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Note: We came across this article prior to 2005 and have lost track of the source. It remains a good resource.

Successful Job InterviewingThere is no more important hour than that spent in an interview.  Remember, you are there to provide information.  The employment interview is more than a recitation of your background and experience.  It is a competitive process wherein information is exchanged, impressions formed and conclusions drawn.  Your chances of presenting yourself favorably will be enhanced if you follow some simple advice.  You should have a good, clear idea of what you have been successful at and your strong points.  You should also be able to talk about your weaknesses and what you are doing to improve them.  Confident people who know a little about the company score points.  Being pleasant, polite with a clear understanding of what you are best at with specifics, make the best candidate.

  1. Prepare for the Interview.  Research the company on the Internet.  Read annual reports and other material on publicly traded companies.  Get an understanding of the company’s business.
  2. Understand the purpose of the interview.  Most employers base hiring decisions on subjective information.  Your past experience is usually a good predictor of your future success.  It is up to you to help them understand what you’ve done, how you have done it, and why you have made the choices you have.  Rehearse your material in advance.  Think of everything you have done which is related to the job you are seeking.  Explain the challenges you have met successfully.  Begin by explaining the problem, what steps you took to solve it, and the results.  Write out these short stories and go over them until they come naturally and with a sense of spontaneity.  Use a tape recorder or video recorder, or practice in front of a mirror.  Analyze your performance.  Have a friend critique you.  Time your responses to make sure they are not too long.  Edit it until it flows smoothly.
  3. Be aware of body language.  Posture, hand gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and head movements are all important.  Also, watch the interviewer to see if he/she looks away bored or otherwise distracted.  Keep smiling.  A smile can make you appear more self-confident and help cover nervousness and insecurity.
  4. Personal Appearance.  Arrive a little bit early.  Try to look your best.  Dress in a manner appropriate for the job.  Good grooming includes neat, clean hair, coordinated accessories, and minimal jewelry.  Skip the cologne or heavy perfume and don’t spoil your attractive attire by run down or scuffed shoes.  Do not chew gum, but you may try a breath mint in the waiting room before your interview.  If your anxiety manifests itself in cold, sweaty palms, visit the restroom just prior to the interview and run some warm water over your hands.  Dry them thoroughly and rub them together briskly to warm them up.  Take an occasional deep breath letting it out slowly to calm yourself.
  5. Eating & Drinking.  If you are being interviewed in a restaurant, select something simple.  Keep in mind that you are going to be doing a lot of talking and won’t do much eating.  Select an entrée that is easy to eat so you can concentrate on what you are saying.  Do not talk with your mouth full.  At lunch do not drink anything alcoholic even if the interviewer does.  At dinner, one (and only one) beer or glass of wine is O.K. only if the interviewer is drinking.  If the interviewer is not drinking then you don’t either.
  6. Make a good first impression.  Don’t forget to practice your handshake, firm but not bone-crushing.  If you are interviewing someone from another culture be prepared for a softer handshake and adjust yours accordingly.
  7. Try and establish some rapport.  Most interviewers start with some small talk, which can set the tone for the rest of the meeting.  Try and break the ice by commenting on something in the office of interest: art work, sports trophies, plants, the view, the weather, the building, anything about which you can comment pleasantly.  If the interviewer does not follow your lead, no harm done, simply let him/her take the next step.
  8. Humor.  Do not crack jokes or make light of your experiences.  If the interviewer injects humor, respond appropriately.
  9. Maturity.  A good interview will uncover some things you may wish to avoid, but always be honest and show that you have learned and grown from your bumps and bruises.  Do not bad mouth former employers, teachers, or supervisors.  You want to show how mature you are, not how long you can hold a grudge.
  10. Be prepared for tough questions.  Prepare answers to the tough questions.  Do not be caught off guard.  Prepare your answers to the questions you hope won’t get asked.  If you are not sure if you have gotten all your points across, ask.
  11. What are some typical questions you can expect:
    • Tell me about yourself?
    • Why did you leave your last job?
    • Why did you choose to major in … ? Why that particular college?
    • What are your greatest weaknesses and strengths?
    • What is there about this job (this company, this industry) that interests you?
    • What do you do in your spare time?
    • What do you want to be five years from now?
    • Describe your present boss to me? Your last boss? What did you like or not like about him/her?
    • Can you do this job?
    • Why are you the right person for this job?
    • What are you really good at?
  12. Do not try and be all things to all people.  Acknowledge negative points honestly.  Link your abilities to the company and its needs.  Do not talk yourself out of a job.  You need to be forthcoming and give information, but you should not talk too long.  If you drone on, you will eventually talk yourself into trouble or contradict yourself.  Limit each response to 60 seconds or less.  Show enthusiasm and energy.  Show interest but don’t oversell.  Do not get carried away, slow down.  If you oversell and pitch yourself as someone you are not, it will come back to haunt you.
  13. Have two ways to answer questions: the short version and the long.  When a question is open ended, use “Let me give you the short version.  If we need to explore some aspect more fully, I would be happy to go into greater depth for you with a longer version.”  Interview responses should be tailored to answer the interviewer’s need to know, without a lot of extraneous rambling or superfluous explanation.  Wasting time creates a negative impression.
  14. Questions you need to ask.  Not only do you sell yourself during an interview, you also must find out if the job is a good fit for you.  Prepare good, well thought out questions.  Focus the questions on the job, the responsibilities it entails, and the opportunities for learning and growth.  Do not hesitate to direct the interview back to previous questions on which you would like to elaborate.  Before the interview ends you should have asked questions so you know why the job is open, to whom it reports, what happened to the incumbent, and what they want accomplished by the new person.Possible questions:
    • What is the company’s vision?
    • What is the scope of the tasks of the job?
    • What is the biggest challenge facing the company or the department right now?
    • What kind of person will succeed in your organization?
  15. Listen.  Ask your questions and shut up and listen, do not interrupt.  Talk about aspects of the job that are exciting to you.  Never leave an interview without exchanging information.  The more you know about each other the more potential for establishing rapport.
  16. Compliment others.  Remember that you did not accomplish everything on your own.  Be generous in your praise and give credit to others.
  17. Do not correct the interviewer, make him/her feel stupid, or blast a former employer.  It does not matter how qualified you are, if you shoot yourself in the foot during the interview or offend the interviewer, you won’t get a second chance.  Do not put down a prospective employer or a company’s products, services or operations.  Arrogance and the inability to listen are big knockouts.  Do not carry a grudge into an interview.  If you are bitter about the loss of your last job or have been looking for a long time, you still need to convey a positive attitude.
  18. Let your enthusiasm show.  If you are still interested in the job as the interview ends, let the interviewer know that and ask what happens next.  Traits you should display: enthusiasm, technical interest, confidence, and intensity.  You should not leave any doubt as to your level of interest in the job.  Employers often choose the more enthusiastic candidate in the event of a tie.  Employers look for people who love what they do and who get excited by tearing into the nitty-gritty of a job.
  19. Follow up.  Remember to write notes to the people you met, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest, as well as your confidence that you can succeed in the job.
  20. Get an Offer.  Approach every interview with the objective of getting an offer.  You must emphasize your good points and eliminate or avoid discussion of negatives.  Without lying, you must answer all questions with whatever positive comments you can make.  Every time you answer a question with a no, you decrease your chances of an offer.  It is better to respond with a comment of what it is you know, than referring to what you do not know.
  21. The salary question.  Your Search Consultant will advise you about when an offer may be forthcoming.  Most offers will come through the Search Consultant to insure the offer is one that will be acceptable to you.  If you are pressed for what you want or need: ask for their best offer – “I would entertain the best offer you can make based upon my education and experience.”  You want to avoid the pitfall of asking for too much or too little.  If you feel confident enough when asked: “What sort of money would you need in order to come to work for us?”  You can answer “I feel that opportunity is the most important issue.  Not the salary.  If we decide to work together, I am sure you will make me a competitive offer.”  Remember a firm minimum, if it is too high can obviate an offer.  Conversely, a willingness to accept anything can lead to an offer at a lower figure or no offer at all as the employer begins to wonder why.
  22. Never, never bring up the issue of salary or benefits first.  If the company initiates the dialogue, you can ask questions, but you must never appear that your primary motivation is money.  If you spend too much time asking about the compensation and benefits package, the interview will frequently come to a sudden halt.  Employers do not like feeling they are being exploited.  You are there to discuss what you can do for their company, not what their company can do for you.  You want to portray yourself as hardworking, virtuous, and dedicated to the company, not an opportunistic job-hopper who’d prefer to live off the fat of the land.
  23. The benefits.  When you get an offer, your Search Consultant will make sure you get the facts and figures on the company’s benefit plan(s).  Profit sharing, stock purchase plans, bonuses, or overtime pay may alter your required salary.
  24. Have your references prepared.  Dependable, effective references can be of assistance.  Analyze who you will approach.  Make sure they are individuals that can comment on your qualifications for the job.  Take into consideration the reference’s ability to communicate.  A reference may think highly of you, but unless they can verbalize it to the employer, the employer may walk away with a different opinion.  Once you decide someone would be a good reference, ask them if they would be willing to be a reference.  Let your references know in advance when and by whom they will be contacted, the kind of position you are interviewing for and the skills and background needed.  Develop a list of at least three to five professional references and have the list available to give to prospective employers when asked for them.  Do not give the list out prematurely.  Make sure you have complete and correct addresses and home and office phone numbers.  If you get the job, send an appropriate thank you to your references whether they were contacted or not.  References that can be contacted telephonically are preferred, but if a verbal reference can not be obtained, written references may have to suffice.  References may be checked by either the Search Consultant or the employer.
  25. Overall have fun.  Enter each interview with the ideas of learning something new.  Don’t close any doors, even if you find during the interview, it is not for you.  Keep your enthusiasm up and if you are interviewing with multiple people, keep your enthusiasm and energy up.  Do not short change anyone.  The last person may be more important than the first.  Have multiple questions, so you do not get bored asking the same ones over and over again.  Get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast, so your stomach does not growl.  Take your resume and be prepared with all the information you need should you be asked to complete an application.
  26. Bad interviewers.  Most human resource professionals and personnel recruiters are skilled at interviewing.  At times you may run into someone who is not skilled.  The toughest interview you may have is with a person who does not ask any questions other than encouraging you to talk about yourself.  On the other side, you may encounter someone who asks too many questions that have little relevance to the job.  If you run into these types of interviewers, you must make sure that you do not lose the opportunity to sell yourself.  Don’t lose the chance at a job because you encounter a bad interviewer.  Help the interviewer do a better job by taking control of the situation in the nicest possible way.  Go into every interview determined that you will sell yourself effectively no matter what questions you are asked and no matter how good or bad the interviewer is.
  27. Never, never use foul language in any form, even if the interviewer does.

 

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