Interviews to Offers

Following your resume and cover letter, the interview is the second and most important stage of the employment process. If you have made it to an interview, it is crucial that you "sell" yourself to the best of your ability. As with a resume, there are important points to keep in mind when approaching an interview.

Be thoughtful, respectful and well-informed
  • Know your potential employer; research the company. The interviewer will be impressed with your knowledge, and it will help build your enthusiasm for the interview itself.
  • Learn what the company makes or does, who its competition is, if it is a multinational, where its offices are, whether it is publicly or privately held, etc. Start with the company's web site, consult reference materials and financial reports at the library, and do a web search to find out if the company has been in the news lately. The Laso Corporation should also provide you with background.
  • Arrive on time. Nothing sours the mood of an interview more than making the interviewer wait for your arrival. It is much better to be a few minutes early than late; consult a map and allow yourself extra time for traffic or if you are unfamiliar with the area.
  • The interviewer's first impression of you personally will be when you walk though the door. A neatly dressed and well-groomed applicant will score far more points than one who is not.
  • Be polite and pleasant at all times. Shaking hands, smiling, and thanking an interviewer for his* time and the opportunity to speak with him establishes respect and can never hurt your prospects.
  • Interviewers prefer a gracious, approachable attitude over one that is aloof.
Put the interviewer's needs first
  • Understand the position you are applying for. The interviewer is trying to assess your skills and personality for the position available, and it is vitally important that you grasp what type of person the company requires. You can ask the interviewer what the "perfect candidate" would be like; listen carefully, and structure your responses to bring out your skills and traits that most closely match the "perfect candidate."
  • Focus your questions on the employer, not on yourself. Rather than inquire what the company has to offer you, ask what the company needs from the person it is looking to hire. Respond to these needs with your attributes and skill sets and keep the company's concerns foremost in your mind at all times.
  • Your attitude is a valuable selling feature. Your potential employer is looking for bright, optimistic, and enthusiastic people to work for his company, not bland, depressing ones. You cannot be too enthusiastic about the position you are being interviewed for; energetic, confident responses go a long way toward reinforcing a positive impression.
  • Maintain eye contact at all times and remain attentive; these attributes display your confidence, motivation, and ability to succeed to the interviewer.
Be open and honest and get feedback
  • Do not misrepresent your skills or abilities in any way. This will always cause problems for you later, and honesty about your weaknesses makes you more credible to the interviewer. If you can present these weaknesses fairly and describe positively how you deal with them, it establishes the confidence you have in yourself to perform.
  • Be sure not to bad-mouth any previous employers. Any "sour grapes" just reflect badly on you and show a lack of professionalism.
  • Salary and benefit information should not be the first question you ask, particularly during a first interview. Focus on your skills and abilities; if the interviewer asks, be prepared to answer any salary questions honestly and realistically. Generally, salary and benefit questions are asked of he Human Resources representative and all job-focused questions are asked of the hiring manager and their team.
  • Inquire as to how you fared at the end of the interview. The interviewer's feedback could lead to a further clarification of your skills and make you a better fit for the position. At the very least, constructive criticism will allow you to perform better the next time around.
  • Remember to reinforce your interest at this point and be courteous to your interviewer. If you are interested in the position—say so!
  • Directly following the interview, write down who you interviewed with and what you discussed with each person. Also write down your reactions to the conversations. Do this while your thoughts are fresh and use it to prepare for your next interview.
  • Be sure to email or mail a thank you letter to all those with whom you interviewed. Gear each letter to the individual and the conversation you had. Thank them and let them know your interest.
What not to do on an Interview

Most of us know the appropriate behavior for a job interview. No fidgeting, no belching, no picking your nose. Here are some examples of interview behaviors which are anything but appropriate. These gems were supplied by top human resources executives from 100 major American corporations.

  • Candidate said he was so well qualified that if he did not get the job, it would prove that the company's management was incompetent.
  • Balding candidate abruptly excused himself. Returned to the office a while later wearing a hairpiece.
  • Candidate said if he were hired, he would have our corporate logo tattooed on his forearm.
  • Person interrupted interview to phone his therapist for advice on answering specific questions.
  • Person said he was not interested because the position paid too much.
  • Interviewee took a hair brush out of my purse, brushed his hair with it, and left.
  • Prospect pulled out a Polaroid camera and snapped a picture of me. He said he collected photos of everyone who interviewed him.
  • Candidate threw up on my desk and immediately started asking questions about the job, as if nothing had happened.
  • Candidate dusted his feet and shoes with medicated foot powder during the interview.

*Note: Male gender references are used throughout this discussion for sake of brevity and ease.

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Life Coaching by Laurie Swanson