Category Archives: Interviews

Conducting the Successful Phone Interview

A potential employer may want to do a preliminary interview by phone. If you’re prepared for the call, you can impress the interviewer.

Here are some tips:

  1. Turn off distractions. Take your phone into in a quiet room.
  2. Have all your tools in one place:
    • Resume
    • Pen and paper to jot the interviewer(s) name(s) down immediately and to take notes during the interview
    • Company research (with relevant information highlighted)
    • Questions to ask about the company and position
    • A loosely written outline of points to make or items to cover as you talk about the position
    • A glass of water
  3. Dress the part for the interview. Experts say if you’re dressed in a professional manner, you’ll speak that way.
  4. If an employer calls and wants to do the interview right away (instead of setting up an appointment), excuse yourself politely and offer to call back in five minutes. This will give you time to make the psychological switch from whatever you are doing to your professional demeanor.
  5. Stand up to talk. Your position affects the quality of your voice. If you are sitting down or relaxing, you don’t project the same readiness and intensity as when you stand up.
  6. Talk only when necessary. Since you lack the visual cues of body language to assess whether you’ve said enough, mark the end of your response with a question, such as “Would you like more details of my experience as an intern with XYZ Company?”
  7. Let the employer end the interview. Then you should say “Thank you for your time,” and reiterate your interest in the position.
  8. Write a thank-you note to anyone who participated in the phone interview.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

What Interviewers Want to Know

During an interview, potential employers want to gather information to gauge whether you, the position, and the organization are a good fit.

Here are some generic questions—and examples of specific questions—an employer may ask in an interview. Use these as a guide to your preparation.

Generic Questions Specific Examples
What do you know about the organization?
  • What do you think a typical day is like here?
  • What sparked your interest in [this organization]?
  • Do you have any suggestions for how we can make our organization better?
  • What made you decide to apply for this job?
What do I need to know about your personal traits or characteristics?
  • What is your strongest attribute?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What personality traits make you suitable for this position?
  • If someone said one word to describe you, what would that word be?
How do you work with others?
  • Would you rather be micro- or macro-managed?
  • Tell us about your best and worst boss.
  • What is your ideal work environment? That is, what type of boss/co-workers would you like to work with?
What skills do you have relevant to this position?
  • What work experience have you had that is relevant to this position?
  • Tell us about any specialized training or certifications you have.
  • What skills do you think you need to add to your repertoire?
  • How will you get those skills? I know about your college and work background, but what else have you done that would aid us if we were to hire you for this position?
What are your personal goals?
  • Why do you want us to hire you?
  • What is your dream job? How would this position help you get there?
  • What is your seven-year career plan?
  • Do you have plans for graduate school?
How much do you know about your specialized area?
  • What are your strongest points with [two specific skills that the job requires]?
  • What are the most important traits of a person in your field?
How have you handled specific situations? (Behavioral questions)
  • Can you tell me about a time when you effected a change?
  • Give me an example of a situation that didn’t work out well.
  • What have you done that you are most proud of?
  • Tell us about a time when you took a unique approach to solving a problem.

Adapted from “The Job Interview,” an article by Susan M. Katz in the NACE Journal.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Interview Etiquette

First impressions do count. Your resume earned you a job interview. Now, business etiquette will add some polish to your presentation.

Etiquette—good manners—is based on the idea that certain social behaviors put people at ease and make interaction pleasant. Here are seven rules for interview etiquette:

  1. Be on time.
    Or arrive 5 minutes early. Being late says you’re disorganized and not very good at time management. Drive the route to the organization the day before your interview so that you know exactly how long the commute will take.
  2. Turn off your cell phone.
    And leave it in your car. You don’t want to be distracted as you offer your expertise to an employer, and an employer doesn’t need to know your ringtone sounds like Beethoven’s Symphony #5.
  3. Respect those already employed.
    It doesn’t matter whether you’re interviewing to be an entry-level employee or the next CEO of an organization. Be polite to everyone you meet, including the receptionist. You never know who may be asked, “So, what did you think of this candidate?”
  4. Dress like you mean it.
    Dress in business attire, even if you’re interviewing in a business-casual office. Suits for men; suits or dresses for women. Go easy on the aftershave or perfume—better yet, don’t wear fragrance at all just in case someone you are about to meet has allergies. Go light on the jewelry—earrings, a watch, and nothing else. No T-shirts, tank tops, or flip flops.
  5. Be handy with your handshake.
    Hand out. Clasp the extended hand firmly, but gently. Pump once. Release.

    A flimsy handshake feels like dead fish and is unimpressive. A bone-crunching grasp may crush your potential boss’ tennis swing and your chance of getting a job.

    Practice ahead of time with a friend.

  6. Have a presence.
    Speak well, make eye contact, sit up straight.

    Use your interviewer’s name (in moderation), enough to show you’re awake and attentive, but not so much as to annoy the hiring manager. Looking the hiring manager in the eye as you talk shows you’re confident and engaged in the conversation. Don’t stare—that’s rude and creepy. Sit up straight. Slouching or sliding down in the chair makes you look tired, and no one wants to hire someone who is tired before they’ve started the job.

  7. Say thank you. Twice.
    The first thank you—at the end of the interview, the last few seconds before you leave the office (and while you’re shaking hands for the second time)—may come naturally. “Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you,” shows you appreciate that someone has taken the time to talk to you and consider you for the job.

    Say thank you by e-mail to each person who interviewed you immediately after you get back to your home. Spell everyone’s name correctly and use their correct titles (find the information on the organization’s website).

    A thank-you note does several things:

    • It says you appreciated the time your potential boss spent with you.
    • It suggests you’ll follow up on important things (like the boss’ business).
    • It’s a great time to reiterate (very briefly) how your qualifications are a good match and how interested you are in getting the job.

Good luck with the interview!

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Interview Time Is Show Time

Want to tell a potential employer that you’re creative? A problem solver? Flexible?

Instead of describing yourself as a “self-starter,” tell a story about how you took action when you saw an issue that needed to be fixed.

Don’t say you are “flexible”—tell the hiring manager about a change in your job (or schoolwork demands) and what you did to deal with the change.

Well-worn phrases won’t help you get the job, but concrete examples will!

Don’t say

The story you need to tell

Highly qualified Highlight your accomplishments in previous jobs. Emphasize your specific skills and note any certifications you have earned.
Hard worker Explain exactly how you’ve gone the extra mile for your job. For instance, did you regularly meet tough deadlines, handle a high volume of projects, or tackle tasks outside your job description?
Team player Provide examples of how you worked with colleagues or individuals in other departments to meet an objective or complete a project.
Problem solver Highlight a difficult situation you encountered and how you handled it.
Flexible Describe how you responded to a major change at work (or in your schoolwork) or dealt with the unpredictable aspects of your job.
People person Can you offer examples of your strong communication skills? Can you describe how you’ve worked with co-workers and customers?
Self-starter What can you contribute immediately to the company or to the department you work in? Describe how you took action when you saw an issue that needed to be fixed.

 

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.