The Interview

Before the Interview – Preparing for Success

Review the company’s web site.  Your conversation should show that you have taken the time to learn about the company — that you’re not just looking for a job, you’re looking for a job with this particular employer.  Most interviewers expect candidates to have visited their web site.

Review the job description.

Prepare questions.  Most interviewers will ask candidates if they have any questions.  Prepare your questions ahead of time; this strategy frees your mind during the interview to focus on the interviewer’s questions.  It is a good idea to prepare at least six questions.  In many cases 2-4 of your questions will be answered during the interview.  The best questions are the ones that focus on the content of the job and enable you to decide if the company/job is interesting to you. Do the projects offer opportunities for personal growth and mental stimulation?

  • Will this position help me achieve my short and intermediate term career/personal goals?
  • How do I feel about the work environment and the people I will be working with?

5 Minutes before the Interview

Have a copy of the resume submitted to the interviewer in front of you.  This is important because it can provide information about what the interviewer is looking at and potentially will provide clues and insight about questions and the direction of the conversation.

Have your list of prepared and prioritized questions written out in an easy-to-read format.  The questions should be spaced to permit notes so that you can review the answers after the interview.

Have paper and pen available for notes about the interviewer’s questions, your responses, and any other significant information.

Remove all distractions, and place yourself in a quiet environment.  No TV, no radio, no newspaper, no magazine, no computer, etc.  It is more challenging to maintain concentration during a telephone interview than a face-to-face interview.  The interviewer is almost certain to hear our lack of involvement in your tone of voice; therefore, removing potential distractions increases your chances of success.

Face-to-Face Interviewing Basics

Your goal is to persuade the employer that you have the skills, background, and ability to do the job and that you can comfortably fit into his/her organization.  Simultaneously, you should be gathering information about the job, future career opportunities, and the organization to determine if the position and work environment are right for you.

Most employers have certain expectations of candidates, whether or not they are articulated. Here are generally accepted rules of applicant etiquette.  Following these guidelines will help you stand out from the crowd and interview more successfully.

Be on time. If you’re late, no matter how valid your reason, you’re making a statement about your ability to plan and prepare for the unexpected.  You’re also indirectly making a statement about your respect for the interviewer’s time.

Dress appropriately. The standard protocol for an interview is professional dress, which means a conservative, well-tailored suit.

• Arrive prepared. Be sure to take crisp copies of your resume with you.  Additionally, the interviewer may request that you bring samples, references, or other items with you.  Be sure to have these neatly prepared.

• Be polite. Simple courtesies, if not extended, could cost you a job.  In general people like to be addressed by their name.  This is a subtle point, but can convey superior interpersonal skills better than saying, “I have superior interpersonal skills.”

• Don’t ramble. When responding to questions from a prospective employer be sure you understand the question they are asking.  Answers should be direct and concise.  This demonstrates your communication skills.  Additionally, do not interrupt the interviewer.

• Be prepared. Your responses should show that you’ve taken the time to learn about the company — that you’re not just looking for a job, you’re looking for a job with this particular employer.  Most interviewers expect candidates to have visited their web site.

• Ask questions. Most interviewers will ask candidates if they have any questions.  This is a chance for you to gather information as well as to emphasize your knowledge of and interest in the company.  Prepare your questions ahead of time; this strategy frees your mind during the interview to focus on the interviewer’s questions.  It is a good idea to prepare at least six questions.  In many cases 2-4 of your questions will be answered during the interview.  The best questions are the ones that focus on the content of the job and enable you to decide if the company/job is interesting to you.

• Be aware of your body language. A surprising number of candidates slouch, rather than sitting upright.  Good posture projects energy and enthusiasm.  Additionally, the inability to look directly into the interviewer’s eyes probably will be interpreted as a lack of professionalism or—worse yet—a lack of honesty.  Crossed arms often suggest a lack of receptivity to new ideas.

• Be assertive. Show your desire to work for a particular company, the depth of your passion for the industry, or your interest in the position you are seeking.

• Ask for the job. At the conclusion of every interview, thank the interviewer for their time, and clearly state your desire for the position.  Remember to mention the added value you can bring to the job.  Ask about the next step in the interview process; ask if the next step can be scheduled now.  Your closing should be tailored to the position, to your personality and interviewing style, and to the interviewer.

• Send a thank-you note. You have a better chance of making a favorable impression.  More than 76% of employers like receiving a post-interview thank-you note, but only 36% of applicants write them, according to a survey by Accountemps, a staffing firm in Menlo Park, Calif.

A thank-you note need not be long or fancy.  A simple email will suffice.  Thank the interviewer for his time.  Make it clear that you are excited about the job—that you can do it and want to do it.  Offer to provide any additional material that may be required.  Finish by saying that you look forward to working for the company or enjoyed meeting him or her.  Be sure to proof the email for spelling and grammar carefully because this note illustrates your written communication skills.

• Call the recruiter. Call your recruiter immediately after the interview.  The recruiter is your advocate.  Tell them your perceptions of the conversation, the interviewer, and your interest level in the opportunity.  Repeat any particularly difficult question(s) asked during the interview and give your response.
Why call immediately after the interview?  I seldom know when the interviewer will call to give their feedback.  Frequently the first comment made by an interviewer is “Have you heard from the candidate?”  What follows is a question about the candidate’s perception of the interview.  Occasionally, an interviewer will discuss a candidate’s response(s) with the recruiter to get additional insight into the candidate.  Finally, interviewers seem to use the post-interview call to the recruiter as an indication of the candidate’s interest in the position.