Job-Seeking Step 5: Interviewing

Back To Main
Step 4: Finding Leads

An interview is a sales pitch for you, the product

You need to create a need in the customer’s mind and then fulfill it with your product

  • The interviewer already has a need: a job description
    • Interviewing is the art of convincing
  • Look at yourself as a consultant who can perform a client’s need if they care to use your services
    • Consultants are paid for their expertise and aren’t hurt if they’re not needed
    • Either assume you won’t get the job or that you probably don’t want the job
    • Avoid the survival mentality, since it guarantees you’ll be more nervous
    • Be a business partner who is trying to find out as much information as possible about the organization and work
  • The interviewer is looking for specific traits
    • How you organize your thoughts
    • How well you think quickly
    • Whether you connect relevant information to the job they’re hiring you for
    • Whether you’re honest with them
  • Companies want potential in a consultant, not ability
  • You need to tell them why they want to hire you, not why you need the job
    • The interview is a sales pitch, not the opportunity itself
  • Their desire to hire you is from wanting to see the next chapter of the story you’ve told them

Before you start the interview, build confidence and certainty in yourself

  • Pray
  • Call on your network
  • Be self-aware and focus
    • What you want to do and get out of your work
    • What you can contribute into your potential workplace
    • If you can, record how you behave when you’re nervous

If possible, schedule the interview in the morning or an hour before the business closes if morning isn’t possible

  • Morning prevents any unnecessary anxiety built-up throughout the day
  • People tend to remember the first and last parts of their day more

Create a great interview outfit

Observe details from others in the industry

Generally, try to look as good as a supervisor in your field

Keep a pen in your pocket since asking for one appears very unprofessional

Men

Two-piece matching suit

  • Conservative colors like navy or dark grey
  • The best suits have wool, wool blends, and other quality fibers
  • Make sure your outfit is tailored
  • Long-sleeved shirts in white, light blue or a conservative pattern, even during summer
    • Try to cover up any tattoos

Ties that match the industry

  • This can be difficult, so research
  • The most common distinguishing tie is high-quality silk with a pop of color

Keep jewelry and accessories to a minimum

  • Stick with a wristwatch if you want to wear anything
  • Match your belt and shoes

Shoes should be leather with laces or slip-on business shoes

Socks should be mid-calf length socks in a dark color

Never wear the following

  • Silly or character ties
  • “Formal” shorts
  • Trendy dress shirts
  • Powder-blue suits

Maintain a recent and conservative haircut

Women

Two-piece suits

  • Fitted, but not snug
  • Grey, dark grey, navy or black are appropriate colors
  • Hem pants so the cuff doesn’t drag on the floor

Skirts should match your blazer

  • Your skirt should completely cover your thighs when you sit down

Your shirt can be a tailored blouse, a good quality knit sweater or shell under your jacket

  • Don’t show too much cleavage or wear a see-through shirt

Most of the time, hosiery should be plain or sheer and a neutral color that complements the suit

Shoes should be medium-height heels or leather pumps which match the suit

  • Once you start working, you don’t have to wear heels

Don’t wear gaudy or silly jewelry or bags

Never wear the following

  • Mini-skirts
  • Deep V sequin shirts
  • Large jewelry pieces
  • Platform stiletto pumps
  • Tote bags

Keep your hairstyle professional

Educate yourself before the interview

Research the employer even more than when you applied for the job

  • Try to know the company culture more than one of your future peers might know
  • Search for the employees and employer you’re interviewing with on LinkedIn

Fully understand the job description as if it were yours

Go through it line by line

Know it well enough to summarize it to a friend

Visualize what you’ll do in the job

  • Think of your most likely challenges
  • Think of the ideas you’d bring to the table

For each responsibility or qualification

  • Think and write down how your experience and skills fit into each part of the job description
  • Think of examples from your past you can point to as “supporting evidence” that you’d excel at the job

Not all interviewers are looking for the same kind of candidate

The Role-Filler wants to fill the position and doesn’t care about making a connection

  • Demonstrate your work ethic and use examples to prove your success

The Bored Manager doesn’t care about the hiring process

  • Excite them by showing off your work history and plans for the position

The Intimidator presses on professional history and stirs up stress

  • Stay focused and provide proven stories which show your aptitude

The Clueless Manager doesn’t know their job, let alone yours

  • Show expertise and professionalism with them

The Youngster is very inexperienced in their field, probably more than you

  • Express yourself with a portfolio and a more modern approach

The Nice Guy is relatable, listens, and makes you feel welcome

  • If the interview becomes too casual, steer the conversation back to the job

The Detail-Oriented is obsessed with specifics and minutiae

  • Describe your successes with many details

The Innovator sees a larger picture and fearlessly takes risks

  • Keep fresh ideas prepared to demonstrate your knowledge

The Seasoned CEO has experience with starting more than one company

  • Bring a plan to the interview which outlines your ideas for the position

Not all interviews are the same

In-person one-on-one interviews

  • Conventional interview approach still widely used
  • In some ways, the most comfortable type of interview

Group interviews

  • Works through candidates more quickly than one-on-one
  • Pay attention to other candidates’ responses and build on them

Video interviews – long-distance through a video chat service

  • You should have a blank background or a professional perspective in the shot
  • Treat the interview as a performance to show energy through the camera
  • Since the interview is a conversation, act naturally
  • Enunciate your words clearly

Phone interviews

  • Take phone interviews seriously, since they are still interviews
  • Pay attention to your room’s acoustics and stay somewhere quiet where nobody will disturb you
  • Take notes of questions and comments to assist you for a possible follow-up interview
  • Articulate better by standing and express yourself positively by smiling
  • Verify a clear signal on a mobile or cordless phone
  • You can’t see your interviewer’s non-verbal cues, so pay extra attention to not ramble
  • Designate more time than you usually would, since phone interviews often take more time than you’d expect

Test interviews

  • Test interviews can prove your skills with an interactive project or written exam
  • Study before you go into the test
  • Test interviews are sometimes underhanded techniques to get free work done, and you should leave if you suspect it or it runs for more than an hour

Practice for the event

A. Practice with the right mindset

Employers only ask three core questions

  1. Can you do the job? (strengths)
  2. Will you love the job? (motivation)
  3. Can we tolerate working for you? (fit)

Employers find those answers from two other questions

  1. Where have your last 5-10 years taken you?
  2. Will you succeed at the responsibilities we give you in the next 5-10 years?
    • Direct a major project
    • Manage a branch or plant
    • Make a substantial contribution to the company

The interviewer will only find you worth hiring through your emotional intelligence, tactfulness and listening skills

  • You’re not there to tell them your life story, so let silence persist if it needs to and listen carefully to the interviewer
  • On the other hand, you need to speak up and confidently share your achievements

The same rules for public speaking apply to each interview answer

B. Write down at least a dozen interview questions the interviewer will likely ask you and practice answers to each of them

You’re trying to gain a perspective of your story and improvise as needed since you won’t be able to memorize and naturally respond to every question

C. Practice the answers out loud until answers come naturally

If possible, practice with a friend playing the role of the interviewer

Figure out the questions which make you most nervous and make a plan for managing the nervousness

  • Make a plan for the worst thing that could happen

D. Practice the physical aspects of the interview

Handshake

Maintaining eye contact

Looking natural and courteous, but also professional

Sitting up straight

Using hands for meaningful gestures

How you greet different interviewers

Warmth of smile

The interviewer could ask you a variety of questions

Personal questions

How are you?

Tell me about yourself / Tell me something I can’t know from looking at your resumé

  • Two-minute summary
  • Deliver a story
    • Speak conversationally and share something personal
    • Be thorough but brief
    • Be logical and positive, share the focused excitement
    • The story should end with them wanting more
  • Discuss education, professional achievements, and goals, then briefly describe your qualifications for the job
    • Keep your core strengths in mind
    • Talk about intangible strengths and soft skills
    • Briefly explain why you want the job
  • Describing yourself well can break the ice and start a conversation

Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses / What is your greatest strength and weakness?

  • Be careful with sharing your weaknesses
    • The question is designed to put pressure on you
    • The standard statements (e.g., I’m a perfectionist, I’m detail-oriented) sound like you’re pretentious or evading the question
  • Cite a significant weakness you’ve overcome
    • Have at least two weaknesses in mind in case they ask for a second one
    • Phrase the weakness as “I am bad at (X), therefore I (Y)”
    • Make the weaknesses part of your overall life story of improvement that progresses into the job you’re looking for
  • Relate your strengths to the position after sharing a story about how you applied tangible job skills

Weird questions – comes out of nowhere to test a candidate’s ability to think critically and immediate response to a surprise

  • A penguin walks through the door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here? – Clark Construction Group
  • Are you exhaling warm air? = Walker Marketing
  • Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer? – Dell
  • Describe to me the process and benefits of wearing a seatbelt – Active Network
  • Do you believe in Big Foot? – Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Estimate how many windows are in New York – Bain & Company
  • Have you ever stolen a pen from work? – Jiffy Software
  • How are M&M’s made? – US Bank
  • How do you make a tuna sandwich? – Astron Consulting
  • How does the internet work? – Akamai
  • How many cows are in Canada? – Google
  • How many planes are currently flying over Kansas? – Best Buy
  • How many ridges are there around a quarter? – Deloitte
  • How many square feet of pizza is eaten in the US each year? – Goldman Sachs
  • How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? – Horizon Group Properties
  • How would you move Mt. Fuji? – Microsoft
  • If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it? – Hewlett-Packard
  • If you were a brick in a wall which brick would you be and why? – Nestle
  • If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors? – Apple
  • If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out? – Goldman Sachs
  • Just entertain me for five minutes, I’m not going to talk – Acosta
  • Pepsi or Coke? – United Health Group
  • What do you think of garden gnomes? – Trader Joe’s
  • What kitchen utensil would you be? – Bandwidth
  • Why is a tennis ball fuzzy? – Xerox

Questions about work history

Why did you leave your most recent job? / What was your experience like at your most recent job?

  • Never speak poorly of previous employers or sound too opportunistic
    • Speaking poorly of them implies you could speak poorly in the future about them
  • Explain the situation as politely as possible
    • After a long personal consideration, you wanted to expand your knowledge/background
    • The company reorganized and their vision didn’t match yours
    • Your life orientation changed and the company no longer challenged the skills you wanted to work on
    • You wanted a change of pace from your current job

What did you like most about (past job)? / What did you least like about (past job)? / Why are you job-hunting?

  • Connect what you liked to the company’s needs to show initiative and performance
  • You disliked the last job’s lack of opportunities for growth, and be specific about which ones

What results at (past job) are you most proud of? / What made you leave (past job)?

  • Give tangible and specific results
  • Don’t over-explain if you lost a job
    • You will bring the focus to your lost job
    • You also imply you haven’t moved on from your last job
  • Don’t disclose if someone fired you from a past job

If I spoke with your previous boss, what areas would they say you should work on improving?

  • Speak well and honestly about your past supervisor

Questions about the position

What do you know about our company? / What do you know about the position you’re applying for?

  • You should have an answer if you’ve been researching

What interests you about this opening? / Why do you want to work for us?

  • Give 1-2 minute answers about why they want to hire you

Why do you believe you are qualified for this position? / Why should I hire you? / What can you bring to this company?

  • This question is patronizing and meant to put pressure on you
  • There are many ways not to answer it
    • You’ll look desperate if you say you want the job
    • They’ll believe you don’t care if you offer cliche responses (team player, people person, hardworking)
    • You’ll appear disloyal and quick to leave if you say you’re not looking intently but are open to it
  • Share a variety of 2-3 significant job-related skills in detail for two minutes
    1. A technical skill
    2. A specific management skill
    3. A personal story

What experience do you have doing (responsibility of the job)?

  • Honestly share how your experience can help with the role you’re applying for

How do you handle pressure/deadlines/frustration/difficult people/silly rules? / How have you dealt with a difficult situation?

  • Share a past situation as more a challenge than “managing pressure”
    • You appear incompetent if you can’t seem to manage petty issues
  • How you overcame problems is far more relevant than your displeasure with them
    • Diplomacy, perseverance, and common sense can prevail even in difficult or unfair circumstances

How will you take the initiative to get the job done?

  • Share a story where you were self-motivated to complete the task at hand against all odds
  • Provide at least one in-depth example of your strong work ethic and creativity

How do you accept input while at the same time holding to your values and beliefs?

  • Think carefully on this one, since the question is meant to test both your intelligence and honesty

What are some examples of activities and surroundings that motivate you?

  • They’re not asking to be your friend, so only share activities and hobbies related to the job

Tell me about a time when (situation relevant to the position)

  • You can’t precisely predict their given situation, but you should have at least 1-2 stories connecting your work experience to the interviewing position

What kind of salary are you looking for?

  • You should have a number before walking in, but you should only discuss it once you have a job offer
  • Confess you don’t know enough
  • Tell them you’re flexible
  • If you’re confident in your skills, ask them how much salary they’ve budgeted for that position

What is most important to you in a new position?

  • Give things that reflect the values of the company

What are the first five things you would do if you got this position? / How quickly do you think you will be ready to contribute to our organization?

  • You’re ready to go almost immediately
  • Give a story about when you had to start very quickly into the work

Questions about overall career and the future

How does this position fit in with your career path? / What do you see yourself doing in five years?

  • It should be something related to the job’s industry
    • Sharing dreams or ambitions implies that you’ll use company resources to start your side business
    • Sharing vacation or moving desires suggests you’re lazy
  • Always say you’ll be working at the company you are interviewing for, but in a higher position
    • Don’t imply you want the interviewer’s job since it means you’re trying to take their position

What were your goals last year? How did you settle on those? To what extent did you meet them?

What do you consider to be your most significant accomplishment? / What was your most significant achievement?

  • The answer to this question will land you a job if you respond correctly
  • Tell a brief detailed story about your professional involvement
  • Describe a situation with
    1. A problem
    2. The action you took to resolve it
    3. The result of your action
  • Your story must have a genuinely worthwhile achievement:
    • Hard work
    • Meeting deadlines
    • Overcoming obstacles
    • Relevant company issues
    • Relations with co-workers
    • Use as many details as possible including dates, facts, specific results, numbers, and measurable results

What has been the worst or most embarrassing aspect about your career? How would you have done things differently?

  • Don’t be afraid to share negative results or problems, especially if you’ve learned from them
  • End the story on a positive note

What is your current salary?

  • You don’t need to share your salary, and the interviewer is behaving disrespectfully by asking
  • Since they won’t tell you the salary of the last person in that position, it’s not fair for you to share yours
    • They ask to give you a small amount more than what you currently make, even if you’re worth more
    • Giving salary information is a form of submission, and self-respecting people won’t do it
  • Delicately handle this question
    • Ask the position’s salary range and if they refuse to share it indicate your need for privacy
    • It gives an ultimatum which asks the employer to either value their employees or their money more
    • Leave the interview if the employer refuses to act unless you provide salary information

The Big Question: Do you have any questions for us?

Interviewers ask this question for several reasons

You can expand your understanding of the company and job and figure out whether you still want the job

They can gain additional insight about you from your choice of question and whether you’re legitimately interested

Create questions based on your interest in the company

A little suspicion is perfectly acceptable

Expected work environment

  • Why is this position vacant?
  • What pleasantly surprised you the most about working here?
  • Can you describe a typical day or week in this position?
  • What would a successful first year in this position be like?
  • How would you describe the culture here?
  • What do you love the most about working for this company?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • Are there reservations you have or concerns about my fit for this position?
  • Is this team empowered to find better and more efficient ways to do things?
  • What is the most important way that this company differentiates itself from its competitors? / Why do you think job applicants choose to work here instead of with competitors?

Immediate actions

  • What is the immediate need on your team that you are hoping to fill with this position?
  • What projects would I be able to contribute to right away?
  • How will I be evaluated during the first three months?

Long-term

  • What are the challenges the person in this position will face?
  • What are your goals for this position?
  • How will the success of the person in this position be measured? / How does the organization define success?
  • What are a few of the most significant challenges in the industry, and how will your company approach them?

Clarification

  • Are there any parts of my experience you would like me to elaborate on?
  • Do you have any concerns about my fit for the position?
  • Based on my background and skills, how well do I fit the position?
  • Based on my experienced and the interview, is there any reason you wouldn’t hire me?

Commitment demonstrators

  • Thinking of the person whom you’ve seen do this job the best, what made their performance so outstanding?
  • Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what has differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were great?
    • This question can win them over
  • When do you expect to make a hiring decision?
  • How can new employees become familiar with, and begin to contribute to, the culture you’ve developed here?
  • What might I do to add the most value to the business?

Questions to never ask

Implying entitlement and high expectations

  • When will I be promoted?
  • When can I expect a raise?
  • Will I get an office?

Implying a lack of commitment

  • What’s the salary for this position?
  • What are your benefits?
  • Will I travel around a lot?

Implying laziness

  • What sort of flextime options do I have?
  • Are there security cameras watching everything I do?

Other red flags

  • What is the retirement plan like? (it shows you care more about job security than personal growth, which isn’t good for employers)
  • What medical plan do you provide? (it implies you have a lifestyle with many medical bills)
  • How many other people are going for this position? (it shows you’re fearful of competition)
  • Do I get employee discounts? (it implies you’ll take advantage of the job)
  • What other jobs are available here? (it shows a lack of commitment to the job you’re currently applying for and an unwillingness to research existing information)
  • What are your dress code rules? (shows a reluctance to dress professionally)
  • Any question that shows you haven’t been listening (implies they’ll have to repeat themselves frequently)

Illegal Questions

Research which questions employers can’t legally ask before you enter an interview

  • Age, race, ethnicity, citizenship, national origin
  • Personal details like height, weight, club affiliations, religion
  • Disabilities unrelated to the job
  • Felonies, convictions, arrest record, some military records

You have three possible options when employers ask illegal questions

  1. Answer the question directly, but give information unrelated to the job that may sabotage their view of you
  2. Refuse to answer the question, but unintentionally phrase it to appear uncooperative or confrontational
  3. Examine the question for its intent and respond to it as it might apply to the job

If they actively insult you or your background, leave the interview immediately

Turn your entire interview day into a science

A. The day before

Try on the full interview outfit

  • Pack an extra set of interview-appropriate clothes, just in case anything happens
  • Ironed shirts/blouses and trousers
  • Shoes shined well
  • Lint-rolled suit/coat
  • Men
    • Keep facial hair well-groomed or clean-shaven
    • Clean and trim your fingernails
  • Women
    • Wear minimal makeup which still looks natural
      • Avoid smoky-eye look or red lipstick
      • Use neutral shades and a single coat of mascara
    • Keep clean fingernails and a modest natural shade of non-neon nail polish

Place extra copies of your resumé and supporting documents somewhere you won’t forget them

Print or write out directions to the interviewer’s location

If it’s an online or video interview, be sure the equipment, lighting, and sound are functioning properly

Get plenty of alcohol-free sleep that night

B. Morning routine

Set a backup alarm

Eat a great breakfast

Groom yourself well

  • Teeth clean and breath smelling nice
  • Not too much cologne/perfume

C. Leave for the location

Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to travel

Review your notes in a car or a coffee shop beforehand

Set your phone to silent before you enter the building

  • If you look at your phone or comment about it, you appear uninterested in the job offer

D. Arrive a little early to the location

Arrive about 15-30 minutes early

  • Showing up on time may slow down their schedule
  • Earlier than a half hour may be awkward for the receptionist and other staff

E. Your interview starts the moment you arrive

Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet, from the security guard to the receptionist

Read company materials or a business book paperback while you wait

Be patient as you are waiting

Give a compliment on the elevator or to someone next to you

However, you might be seen as creepy if you’re too polite or friendly

F. Before you walk in

Breathe, smile, and stay confident

  • Nervousness is not the same as having no confidence
    • Nobody can see your inner anxiety
    • Interviewers expect you to be nervous
  • They think you’re overqualified or they wouldn’t have interviewed you
  • The hiring manager’s problem is a job vacancy which keeps them from their job, so they want to hire you

You have no reason to be afraid or intimidated, since you may have good reasons to walk away

  • The interviewer may not honor the appointment time, leave you waiting, then not apologize for it or offering lunch
  • You realize you don’t want the job or have a gut feeling against taking it
  • You can see from the office that you wouldn’t get along with the workplace culture
  • The interviewer has lied to you or the job seems like a scam
  • Any of the managers whom you might report to are rude, condescending or unprofessional
  • You have a bad feeling from the interview
    • You feel oppressed and pressured
    • The company’s interviewing method makes you feel like a slave
    • Your gut instinct says something is wrong

If you’ve prepared and relaxed, you’ll be stress-free and on time

  • Discomfort is normal
    • Nobody has ever seen a perfect candidate, and everyone else interviews imperfectly as well
    • Imagine how strange, weird, annoying or awkward people you’ve worked with probably interviewed
  • Lack of preparation is the number one cause of failing an interview, which you should already have
  • The interviewer will feel like hiring you if you can keep your humor, warmth, and personality

G. During the interview

If you forgot to print the resumé or are late, apologize openly and quickly

Smile throughout the whole interview

Enunciate your words and avoid fillers like “um, uh, basically, so”

Only look at the faces of each interviewer except when reflecting

Apply your best etiquette and respect everyone you encounter

Be genuine and honest about everything

When greeting

  • State your first and last name clearly
  • Give a firm and sincere handshake to each interviewer
  • If you ask “how are you?” wait for a response and respond to it

Sit down when asked, then keep a good posture

  • Only use your hands to emphasize points
    • If you’re in a chair keep them in your lap or on top of the desk or table
    • Don’t interlock your fingers since they can get stuck

Listen more than talk

  • Think of your interview as you interviewing the employer to see whether they’re a good fit for you
  • Observe conversational cues from the interviewer and give natural feedback
    • Some prefer to make small talk while others want to get to the point
    • Let silence persist when there’s a pause
    • In a group interview, observe what other candidates are saying and build on their responses
  • Stay on topic and avoid straying into a tangent or rambling

Walk them through your resumé, steering them towards the skills, experiences, and accomplishments most relevant to the opportunity

  • Don’t expect to give your resumé to them unless they ask for it
  • Take your time with each interviewer, vary the questions or responses, and maintain eye contact
    • Will you be able to remember the colors of their eyes after leaving?
    • Try to remember each interviewer’s name
  • Don’t voluntarily disclose any negative information:
    • Issues with a previous employer
    • Personal problems that could affect your job performance
    • Criticism about the company you’re interviewing for
  • Answer each question fully and accurately
    • Take your time with your answers, look thoughtful, and start your answer after they’ve finished the question
    • Treat your interview stories as public speaking

Ask about next steps in the process

Thank the interviewers

After the interview

Unless you were specified otherwise, always write a professional thank-you letter to everyone you spoke to, including the secretary

  • Send one to each hiring manager individually, which may require more research
  • Keep it formal
  • Bring up specific points from the conversation with the hiring manager
  • Repeat your interest in the position and state a few reasons why you’re a perfect fit for the role
  • Reference shared interests to show you paid close attention to them in the interview
  • Give a personal compliment if it’s appropriate
  • Share concerns brought up in the interview and answer them, especially if you couldn’t respond to them during the interview
  • Send or attach an article or link to the business along with why you think it’s relevant

Keep in touch

Share something honoring the company unrelated to your interview

Recruiting is like dating, so don’t look for a perfect fit

  • New opportunities always arise, so the interviewing process never ends
  • Always reassert your interest in the position after a week or two passes if you weren’t told not to

Look for opportunities to connect with LinkedIn

Don’t assume you’ve gotten the job if the employer asks for references

Keep it up

Don’t take it personally if you’re overlooked since you can get passed over for many reasons

  • They may have removed the job or put it on hold
  • The job roles may have changed so dramatically that none of their interviews can fit the job
  • They might not have hired anyone and were looking for free consulting advice from job-seekers
  • They might have promoted someone internally
  • The company may have eliminated the whole department around that job

Move on from the interview without beating yourself up about your failures

Stay enthusiastic and engaged with other interviews

If you start getting discouraged, learn to stay happy while stressed

Next: Step 6: Closing The Deal