These proven interviewing tips and techniques will help you maximize your chances of getting a second interview and, ultimately, an offer.
They should be used with each person you meet and at each step of the interviewing process.
Step 1 – ENTHUSIASM
This is the single most important step in the interview preparation process:
You must go in to the interview with a very positive, enthusiastic attitude and let the company know, right from the start, that you are interested! One thing that hiring managers always look for is a candidate who is excited about the opportunity. Many positions are won in the first few minutes of an interview. You must strike an immediate rapport! That is why it is so important that you make the assumption from the very beginning that you are going to be interested in the company and opportunity and go in and collect all the information you need to make a good decision.
Several ways to show enthusiasm are as follows:
- Research the company thoroughly beforehand
- Learn as much as you possibly can about the interviewer(s)
- Arrive to the interview 5-10 minutes early
- Dress appropriately and professionally – business suit, regardless of company dress code.
- Sit straight and on the edge of your chair.
- LISTEN carefully to the interviewer and respond to the real questions.
- Give a FIRM handshake, smile and relax.
- Show confidence in yourself and your abilities.
- Speak up! Avoid coming across too quietly.
Step 2 – Reasons for Pursuing the Opportunity
This is also known as “reasons for leaving your current position”. You must always address this subject in a positive manner. Never speak negatively about your current and former employers. Instead, try to bring up things you like about your current employer/position. Most importantly, address the reasons you are pursuing this position. Examples:
- The opportunity to make a true contribution to the success of a department/company.
- The potential for personal as well as company growth and advancement.
- Quality of the company.
- Excitement about the industry
Issues NOT to mention – pay and benefits (See Step 6)
Step 3 – Ask good Questions!!!
This three-tiered approach will lend a logical flow to your questions:
Tier 1 – Questions about the Company
Do your homework before the interview! Research the company’s web site – thoroughly. Understand the company’s history, its primary product or service offerings, its financial status, etc. Google the company for recent news, events, trends. Search the company and its officers/key employees on LinkedIn, FaceBook, etc. Tap into your own network for former employees of the company, competitors, people in the same industry, and other centers of influence. Get resourceful! Gain as much data as possible before you even set foot in the prospective employer’s office. Be sure to weave the data you have gathered into the questions you ask the interviewer. Examples of Company questions:
- Elaborate on the history of the company/division
- Describe the organizational structure.
- Who are the company’s Competitors? Customers?
- What is the company’s strategy for growth? – by acquisition or organically?
- Has the company been successful? And how do you define success?
Tier 2 – Questions about the Department/Division
Narrowing your focus, prepare questions about the internal organization. Sample questions:
- Organization chart.
- People/positions with whom you would interact the most.
- Reporting relationships – above and below the open position
- Interactions with other divisions, subsidiaries or corporate departments.
- Interactions with outside groups including vendors, customers and governmental units.
- What is the single most important challenge/ major project facing the department today?
Tier 3 – Questions about the Position
This is the heart of the interview. Your questions here will serve two distinct purposes. First, they will provide you with sufficient information to determine if the position is a good match for your skill set and career objectives. Second, and even more importantly from an interviewing perspective, they will provide you with a view of what the hiring manager is looking for in your background – enabling you to sell your strengths directly to the things that would make you of value to the company! Sample questions:
- Specific duties and responsibilities of the position
- What are the 3 most important things you want me to accomplish in this position? (begin tying in your relevant experience with position requirements).
- With me in this position, how can I help you reach your goals?
- With me in this position, how can I best support you and your department?
- What are the most difficult problems/issues facing someone in this position?
- Where can a person go if they are successful in this position?
- How will I be evaluated?
- What do you think I will like Most about this position? Least?
An excellent question to ask each interviewer is “What, in your opinion, does it take to be successful in this position and with your company?” If you get the answer to this, you will know exactly what they are seeking in your background. This is a natural lead-in to the next step.
Step 4 – Discussing Your Qualifications
This is your opportunity to sell yourself! Seize this opportunity. In today’s highly competitive job market, you must distinguish yourself from other candidates. This is NOT the time to be humble or shy! Since the hiring manager will typically lead this discussion, be prepared to answer their questions completely and positively. Some keys to doing this:
- Try to anticipate as many questions that might be asked of you in advance of the interview.
- Know your resume!! – especially dates of employment, accomplishments, etc.
- Realistically relate your skills/strengths to the needs of the company and position. A good way to accomplish this is by using examples from your experience. That is, discuss a specific, positive situation by stating: a) what difficulty you were faced with; b) your solution to the difficulty and how it was implemented; c) the positive results, including dollar/time savings or other quantification, and d) how this example relates to the needs of the hiring manager.
- Be prepared to field questions about weaknesses. Choose something that is NOT vital to your success in the open position. Avoid personality/character flaws. Present a game plan that you have devised to improve the weakness. Confirm that you do not feel this weakness would limit your success in the position.
- Volunteer additional information (that the interviewer did not ask) about your skills and work habits that would make you successful in the position.
- Confirm with the interviewer that you have satisfactorily answered their questions.
Steps 1-4 will cover the bulk of most first interviews. Steps 5-7 will be covered quickly in most interviews, but are integral areas to prepare for and will become more critical in second interviews and beyond.
Step 5 – Advancement Potential
This is an area of obvious interest and concern to you and, therefore, is fair game for you to ask. In fact, many interviewers will discuss promotional opportunities as a regular part of the interview. However, you must be careful in how you approach this subject. The best way to address this question is as follows:
- Express a high degree of interest in the position.
- Ask the interviewer(s) how they reached their level in the company.
- Ask “If I would come into this position and perform very well, what additional responsibilities or promotions might be available?”
Step 6 – Salary and Benefits
It’s not appropriate for you to initiate a conversation about salary and benefits on the first interview. However, you need to be prepared if the interviewer begins the salary discussion. Suggestions on how to address questions about compensation:
- Refrain from giving a specific dollar amount.
- Do provide the hiring manager with your current salary, review date, expected bonus, etc.
- Let the hiring manager know that the most important thing for you is the right company and the right challenge, and that you are feeling good about this opportunity.
- Let the hiring manager know that if they make a ‘reasonable’ offer, you would be happy to come to work there (let the definition of ‘reasonable’ wait).
Your (and our) opportunity to negotiate the best offer comes when you know you are the final candidate – the person to whom they want to extend an offer! Until that point – when you know an offer is imminent – try to avoid discussions about salary.
Step 7 – Ending the Interview
When the interview is winding down, there are a few key points to cover. These points are very important in establishing a favorable and lasting impression with the interviewer:
- Thank the interviewer for his/her time.
- Enthusiastically re-express your sincere interest in the position and the company.
- Ask if there is anything else you can add to clarify your qualifications for the position.
- Ask what the next step is in the process and if you will be included in that next step!
- Ask the interviewer for a business card in case you think of questions later (it also provides you the data to send a Thank You note).
- Firmly shake hands and exit.
As you review these interviewing tips and techniques, keep in mind two things: First, the order of these tips is for the ideal flow of an interview. However, most interviews will start by the interviewer talking about your background (Step 4). Therefore, you will have to weave your questions into that discussion so you can tailor your answers about your background to fit the needs of the hiring manager. I recommend that if the interviewer starts out asking, “So tell me about yourself”, come back with “ I would be glad to, but before I start telling you all about myself, would you mind telling me what you are looking for, specifically, in the person you want to hire?” The interviewer is asking you to talk about yourself and how your experience relates to their needs. It’s difficult to do that if you are not sure what the hiring manager is seeking.
Second, these tips are intended to help you add structure and substance to your interviews. They are NOT intended to replace your personal interviewing style! You should try to blend these suggestions in with your own style to develop a customized, confident, and winning interview personality.
NOTE: You should use these techniques with each interviewer you meet! Feel free to ask the same questions of each interviewer, especially if your question requests an opinion or personal experience. It is better to duplicate questions rather than not asking anything of the last interviewer. Keep in mind that you are always being evaluated on your questions!