Job Interviews: 10 Steps to Successful Job Interviewing

WorkCoachCafeContrary to popular belief, your resume doesn’t get you a job offer.  Your resume is the sales brochure that gets you a job interview.  Your job interview determines whether or not you will get a job offer. 

Many employers view a job interview as something akin to an audition. So, dazzle them!  This opportunity calls for your “A Game” and nothing less!  Here’s how:

1.  Know the job requirements and the situation.

If you don’t have a copy of the job description, ask for it when the interview is scheduled.  Then, read it very carefully!  Sentence by sentence.  Any questions or concerns raised for you in what you have read?  Make notes so you can get clarifications or answers in the interview.

Also ask for the names of the people who will be interviewing you.  Ask how many other people will be interviewed and if they will be interviewed the same day you will be interviewed or over several days or weeks.  If everyone will be interviewed on the same day, know that you will need to stand out to be remembered in the crowd of interviewees.

2.  Prepare and practice your answers to the standard interview questions.

In addition to the usual greatest strength, greatest weakness, and where do you see yourself in 5 years questions, prepare for the other typical interview questions, like:

  • So what do you know about us?
  • Why are you interested in working here?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why did you leave your last job? (Or, why are you planning to leave?)
  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Give us an example of where you have succeeded at…
  • Give us an example of where you have failed at …

In particular, know what you will say when asked about anything that looks a little weak on your resume – perhaps a gap in employment, the reason you left your last job (if you are currently unemployed), or any other career setback you might have experienced.  Few people are perfect, and if you have good answers prepared, you can usually give your answer and move on.

Often it helps to write, and re-write, the answers to these questions, particularly the ones that are most uncomfortable for you, and then read them out loud a few times.  You don’t want to memorize your answers, but you want to feel comfortable answering difficult questions.

3.  Build your confidence with  your “power pose”  before the interview.

Yes.  Seriously.  “Power poses” are scientifically proven to help raise your level of confidence by changing the levels of specific hormones in your bloodstream.  The research was done by Harvard Business School Professor Dr. Amy J.C. Cuddy and her colleagues.  Power poses do sound somewhat wacky, but you don’t get much more pragmatic than Harvard Business School. 

4.  Walk in on time, bright eyed and alert, well-prepared, dressed appropriately, and focused on the interview.

If you have enough notice for the interview, be very well-prepared.  Don’t stop with checking the employer’s website, also scan the LinkedIn Company Profile.  If you know a current or former employee and you have some time, contact them to see what you can learn about the organization, the hiring process, and the people interviewing you. 

Google the organization’s name, including a search of Google News.  If you know the names of the people who will be interviewing you, scan their LinkedIn Profiles, the Groups they belong to, where they went to school and worked before this employer.  Perhaps you have something in common with them, and can mention it in the interview.

[Put your cell phone on silent, or turn it off.  Don't answer it - or text anyone - during an interview!]

5.  Hand over your business card, and collect a business card from each person who interviews you.

Have your own business cards with your personal (or job search only) email address and non-work phone number (hopefully with good voicemail).  You don’t need to have a job title on the card, but it should clearly indicate your name and basic contact information.  Including your home address is not required.  A generic title like “Sales Professional” or “Administrative Assistant” (or whatever is appropriate for you) can suffice if you feel a title is needed.

Collecting business cards from the people interviewing you will make it much easier to send those post-interview thank you notes, and also to contact them later.  In addition, it will also help you to address people appropriately during the interview. 

6.  Take notes.

Don’t expect to remember everything that is said.  Some recruiters I’ve spoken with are offended if job seekers don’t come with questions and take notes.  It is polite to ask first, before you start writing down what is said – a simple, “Do you mind if I take notes” should suffice.  Unless you are in a vault, discussing highly classified subjects in the interview, note taking should be fine.  If it is not OK, I would ask why.

7.  Answer the questions.

You have prepared answers to many of the questions you will be asked. 

But, listen carefully to the questions you are asked, and answer those questions.  Answers should be on topic, clear, and brief.  Don’t tell your life story or ramble endlessly, and do NOT trash a former boss or former employer. 

8.  Have your own questions ready.

Don’t be so focused on impressing them that you forget the interview is a two-way conversation, and you need information to decide if you want to work there.  Maybe it’s not the right place or the right job for you.  Observe the environment and the other workers there.

Ask questions like:

  • Is this a new job or a replacement for someone who has left (or, hopefully, been promoted)?
  • What is a typical day, week, year in the organization?  Crazy busy times?
  • What is a typical career path for the person in this job?
  • How does the person in this job fit into the organization?  Reporting to whom?  Responsible for what and whom?
  • How does this team work?
  • What is necessary for the person in this job to be successful?  How will you determine if the person is successful?

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications if an answer isn’t clear. 

But, do NOT ask about vacation time and benefits in the first interview!   Those questions are best asked later in the process, when you are negotiating the job offer.

9.  Ask for the sale.

At the end of each interview, ask how you did, and how you rank in comparison with the other people being interviewed.  Particularly when you are interviewing for a job in sales, this might be expected (and not asking could be a sign that you don’t understand the sales process).

10.  Ask what the next steps are in the process, when the decision will be made, and who will be your contact person.

Assuming the answer was positive when you asked for the sale, ask them how their hiring process works, and what the next steps in their process are.  Find out when you should expect to hear from their contact person (don’t leave without the contact information for your contact person). 

Then, ask for permission to contact them if you haven’t been contacted by the decision date or the date of the next step in the process (another round of interviews, perhaps).

Then, follow up.

Be sure to follow up effectively with an immediate “thank you” unique to each person who interviewed you. 

For more on job interviews:

Job Interviews: How to Ask the Right Questions

Job Interviews: How to Knock Their Socks Off

Job Interviews: Are You Listening?

Build Your Confidence for Interviews in Less Than 5 Minutes 

Job Interviews: So What Do You Know About Us

Job Interviews: Where Do You See Yourself Five Years From Now?

Job Interviews: What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

Job Interviews: What’s Your Greatest Strength? 

How To Handle Tell Me A Little About Yourself

© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.

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About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .

Comments

  1. When I was in the job market years ago, I always found it helpful to drive to the location the day before so that there was no confusion as to how to get there. Of course, this was before the days of GPS and maps on phones (lol!). Another good piece of 1st interview advice is not to ask about compensation in that 1st interview. If you’ve done your homework (payscale.com, salary.com, etc.), then you know what you’re worth. Just keep the 1st interview about what you can do for the employer, NOT what they can do for you.

    Best of luck everyone!!!

    • Excellent points! Thank you for joining the conversation!

      The only quibble I have with your advice is to remember that you really should be evaluating whether or not you want to work there. It’s not only about selling yourself. It’s about understanding if the job and the employer would be a good match for you.

      HOWEVER, I definitely agree that asking about salary and other compensation, vacation, benefits, etc. is not appropriate until MUCH later in the process (like when you are negotiating the job offer). Asking those questions in the first interview is not considered the sign of someone who is really interested in anything other than pay and benefits.

      Best of luck to you, too, William!

      Susan

  2. Don’t forget to ask the most important question: What is the biggest challenge someone will face in this job in the first six months?

    This lets you understand their most important needs and allows you to demonstrate how you have successfully navigated through these challenges in the past.

    A must ask question.

    • Great question, Don! Wish I had known to ask that one a few times…

      One of the best things about this question is that it also helps you understand if you want the job. Maybe you could overcome that challenge, but maybe you don’t want to be in a job where you would need to overcome that challenge.

      Regards,
      Susan

  3. Hello,

    speaking about taking notes at an interview, do you think it would be professional to write down some notes for myself and refer to them through out the interview? i was thinking about writing down some facts about the company and using it as a reference?

    Thanks,
    Julie

    • Hi Julie,

      Going into an interview with notes is a great idea. Be sure to jot down some questions to ask, too, so you don’t forget them.

      Good luck!
      Susan

    • Julie,

      You can take notes during an interview — but I think to use the same information during the interview itself — and to look back at them during the process would not work in your favor.

      Instead, do the research before your interviews. I’d recommend reviewing the company’s website and press releases well in advance of your interview. Make sure you know how your experience fits the job!

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

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