To interview successfully, you need to be prepared. This short guide will provide some common tips on getting prepared for that important interview.
1. Research the company prior to the interview. The internet is a wonderful resource for this. What product or service do they provide? Have they been in the news lately? What are the current trends or issues in that industry? Who are the key players in the industry? Who is their competition? What advantages/disadvantages do they have? What is the company’s mission statement? Think of relevant questions to ask in the interview that would be related to the job and/ or the company. I once asked about a pending merger between the company I was interviewing with and the acquiring company. Mentioning that fact, while it was public, let the interviewer know I had done my homework. I also got additional interviews and finally the job!
2. Be ready to present your qualifications and accomplishments clearly, concisely and progressively. Show how you contributed to your current and past employers. Near the end of the interview the interviewer will ask you if you have any further questions to ask them. Make sure you are prepared to ask these questions on the research you had done. When this is over, ask the interviewers if they have any additional questions they would like to ask of you.
3. Do not discuss salary, benefits, retirement, etc. in your initial interview. If you are utilizing a recruiter, you have already been pre-qualified based on compensation, etc. However, should you ask these questions, this may tip the interviewer that you may be only interested in them for the pay and benefits – not the position and not contributing to their success. Only discuss salary and benefits IF the interviewer brings up the subject. Questions concerning salaries and benefits are more appropriate in second and third interviews and more possibly appropriate with Human Resources or your immediate supervisor.
What to do BEFORE you go to the Interview
1. Dress for success – dress professionally for your interview. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.
2. Get directions to the interview and know how long it will take you to get there. Plan for traffic, trains, school buses, etc.
3. Bring extra copies of your resume and references. If appropriate, bring samples of your work.
4. Bring a pad of paper and a pen to take notes. Be prepared.
5. Think of questions to ask the interviewer about the job, company, prospective work site, anything you heard about them or saw on the internet.
There are normally two types of interviews during the hiring process:
1. Phone Interview – This is normally a screening interview to pre-qualify you to proceed further in the hiring process. However, I have interviewed people over the phone for 90 minutes because of schedule and distance constraints. Plan ahead for this interview:
a. Get into a quiet room free of distractions. If there are many distractions, the interviewer may not think you are very serious about their position. Also, you may not hear the entire question being asked and answer it inappropriately. If, for some reason, the time of interview is bad, ask interviewer for their number and set a more convenient time.
b. Use a land telephone line, if possible, verses a cell phone – Many times the cell phone reception is marginal. Make sure you can hear and understand the interviewer and they can hear and understand you. Poor reception could mean a below average interview.
2. Face to Face Interview – You only have once to make a good first impression. The Face to Face Interview demands for professional attire even if the company’s dress code is casual. Unless specifically told to dress casually , then you should dress in business attire. Men should dress in a suit and tie or a sport coat and tie. Women should wear a suit or a conservative dress with medium to low heels. Colors: the successful colors are navy blue, black or graywith a splash red (in the tie or a scarf). The more conservative the better. Keep jewelry to a minimum. Remember, you only have once to make a good first impression.
During the Interview
1. Ask for the interviewer’s business card. This is for sending them a “Thank You” for the interview and meeting with them.
2. Always be selling yourself! If you do not do this no one else will for you. You need to be showing the interviewer how you can contribute to their organization to make it successful. Be selling yourself even though you may be undecided on the position. You can always turn down an offer, but you can never get an offer if you do not sell yourself.
3. Do not say anything negative about your current or former employer, co-workers, school, supervisor, etc. It will not reflect well on you and it could give the opposite effect to the interviewer.
4. Do not lie about anything – salary, dates of service, skills used on the job, job duties, etc. It can, and probably will, be discovered and come back to haunt you. Companies often perform background checks on prospective employees that include, but limited to, criminal, education, past employers, etc.
5. Describe how you can be an asset to the company – companies want to grow and need people to contribute to the team to help them grow.
6. If you are asked about an area of expertise, then explain your competence in that area. If you are not competent in that area, say so and explain. Tell the interviewer that you are always up for a challenge to learn. Truthfulness is always better.
7. Be ready for the question – “So tell me about yourself.” You will need to share your summary of your professional experiences and strengths in 2-4 sentences (the elevator speech). This would not be the time to go into detail about your family, schooling, etc. Limit it to employment. Bait your hook!
8. Be prepared for the question “So what is your biggest weakness.” Do not say you don’t have any – everyone has weaknesses even if you do not admit them!
a. “I never finish anything I start” – this is negative.
b. “I am not a morning person” when the position is during the day.
c. “I do not like working with others.” Lone wolves do not make good team members.
Make sure you remain positive and turn lemons into lemonade.
What to ask:
1. Ask about the career path of the position: “Where could I go in the next 2-5 years?”
2. Openly discuss any questions in your background. These could be experience, numerous jobs, job gaps, lost employment, etc. It is better you bring them up and answer them than leaving the interviewer to make that determination.
3. If you like the position – say so! Ask what is the step in the hiring process for you. This is one item many people do not do during an interview – show interest in the position. Ask – When do they expect to complete the hiring for the position?
4. Why is the position open? Is it a new position? Did someone leave? If so, why did they leave? Another company? Terminated?
After the Interview
Follow-up each interview by sending a hand written “Thank You” note to each interviewer on plain stationary or “Thank You” card. Remember the business card you received from each interviewer? This has all of their contact information. If the decision is to be made quickly, send an email once you get home. This is one of the biggest steps many people do not do. During the interview you began the process of starting a professional relationship. Sending a note “Thanking” them for their time continues that process. If you do not get this position, they may be thinking of you for another one later in the year. Proof the note for spelling and punctuation. Have a friend proof the note before you send it.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!
Have a question about interviewing? Ask us! firstname.lastname@example.org