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The Interview

Okay, so you got the interview. Now what?    

Just as professional airline pilots use a checklist before takeoff, this checklist helps remind novices and old pros alike.

Every company designs a hiring process to create a large pool of potential candidates. The field of candidates is narrowed  through elimination process. By the time you get the notice that the employer wants to interview you, your candidacy has already been through several steps of that elimination process. Your task is to remain a viable candidate by avoiding elimination at each step of the process, and being able to connect with those who are interviewing you.

Dress for success
Men, that humorous necktie your brother-in-law gifted to you is probably not appropriate for the job interview. Ladies, if that blouse looks great at the singles club it probably will do you damage if you wear it to a job interview. Likewise, colognes and perfumes will never help you in an interview and could sabotage you. The safest move is do not wear cologne or perfume. But if you insist on wearing it, use it very sparingly. Spray it into the air and walk through it.  After a few minutes of wearing cologne, your nose is insensitive to it, but others are not. The last thing you want to do is send an asthmatic boss or interviewer into respiratory distress during your interview. If you are concerned about odors, pop a breath mint before you go into the interview.

Do Your Homework

Visit the company’s website and take the time to do an internet search on Google http://www.google.com and / or the Thomas Register http://www.thomasnet.com.  If it is a publicly held company, log on to the SEC website and check the company’s SEC filings at http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml

If you are interviewing for a contractor position, do not discuss your hourly rate with the client. Remind the interviewer that the contract house handles all pay rate issues.
Do not inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement, etc. on the initial interview. The time to discuss all that is when the "sale" has been made and the company is engaged in salary discussions with you or the contract house.

Having said all that, you want the most you can get, and they want to pay the least amount they can to find a person with the necessary skills to do this job. Avoid talking about money in initial interviews, even when directly asked what your compensation is or was at your last position. Practice at least three ways to avoid giving a specific number. My favorite answer goes something like this:

“I understand you have a range in mind for this position and I believe you will find my skills and experience brings a great deal of value to the company. I will be delighted to entertain an offer commensurate with my value if we conclude that this position is a good match between the opportunity and my career goals.”

If pressed to provide a number:

“The compensation I earned at my previous employer has little bearing on what would be fair compensation for this position. It was a different position for a different company, and I had different responsibilities and challenges. However I will be happy to provide you with documentation regarding my previous compensation once we establish that this position adds value to your company and my career. Does that seem fair?”

If they continue to press for a number and you feel pressured to give up that information use this as a last resort:

“My compensation at my former position was in the range of $xxxxx.xx. However, I am more interested in the total opportunity here, and how it fits my career path. Though the compensation package is important, they are not my total focus.”

Former employers and supervisors
Thou shall not speak ill about any past employer or supervisor, even when you are invited or baited to do so. We have all had bosses at some point in our career that we thought had become jerks. The only people that really care to hear about our trials with our miscreant boss is our spouse or psychiatrist. The interviewer only cares that you are not likely to give your new boss any grief if you disagree with their management style or ability. If you left a former employer because you did not agree with your boss, the best thing to do is put a positive face on it and save the negative stuff for your spouse or psychiatrist:

“I enjoyed my time with the company but I began to see that my career goals did not match the position and direction of the program.”

Obviously you have reasons for departing your previous employer but limit your comments just enough to adequately explain your rationale without making derogatory remarks.

Work environment
Be careful when discussing your work style until you know what they are looking for; e.g. preferring structured vs. non-structured environments or preferring to working independently v. working as part of a team.

“It depends on the task. There are advantages and challenges in both working independently or as part of a team.”

Stay focused
Very often, candidates oversell and overpower the hiring managers in their employment interviews. Candidates talk themselves into, and then right out of a job. Getting a job is a sales process, and good sales people know how to ask open-ended questions and then they shut-up and listen to their client. As much as you want to believe the interview is all about you, it is not. It is about the company and their needs. In the employment interview, your job is to ferret out what the company is looking for in an employee, and then point out how your skills and background will help solve those needs. When answering questions, be concise and stay within the scope of the question. When you get the employer to talk about the company, and their position within the industry, you accomplish these things:

• They give you clues about their needs and how you might fill them.
• They have less time to drill you.
• You show your interest and enthusiasm for the job.
• You demonstrate your charisma and people skills.
• You showcase your own ability to ferret out information and establish a connection to their customers.
• The more they talk about themselves, the more wonderful they think you are.

Open Ended Questions
Use open-ended questions to see how a company functions rather than say "I don't like companies that run in *this* way", etc. A lack of questions may be mistakenly interpreted as a lack of interest in the position or the company. Here are some examples of questions you should be prepared to ask:

Ask open - ended questions, then shut up and listen for the clues that will tell you what they are looking for!  Get comfortable with silence, it adds power to your message.

“How would you describe the management style?” or

“Where do you see my skills adding the most benefit to the company?”


There is absolutely no excuse for arriving late unless an ambulance delivers you to their door.  Just before entering the building, remind yourself that you are about to take center stage. The spotlight is about to hit you and all eyes will be on you. Put some bounce in your step and energy into your delivery. Smile! Shake hands firmly but not so as to crack the other party’s knuckles. Shaking hands should not be a contest of strength. Don't think about yourself or your anxiety. Visualize yourself as part of the audience. This will help you connect with your audience.

Greet and Meet
Greet the interviewer using their surname IF are sure of the correct pronunciation. If you are not sure, ask the receptionist or the interviewer’s staff. If you are not able to do that, ask the interviewer to repeat it for you.

Do not sit down until you are offered a chair. Sit upright, be alert and interested at all times. Be a good listener as well as a good communicator.

If presented with an application, fill it out neatly and completely. Do not use “See attached resume” as a response to questions.

Bring copies of your resume and be sure that they are essentially the same as the one the employer received. If the employer pulled your resume from Monster Board, your employment history better match the employer history on the copy you present to them in person. However, do not rely on the application or resume to complete the sale for you. The resume is just your marketing piece, designed to highlight your strengths and get you an interview. It does not create the sale.

Make eye contact.
If you are looking down you won't command attention. If you are speaking to a group, do not "scan" the group because it makes you look shifty. Lock eyes with different individuals in the room and then change sets of eyes as you finish each thought. If you are just interviewing with one person, maintain eye contact by looking from one eye to the other as if you are planting an idea in each eye.

Follow the interviewer's lead, but try to get the interviewer to describe the position and the duties to you early in the interview so that you can apply your background, skills and accomplishments in relationship to the requirements for the position.

Make sure that your good points come across to the interviewer in a factual and sincere manner. Stress achievements. For example: sales records, processes developed, savings achieved, systems installed, etc.

Always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing until the “sale” is complete and an offer has been made. The decision whether or not this is the right career move for you should be made at the end of the process when an offer is on the table. Put off any decisions until that time.

Show enthusiasm.
SMILE. Enter the room with energy and purpose. If you are interested in the opportunity, enthusiastic feedback can enhance your chances of further consideration. Even if you are not interested in the position, your enthusiastic responsiveness will still demonstrate your professionalism.

Turn off your cell phone before entering the building and put your pager on silent!

Do not smoke or have a drink over lunch, even if the interviewer does and offers you. NO GUM, but a breath mint stuffed between your cheek and gum will help chase away the garlic bread you had.

Do not answer questions with a simple "yes" or "no." Explain whenever possible.

Describe those things about yourself that relate to the situation.

Do not lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and succinctly.

Not letting the interviewer catch you off-guard is a key factor in maintaining your composure during an interview. If the interviewer steers the conversation into politics or controversial issues, try to do more listening than speaking since this could be a sensitive situation. Anticipate questions and rehearse the answers in the days before the interview. Be prepared to answer such questions as:

• Tell me about yourself.
• Tell me about your background, accomplishments.
• What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
• How would you describe your most recent job performance?
• What interests you about our company?
• How do you stay professionally current?
• What outside activities are most significant to your personal development?

Negative Factors Evaluated by an Interviewer

• Personal appearance which is less than professional.
• Overbearing, overaggressive or egotistical behavior.
• No positive purpose.
• Lack of interest and enthusiasm -- passive and indifferent.
• Lack of confidence and poise; nervousness.
• Overemphasis on compensation expectations.
• Evasiveness; making excuses for unfavorable factors in work history.
• Lack of tact, maturity and courtesy.
• Condemnation of past employers, managers, projects or technologies.
• Inability to maintain a conversation.
• Lack of commitment to fill the position at hand.
• Failure to ask questions about the position.
• Persistent attitude of "What can you do for me?"
• Desperation - e.g. "Hire me for my kid's sake."
• Lack of preparation for interview -- failure to get information about the company, resulting in inability to ask intelligent questions.


Utterance of these will kill your candidacy:

• Personality conflict
• Didn’t see eye-to-eye / disagreed
• Micro-manager
• Lawsuit

Always exit gracefully on a high note, and just like a true performer, always leave them wanting more.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work"
 -- Thomas Edison

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