Are you about to be interviewed? That’s great! It’s important that you make a good first impression on your prospective employer, because this first interaction could solely determine whether or not you will be offered a job. The interview is a good method for hiring managers to become personally acquainted with you and ensure you are a good fit for their organization. In this fast-paced environment, phone interviews are becoming as common a screening method as in-person interviews in the initial phase of the hiring process. Whether on the phone or in person, your initial interview is the most important aspect of your job hunt. This article weaves together tips for both scenarios, since preparing for either type of interview is much the same.
Doing your homework to prepare in advance will help enhance your value, make you more effective, and lower your stress, allowing you to perform better during the interview. These tips for both in-person and telephone interviews will help you differentiate yourself from other candidates who are competing for the same position.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Research the company. Do your homework and learn as much as you can about the company, key players (executives, management team), revenues (if public), mission, product lines, services, and divisions. Conduct a search on the Internet and read all new press releases on the company and executive team. Print, read, and highlight company information to demonstrate your knowledge of the company, its niches, mission, products, service offerings, and number of years in business. (Whether you’re starting out in your career or making a career change, we also recommend making your own scorecard to help you find the best fit.)
Prepare a list of intelligent questions to ask related to the company or position. It’s best if you develop your own questions and put them into your own words. Below are a few examples (for more sample questions, click here):
Print the job description. Have it in front of you to reference the listed key duties and required qualifications.
Make a list of your 5 professional goals. Written goals convey that you are a focused professional with a mission and are committed to achieving personal growth.
Review your resume, and catalog your skills and accomplishments. Whether you’re interviewing in person or on the phone, you’ll want to differentiate yourself by highlighting your qualitative and quantitative accomplishments for past employers. Be prepared to share the contributions you can make to the company. Here’s what you’ll need to have with you during the interview:
Find a quiet, secluded place for your telephone interview. During your phone interview, you will need to isolate yourself from noise such as radios, TVs, and background talk from children, family, or bystanders. If you’re at home, be sure that everyone in the house knows you’re taking an important phone call so that you are not disturbed. Above all, make sure that no one picks up an extension in another room until after the interview is complete. Using your cell phone, if you’re sure it has good reception, may be the best way to avoid interruptions. However, using a landline whenever possible provides the clearest communication.
If you must use your cell phone, it’s best never to interview while you are driving. In our experience, phone interviews in the car seldom go well! Answering interview questions while driving often makes candidates appear unfocused, and unreliable cell phone reception can make it difficult to hear or maintain a complete, uninterrupted conversation. If you must answer an interview call while you are driving, explain that you are in your car, then find a place to pull over so you can give 100% attention to the interview.
Dress for success even for a telephone interview. Even though you and your interviewer may not be able to see each other, your ability to project a professional appearance is very important. Dressing in professional apparel will support your attitude. Your seriousness about the opportunity will be reflected in the way you dress and subsequently communicated by your professional tone. During a phone interview, you won’t be able to visibly highlight your discussions with physical gestures and expressions. Therefore, you must be confident in projecting your character and personality though your tone, pace, and words.
Dress for success for your in-person interview. Since first impressions are lasting expressions, dress up and look your best. You only have 15 seconds to make a good first impression, so pay attention to personal details. Your recruiter can advise you on the company culture if any variations such as casual dress are recommended, but here’s what we generally recommend:
Rehearse for your telephone interview. Practice speaking clearly and confidently into the phone while you maintain a professional posture. Try to sound like you’re speaking to the hiring manager in person. Spell out the name of the person who will conduct the phone interview, and practice saying the name aloud until you’re comfortable with it and can pronounce it correctly. Work on mirroring your interviewer’s tone and pace. Role-play with your recruiter or a friend to evaluate your level of professionalism and the quality of your responses to general interview questions.
Rehearse for your in-person interview. Practice your answers, eye contact, handshake, facial expressions, and body language. Role-play with your recruiter or a friend to evaluate your responses to general interview questions. You may also find it helpful to video your interview practices with your phone so you can actually see and hear yourself as the employer would. (If this seems too complicated, practice in front of a mirror.)
Print directions to the location of your in-person interview and make sure you arrive 15 minutes early. Allow extra time for unexpected traffic conditions or being unfamiliar with the area.
Prepare yourself 15 minutes before a telephone interview. Take a few minutes before your scheduled phone call to gather your thoughts and get in the right frame of mind. Have a glass of water nearby so you can take a drink when your mouth gets dry. (Just don’t sip audibly enough for the interviewer to hear you!) Don’t take any unusual medication beforehand, and don’t chew gum, eat, or use the restroom while you are on the phone—all these will affect the quality of your interview! Phone interviews usually take less than 30 minutes, but you’ll want to allow plenty of time for any questions your interviewer may have.
Block out a minimum of two hours for an in-person interview. Employers want to spend quality time with you. They may want you to meet other key people, tour their facility, take pre-employment screening tests, and so forth. It’s a mistake to feel rushed, or to leave the impression that you have more important things to do than be interviewed.
Be prepared to jot down the important questions that you are asked so that, at the end of the interview, you can check to see if you have answered them to the interviewer’s satisfaction. Your objective in the interview is not just to advance in the process, but to get to the offer stage. Undoubtedly, the interview will be your first opportunity in making a great first impression. Applying these guidelines will help differentiate you from other candidates and give you an added advantage in being considered as the ideal candidate for the opportunity.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
B. Sample Interview Questions You May Be Asked
Below are some sample questions that you may be asked during your interview, from the book Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions by Matthew J. DeLuca. Prepare your answers in advance with specific examples. You may want to consider purchasing the book to more thoroughly prepare yourself.
1. What were your major accomplishments and contributions in your last 2-3 positions?
Past performance is the best indicator of future behavior, which is why many hiring managers will ask you behavioral questions that start with, “Tell me about a time when you….” If you can communicate your value with past employers, it helps the interviewer(s) perceive and expect that they will receive the same kind of performance and results from you for their company. Bring tangible examples (reports, recognition letters/e-mails, work samples, performance reviews, etc.) of your work.
2. How do you manage multiple tasks and pressure?
The interviewer is trying to learn how much work (capacity) you can handle and how you deal with multi-tasking and project management.
3. What was been your favorite position and why?
The interviewer is looking for relevant experience, including what you really love and want to do. Is the position a long- term or short-term match? With what type of management style do you work best?
4. Why should you be considered for this position?
Employers are looking to hire “A” players who are the best in class and have the right chemistry. “A” players work well within the culture and framework that is already established within the company, as well as show they will work the hardest for their employer. Communicate how you are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Express a passion to be a profitable contributor who exhibits a stellar work ethic, high integrity, and ability to build trust with others.
To be prepared for what has often been called the toughest interview question, “Tell me about yourself,” click here.
For more behavioral interview questions you might be asked, read Davenport’s Ten Tough Interview Questions and Ten Great Answers. It explains from an interviewer’s point of view what he wants when he asks how your education has prepared you for this position, or whether or not you are a team player. Here’s one example:
What are your top five strengths, and why should I hire you? The easy answer is that you are the best person for the job. And don’t be afraid to say so. But then back it up with what specifically differentiates you. For example: “You should hire me because I’m the best person for the job. I realize that there are likely other candidates who also have the ability to do this job. Yet I bring an additional quality that makes me the best person for the job–my passion for excellence. I am passionately committed to producing truly world-class results. For example . . .” Are you the best person for the job? Show it by your passionate examples. Personalize your response : At ABC company … I … and… (give specific examples of your past behavior and work).
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Send a thank-you card. Follow up with a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for the interview and convey a strong desire to help the company grow. Highlight key points that you discussed in the interview and communicate your desire for the position. (If the employer is making an immediate decision, then send a thank-you email right after your interview.) For more tips on following up after your interview, click here.
Here’s a sample thank-you note for a phone interview:
Dear __________, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview with you by phone today. It was a pleasure talking with you and learning more about the (position title). I’m extremely interested in pursuing this opportunity. After our conversation, I feel confident that I can make a valuable contribution to you and the company, and I’d like to help the company achieve its goals and objectives. The possibility of working in this position excites me, and I look forward to interacting further with you.
Sincerely, (Your name)
Next is a sample thank-you note for an in-person interview:
Dear __________, I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to interview with you today. It was a pleasure meeting you. I’m extremely interested in the (position title). I feel very confident that I will be a valuable asset to you and the company, especially in the area of (your strength as it applies to the position), and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help you and the company achieve its goals and objectives. I am excited about this opportunity and look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely, (Your name)
If you have any questions before your interview, call your recruiter. And after your interview, be sure to call your recruiter to let him or her know how it went and what next steps to expect. Also, be sure to connect with your recruiter on LinkedIn so we can follow your career! We wish you success in your next interview. May it further your journey toward meaningful work, a great fit, and a satisfying career.
Your Amtec Team