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As mentioned in Interview Handbook Part 1: Preparation and Interview Handbook Part 2: Interview Day, your goal in the interview process is to help the company decide to extend you an offer.

Most companies have a standard process for interviewing. Typically the initial interview is with Human Resources. In this phase the HR person will discuss the company and their benefits. Next is generally an interview with the immediate supervisor of this position. Usually the last interview is with the hiring authority (manager, VP).  It is likely that you will not be the only qualified candidate pursuing this position. How you conduct yourself during the interview may be deciding factor between you and another qualified candidate.

During the Interview

  • Ensure that you are adequately and properly prepared.
  • Strive to project eagerness and interest throughout the interview.
  • Communicate your level of interest in the position and familiarize yourself with the company’s products or services.

A very large part of any interview is not spoken at all – it has to do with physical and verbal cues. People will naturally make a connection with someone who is “like” them and who gives cues that suggest they are interested and positive. This comes naturally to many people and helps make them successful.

Connecting with Your Interviewer

  • Mimic your interviewer’s rate of speech – not their accent – when you first meet.
  • Mimic your interviewer’s handshake. If they crush – you crush. If they fish – you fish.
  • Look your interviewer in the eye. If you find it hard to look someone in the eyes, look at the bridge of their nose – they won’t be able to tell the difference.
  • If your interviewer, leans in, you sit up and lean in as well – this shows interest.
  • Don’t fold your arms in front of your chest – this is a closed position and shows disinterest.
  • Note that looking up while answering indicates you are drawing from your memory, while looking down while answering indicates that you are figuring something out or making something up.
  • Eye contact is equally important. Speak with confidence while maintaining eye contact with your interviewer and don’t be scared to show some of your personality! Just don’t overdo it!
  • If you have something in common with the interviewer, it is appropriate to talk about the mutual interest. Just be careful and don’t get too far off track.
  • Answers should contain enough information, but still remain concise. Don’t talk yourself out of the job!
  • NEVER answer questions negatively, always paint bad experiences in a positive light – ie chance to learn or overcome a challenge.

Employers often ask “tough” questions. These are easily handled by being adequately and properly prepared, so that you can speak with confidence and poise. You want to keep your responses concise and conversational, and when possible highlight your accomplishments.

Examples of Tough Questions

“What kind of employee are you?”
A great answer could be, “My work is important to me and I give each project my full attention. I’ve had the opportunity to grow and learn from each accomplishment and each mistake.” Or, a comment, in your own words, similar to this.

“Tell me a little bit about yourself.”
Keep it professional. It is appropriate to mention something about your lifestyle, but it should be minimal. The interviewer is asking you to discuss “yourself” in terms of your career and accomplishments. It is common for interviewer’s to ask questions about personal interests; generally those questions will come after you discuss your qualifications. This is not the time to discuss pets, hobbies, or rare antiquities, UNLESS it relates directly to the position.

“Tell me about your accomplishments.”
Avoid the temptation to list rewards and honors. Choose an accomplishment and describe it for the interviewer. Use the “story technique”: clearly state the problem, the solution, and then detail the positive result.

“What are your strengths?”
When discussing strengths be honest and genuine. Avoid overused, generalized responses like, “I’m a people person,” or, “I’m good with numbers.” Try something like, “I think my technical skills are one of my strongest assets.” Another way to highlight your skills is to say what others have told you. “In my last review, I was told my ability to crunch numbers makes me a vital part of the forecasting team.”

“What are your weaknesses?”
Weaknesses are tough to talk about. You want to be honest and show you have developed through your experience. It’s best to show growth and progress. What has been a weakness in the past that you’ve conquered? Did you attend a Dale Carnegie course to improve your presentation skills? Find a way to illustrate how you’ve turned a weakness into strength. Weaknesses that can be turned into strengths: perfectionism, impatience, etc.

“Why are you looking?”
It is important to remember to NEVER bash your former employer or boss. A great response to this question is, “I’m looking for the opportunity to further develop myself by joining a business that will allow more opportunities for growth and advancement.” Keep it positive. If you bash your old boss, chances are you’ll bash your new boss. Your prospective boss does not want to be bashed.

“How much money?”
Never state a desired salary figure! Here’s a great scripted response that other candidates have found successful. “I’m really looking for the right fit. While salary and compensation are important, I am confident that XYZ Corporation will make me a fair offer based on my qualifications.”

“What is your current salary?”
Do not lie! Remember to define your total compensation to prevent any confusion down the line. Are you waiting for a performance review and a raise? If so, communicate that to the interviewer. Don’t forget to include bonus, benefits, and perks. Again, if you are prepared, this question is really not that tough. Be honest! Remember, your recruiter has told the company your current salary and bonus prior to the interview. The recruiter is paid a commission based on the offer he or she can negotiate for you; so let them do their job. If you feel you are underpaid in your present job, it’s not the fault of the hiring company, it’s the fault of your present employer, and perhaps the reason you are considering a change at this point. Potential employers will base their offer on your present salary and compensation.

“How can you further our cause?”
Here is a good place to summarize your strengths, tie in your accomplishments and apply them to the position or company goal. If you are asking good questions, you should have a feel for what the company’s objectives are and how this position fits into the big picture. Do you want to highlight your technical skills here? Management and leadership experience? Do you have knowledge of a particular new system that could significantly improve current production methods?

“What are your goals? Short-term, long term?”
The interviewer typically is listening for a level of commitment from you. Companies make tremendous financial and educational investments in their employees. It is very costly to companies to bring someone on board that doesn’t work out. Let them know you plan to maximize their investment in you. Short-term goals sound like “It’s most important to me to excel in my position. As I perform and develop within the company I’d like to take on roles with increasing responsibility”. Long-term goals demonstrate big picture thinking. “My mission is to develop into executive management leading a R&D team.”

Then it will be your turn to ask questions.

Until this point we’ve only discussed half of the interview. Remember, you need to ask questions to determine if this company and position is the right fit for you. Show your enthusiasm and energy. Engage your interviewer by asking intelligent questions. The questions you ask are equally important as the answers you give. Have a list of 5 questions prepared for the interview. Researching the annual reports, website, and trade magazines will give you ample material to talk about. Intelligent questions emphasize your expertise and solidify you as a professional in the industry.

Questions to Ask

  • Why is this position open?
  • How will the person in this position be evaluated?
  • What is the career path for a person in this position?
  • What is a typical day in the life of this position?
  • Who will I report to?
  • How do you think I would fit into this position and culture?
  • What projects will the person in this position start with?
  • What is the projected growth of the company?
  • What do you like best about this company / what brought you to the company?

At this point, if you are sincerely interested in this position, say so! Summarize for the interviewer what excites you the most about the position. What did they share with you that makes you more interested in the position?

End of the Interview

  • Ask the interviewer to describe how the process will continue from this point. What’s next?
  • Ask the interviewer if there is any reason you wouldn’t be a good fit for the role. This gives you the opportunity to clarify an experience or skill set that might have been overlooked.

Now you are ready for part four of the Interview Handbook, after the interview.


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