You got invited to the interview now what? Careful planning and preparation will help you ace the interview. These skills and more are covered in K. W. Huskey Associates workshops.
Research Arm yourself with information about the company. Know the company, the products, the history, the leadership, general financial situation, subsidiaries, etc. Learn the language. Visit the annual report, 10K, 10Q, web site, newsletters, brochures, dept. mission statement, interviewer's background, etc.
Questions Create your own list of questions things you want to know about the company, its plans for expansion, its vision. Also, list specific job related questions. Be prepared.
Resume Bring extra copies. Don't rely on the interviewers to have sufficient copies and don't make it necessary for them to run off some scruffy copies.
Practice, Practice, PracticeRecruit colleagues, friends or family members to role play the interview process. Practice fielding tough questions, surprise questions and potentially embarrassing questions. Anticipate. Reduce the risk of being caught off guard.
Dress Conservatively Don't compete with your flashy wardrobe. Interviewers should remember you for your smashing performance, not your snappy costume. You will probably be seated plan on it. Big hair, thick makeup, sparkling jewelry, exotic accessories, and flamboyant apparel may drown out your otherwise solid performance. Have a backup outfit close by in case of an accident (i.e., coffee spill) en route.
Arrive Early Don't let some minor traffic congestion cost you a chance at your dream job. Leave plenty of time for a leisurely trip. Arrive early. Visit the restroom. Take care of last minute grooming details. Take a few deep breaths to help you relax.
Lose the Hardware Leave the pager and cell phone behind. Do you really need 47 keys in your pocket? What about $17.00 in change? If it doesn't contribute, leave it behind.
Notebook or Briefcase An attractive notebook or briefcase may be necessary to haul exhibits. Tired and dirty are out. Fresh and clean work. Pack your resumes, business cards, work products, etc. neatly. Carry an attractive pen set and have a clean pad to write on. Don't forget a handkerchief and a pre-interview breath freshener.
Greetings Offer a ready smile and a firm handshake. Establish eye contact with all members of the interview team. Make a strong first impression.
Take Names Capture the names of all interview team members. Focus. Concentrate. If time allows, write the names down as soon as possible. Names are important. Ask in advance for the identity of the interview team. Ask each person to repeat their name or perhaps say each one out loud. Offer to exchange business cards. Know the players.
Sit Sit when invited to do so. If possible, maneuver your way to the best location for you, i.e., near a flip chart or grease board if you plan to use one. Do you have a good side or bad side, or hearing deficiency to deal with? If a seating option exists, choose wisely.
Vocal Vitality You may be nervous, especially at the beginning. Don't let a soft voice with a nervous quiver be interpreted as timid, non-assertive behavior. Be confident. Sound confident. Make sure everyone can hear you.
Posture and Poise Stand tall. Sit up straight. Don't slouch. Look and be alert.
Body Language You are a human polygraph. Keep your hands away from your mouth. Stop nervous fidgeting or gesturing. Use your hands to make points then park them. Put your pen down when not in use. Maintain a pleasant smile and friendly gaze even when challenged by probing questions. Stop that foot from bobbing and don't sway in swivel chairs.
Eye Contact Eye contact not only helps make a strong first impression, but conveys sincerity and confidence all the way through the interview. Don't limit your gaze to one person including the czar. When one interviewer poses a question, break eye contact and engage the entire committee. Do not look at your watch, the wall clock, out the window or at the senior vice president's sinewy legs. Refer to your resume, work products, exhibits, etc. as needed, but spend the bulk of your time looking at and connecting with the interviewer(s).
Refreshments Refreshments to have or not to have. How do you look with chocolate donut smeared on your teeth or coffee dribbling down your front? Can you sound clear and confident with a mouthful of bagel? No food. A beverage if you must. Water works. Luncheon interview eat light.
Listen Interviews usually begin with small talk, job overview, discussion of ground rules, etc. Pay attention. Look alert. Nod approvingly. Do not interrupt.
Opening Statement All too often interviews begin with a garden variety cream puff question like, "So, tell us about yourself?" This is an invitation to a speech, but don't give one. Instead, offer a tight two-minute executive overview. Short. Pithy. To the point just the way you rehearsed it six times!
Interruptions It's rude but commonplace to have dialog interrupted by phone calls or intruders. Stop. Don't compete with distraction. Wait for it to go away and continue. Showing signs of agitation may alienate the interviewers. Stay calm, poised, and focused. If interruptions persist, try "I can see you've had some unexpected issues come up this morning. Perhaps this isn't a good time. Would you like to reschedule our interview?"
Be Assertive Not all interviewers are created equal. Some squander time on silly issues. Others speak too much and listen too little. Look for ways to influence and direct the conversation if you haven't had a chance to share relevant information. Use bridge words and turning techniques.
Breaking Bad News Don't gloss over bad news. Address it head on. Explain it. Don't pretend that if you ignore it, it will go away. More likely, it will surface later when you are not present to defend yourself. Honesty is the best policy. Be frank and candid.
Clarification The interviewer has the responsibility to ask questions that you understand. If not, ask for clarification. If unsure, ask. If, however, you understand the question perfectly but are momentarily speechless buy time to think by asking for clarification. A hasty response may not be the best response.
Illegal Questions Questions about your age, race, sex, marital status, disability, pregnancy, religion, etc. are most likely illegal. Only an inexperienced or poorly informed interviewer would wander into this neck of the woods. Proceed with caution. Pause maybe they will catch their own blunder. Perhaps another interview team member will intervene. Ask for clarification "I'm sorry, I missed that question. Would you please clarify/paraphrase it for me?" If relief is still not in sight try "I hope I wasn't selected for the interview based on my _______ was I?" Finally, out of desperation try "Since that question is clearly out of bounds (illegal) I think I'll pass and take the next one please."
Brevity is a Virtue Long, drawn out explanations or stories are boring and potentially distracting. Economize on words. Tighten it up. If they want to know more, they'll ask. No one admires a "motor mouth" or braggart. Practice will help you abbreviate answers and create crisp examples and explanations.
Be Positive Do not attack former bosses or employers. Sling no mud. Do not give away trade secrets. Conduct yourself with the highest ethical standards in mind. Demonstrate the kind of behavior they could expect if they hired you.
I Don't Know I don't know is a legitimate answer. When pressed for technical information that you can't recall or simply don't know say so. Don't bluff. Don't fib. Don't lie. Be honest and you will live to fight another day.
Word Selection Avoid sexist language and slang. No crude references or vulgarity. Use proper grammar. Eliminate non-fluencies (ah, er, um, you know, o.k., like). The use of "I" is appropriate for an interview. When things aren't going well, do not say "Like this really sucks, dude!"
Jargon Shop talk and jargon should only be used if it is the language of choice of the interviewers. If not, do not attempt to snow them with your acronyms or jargon. The objective is to communicate. To understand and be understood.
Humor Humor should be used sparingly. It's all about chemistry and risk. To be safe, tell no jokes but laugh at theirs. If you enjoy humor and think it's safe and appropriate, then an amusing anecdote or comment may help showcase your sense of humor. But don't go overboard and always use good taste.
Self Promotion Self promotion is o.k. if not the mission itself. It's hard for many people to talk about themselves, or to brag. Culturally, they were taught to share credit and not boast. But if you won't toot your own horn, who will? Be prepared to talk about yourself, your accomplishments, your contributions, your skill and qualifications. Humility is the seasoning, not the entrιe.
Stay Cool Interviews may test your patience. They may try the classic good cop, bad cop routine. One may be threatened by you or turned off by your (whatever). Interviewers may argue amongst themselves. No matter. Stay above the fray. Demonstrate composure under stress it may just be a test.
Graceful Exits All good things must end and so will the interview. Have a closing statement organized and in mind. Expect to be asked "Is there anything else you want us to consider concerning your qualifications?" Wax eloquently. Be prepared. Thank everyone. Buy another round of eye contact, handshakes, and smiles.
For more information on communication skills training,
contact K. W. Huskey Associates at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (760) 327-2760