Successfully managing the interview is a critical step in getting any job. The interview provides employers with an opportunity to get to know you. Although interviews are naturally anxiety-producing, there are many strategies that will help you manage it effectively. There is no set formula for predicting the format of an interview since the organization’s priorities and interviewer styles vary. The key is preparation. The best preparation is to know well enough that you are able to concretely describe yourself in the interview context.
- Arrive 15 minutes early. Late attendance is never excusable.
- Clarify questions. Be sure you answered the questions the employer really asked.
- Get the interviewer to describe the position and responsibilities early in the conversation so you can relate your skills and background to the position throughout the interview.
- Give your qualifications. Stress the accomplishments that are most pertinent to the job.
- Conduct yourself professionally. Be aware of what your body language is saying. Smile, make eye contact, don’t slouch and maintain composure.
- Anticipate tough questions. Prepare in advance so you can turn apparent weaknesses into strengths.
- Dress appropriately. Make your first impression a professional one.
- Ask questions throughout the interview. An interview should be a mutual exchange of information, not a one-sided conversation.
- Listen. This is probably the most important ability of all. By concentrating not only on the employer’s words, but also on the tone of voice and body language, you will be able to pick up on the employer’s style. Once you understand how a hiring authority thinks, pattern your answers accordingly and you will be able to better relate to him or her.
- Don’t answer vague questions. Rather than answering questions you think you hear, get the employer to be more specific and then respond.
- Never interrupt the employer. If you don’t have time to listen, neither does the employer.
- Don’t smoke, chew gum or place anything on the employer’s desk.
- Don’t be overly familiar, even if the employer is doing all of these things.
- Don’t wear heavy perfume or cologne.
- Don’t ramble. Long answers often make the speaker sound apologetic or indecisive.
- On the other hand, don’t answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no.” Explain whenever possible.
- Do not lie. Answer questions as truthfully as possible.
- Do not make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers or companies.
Before the Interview
- Practice answering typical questions with a friend or other “mock interviewer”.
- Review frequently asked questions.
- Research the company and identify reasons you would want to work there.
- Spend some time thinking about questions you would like to ask.
- Prepare a conventional business suit to wear to interviews.
- Be prepared for surprise questions/awkward questions and how you would prefer to deal with them.
- Consider how to deal with nervous habits; relaxation techniques will help.
- Have an opening remark in mind.
- Take a pad and pen along with you for any notes you wish to make during or after the interview.
- Know time and location of interview and arrive 15 minutes early.
- Convert opinion into fact by citing specific examples of your accomplishments as well as illustration of your skill/abilities/traits.
During the Interview
Our experience has proven that job offers don’t always go to the most qualified candidate. They often go to the best performer. Make no mistake an interview is a performance. We suggest that you ask the following questions on all your interviews to enhance your performance.
- “I have spent a lot of time on the phone with (Recruiter) and they did a good job profiling the overall opportunity. I would like to hear from you specifically what you’re looking for.”
- “What is the most important thing that the winning candidate will need to accomplish?”
- “Can you share with me the structure of the department/division and how it fits into the overall organization?”
- “Considering the people on your team, tell me what your top producers are like and what you think makes them the most successful.”
- “Tell me about your corporate culture and what type of person best fits into your organization.”
- “As the Hiring Manger, tell me about your management style and what traits best match your personality to produce the best results.”
- “What are the biggest or most critical challenges that you and the company are currently experiencing.”
- “If I’m the winning candidate, how will you measure success?” “How will we both know I am doing a good job?”
- “What are your performance benchmarks for the first . . ?”
– 90 Days
– 6 Months
– 1 Year
- “Assuming success in this position, what is the typical career path potential?”
- “What types of support resources will be available?”
– Marketing Support
– Administrative Support
– Remote Office
- “What are the key things that would cause a person to not be successful on your team?”
- “What did you like most about the person who did this job before me? What made them successful/unsuccessful?”
- “In considering this position, do you foresee any imminent changes (i.e. territory, accounts, etc.)?”
- “Now that we have had a chance to learn more about each other, is there anything that would lead you to believe that I would not be successful in this position?”
Behavioral based interviewing is a new style of interviewing that more and more companies and organizations are using in their hiring process. The basic premise behind behavioral interviewing is this: the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation. It provides a more objective set of facts to make employment decisions than other interviewing methods. Traditional interview questions ask you general questions such as “Tell me about yourself”. The process of behavioral interviewing is much more probing and works very differently.
Since it’s impossible to prepare answers to specific questions, try to recall past accomplishments that you can use to illustrate your skills and characteristics.
Accomplishments are experiences you enjoyed, were satisfied by, or did well. They have to be work related. As you recall each accomplishment, list a few keywords on paper so you’ll know which experience to which you are referring. Jot experiences quickly, since one memory will trigger another. List as many relevant experiences as possible, but don’t view any as insignificant. During the interview, it’s likely that he/she will ask about one of those seemingly insignificant or minor experiences will satisfy interviewers more than a recounting of a top achievement.
During the stress of an interview, you’ll be hard-pressed to recall good examples. Hence you’ll have a little trouble remembering them now when you aren’t under stress.
Rehearse how you’d describe key experiences to interviewers, so you can recount them vividly and concisely. If you can create strong visual images in interviewers minds, you’ll have a better chance of convincing them that you have the desired skill level.
Behavior-based interviewers know how difficult it is to recall good examples, so they allow you adequate time to think before answering. Although you can’t predict the questions you’ll be asked, you’ll be ready to cite examples. And, if you receive a job offer, the extra time spent preparing will be well worth it.
Important Points About Behavior-Based Interviewing:
- Employers predetermine which skills are necessary for the job for which they are interviewing and then ask very pointed questions to determine if the candidate possesses those skills.
- In the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed. Tell them about particular situation that relates to the questions, not a general one. Tell them briefly the situation, what you did specifically, and the positive result or outcome
- The interviewee tells a story for a few minutes; typically the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the specific behavior(s). The interviewer can probe further for related details.
Closing the Interview
Too many people second-guess themselves after an interview. By closing strongly and asking the right questions, you can eliminate the post-interview doubts that tend to plague most interviewees. If you feel that the interview went well and you would like to take the next step, express your interest to the hiring authority and turn the tables a bit. Try something like the following:
“After hearing more about your company, the position and the responsibilities at hand, I am certain that I possess the qualities that you are looking for in the (title) position. Based on our conversation and my qualifications, are there any issues or concerns that you have that would lead you to believe otherwise?” You have a right to be assertive. This is a great closing question because it opens the door for the hiring authority to be honest with you about his or her feelings. If concerns do exist, this is a great opportunity to overcome them. You have one final chance to dispel the concerns, sell your strengths and end the interview on positive note. A few things to remember during the closing process:
- Don’t be discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with the office first, or interview other applicants, before making a decision.
- Make sure you answer the following two questions: “why are you interested in the company?” and “what can you offer?.”
- Express thanks for the interviewer’s time and consideration.
- Ask for the interview’s business card so you can write a thank you letter as soon as possible.
When you get in your car, immediately write down key issues uncovered in the interview. Think of the qualifications the employer is looking for and match your strengths to them. Call your recruiter! Follow-up now is critical. A “thank you” letter should be written no later than 24 hours after the interview.
After the Interview
- Write thank you letters to interviewers.
- Reflect on and write down points of the interview that you felt good about/need improvement.
- Assess outcomes realistically.
- Be persistent in preparing for the next interviews.
- Participate in a mock interview for constructive feedback regarding interviewing strengths/weaknesses to prepare for the next interview.
Thank You Letters
Write Right Away
It’s a good idea to follow-up as soon as possible after your interview. Send a thank you letter the same day as your interview when you can, certainly within the first couple days thereafter. You should also send a separate note to each person who interviewed you. It is a good practice to always get each interviewer’s business cards.
Get Your Facts Straight
Be sure to spell all names correctly. You are trying to reinforce the positive contact with the good people who took the time to meet with you. You do not want your thanks to do more harm than good do you? If you didn’t manage to get one of your interviewer’s business cards, call his/her secretary or the company receptionist to confirm the proper spelling and title.
Choose the Proper Tone
Use your instinct to guide you on this one; match the tone of your interview. If you treated in a formal manner, a more formal response is appropriate. If you felt you interview went well and had a more relaxed tone, craft your letter accordingly (though you should always avoid being overly familiar). If there were important things that you felt were conveyed in your interview or were not clear, fill in the gaps in your thank you letter. If there were any misunderstandings in your interview, this is your chance to do damage control confronting such situations, be positive not antagonistic. Keep in mind, you can control the contents of your letter more completely than you could your interview. Take advantage of this opportunity wisely.
Individualize your thank you letter in some way. This does not mean sending a ballad program. The point is to steer clear of trite, canned statements that may sound impersonal or insincere, or like a mail-merge document that you send out after every interview. For example, refer to something that came up in your discussion. This will help emphasize the contact that you made and will help keep you fresh in their minds if you are competing against a large pool of candidates. Include additional information if you can. If the interviewer took particular interest in something you brought up, send him/her a related article, a copy of that publication you were in, or samples of your work. Add anything pertinent that might reiterate the unique qualities that you have to offer.
Sample Thank You Letter
Dear Mr./Ms. (last name):
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me on (Date) to discuss the (position title) you have available. I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about (company’s name) to discuss how my qualifications can meet your needs.
I would like the opportunity to become part of your team. I feel strongly that I can be an asset to (company’s name). My prior experience in (type of experience) plus my training (refer to training), would enable me to become a strong contributing member of your (name of team) organization. I look forward to hearing from you regarding your decision.
Please let me know if there is any information that I can provide that will help you in the decision-making process. If I don’t hear from you, as you suggested during the interview, I will call you next (day), to see how your selection process in progressing. Thank you for your time and consideration.