Interviewing Skills Review

"Professional baseball player have a batting coach.  A coach to improve hitting a ball with a large stick.  How many variables are there in an interview?"  R. A. Edwards 1996




    It is important to plan the image you with to present.  Get a good night's sleep the night before the interview. Arrive at least 30 minutes early, entering the parking lot no more than 10 minutes before the interview time.  Attend to last minute grooming details out of sight of the building.  Remember, the building has windows.  Unprofessional, casual, or inappropriate behavior may be observed by the individuals you will be interviewing with.  Dress according to conservative codes regardless of the what may be appropriate for the position you seek.  Dress in a professional, conservative manner.

    Wear a suit with a white shirt, conservative tie, dark socks, well shined shoes, well groomed hair, face and hands.  Do not forget your fingernails.   Do not smoke or drink one hour before an interview.  The same dress code applies to women.  A suit, light colored blouse, moderate jewelry and accessories, and pumps (not sandals) will convey the most well groomed, professional image. Do not wear perfume or cologne.  One of the people you interview with may be allergic to it.

    Enter the building with a smile.  Greet the receptionist with:  “Hello, my name is _____ and I am here for my ___ o’clock appointment with ____.”  Be pleasant and professional with everyone you come in contact with.

    Completely fill out the application.  Remember it is a part of their process.  DO NOT answer “See resume” for any inquiry.  The resume and the application may become separated.   For salary requirements, write “Open” not “Negotiable”.  Offer a clean copy of your resume out of a new manila folder.  Take several copies in case you meet with several people.

    Generally, you will wait in a public area until the person you are interviewing comes to meet you.  First impressions are extremely important.  Do not sit down and wait for the person.  Stand up.  Meet the person eye to eye with your hand out and a smile on your face.  By standing you do not have to worry about your clothes settling correctly as you stand.  A lot has been  written about hand shakes and what they mean.  Emulate the persons hand shake, firm or soft.  While you are waiting read the plaques and any company information in the waiting area.  There may be information or recent awards that may be of use in the interview?  Follow the interviewer to their office.  Wait for the interviewer to sit down before you sit unless they instruct you to sit first.  Offer a clean copy of your resume to the person then sit down.

    The objective of the interview is two fold.  First, to present yourself in a professional manner and demonstrate that you have the education, experience, and drive to excel in the position.  Second, to collect information in order for you to make an informed decision about the viability of the opportunity.  This can only be accomplished by a two way conversation.  Answer all questions directly and from the heart.  Do not second guess the interviewer.  Having to second guess on the job every day would be a miserable life.  If you are not right for the job it is best that you do not take it.  Do not be afraid to ask questions!  Keep questions centered on the position’s scope, scale, expectations, company culture, etc.  Do not worry about compensation and benefits at this point.  If the position is not right for you the compensation does not matter.  Well thought out questions impress potential employers and stimulate conversation.

    At the beginning of the interview be prepared to give a 2 to 4 minute presentation of your work history beginning with your first job after school.  This will help break the ice and demonstrate that you can communicate in a concise and precise manner.  Remember to include details about the scale of the enterprise, the scope of your duties, and your accomplishments.  Practice this presentation before hand.  Do not improvise!  Practice at least 6 times or until it becomes a natural, fluid story.  Better, practice it in front of a mirror or video camera.

    On occasion, the first contact with the organization will be a telephone interview.  A telephone interview should be conducted exactly as a face to face interview with these exceptions.  Standup while you are on the phone.  This will open your chest diaphragm and you will project a higher level of confidence and energy.  Make sure you are in a quiet area with no distractions.  Answer the phone in a professional manner even if you are at home.

    In a matter of a few hours of interviewing, you will be making one of the most important decisions in your life.  It is essential, therefore, that you prepare yourself; in order to make the right decision, and by having done your "homework", you will demonstrate a genuine interest in their company.  The applicant, at a minimum, should know the answers to the following questions prior to meeting the potential employer: What products or service does the company offer?  When was the company established?  What is the approximate number of employees?  Number of branches and plants?  What has been their growth?  Who is their competition?  Who are their customers? Etc.  If possible, speak with individuals associated with the company.  Do they reinforce your impressions?

    After the initial moments of the interview ask the interviewer how they see you fitting into the organization.  Do not assume that you understand the position you are interviewing for.  Answer questions with this context in mind.  Relate your experiences in the context of the position and support your qualifications for the position with examples of accomplishments from your previous positions. 

    The employers goal is to determine if you have the necessary qualifications and experience to be successful in the position.  Anticipate the questions and have prepared answers.  It is important that you know all dates and locations pertaining to your educational and employment history.  In addition, specifics regarding each previous position held, detailed job duties, promotions, and accomplishments.

Throughout the interview the employer will be evaluating the tangible qualifications and skills you have presented, as well as determining your strengths, weaknesses and intellectual adeptness, with particular attention to the following five major areas:

-Communication skills; How well do you present yourself and your ideas? 

-Your attitude; Do you have a positive attitude about yourself and your career? 

    -Your aptitude, based on both educational and actual experience. 

    -Your potential; how your attitude and aptitude combine to contribute to that company.         

     -Your motivation; what are your short and long term career goals;

        What is your level of maturity;

        What is your personal   motivation and what are your reasons for seeking success?

    Be able to support these attributes with examples of success from previous positions.

Employers are primarily interested in one of two things: “…Can this person increase my profit or can they decrease my cost?…”  Remember to keep this in mind when answering questions.  Opened-ended questions should be answered with no more than 2-3 sentences.  Closed-ended should be answered with one word or one sentence at most!   If possible, write down the name and title of the people you interview with.  It may be difficult to remember once you speak with five or six people.  On leaving, close with a firm handshake and a confident statement.  If you are interested in the position state that you are very excited about the company and state specific examples of how you can benefit the organization.  Then ask, what is the next step in the process?

If you are not interested in the position or the company, thank the interviewer for their time and politely state your concerns.  There may be a misunderstanding that can be corrected.

Always handwrite a Thank-you card to every one you met with and promptly mail the cards.

R. A. Edwards,  1999



Here are a few tips on telephone interviews:

-Answer the phone in a professional manner.  "Hello, this is ______".

-Limit the distractions around you.  Try to be in a quiet place.  You do not want the interviewer or yourself distracted by background noise.

-Always stand up when you speak on the telephone, due to ergonomics your

voice projects better when standing.

-Be Relaxed.

-Be Rested.

-Be Prepared to give a quick background on yourself in terms of work history and technical abilities.

-Try to ascertain their needs.  How do they see you fitting into the organization? What skills are needed in this position? What types of projects will you be working on? Relate your past experience and show how

you can help fill their needs.  Reinforce with examples of your accomplishments.

-In this first interview, keep your questions focused on the job and company.  The scope and scale of the responsibilities, future of the company, etc. The career comes first, monetary considerations second.  If

asked about salary, answer.  Don't bring salary up until the interviewer does.

-Remember that companies hire individuals to help them with current and future problems.  So emphasis what you can do for them and how fast you learn. You are a problem solver.

-Close the conversation with a summary.  If you are interested in the position   91) state that you are interested and why you feel that you can make a contribution to their organization.   (2) Ask what the next step in the process is.  If you are not interested tell the interviewer why you don't see it as a fit.  End with a positive note and thank the interviewer for his/her time.