Interviewing Tips

Congratulations!  You have earned an interview with a potential employer and the organization where you may take the next step to further your career.  It is crucial for you to prepare for your interview and the following should give you some guidance.  The few hours you invest in preparation, and during the interview itself, may be some of the most important hours of your professional career.  The guidance below applies to both telephone and face to face interviews (other than the obvious differences).

90 percent of hires are based solely upon the interview according to a Harvard Business Review study.  In fact, 63 percent of hiring decisions are made within the first 4.3 minutes of an interview (SHRM Study).  Therefore you should view the interview as probably the most important part of the hiring process. And that's why you need to spend time with your personal recruiter to better understand with whom you are interviewing and the issues you will be talking about during the interview.

Things to remember:

  • People have to buy you before they buy from you.
  • People hire and accept emotionally first and justify logically later.
  • People are most sold by your conviction rather than by your persuasion.
  • Know your technology, but think PEOPLE.
  • The decision to hire is made in the first 5 to 10 minutes of the interview, with the remaining time spent justifying that decision.

Remain alert to the “temperature” of the interviewer.  His thoughts and judgments of you will change constantly throughout the interview. You need to listen to what they don't say. Being prepared for an interview is vital.

Telephone interviews save time and money but involve a different dynamic.  Neither you nor the interviewer can see each other's body language which is an important, though generally unconscious part of communication, so the only personality attribute you can be judged on is your voice.  Put energy in your voice, sound upbeat and positive. Don't talk too fast or too slowly either. Don’t talk too softly or loudly. Speak with diction and clarity.

Make sure you are in a location where background noises like pets, children, work noise, etc. are shielded.  Try to use a landline rather than a cell phone. 

Never multitask! Attempting to read email or do other things during the interview dilutes your concentration and will be noticed (i.e. the interviewer will hear your keystrokes on the computer and the interview will be unsuccessful). The interviewer will notice the lack of commitment to the conversation. There are no positives to be obtained while trying to multitask during an interview!

The Interviewing Process

One of the keys to a successful interview is to understand the psychology behind the process. A candidate is interested in what the company can do for him/her while companies are interested in what the candidate can do for them – increase sales, reduce labor costs, finish a project ahead of schedule, effectively manage budgets etc. Both of these needs are important. Companies generally want an employee who is interested in furthering their career but don’t want someone who is focused solely on themselves either.

The Anatomy of an Interview 

Every interview has an opening, a body and a close. Click here to learn more about the Anatomy of an Interview. 

Other suggestions:

  • Always thank the people for meeting you. 
  • Bring a notebook so you can take some notes when needed – not constantly, but occasionally.
  • Everyone you meet should be considered an interviewer – the receptionist, security guard, factory workers, secretary, janitors, etc.  Each may report their impression of you, so be very polite.  They may watch you walking to and from your car.  If you smoke, don’t let them see you do that.  Make sure your car  is clean and tidy – maybe you will have to drive them to lunch or maybe they will just see your car in the parking lot.  A dirty car does not make a good impression.  NEVER use profanity, even if your interviewers use it.  Act and be viewed as a professional every moment.
  • Break the ice. As you walk into the office, quickly gauge the room: do you notice any plaques, awards, trophies, i.e. golf, bowling, softball, civic participation etc?  If you notice something that you have a common interest with the hiring authority, share it. For example, you play golf and notice a wall plaque with golf balls. Take the opportunity to mention you play golf too but DON’T dwell on it for more than a sentence or two.
  • Breakfast/lunch/dinners are very much interviews.  While it can be more relaxing than an office interview, it is very much the same and also an opportunity for the interviewer to judge your “social” manners.  Be relaxed, but still answer questions the same as you would in the office.  If your hosts order alcohol, feel free to do the same. However, drink very little as you want to remain sharp and not say or do anything “under the influence.”
  • Be prepared with a solid answer as to why you are leaving or have left your last job(s).  When you formulate your answer, put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes – he is going to want to be comfortable that you plan on staying for a long time and that your reasons for leaving your prior job make professional sense. Also that you are easy to work with, get along with people and are flexible. Never, ever speak negatively about past companies or supervisors. It is acceptable to give real solid professional examples like “the plant closed” or “they changed my shift and it seriously affected my family life” or “I don’t mind some overtime, but 80 hours a week for 6 months was too much”  Never say things like “My boss and I never saw eye to eye”, or “I could not get along with my peers”, or “I hated all the politics.”  If appropriate, a good answer is something such as “While I like my current company and position, I feel that my capabilities are beyond what my position (or company) offers” or “While I like my current company and position, I am ready to do more than they can offer.”  These answers avoid any negativity which might make your interviewer think you are hard to work with.
  • Do not be late – plan to get there as much as 30 minutes early so you do not feel rushed, wait in the parking lot and relax, and walk in the door 10 minutes early, but no earlier.  Being late is death.  Being too early might be interpreted as rude. 
  • Turn off your cell phone when you walk in the door – not even on vibrate.  Better yet, leave it in the car.   Don’t turn it on again until you are back in the car and ready to call your recruiter.
  • Do some research on their web site or other sources, so you can ask questions about the company and their products during the Closing.  Sometimes an interviewer will ask you how much you know about the company, simply for the purpose of determining if you did your homework.  Knowing nothing about the company suggests a low interest or commitment on your part.
  • The interview should last as long as your recruiter told you, but be prepared for more time just in case.  It is possible there may not be a lot of time for general closing questions on your part.  If you are successful in this interview, there will be a second interview or at least an opportunity to ask more questions later over the phone or in your e-mailed thank you note. 
  • Look them in the eyes.  Don’t stare, but don’t gaze into the distance.  Sit straight up, slightly forward in the chair which shows body language of full interest.  Leaning back in the chair, especially with your arms folded signals lack of interest or commitment – even if you don’t feel that way, the body language still signals it.
  • Prepare an answer to “tell me about yourself.”  Focus on job accomplishments and skills that are relevant to this position, not spending time on hobbies or things way in the past. Your other skills and background, for the most part, are secondary unless they ask a lot of questions regarding personal interests or background. 
  • When asked a question, give a relatively brief answer.  A few sentences at most.  The last thing an interviewer wants is to hear a five minute answer. Worse, is to ramble and talk about things that are not relevant to the question.  Hint: give a short answer, then ask “Did this answer your question, or do you want to hear more?”  Asking that question lets them control the flow and you will get a feel for how detailed they want you to be on later questions.
  • If the interviewer wants to talk a lot, let them talk.  Don’t interrupt them.  Some candidates are so anxious to explain their background that they interrupt the interviewer and force conversation.  That method is rarely successful and normally results in a failed interview. 
  • Don’t ask about compensation, etc. at the interview.  That will come later.  If they ask you what you want to be paid, tell them you simply want to get paid the market value of your skills, education and experience.  If they are very insistent on getting an answer from you, give them a range.  Try hard to avoid giving an exact number if you can – maybe you will give them a number lower than they are willing to pay and your offer would be less, or maybe if you highball it in an attempt to get a big offer you won’t get any at all.  Let your recruiter negotiate the compensation between you and the company at the offer stage.
  • Never speak negatively about past companies or supervisors.
  • Dress.  Business Dress for men is a two piece suit (three piece if you have one when you are interviewing with a formal company at their headquarters) with a well pressed white or light colored collared shirt and a nice tie.  Shoes, in good repair, well polished including the edges of the soles.  Women should wear the equivalent. . No open-toed or high-heel shoes, especially if you are interviewing at a manufacturing facility as they will probably give you a factory tour where these types of shoes are generally not allowed due to safety concerns.  Business Casual dress for men is Dockers or equivalent, sport coat, nice shoes, pressed colored and collared shirt.  Tie is optional.  For women, nice slacks or conservative skirt, business top and a jacket.  In all cases, stay conservative.  Never wear athletic shoes.
  • Let your personality show.  Be yourself.  People hire people.  The best qualified aren’t always the one hired – the ones with the best chemistry are.  Remember, 80 percent of the hiring decision is based upon the chemistry between you and the people you will meet.  
  • Don’t make comments regarding how you think the current employees look, even if an interviewer makes their own comments.  (Don’t laugh, there have been candidates who lost an offer because they actually said the women or men looked really great.  Obviously, their professionalism was questioned.  Sexual, racial or other inappropriate comments will without question prevent an offer from being made.)
  • If they make an offer and it meets your expectations, accept it.  If the offer is missing something, don’t negotiate; let your recruiter do that for you.  Let them know you will make a decision in 24 hours.  Show excitement and thank them.
  • Be sure to ask for each person’s business card so you may send a thank you note.  You should send this note as soon as possible, certainly within a day.  E-mail is the best because it gets there quickly.  By the time “snail mail” arrives the decision is often already made.  Don’t send the same note to each person, as they tend to exchange these notes and if everyone gets the same note they may feel you sent the notes simply because you felt you had to, rather than showing genuine interest.  Ideally you want to personalize the notes to each interviewer, addressing specific topics covered including those you thought were hot buttons for that interviewer.
  • Above all, RELAX and be yourself.  Nervousness is normal but remember, they “put their pants on one leg at a time just like you do.”  They are no better than you.  You are well qualified.

After you leave the interview, it is very important that you call your recruiter immediately!