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Interview Tips

Many candidates think they have solid interviewing skills, but studies show that candidates routinely overestimate their effectiveness in interviews. Basic and advanced interview tips are offered below.

  • Write down the time and location of the interview. Do not rely on your memory-when we are nervous, it is possible to forget even the simplest of things. Get directions even if you think you know where you are going. Not knowing about a sudden road closing or best place to park can set you back and make you late. Being late is the kiss of death to an interview. Never let this happen.
  • Make sure you know the name of the person or persons you will be meeting. Get the spelling so that you can write your thank you note(s).
  • Bring a pen, small notebook, extra resumes, and a list of references. Conceal the notebook in your briefcase or other business-like bag. Use it to jot down information the interviewer may give you, such as additional people for you to contact. Use discretion in taking out your notebook as it is not proper to take notes during the interview. Many candidates do not routinely carry a notebook but I strongly recommend you do. It is quite embarrassing to have to ask the employer for writing materials. It conveys the message that you are not always prepared.
  • Immediately after the interview, use your notebook to write down everything you can remember about what transpired. This will help you in subsequent interactions with this employer as well as with general interview preparedness.
  • Handshakes are important. Proper etiquette is that the employer will extend his or her hand first for a handshake. If your interviewer seems to have missed the moment, it is okay for you to extend your hand first. Shake with a firm grip. A weak handshake is a real turnoff. Wait for your interviewer to sit down or offer you a chair before seating yourself.
  • Control your body language as much as possible. Smile as frequently as is appropriate. Be aware of your facial expressions, leg movements, and shoulder hunches. Sit up straight in your chair and concentrate on your posture. Look alert and interested at all times. Show that you can be a wide-awake intelligent listener as well as a good talker. Maintain good eye contact. Feel free to use your hands to express yourself. Avoid nervous habits such as playing with rings, touching your hair, or tapping your foot.

Research Companies/Organizations In Advance

You MUST learn as much as you can about the company/organization you are interviewing with prior to your interview. It is not enough to have a general idea of what they do-you should plan on doing some true investigative work. During the course of the interview show the employer you know something about their organization. If you can offer a sincere compliment about their products or services, do so. Your research will also help you answer any questions specifically asked to see if you have taken such an initiative.

What Employers Want in a Job Applicant

1. Specific competencies (industry knowledge, financial analysis skills, computer expertise, etc.)

2. Enthusiasm

3. Strong work ethic

4. Initiative

5. Excellent communication skills

6. Creative thinking

7. Superior interpersonal skills

8. Flexibility to adapt well to new ideas and procedures

9. Honesty

10. Good judgment

11. Independent performers

Look Your Best for Interviews

The way we look has a tremendous impact on people and we only have one chance to make a first impression. To look your best for interviews, carefully choose your clothing, which should be conservative and in most cases a business suit. A good rule of thumb is to dress one level up from the job you seek-this is because you want to be perceived as serious, professional, and ambitious.

1. Wear well-fitting clothing of high quality and make sure it is clean and wrinkle free.

2. If you typically wear cologne or perfume, do not apply it heavily on the day of your interview. At two-feet away, which is the closest your interviewer will get to you, he or she should not be able to detect your fragrance. Remember, you are interested in a job, not a date.

3. Your hair should be clean, neat, and stylish. It is best that women with long hair not wear it loose or entirely loose. Facial hair on men goes in and out of vogue. A clean-shaven look is always well received. 

4. Men and women should limit the amount of jewelry they wear. Bold jewelry is a definite mistake.

5. Your hands attract attention in interviews. Fingernails will get noticed. The most professional look for women is rather short nails and no polish or a light nail polish.

6. Shoes should be in mint condition. Clean and polish them the night before your interview. Regardless of the season, closed-toe shoes are mandatory for women.

7. Clothing colors: Charcoal grey looks good on every man and is the hands-down favorite. Brown suits are more commonly worn by men in the Midwest. Black may look out of place in the summer months. Women have a wider latitude of colors for their clothing, however, they too should pay attention to the season when selecting colors.

8. Most candidates should carry a briefcase or something comparable to hold extra resumes, a list of references, paper, and pen.

9. Check your appearance immediately before entering the building. 

10. Double check to make sure your cell phone is turned off prior to entering the building.

Put your Best “Stuff” Out There

When people think of interview preparation, it’s usually, “what questions will they ask me and what are the best answers?” This page will discuss typical interview questions, but that’s not where we need to start.

The starting point is to get you so comfortable with your skills and work history that you can finesse an answer to ANY question, even ones that we could ever anticipate. With that in mind, your first task is to write the best responses you can to each of the following:

I. List personality traits or skills you have that are related to the job you are interviewing for.

II. List 3-5 accomplishments that would be of interest to the person interviewing you.

III. What is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you want this employer to know about you?

IV. What is the second most important thing?

V. What concern(s) might this employer have about you? What can you say to alleviate their concerns?

Look over what you have written and edit or modify it until you have good material, then commit it to memory. In this case, committing it to memory does not mean memorization of the words but simply your ability to recall, with complete ease, these basic facts since they will be worth sharing during the interview.

Behavior-Based Interview Questions

The above exercise will help you navigate through some of the toughest interview questions there are, including what we call behavior-based interview questions. Behavior-based questioning is built on the premise that your past performance is an indication of your future performance. As such, an employer will create questions that ask you to recall specifics about what you did. These questions can be extremely difficult if you have not prepared for them in advance. Even if you are not asked a true behavior-based question, I encourage you to respond in the classic behavior-based mode because these responses, when executed correctly, will really impress your interviewer.

Behavior-based questions typically start with the wording, ‘Tell me about a time…’. Here is an example of a behavior-based question and an appropriately worded response:

What a Good Answer to an Interview Question Sounds Like

Question: Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a difficult obstacle at work.

Sample response: Well, early on in my employment as a sales representative for Prentice-Hall, I was not doing well. I had trouble getting appointments with former customers. After several rejections, I was able to convince a prior customer to see me and in that meeting, I learned that my predecessor did not keep his promises and had tarnished our company’s reputation. I then spent several days researching the records of all the accounts I was given to determine where problems had occurred. I called each of these customers to address the problems head-on and let them know this was a new beginning. I guaranteed them that I would oversee their accounts personally to make sure problems did not recur. The result is that I brought back 75% of lapsed accounts.

An answer like this tells the employer that this candidate has been tenacious, proactive, and conscientious in a prior job. Furthermore, the employer is likely to believe that these desirable attributes will be repeated if he hires this person. The ‘bones’ of this story can be used to answer a number of other questions. As an example, consider if the question was, “What do you think your greatest strength is?” This candidate could say, “I think my greatest strength is that I am tenacious. For example, early on in my employment…(continue as above)…”

Now, your task is to develop your stories and know what those stories say about you and your achievements. Once you have your stories (three or four would be best), you can look for appropriate opportunities within the interview to share them.

Common Interview Questions

1. What type of work are you looking for?
2. What is most important to you in a work situation?
3. What would your colleagues at your present (or past) job say was your best contribution there? What would your boss (or former boss) say?
4. What are your career goals for the future?
5. Please explain the gaps in your work history.
6. Are you better at working independently or on a team?
7. Tell me something that you would like to avoid in your next job?
8. Describe a time when you disagreed with your supervisor? What happened?
9. Out of the several bosses you have had, which one were you most comfortable reporting to and why?
10. Will you be able to provide references from prior employers?
11. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Who gave it to you?
12. Are there other jobs you have held that are not on this resume?
13. Can you give me some examples of your ability to lead others?
14. How would you describe your relationship with your last few supervisors?
15. For salespeople: Convince me to move to your city.
16. How do you keep informed about what’s going on in this industry?
17. Tell me about a time when you had to use persuasive skills to influence someone’s opinion.
18. Tell me about a situation in which you had to deal with an annoyed customer or co-worker.
19. Give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
20. Can you tell me about a time when you motivated others?
21. Besides salary, what factors will help you make up your mind about a position you may be offered?
22. What other companies, or kinds of companies, are you pursuing now?
23. Give an example of a situation in which you solved a significant problem at work? Under what circumstances did the problem first get identified? Who was the person that first identified the problem?
24. Are you willing to travel?

The Vast Majority of Job Candidates Need to Practice for Interviews!

It is very hard to come up with excellent answers to interview questions on the spot. Be proactive and learn about private interview coaching. The session is customized entirely for your situation. As in an actual job interview, I will use your current resume to develop interview questions that are aligned with your background. You may use the contact us page to upload your resume, or call or email if you have questions. Al inquires and interactions are in the strictest confidence.