The goal of any interview is to get an offer. If you have an Offer, you have a choice. No offer, No choice.
There are 5 Main Parts of an Interview
- The Introduction
- Gathering Information
- Selling yourself
- Answering Tough Questions
- Wrapping Up
Dress for Success
Although today’s standard for dress in most companies, especially technology departments in South Florida, is business casual, when interviewing for a position the candidate always wants to come dressed in business formal attire. Dressing professionally to an interview shows the interviewer that you value their opinion of them. In turn, sends a message to a manager that, if hired, you will be a manageable, motivated member of their team.
A dark solid suit, white shirt, and conservative tie is appropriate business attire anywhere in the world. Jewelry should be limited to a wristwatch and wedding ring. Fingernails should be clean and well manicured.
Today have a few more options when it comes to career dressing, but similar principles apply. Conservative is still the rule of thumb for interviews. A business suit in a subdued color is best for first interviews. Natural fibers work best. Dress in today’s styles, but keep the hemline close to the knee length and keep blouses modest. A conservative or executive dress is fine for additional interviews. Hose should be worn at all times, regardless of weather conditions. Shoe heel height should be moderate and comfortable – shoes should be freshly polished. If heel tips are worn get them replaced – so you don’t click as you walk. Jewelry should be minimal and in good taste. Nails should be well manicured and polished in clear, light or French manicure.
One of the most frequently asked opening interview questions is “So Bob. Tell me about yourself.”
WRONG ANSWER: “I was born in 1965, went to high school…etc.”
- I am currently a Senior Software Engineer, with most of my experience being with .NET based web development, etc.
- I obtained my CPA within 2 years after graduation and recently reduced reporting time by 2 days through automation of manually intensive tasks for my department.
- In my next position, I am looking to continue working with cutting edge Business Intelligence systems, etc.
- Before I go into more detail, perhaps you could share with me a little more about the position and company so I can concentrate on relevant details about my background.
This positioning statement has 4 VERY IMPORTANT elements
(1) A brief statement describing you as a professional
(2) Tells them an accomplishment that you are proud of
(3) What you are looking for in a job (and it better match the job you are interviewing for!!)
(4) A flip back to the employer to get him talking and gather information
As the employer is talking about the position and company, your job is to LISTEN ATTENTIVELY! They are giving you critical clues and keys to use when responding to questions or talking about your background. Sometimes, people do not do a good job speaking about the position, and/or company. To help them, you should be prepared with some basic questions. Any questions that you ask need to be open-ended and designed to gather additional information. You do not want to pin your interviewer into a corner. Some tried and true questions are below.
- Describe the responsibilities, monthly, daily, etc?
- Where does the position fit into the overall structure of the department and the organization as a whole?
- What are the qualities you believe a successful candidate should have in this position?
- What is your highest priority (now) (in the next three to six months)?
- What are the characteristics of your top people?
- Where do you see your company going in the next five/ten years?
- If I was to ask your (subordinate / supervisor) what he/she likes most about you, what would they say?
- What are your personal satisfactions and disappointments since you have been with the firm (what would you change?)?
- What are the firms overall strengths?
- Can you tell me about the history of growth of the company?
- Who are your major competitors? How do they stack up against you in terms of product, market share, methods, and weaknesses?
- Can you describe the objective/goals/responsibilities for this position?
- What would you expect me to accomplish in a year?
- How will you measure my success?
- What do you see as the potential benefits for someone in this position?
- What is your typical process for getting people up to speed?
- Can you describe the corporate culture or environment at the company?
- How would you describe the rest of the team? What are their personalities like?
- Where did you come from? How did you get started at the company?
- What have you enjoyed most about the company?
- So far, what have you seen as your or the company’s greatest challenge?
- How long has the average person been working with the company? Have you had a lot of change in personnel in this department? What’s the turnover like? The tenure?
After getting comfortable in the interview, getting some of the basic questions and answers out of the way, it is a good time to ask this KEY question…
“What do you expect from a successful individual in the first 6 months to one year?”
This question is designed to show them you are serious about doing a good job, and have an interest in what they need a successful person to achieve. It also will give you the chance to speak about something in your background that matches their needs.
At this point, feel free to open up to general talk, such as industry, competition, challenges, and this might be a good time to use some of the questions from above.
Now, you have done great up to this point, you figure. “They love me, it’s in the bag.” WRONG!
There are some tough questions that can knock you out of the running in a flash. Tough questions are designed to see how you think on your feet! You however will use them to
1) Show them how well you think on your feet
2) Give them more reasons to hire you!
Sample tough questions and answers
1) Why are you looking to leave?
Always respond with positives…”I enjoy where I work, etc. Then give a professional reason to leave such as “I am looking to achieve more supervisory experience, I feel that my opportunities for growth are limited, I am looking to gain more in-depth development experience…etc. This MUST BE MADE TO BE INLINE WITH THE POSITION YOU ARE INTERVIEWING FOR. This can and must also be used to give them more reasons to hire you!
2) Strengths and weaknesses
STRENGTHS Respond with skills and things you learned in the job discussion. I.e. strengths are “I have been doing “3 tiered development, database administration, Project Management, etc”, and I can step right in and make a contribution …my learning curve will be short, etc. Stay away from the personal or individual traits; i.e. Team player, fast learner, etc. These are generic and do not give the interviewer they information they need! My dog is all of those, but I still would not hire him! Hit them where they live and make them understand that your strengths are going to specifically make their lives easier. Possibly use an example of an accomplishment.
WEAKNESS. Use a technical skill that does not apply to the job. Example. If you are interviewing for a SQL DBA role, try something like “I have not much exposure to front development. If it doesn’t matter to the job, it is fine. Personal or character weaknesses are bad. They can usually be construed in some negative way. Always preface your weakness by re-iterating your strengths.
**Don’t lie!! If an interviewer asks you about your skills in a certain area, and you are not strong in that area, don’t try to bluff them. Interviewers can generally sense when they are being manipulated. Once you break the interviewers trust, it is impossible to re-gain it.
3) SALARY REQUIREMENTS
If a prospective employer asks you what you are currently making, do not lump everything into one $$ all inclusive amount. If you have a base, a bonus, etc. break it out into the pieces. ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH!! Remember, it is very easy to inflate your salary a little, this is completely natural!! DO NOT DO THIS! Many companies as part of their hiring process will verify salary information, and if you are caught, you are DOOMED! If an employer asks you what you are looking for, the ideal answer is to push it back to us with “I will look at any reasonable offer, and I am comfortable allowing The Essex Group to handle that for me.” If they say “Well that’s a fine answer, but really, what kind of salary are you looking for?”
You need to show to a prospective employer that your primary interest is the job itself, not just the money. Say something like, “I am most interested in the opportunity. The money is secondary. I am currently making $xxx, and am open to all reasonable offers”.
If they persist on a number, give them a range of $5k-$10k in variance. The number at the bottom end of the range will typically be what your offer comes in at. Examples: If you say “$75,000-$80,000”, the offer will usually be $75,000. When we presented your resume, we have them a salary range you were looking for based on our interview with you. Make sure you know what we presented your salary requirements at, prior to the interview.
4) WHY SHOULD WE HIRE YOU?? This is a perfect one to hit a home run with. Use a combination of the strengths answer, an accomplishment and what you are looking to do. Good stock phrases are “I bring a solid background in fin stmt prep, analysis, consolidations, whatever… with me to the table” “My prior experience will allow me to hit the ground running” etc.
WRAPPING UP THE PROCESS
After all is said and done, there are 3 things you want do:
- Tell them you want the job (if you want the job, or think there’s a chance you will want the job)
- Tell them you can do a good job
- Knock down any hiring objections with one of the most important questions in the interview.
Achieve this is by simply saying something along these lines:
“Bob (or whomever) From what we have discussed I am definitely interested in pursuing the opportunity further (1) and feel that I can hit the ground running and make a positive contribution. (2). Before I leave, do you have any other questions or concerns regarding my background or abilities that I can answer for you? (I.e. why wouldn’t you hire me?)
YOU MUST ASK the last question!!!! It is designed to expose any reasons they would not hire you, and allow you to knock them down!! THIS QUESTION CAN SAVE YOUR JOB!
THE BEST WAYS TO STRIKE OUT WHEN INTERVIEWING
A recent survey of 153 companies who where questioned as to why they did not hire a qualified applicant, resulted in the following answers
– Poor personal appearance
– Lack of interest and enthusiasm
– Overemphasis on money
– Failure to express appreciation for interviewer’s time
– Condemnation of past employers
– Failure to look at interviewer while conversing
– Limp, fishy handshake
– Late to interview
– Asks no questions about the job
– Indefinite response to questions
– Inability to express oneself clearly
– Lack of planning for career; no purpose or goals
– Lack of confidence; ill at ease
– Lack of manners, courtesy
– Lack of maturity
– Lack of vitality
– Merely shopping around
– Inability to take criticism
– High-pressure type
– Overbearing, over-aggressive, conceited “know-it-all” complex
There are only 3 basic types of interviews
The Technical interview asks you about WHAT YOU HAVE DONE!!! You had better be able to answer! Practice speaking in clean concise sentences about your duties! If you are asked about your experience with a specific technology, answer to what you have done with that technology. Example:
Q: “Tell me about your experience with C#.NET.”
WRONG ANSWER: “I am very strong with C#.NET.”
CORRECT ANSWER: “I have been working with C#.NET for the past five years. Primarily I have been developing 3-tiered applications using 3.5, etc.”
**DON’T educate the interviewer on technology. The person conducting the technical interview has been selected by their organization to assess the technical skills of prospective candidates. They don’t need a lesson on why “C#.NET and VB.NET are essentially the same thing; the only difference is the syntax, etc.” Although unintended, you will often insult the interviewer by doing this.
DON’T: RAMBLE: give direct, to the point, answers.
DO: Give very direct answers. If the interviewer feels they have to pull information out of someone, they will leave the interview feeling the candidate was trying to bluff them. Having to ask someone the same questions 2 or 3 times to get a straight answer is uncomfortable, and does not build trust.
The personality interview is just that…be yourself. Can’t help you here, except don’t get too personal!
The Stress: Tough questions, rapid fire, panel interviews. The way to beat these is practice!! Don’t get flustered, and relax. They are trying to throw you off your stride! Remember, they are asking you a pre-defined series of questions designed to catch you off guard. Sometimes the goal is to obtain legitimate information about your career, sometimes it is a deliberate attempt to test your patience (they just want to see how well you can stay focused under pressure, an important trait to have when working in technology). When interviewers are in a setting with their peers, they will often ask excessively difficult questions in an attempt to make them appear smart. Don’t stress, everyone in that interview was sitting in your chair at one point, and was just as nervous as you are.
Following is a list of typical stress questions
- Tell me about yourself? – see above answer
- What are your short-range objectives? Long-range?
- What do you look for in a job?
- Why did you select my organization to interview?
- What can you do for us that someone else cannot do?
- Can you work well under pressure, deadlines, etc?
- What is your philosophy of management?
- How you are best managed?
- How has your early career background influenced your progression and current management style?
- How has your management style changed in the last ten years?
- What kind of salary are you worth and why?
- What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
- What are your biggest accomplishments in your present or last job? Your career?
- Why didn’t you do better in college?
- What mistakes have you made in your career? How did you fix them?
- What qualifications do you have that make you think you will be successful in this business?
- In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our firm?
- How long would it take you to make a contribution to our firm?
- If you could start again, what would you do differently?
- How do you rate yourself as a professional? As an executive?
- What new goals or objectives have you established recently? Why?
- What qualifications have you liked or disliked in your boss?
- What was the most difficult ethical decision you have had to make? What was the result?
- How do you show your anger or frustration?
- Why haven’t you obtained a job so far?
- What features of your previous jobs have you disliked?
- Would you describe a few situations in which your work was criticized?
- How would you evaluate your present firm?
- Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you?
- How would you describe the essence of success?
- What is the worst situation you have faced in your professional life? How did you deal with it? What happened?
- What was the last book you read? Movie you saw? Sporting event you attended.
- How do you spend your free time? What would you do if you had more of it?
- What interests you most about the position we have? The least?
- Don’t you feel you might be better off with a different size firm than ours?
- Why aren’t you earning more by now?
- Are you a leader? A good manager? Analytical? Give an example we can verify.
- How do you build a team under you?
- How would you describe your personality?
- Have you helped increase sales? Profits? Reduced costs?
- Where do you relate best – up one level, down one level or with your peers?
- What do your subordinates think of you?
- How do you evaluate your subordinates?
- Have you hired people before? What do you look for?
- Have you fired people? When and Why?
- What do you like in a boss?
- What would you do in a situation where priorities were conflicting?
As we indicated earlier, there are no “pat” answers to these questions. Review the questions and your responses. While some of the questions seem difficult, the keys to answering effectively are to be direct, be truthful, be positive and be succinct.
What’s wrong with your present firm?
I really don’t feel there is anything wrong with the firm. I have enjoyed working here and think they have some good people in management. It’s a good company but I’m ready to handle additional responsibilities now and the opportunities don’t exist in my present position.
How long would it take you to make a contribution to our firm?
I would want to be sure that I understand the operating environment and the personnel, but I feel that I have the skills and experience to make a contribution in a very short time. What do you feel will be the main focus of the position for the first six months?
Body Language: This is very important advice because you can make or break your chances within the first 3 minutes of the interview. Remember the following tips:
ALWAYS stand up and greet each person with a firm handshake.
Posture: sit tall and remain very attentive to everything the interviewer is saying.
Keep your hands folded in your lap. There is nothing worse than someone fidgeting, playing with a pen, etc…
MAKE EYE CONTACT!!!!
Practice, Practice, Practice!!! This cannot be stressed enough! An excellent way is too come up with interview questions and WRITE THEM DOWN. Then WRITE YOUR ANSWER DOWN! Read it back to yourself and others if you can. See how it sounds; even try it out on us. If it does not sound clean, sharp and great to you, then IT PROBABLY ISN’T!!!! This is the chance for you to refine yourself!! TIP (use your pc!!)
Do a dry run if possible. If you are not sure where you are going, either leave VERY early or find the place the day before!
If you take a briefcase or portfolio, do not HOLD it! This is a nervous prop that you are not allowed to use! The same idea holds for pens.
Prepare a list of questions! It is perfectly acceptable to do this. They should focus on the job, the company etc. Do not ask questions about benefits, vacation days, etc. THESE ARE DEATH!
COLOGNES AND PERFUMES…maybe something light, but generally do without. The hiring manager may be sensitive or allergic, and believe it or not, some of us do not know what the word “enough” means!
KNOW YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS!
Tell me about your (skills)
Why are you looking to leave?
Where do you want to be in 5 years? (Where do you see yourself?)
What do you like about your job?
Be prepared with 5-10 skills or accomplishments to hit them with!
Study your company! Internet and Library (know the enemy!)
Interviews can be tough – even for seasoned veterans. The interview is however, your best opportunity to gain insight into the position and company, and to determine how your experience and talent can contribute to the company’s growth and profitability.
We have included a list of things that you can do to make your interview as successful as it can be. No tricks or gimmicks here – just good, solid information to help you prepare and win that job.
Do your homework – on the company. Find out about the company, its history, its current situation and its future as you can. Sources: Executive Search Consultant, the library for periodicals and trade journals, articles, annual reports and 10K reports; friends and business associates (keep the position confidential). Be prepared to ask good questions about the company and its directions.
Do your homework – on the position. Have a thorough understanding of the position and responsibilities, and what’s expected. Be prepared to ask good questions: Who’s been successful and why? Who’s failed and why? Who does it report to, who does it supervise? What needs to be done in the first 6 months, in the first year? Your recruiter will be able to provide insight in these areas prior to the interview.
Do your homework – on your self. Review your career history thoroughly. Review dates, positions, duties and responsibilities, and accomplishments. Know your strengths and weakness. Be prepared to cite specific examples of accomplishments and how your specific experience can help the company solve some its problems. Concentrate on your most recent positions, but do not neglect your early career.
Interviewing to “SECURE YOUR SUCCESS”
- Arrive fifteen minutes early to the interview.
- Fill out all applications neatly and completely.
- Greet the interviewer by his/her surname with a smile and a firm handshake.
- Do not answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no” Sell yourself by using examples.
- Stress your achievements, records and accomplishments.
- Answer all questions to the point, don’t ramble on.
- Do not make derogatory remarks about previous or present employers
- Do not concern yourself with salary, commission, bonuses, benefits or vacation on the initial interview.
- Tell your possible employer what you are going to do for them, NOT what they can do for you.
- Always represent yourself honestly