Interview Tips

Preparation for an interview is the most vital aspect to a successful interview. The following 10 tips are designed to ensure our candidates are fully prepared to succeed in an interview.

Tip # 1: Research the company

Researching the company includes looking up financial reports, analyst commentary, the products, market share, and the overall perception in the industry. This an area where creativity really pays off. Doing internet research is a part of this process, however, in our experience talking with people who interact with or work for the company is a great way to get this information. Call the clients of the company to see what they think of the products and customer service. Network with people to find someone who works for the company at a similar level and ask them what you need to know about the company and even the person your are interviewing with to win the job. Let them know of your interest and enthusiasm for the opportunity and they are usually very willing to help out. We’ve even had a candidate call the customer service number of the company we presented them to in order to get a better understanding of the products and what kind of issues they are fielding.

Tip # 2: Ask good questions

One of the key ways a hiring authority determines interest level in a candidate is by the kind of questions they ask. If a candidate asks well-thought out, critical questions it communicates that the candidate is intelligent, analytical, and interested enough in the opportunity to spend the time to research and prepare questions. Come to the interview with questions written down, and don’t be afraid to reference notes during the course of dialogue. If a hiring manager is able to address the main points of concern prior to asking the questions, and then that person says “do you have any questions?” don’t reply with “no, you’ve answered them all.” Go down your list of questions and say, “you answered that one, and that one, . . .” In doing that you communicate that you came prepared to ask some good questions.

Tip # 3: Remember, there’s two sellers and two buyers in the dialogue

Each person in the interview wears two hats: a buyer and a seller. The candidate is selling themselves as well as checking out the company and hiring manager to see if they are the right fit. At the same time a hiring authority is selling the opportunity as well as checking out the candidate. Equally prepare to inquire about the position as well as sell yourself.

Tip # 4: Focus on achievements

We always tell our candidates that achievements are what differentiate them in an interview. You have to assume that the hiring manager is speaking to five, six, or maybe even ten other candidates with the same type of experience. The only way to stand out amongst the competition is to focus on accomplishments in roles held in the past.

Tip # 5: Clarify open-ended questions

If a hiring manager makes an introductory statement like “Bob, tell me a little bit about yourself”, don’t take the bait. When asked this question during pre-interview prep calls with a recruiter, many candidates respond by talking about what they think is most relevant about their background. The problem is they do no know what the hiring manager is looking for; they only have a feel for it. The best way to answer this question is with a statement like “There are a lot of things I can talk to you about from my background – what part of my resume would you like for me to focus on?” That way you don’t waste any time, and you get a better sense of what experiences the hiring manager values the most.

Tip # 6: Discover what’s important to the hiring manager

There are four key questions a hiring manager wants to know about a candidate. It is the candidate’s job to find out which ones are most important, and then speak to those areas. The four questions are:

1. How will this person make us money?
2. How will this person save us time/money?
3. How will this person strengthen our position in the market place?
4. How will this person make me look good?

Tip # 7: Build chemistry

Most people assume that chemistry is something that just happens passively between two people, and it is left up to chance. However, there are three compliments a candidate can offer to enhance the chemistry with a hiring manager. The first is to make a positive comment about the geography. Most people have regional pride and feel a connection to the area they live in. If the position you are interviewing for is in a shared geography with the hiring manager, then talk about your interest in the area. If not, then mention what you know to be positive things about that city and state. The second is to say good things about the company. Look for opportunities to weave praise for the company into the dialogue by mentioning company achievements, culture, notable milestones, community service, charitable donations, market strategy, etc. The third is to compliment the company’s product or service. Any person working for that company believes in the products they are representing, and sincere remarks about the product or service can go a long way and be taken as a personal compliment by the interviewer.

Tip # 8: Prepare for behavior based interviewing

Behavior based interviewing techniques are proven to be the most effective way to predict the future performance of a candidate. It follows the adage that past performance strongly indicates future success. This approach is increasingly popular and the questions have become more and more in depth. The best way to prepare for these questions is to get on the Internet and look for some common behavior based questions, then think about how they could be tailored to the industry and position. Think about situations ahead of time where it was necessary to overcome a business problem, resolve a conflict with a co-worker, satisfy an unhappy customer, negotiate a difficult contract, etc. The best way to respond to behavior-based questions is to follow the STAR model, Situation, Task, Action, Result. Describe the circumstance, what needed to happen, the action taken, and the positive result it had.

Tip # 9: Remember that not all hiring managers are good interviewers!

It’s easy to assume that the person you are in dialogue with really knows how to discover the next superstar for their team. This is usually not the case, as most hiring managers spend less than 2% of their time each year on interviewing and hiring. As a result, it’s important that a candidate not take a passive approach in an interview, and wait for the hiring manager to ask that perfect question which will invite you to talk about your greatest career achievement. You must know ahead of time what your greatest achievements are, and look for opportunities to bring them into the conversation.

Tip # 10: Write a good follow-up letter

A follow up letter should be sent the day of or the day right after an interview. An effective follow up letter will do the following: thank the hiring manager for the opportunity to talk, re-cap why you are the best candidate for the job, and reinforce your enthusiasm about the company and position. This should be no longer than one paragraph in length (about 5 sentences). Since email is now the accepted form of follow up, emails should be written and sent individually, with a degree of personalization to each email. Do not copy and paste the same letter to each person involved in an interview. On this note, make sure you get a card or email address from each person you speak with.