Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten Steps to Nail that Interview

So you finally get called by one of the companies you've been targeting or even some place you've never heard of. They're interested in you and want to interview you. Congratulations! The resume has done its job, the company found where you posted it, now it's time to get to work and land that job.

1) Get to a land-line: I know that a lot of young people today don't have land-lines but consider this: They are looking at you and nine other people to interview for that job. They're looking for a reason to eliminate seven of you so that the hiring manager thinks the recruiter did a good job of finding her people who match the job description without burdening her with more than three interviews. What are they going to do with the person who is trying to shout through bad reception, while driving or in an area with a lot of background noise? If your cell-phone is on your resume and they call you at an inconvenient moment, there is nothing wrong with saying something along these lines: "Sorry. You caught me at a bad time. Can I call you back at this number in half an hour?"

2) Get through the phone screen: Remember that the recruiter's goal of a phone screen is to reduce her bank of candidates from ten to three. Don't give her a reason to reject you. Sound eager, available, friendly and professional. Don't box yourself into any corners. If they ask you questions about which of two options you prefer, claim to be interested in both and eager to hear more. Don't give away any personal information that might spark anyone's prejudices. Make the recruiter feel comfortable that the hiring manager is not going to come up to her after the interview and ask, "Who was that jerk you made me interview?"

3) Do your homework: Learn as much as you can about the company before you get there. Check out their website, any news on the Web about them. Find out who the key figures are. There might be articles linked somewhere that a person interviewing you has written. Or speeches that they gave in the past. Flatter them by telling them during the interview that you read the article or know about the speech. Ask pertinent questions about the article or speech. Prepare two questions that you can ask when, at the end of the interview, they ask, "Do you have any questions for us?"

4) On time is late: Make sure you arrive about twenty minutes early. That will give you time to park and get settled before arriving. Then ask the receptionist if there is any paperwork you need to fill out before starting your interview. If so, get it done and be ready five minutes before your scheduled time. If not, just tell the receptionist you are here early but ask her not to announce your arrival until two minutes before your scheduled time. Better yet, find out during the phone screen if there is any paperwork you need to fill out and try to get it in advance so that you arrive with it all nicely typed in.
Never arrive late. If you are concerned about traffic, getting lost etc, allow an extra hour. You can always sit in your car or a local coffee shop for an hour before going to the receptionist.

5) Dress for success: Always dress one step above the way you will dress on your first day. So, if they are
dressed business casual, you dress business for your interview. If casual, you dress business casual. You can find out this information during the phone screen or by calling the main number the day of your interview and simply asking the receptionist.

6) Firm, dry handshake: I don't care what gender, race or sexual orientation you are, nobody wants to shake a limp hand. Practice with your friends until they say you have it down. You never get a second chance for a first impression, don't spoil it with a bad handshake. If you're nervous, wipe your hand on your pants or skirt right before you meet your hiring manager.

7) Keep your hands free: If the receptionist offers you coffee when you come in and you have a folder in your other hand, you'll need to juggle things to shake hands. Politely refuse that drink. Carry extra copies of your resume in that folder. Often, the only resume the interviewers have on hand were printed off Monster or the company job board. The formatting on these is usually pretty bad. Offer your good copies instead.

8) He who talks most, loses: People love to talk about themselves and consider a successful interview one in which they did most of the talking. So keep your answers brief and to the point and ask them questions. "How do you like this place? How long have you worked here? How did you get into your position? What would you have done in that situation?" This is not to say you grill them or answer in monosyllables. Be subtle about it but look for ways to keep them talking and having a good time. Don't forget to ask the two questions you researched, even if they don't ask if you have any questions.

9) Thank them for their time: They are busy and are taking time out to speak with you. Respect that. Then follow it up with a thank you letter. Less than 10% of the people I interview send me one. That makes them stand out. Most of the time it's an e-mail and that is fine. Sometimes its an actual thank-you card from Hallmark. Nice touch. Use these thank you cards for two important reasons. 

a) Emphasize the things you said that you thought you did well on: "As we discussed, my expertise in this particular area should really help with your needs…"
b) Give the answer you wish you'd thought of while you were in the interview: "When you asked me about… I forgot to mention an experience I had that was quite similar…"
10) Ask them how you did: A great final question is a take on the old Ed Koch question. "How did I do?" This surprises them but takes away a lot of the tension both parties are feeling at this point. You might find that you muffed a question and now have a second chance to deal with it. Usually you'll be told that you did well. But what you have done is broken the wall down between the two of you. They start thinking of you as a future co-worker rather than one of many competitors for a job.

I recently found this great website that uses graphics to explain everything. She pretty much said everything I said above in a few very clear pictures. Check it out here:

i like to turn numbers
into pictures and ideas
into charts.
Read another post about how to negotiate salary for the job when they offer it to you. Also, see the difference between a real interview and a network interview.

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