The Interview Process
Some Advice from the Professionals
Interviewing is an art not an exact science. You may possess all of the needed qualifications and skill sets but can't get the job. Perceived FIT is often just as crucial as qualifications when companies are assessing your candidacy. They are assessing your abilities to work well with them and their team. Personality, appearance, communication skills, energy, motivation, passion, assertiveness, strategic thinking, creativity/innovation, and problem solving ability are areas you will be measured on by the interviewer that may not be depicted in the resume.
Listed below are key Do's and Don'ts when interviewing:
1) Preparation: Advanced preparation is crucial in readying yourself for open-ended questions. Ambiguous questions are asked to see how well you handle them. "Tell us about yourself" can be a trap as you don't know what they want to hear. Direct the question yourself and get to specifics about your work and achievements as soon as you can. Gaining company/industry information prior to the interview can be a positive reflection as to your industriousness and desire. Dress appropriately and show up early to the interview.
2) Clear and Concise Communication: Articulate your accomplishments clearly and appropriately. They need to understand the value you bring is immediate and appropriate. Listen carefully to the question and be concise, courteous, and respectful. Engage in good eye contact. Utilize good poise and body language. Lean forward to promote interest and engagement.
3) Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses: How you see yourself can have a direct impact on how others see you. Be prepared to articulate your strengths using examples or situations if possible. Strengths are much easier to communicate than weaknesses. Advanced thoughts and preparation can turn a weakness into a strength. For example "I tend to be overly optimistic at times" or "I tend to be harder on myself than others when striving to accomplish a goal."
4) Understand the Job: Knowing everything you can about the position will better enable you to align your skills and strengths appropriately. A job description will lead you to key skills and traits they're seeking.
5) Emphasize Your Knowledge, Understanding, and Insights: You need to be able to provide specific examples using a description of the situation, your actions, and the result of those actions. Knowledge is not power unless it is "applied". Relate your knowledge to your audience's needs. Show them you are solution-minded and you have the ability to solve their problems.
6) Show Teamwork Ability: Use a lot of "We's" vs. "I's" when expressing your accomplishments. You may have been the driver of the initiative but you probably did not do it alone. Give credit to others where due. Companies look for your ability to influence and motivate others such as leading teams and motivating people to get the job done. Show good leadership and collaborative abilities. Companies are just as interested in how well you can be taught as well as your ability to teach others.
7) Demonstrate High Energy and Motivation: These are contagious attributes. You get back what you put out. Your chances for a successful interview are heightened if both parties are fully engaged. I have yet to hear someone not get the job because they had too much energy and motivation.
8) Be Spontaneous-Not Regimental: Spontaneity is a virtue in interviewing. It paves the way for honest and sincere communication. When you appear regimented it may lead to suspicions of rehearsal and insincerity. It is important to be "yourself" as generally people can see through facades.
9) Immediate Follow Up: Compose a thank you letter that denotes key points in your conversation reinforcing why they need you and confirm your interest in the opportunity. It is advised to send out within 24 hours of the interview and address each interviewer individually. Email is fine as it is easy to individualize and expedite.
1) Don't Ramble: The main reason people don't get hired is that they do most of the talking. Answer questions as fully as possible, then shut up. Don't offer gratuitous information after statements. Be concise. Studies show the greater amount of time the interviewer spends talking, the greater the chance the candidate will get the job.
2) Don't Overstate Your Responsibilities or Your Pay: This can be a real knock out factor. Most interviewers can size up your degree of influence during the interview and certainly confirm it during a background check when appropriate. Pay stubs may also be asked to be provided to confirm compensation, so be honest.
3) Don't Assume you Know What They Want: Asking open-ended questions can provide you an abundance of information to help prepare you for targeted responses and ascertain their true needs. Questions like "what are your key priorities and what is impeding you from accomplishing?" can open a great dialogue in determining problems that you can solve.
4) Don't Bad Mouth Your Company: This is a definite red flag to others you may be difficult to get along with. Rather, elude to the fact that even though "X" company in which you've learned tremendous skills, does not align with you current goals. And be prepared to state how the new company is better aligned to your goals.
5) Don't Talk Salary Too Early: If salary expectations are asked of you early in the interview, try courteously to steer the conversation toward the specific requirements and responsibilities of the position. You may state "salary is important but I am really interested in hearing more about your specific needs and requirements for this position." If the interviewer persists, it may be a red flag that the company is more concerned with budget than expertise. If salary expectations are asked more appropriately toward the end of the interview, you know they have interest in you but be careful of giving an exact figure which could be too low or too high. Ask, "I assume this position has a range, what is the range?" If they say the range, simply restate the top figure of the range and shut up. After a few moments of silence, they will likely start talking about additional benefits (Bonus, Vacation, Medical, etc.), but you've moved them to the top end without being presumptuous. If this technique does not work, simply state "I'm currently in "X" range but desire to be in "Y" range. Try to get their range prior giving a figure.
The Phone Screen:
This is usually the first and most crucial phase of the interview process. This is primarily due to the fact that if you are not successful in selling yourself in the 30-60 minutes allowed, you go no further. You generally speak to someone other than the hiring manager (i.e. Human Resources Manager) that is primarily looking for eliminators and may not have a clear understanding of the true needs of the position. They may be mainly qualifying top line skills via a job description and gauging interest. Know the allocated time for your phone screen as you will need to be sensitive in staying within a realistic timeframe. If you were not previously informed as to the expected timeframe merely ask the phone screener at the beginning of the call. Be respectful of their time and remember your primary purpose is to sell them on a face-to-face interview where you can give and get more detailed information.
Articulate your accomplishments in a clear and concise manner. You will be judged on your perceived communication skills. If you ramble, your phone screener will either cut you short to stay on schedule or allow the call to far exceed the time allowed which can result in increased frustration and decreased job possibility. Be sure to get your questions answered but remember your goal is to get an interview and more likely the phone screener will not know the intricacies of the position unless they are the hiring manager. At the conclusion of the call, restate your desire to move forward and ASK "when it would be appropriate to come in?" (Assume approval) Typically, their response is they will get back to you or the recruiter. Ask if there are any questions you could answer that could eliminate any areas of doubt about your candidacy for this position. If none, you've done everything you can to close them on getting a physical interview short of appearing overbearing or pushy. There is no shame in showing your desire. Phone screens are very hard to gauge as you do not see the other party. You rely totally on verbal communication. Many times candidates perceive awkward moments of silence as dissatisfaction by the interviewer but may only be periods of silence while the interviewer is taking notes, and like most, cannot write and talk at the same time. Be sure to thank them for their time and interest. Optional: A thank you note following the phone screen that accentuates your strengths is helpful in attaining an interview.