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Tips for Successful Interviewing

When you go into an interview arranged by Vertex Technology Recruiters, you can feel confident that you are qualified for the position, because your recruiter has carefully evaluated your suitability for the job and the company. In addition, you have the advantage of knowing that your recruiter is in communication with both you and the employer. However, even if you are the perfect person for the position, a poor interview could result in no offer being made. You must do a good job of selling yourself to the company in the interviewing process. Since most of us have actually been through very few interviews, we have prepared the following guidelines and reminders to help you provide the information needed by the interviewer in a concise, persuasive manner, thereby increasing your chances of success.

The objective

As you prepare for and participate in an interview, stay focused on the objective: Getting the job offer. You must not give the impression that you are merely shopping around. A "ho-hum" attitude has no place in a job interview. It will reflect badly on you, and frankly, on us, too. After the interview, you can decide whether to accept or reject an offer; if you don’t act as though you want the job, you surely won’t get an offer.

What are interviewers really looking for?

How well you do in the interview depends on how well you meet the interviewer’s criteria when compared to other candidates.

Qualifications first. The interviewer looks first at your qualifications to ascertain that you can handle the job. By the time of the interview, your overall qualifications have been firmly established by your recruiter. However, you can and should expand on your capabilities in terms of the employer’s exact wants and needs. More than one candidate will pass the qualifications test, so the final hiring decision will be based on other factors, including the following:

An optimistic and positive attitude. Pessimism and negativism don’t win job offers. Concentrate on topics that you can discuss enthusiastically. Don’t fake it, though, because you will risk appearing phony and superficial.

An interest in the company and the position. If you like the employer’s products, the people he has already hired, the location of the office, or anything else related to the position, be sure to say so. Employers want someone who has a high opinion of the company and the position.

Indications of longevity of service. Employers look for long-term employees. However, interviewers seldom ask direct questions about longevity. Instead, they ask: "Why are you interested in another position?" or, "What are you looking for in a new position?" These questions, or variations on them, are probing for indicators of your commitment to the long term. Here is a simple and effective way to answer them:

  • Make a positive statement about your former employer.
  • Make a short, positive, general statement about what you want in a new position:
    "I’ve enjoyed my years with XYZ Corp. There are a lot of good people there, but this looks like a more challenging opportunity. I want to be part of a team where I can make a real contribution to the work performed."

Preparing for the interview

There are several things that you should do in preparing for the interview that can make the difference between receiving and not receiving the job offer:

Find out as much as you can about the company. This not only makes you feel more comfortable during the interview, it also demonstrates genuine interest in the company. Your RWR recruiter will provide a lot of information, but you can also check out financial publications like Dun and Bradstreet, Standard and Poor’s, or Moody’s, all of which can acquaint you with the company’s products, services, markets, sales volume, locations and subsidiaries. The company’s annual report is also a good resource. Your interviewer will be favorably impressed by your interest and efforts.

Dress appropriately. This may seem trivial, but you wouldn’t want to miss a job offer simply because someone didn’t like your attire.

Men should wear a conservative suit, white shirt, contrasting tie, shined shoes, matching belt, and over-the-calf socks.

Women should wear a skirted suit or dress with matching jacket, neutral-colored sheer hose, simple pumps, and a minimum of make-up.

Allow sufficient time for the interview. More than likely, you will be interviewing with more than one person during the interview cycle. You will not be at your best if you are distracted by a conflicting appointment. It is a mistake to rush your interviewers because you have made an error in scheduling your day.

Arrive early. Arrive for the interview fifteen minutes before your actual appointment. A last-minute or late arrival might say something negative to your potential employer. Why take a chance?

Keep a positive frame of mind. Avoid talking about personal problems. If your interview begins on a negative note, it might be difficult to get it back on track.

Go to the interview alone. The presence of a third party can be a negative distraction for both you and the interviewer. If your spouse or a friend takes you to the interview, have him or her wait for you elsewhere.

Prepare a list of questions. Be prepared to ask the interviewer questions. He will know you have taken the time to think seriously about working for them. Also, you may gain invaluable insights about working for the firm. Your recruiter may have informed you about company policies, the number of employees, hours, travel, benefits, the review process, and more, but you can still ask questions about any of these matters. Decide ahead of time what questions you would like answered and pose them politely when an opportunity arises. Your questions should cover the following topics:

  • Job opportunity, the company, its people, its products/services.
  • The importance, responsibility, authority, recognition and career potential of the job.
  • People who previously held the position, their performance and where they are today.
  • The kind of person the employer wants to hire in terms of education, experience, future performance and personality.

Avoid questions that relate to salary, benefits, vacations and retirement.

Anatomy of a job interview

There is no standard interview pattern, but there are recognizable steps or stages within any interview sequence. It is up to you to recognize each stage and to react appropriately.

Arrival. Usually, the first person you meet is a receptionist, who directs you to the proper place. The receptionist may or may not be expecting you; explain who you are and who you have an appointment to see.

The initial contact. Your initial contact may be with an employee from the personnel department who will provide a preview of what to expect, or it may be with a supervisor within the department offering the job. In any case, your greeting should include a firm handshake and an enthusiastic greeting, followed by a self-introduction.

The ice breaker. It is not at all uncommon for someone to begin an interview with a friendly question intended to put you at your ease. Give polite and brief answers, but don’t tell your life story. Respond with enthusiastic and pleasant answers to remarks and questions no matter how trivial they seem. This is your opportunity to get on a first-name basis with the interviewer. After the ice breaker, if you feel comfortable doing so, drop the "Mister Smith" and simply call the interviewer by his first name.

The chronological interview. Unless you do something about it, the interview can and probably will be a chronological interview controlled entirely by the interviewer. The chronological interview is a backward history of positions held through the years. You should consider this as part of the introductory phase; try to close the chronological interview after five to seven minutes and introduce the “topical interview” phase. Look for the first opportunity to ask the simple question:

"Bill, what will my first assignment be?"

The topical interview. The topical interview is your principle opportunity to learn what the job entails and to prove that you can do it. In answer to your initial question ("Bill, what will my first assignment be?"), the interviewer will list activities or duties that you will be expected to perform. Relate each activity to your experience, and closely match your abilities to each position requirement. If you have specific experience, be sure to mention it. If you are lacking specific experience, relate your knowledge of the subject or indicate an interest in learning about the subject. Relate a previous learning experience, showing that you learn quickly and thoroughly. Once the first assignment is covered, ask another question, such as:

"What else will I be expected to do?"

Continue with "what else" questions until all aspects of the job are covered. During the topical interview, you should:

  • Compliment the interviewer’s approach to problems when it is appropriate. This is a good way to let the interviewer know that you admire his accomplishments and respect his ability.
  • Indicate that you expect to be with the company for the long term. The interviewer will be looking for such indications.
  • Speak and act as if you already had the position. This means using "wills" and "cans" rather than "would's" and "could's." ("What will be expected of me?” rather than "What would be expected of me?")
  • Speak positively. Avoid negative comments about anything.
  • Respond to questions honestly and positively. Go beyond "yes" and "no" answers to elaborate on points that seem to be important to the interviewer, especially those topics about which you can be positive and enthusiastic.

It should be easy to determine when the interviewer is convinced of your capabilities. When you recognize this, it is time to actively close the interview by asking, "When can I expect to hear from you?" This question signals the start of the interview close.

The interview close. It is important to leave the interviewer with a positive impression that sets you above other candidates for the position. During this phase, make sure you do the following:

  • State confidently that you can handle the position.
  • Say that you are very interested in the position and that you would like to have an offer.
  • Finally, as you prepare to leave, tell the employer you would enjoy working with him personally.

At this point, you will be dismissed or taken to another interviewer. Handle all following interviews in the same fashion, with a topical interview and a strong, positive close. Assume each subsequent interviewer knows nothing about you. You must convince all parties in the interview cycle that you are the right person for the job.

The exit. Your exit from the interviewer’s office concludes the interview. Use your exit as an additional opportunity to display a positive attitude. At the door or the elevators, state again that you can do the job and that you find the position very appealing.

After the interview. When you have left the interview, take time to assess your feelings, impressions, and reactions. Do you want to work for the firm? Were there issues that bothered you? Be honest with yourself. Jot down notes and review them later in the day to see if they still hold true. Note any questions you want answered if a job offer is made. And by all means, discuss the interview with your RWR recruiter for feedback or more information. Finally, review your performance before your next interview and work on a stronger presentation.

Common interviewing mistakes

Four mistakes stand out as the ones most commonly made by candidates interviewing for a position. In order of importance they are:

Losing sight of the interview objective. The objective is to get a job offer. Don't let preliminary impressions of the company affect your interviewing technique and strategy.

Being too modest. Candidates, especially for key technical positions, tend to understate their capabilities. This doesn't mean you should exaggerate your qualifications; it does mean that you should make the most of what you have. Don’t forget that knowledge of how to solve a particular problem can be a strong qualification, even though your knowledge may not have been applied directly in your job experience. A little modesty is a good thing, but don't overdo it.

Asking too many "me" questions Don't ask questions about what the company can do for you. Emphasize your ability to contribute to the company's goals. There will be a time to ask "me" questions after you get an offer.

Failure to "sell" your abilities. There is no such thing as a token interview. It may be true that some people you interview with have no power to hire you, but they certainly have the power to keep you from getting the offer. You should treat every interviewer as the person who will hire you. Never depend on someone else to sell your abilities to others. Make the strong and positive pitch yourself.

Typical “tough questions”

Before the interview, prepare answers to difficult questions that are almost sure to be asked. You should know what the interviewer is really asking and respond in an honest; sincere and convincing manner. Some typical tough questions are:

"Why don't you begin by telling me about yourself?"
This is not an invitation for a long, biographical discourse. It's the interviewer's way of starting the interview. Confine your answer to three or four well-chosen sentences outlining your career highlights. It might be an ideal time to begin the topical interview by asking what will be expected of the person who gets the position.

"Do you have any questions?"
The temptation here is to ask "me" questions. Don’t. Ask only questions that are job-related prior to the actual offer.

"Are you willing to travel?"
Your response should indicate flexibility. If you do like to travel, you should say so, but indicate that extensive travel is not a primary consideration. If you do not like to travel, be clear, perhaps indicating that occasional travel would not preclude your acceptance of an offer. If you really are inflexible about travel, though, be honest about it.

"Do you object to overtime work?"
The interviewer is not asking if you will work late every day; he simply wants to know if you are the type who drops everything at quitting time. A good answer might be: "I have always been flexible when it comes to working beyond office hours. The fact is that I am project-oriented, not clock-oriented. I do whatever is necessary to finish the job."

"Will you relocate?"
If the job requires immediate relocation, your recruiter will have made it clear. If you are unwilling to relocate in the future, say so. If you would consider it, make that clear. Don’t let the possibility of relocation dampen your enthusiasm. A good answer to this question is: "I haven’t really considered moving out of town, but for the right opportunity I would seriously consider the possibility."

"Why do you want to work for our company?"
This is a wide open question that gives you an opportunity to pay the company a few compliments: perhaps you like what the company does, perhaps you like its location, people, products, et cetera.

"Why are you considering leaving your current position?"
Have a simple answer ready; don’t get into politics or negative situations at your current employer. Whatever has attracted you to this potential new employer should be emphasized at this time. This question also seeks an indication of your commitment to staying with an employer. If your resume shows that you’ve moved around quite a bit, you can turn a negative into a positive by stating that longevity in a job is one of your goals. Indicate that you are looking for a place to make a real contribution: "If I’ve learned anything during my past employment, it is the importance of finding a long-term, permanent position. I enjoy my work with XYZ Company, but I am interested in this position because it will allow me to make contributions over the long term."

Salary questions
You and your RWR recruiter will have discussed the salary and benefits of the position before the interview. Still, you should be prepared for this kind of question: "What are you looking for in the way of salary?" It is best to avoid being pinned down on salary before an offer is made so you might answer this way: "Salary is important, but I’m more interested in a company that wants to utilize my skills and that I can really grow with over the long run." If the employer is insistent, say something like, "My current salary is $_______. Naturally, I would like to see a reasonable increase."

General tips on interviewing

Following are some "do’s and don’t's" that apply in any job interview:

Don’t tell jokes. Never tell jokes, especially risque, ethnic, or tasteless jokes.

Don’t discuss personal problems. Keep the interview focused by discussing job-related topics.

Don’t waste time with excessive small talk.

Don’t stay too long. It is easy to detect when the interview is no longer producing useful information. When this happens, take the initiative and courteously begin your exit.

Do be positive. It’s your responsibility to convince the interviewer that you are the person for the position by relating your accomplishments and achievements in a strong, positive manner. Confidence always contributes to interview success.

Do turn negatives into positives. If your job history shows frequent job changes, for example, indicate that you realize the value of a stable position, which is why you are interested in the position. You can neutralize negatives by bringing them up yourself, with logical and positive statements.

Do respect the role of personnel departments. Although the personnel department does not make the offer, it is responsible for screening candidates and can be an obstacle.

Do follow-up with a thank you note. Enhance your impact by sending a follow-up letter thanking the interviewer for his time. Use the letter to summarize any key points of the interview that highlight the suitability of your skills and experience. Express your enthusiasm about the position, the company and the reasons for your interest. Limit the letter to a page and be sure it is error-free.