order.

Luckily, this can actually work in your favor. Typically, you’re going to mostly face off against standard job interview questions. Practice those classics.

But don’t stop there. You also want to dig into some job-specific ones. For example, if you’re interviewing for a customer service position, spend time preparing answers for customer service interview questions, too.

You also want to spend some time getting to know behavioral interview questions and how to answer them, including using the STAR Method and the Tailoring Method. That way, you can prep compelling answers that are sure to impress.

3. Do Your Research

Research is an interviewee’s best friend. It helps you add some relevant flare to your interview answers, so make sure you tackle some as you practice your replies.

Start by getting to know the company. Head to its website and review the mission and values statements. Also, take a close look at the job description, particularly the must-have skills and traits.

Additionally, review the event description several times. Look for details about how it will work and what is expected of you. That way, if there’s anything you need to bring or be ready for, you can prepare properly.

4. Prepare to Hurry Up and Wait

Depending on how the open interview event is structured, there’s a good chance you’ll have some downtime. Once you turn in your application, you’ll have to wait until it’s your turn to interview. In some cases, it may only take a few minutes. However, if it’s a popular event, it could take much, much longer.

Make sure you have something suitable to do while listening for your turn to participate. One great option is to review your practice job interview questions and answers, as that will help you keep them fresh in your mind.

Just make sure you don’t choose anything disruptive, or that may cause you to miss when you’re called for an interview. Now isn’t the time for watching videos. After all, using the speakers for sound is going to impact the people around you, and you’ll seem rude. Headphones won’t work either, as you might not hear your name called.

Taking a phone call, reading something that causes you to laugh, or anything else that impacts anyone else attending the event typically isn’t a good idea. Instead, choose something quiet, or simply sit and wait until it’s your turn to meet with the hiring manager or recruiter.

5. Anticipate Eavesdroppers (and Distractions)

One of the trickiest parts about open interviews is that they usually take place within earshot of other candidates. The same goes for random chatter while you’re waiting.

Privacy usually isn’t the name of the game, so you want to keep that in mind at all times. Don’t say anything you don’t want to be overheard, as there’s a good chance someone will hear it.

Similarly, you’ll probably be able to hear other people, including during your interview. That can be ridiculously distracting. Make sure you maintain your focus. If you do, that can actually work in your favor. It shows you can concentrate in a fast-paced, raucous environment, which may help you stand out from the crowd.

5 Common Open Interview Questions

As we mentioned above, it’s smart to practice answering typical job interview questions. But which ones should get the most attention? Are certain ones more likely to come up than others?

Well, the exact questions you’ll face do depend on the nature of the job. However, some are almost universal, so it isn’t a bad idea to start there.

Here is a look at five common open interview questions, including some example answers.

1. Why do you want this position?

Technically, this is a question you might face during any interview. However, during walk-in interviews, it is practically guaranteed. The hiring manager wants to know what motivated you to attend the event and why you found the opportunity appealing.

Even if they have to hire dozens, hundreds, or thousands of employees, the hiring manager wants to make sure they choose candidates who aren’t just looking for any job. Passionate employees are more likely to excel, so they want to see if you’re excited about the role. Show them that you are.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I’m interested in the position for several reasons. First, based on my past experience, I feel it’s an excellent fit for my current skills and that I could provide the company with a substantial amount of value.

Second, I view this as a chance to hone my professional capabilities while helping the company thrive. The role is critical to the company’s mission, and I value the chance to be a part of that.

Finally, the company has an outstanding reputation. Not only is it active in the community and a leader in its industry, but it’s also known for supporting its employees wholeheartedly. That’s the kind of employer I can see myself working for over the long-term, and that’s another reason why I find this position so enticing.”

2. What do you know about our company?

This question serves a big purpose; it lets the hiring manager know if you did any research before the hiring event. When a candidate gets to know the company before they attend an open interview, it makes them look more enthusiastic. That’s why having a great answer to this question is a must.

While you obviously need to cater your answer to the company in question, here’s an example based on attending an Amazon interview:

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I’ve actually learned quite a bit about Amazon. Not only is it a leader in the retail and technology segments, showcasing how genuinely diverse the company is and its dedication to innovation, it’s also in the top ten of this year’s Fortune 500 list.

Additionally, one of Amazon’s core principles is its ‘customer obsession,’ which I genuinely admire. Not many company’s put their customers first the way Amazon does, and that’s something I’d like to be a part of.”

3. What makes you a good fit for this role?

With this, you get a chance to brag a bit. You want to give clear examples of how your skills can provide the company with value, preferably backed up with anecdotes.

Here’s a look at how you may answer this question if you’re interviewing for a customer service position:

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I believe my skill set is a great match for this position. In my previous retail role, much of my time was focused on ensuring customers had an exceptional experience. Whether it was helping them locate an ideal product, facilitating a qualifying return, or answering a simple question, I know the importance of handling every interaction with grace and a smile.

Plus, I’ve faced and overcome many challenges on the job. I know what it takes to diffuse potentially hostile situations, ensuring that the customer feels heard and that a solution is ultimately identified. Overall, I believe my experience can make me an asset to any customer service team.”

4. What is your availability?

If you’re interviewing for a position at a company that operates 24/7, there’s a good chance the hiring manager or recruiter will want to know about your availability. While this question may seem straightforward, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t answer it carefully.

If you read the job description, there’s a good chance it mentioned what kind of availability is expected. Ideally, that’s what you’re prepared to offer, at a minimum. If it isn’t, then your odds of getting the job are nearly zero.

However, if your availability lines up and you want to have a great answer to this question, reference what the job description said specifically. This makes you look attentive, and that works in your favor.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“My availability is currently open. I saw in the job description that the company is looking for someone who can work the 2nd shift and is also open to occasional overtime, including potentially on weekends or holidays. Not only am I able to offer that, but I could also be available for a 1st or 3rd shift position if the need arose.”

5. Would you be able to stay for the full season?

Open interviews are common for companies that need to bring in additional workers quickly to handle their busy season. Ideally, they want to focus on candidates who intend to stay for the entire duration.

While you can’t necessarily predict the future, you should be able to answer this question with a reasonable amount of confidence. Additionally, if you want to make your response stand out, make sure your reply lets the interviewer know that you understand how long that season is, giving them additional confidence about your commitment.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“Yes, I intend to stay for the full season, which, from my understanding, typically ends in March but can go as late as April in some cases. In fact, I am able to stay on longer, should the opportunity arise.”

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, open interviews can be a bit tricky. But by following the tips above, you can increase your odds of standing out from the crowd. Just showcase a standout value proposition, and you may find yourself with a job offer faster than you’d expect.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.