Seven Steps to Interviewing Success
These proven interviewing tips and techniques will help you maximize your chances of getting a second interview and, ultimately, an offer. They should be used with each person you interview with and at each step of the interviewing process.
Step 1 – Enthusiasm
Always show as much enthusiasm as possible for the company and the position–even though you may not know that much about either. Remember, hiring managers are people and get nervous too. One thing they always look for is a candidate who is excited about the opportunity. That makes it easier for the hiring manager to ask a candidate back for a second interview or to make an offer–since they know the candidate will want to come back.
Several ways to show enthusiasm are as follows:
- Arrive 5 to 10 minutes early.
- Dress appropriately and professionally.
- Sit straight and on the edge of your chair.
- Listen carefully to the interviewer and respond to the real questions.
- Smile and relax.
- Show confidence in yourself and your abilities.
- Speak-up! Avoid coming across too quietly.
Step 2 – Reasons for Pursuing the Opportunity
This is also known as “reasons for leaving your current position”. You should always address this subject in a positive manner. You should say something positive about your current company, too. Also, rather than talking about the things you dislike about your current position or why you aren’t pursuing other areas/positions, talk about the reasons why you are pursuing this position.
- The opportunity to make a contribution.
- Growth and advancement potential.
- Quality of the company.
- Things not to mention — pay and benefits (See Step 6)
Step 3 – Ask Good Questions!!!
This three-tiered approach will lend a logical flow to your questions.
Tier 1 – Questions about the Company
Do your homework here! If the company is publicly held, read their annual report. If the company is privately held, call the company to request copies of any printed material they can provide such as company profiles, sales brochures and product descriptions. Get resourceful! Be alert to recent events and trends.
Examples of areas to question:
- Company’s competitors and customers.
- Company’s strategies for growth.
Tier 2 – Questions about the Department/Division
Narrowing your focus, prepare questions about the internal organization.
Areas to ask:
- Organization chart.
- People/positions you would interact with most.
- Reporting relationships – above and below the open position.
- Interactions with other division, subsidiaries or corporate departments.
- Interactions with outside groups including vendors, customers and governmental units.
Tier 3 – Questions about the Position
This is the heart of the interview. Your questions here will serve two distinct purposes. First, to provide you with sufficient information to determine if the position is appropriate for your skill set and career objectives. Second, and more important from an interviewing perspective, to provide you with a view of what a hiring manager is looking for in your background.
Areas to ask:
- Specific duties and responsibilities for the position.
- Areas which may have been neglected that will require special attention.
- Projects to be addressed initially and over the next six months.
- Existing or potential people problems.
- Special training needs.
- An excellent question to ask each interviewer is what, in their opinion, it takes to be successful in this position and with their company. If you get the answer to this, you’ll know exactly what they are looking for in your background. This is natural lead-in to the next step.
Step 4 – Discussing Your Qualifications
This is your opportunity to sell yourself. Seize this opportunity. In today’s highly competitive job market, you must distinguish yourself from other candidates. Don’t be shy about it. Since the hiring manager will typically lead this discussion, be prepared to answer their questions fully and positively.
Some keys to doing this:
- Know your resume including dates of employment, accomplishments, etc.
- Realistically relate your skills/strengths to the needs of the company and position. A good way to accomplish this is by using examples from your experience. That is, discuss a specific, positive situation by stating: a) what difficulty you were faced with; b) your solution to the difficulty and how it was implemented; c) the positive results, including dollar/time savings or other quantification, and d) how this example relates to the needs of the hiring manager.
- Be prepared to field questions about weaknesses. Choose something that is NOT vital to your success in the open position. Avoid personality/character flaws. Present a game plan you have devised to improve the weakness. Confirm that you do not feel this weakness would limit your success in the open position.
- Volunteer additional information about your skills and work habits that would make you successful in the position that the interviewer may not have asked.
- Confirm with the interviewer that you have satisfactorily answered their questions.
Steps 1-4 will cover the bulk of most first interviews. Steps 5-7 will be covered quickly in most interviews, but are integral areas to prepare for and will become more critical in second interviews and beyond.
Step 5 – Advancement Potential
This is an area of obvious interest and concern to you and, therefore, is fair game for you to ask. In fact,most interviewers will discuss promotional opportunities from the open position as part of their interview. You, however, must be careful in how you approach this subject.
The safest way to address:
- Express a tremendous amount of interest in the position.
- Ask the interviewer how she got to her level in the company. – Ask, “If someone came into this position and performed very well, what additional responsibilities or promotions might be available?”
Step 6 – Salary and Benefits
It’s inappropriate to discuss salary and benefits on a first interview. You want to be prepared to discuss this issue if the interviewer brings them up.
Suggestions on how to address questions of what salary you are looking for:
- Do not give a specific dollar amount or a salary range.
- Do provide the hiring manager with you current salary, review date, overtime, etc.
- Let the hiring manager know that the most important thing to you is the right company and the right position, and you feel very good about this opportunity.
- Let the hiring manager know that if they make a reasonable offer, you would be happy to come to work there. (Let the definition of “reasonable” wait).
Your opportunity to negotiate the best offer comes when you know you are the final candidate–the one they want
to make an offer to. Usually that will be revealed to you when an offer is made. Until that point–when you know
an offer is imminent–avoid discussions about salary.
Step 7 – Ending the Interview
When the interview is winding down, there are a few key points to cover. The meeting may end quickly so be prepared. These points are important in order to set the frame of mind of the interviewer regarding you.
They are as follows:
- Thank the interviewer for his/her time.
- Re-express your sincere interest in the position and the company.
- Ask if there is anything else that you can add to clarify your qualifications for the position.
- Ask the interviewer for a business card in case you think of questions later ( this will also help when you write your thank-you notes).
- Firmly shake hands and exit.
As you review these interviewing tips and techniques, keep in mind two things: First, the order of these tips are for the ideal flow of an interview. However, most interviews will start by the interviewer talking about your
background (point four). Therefore, you will have to weave your questions into that discussion so you can tailor your answers about your background to fit the needs of the hiring manager. I recommend that if the interviewer starts out asking, “So, tell me about yourself.”, come back with, “Before I tell you about myself, would you mind telling me what you are looking for specifically in the person you want to hire?” The interviewer is asking you to talk about yourself and how it relates to their needs. It’s difficult to do that if you are not sure what the hiring manager is looking for. Second, these tips are intended to help you add structure and substance to your interviews. However, they are not intended to replace your interviewing style. You should try to blend these suggestions in with your own interviewing style to develop a customized, confident, and winning interviewing personality.
NOTE: You should use these techniques with EACH interviewer you meet. Even feel free to ask the same questions of each interviewer. It is better to duplicate questions rather than not asking anything of the last interviewer. Keep in mind that they are evaluating you on your questions.