Transition Guidance

Success during your transition is the result of an honest self-assessment, developing sound financial and career planning objectives, aggressively pursuing your job search strategies and a little hard work!

Title:Effective Interviewing Tactics

Author:Robert Lindsey. All rights reserved.


Design your resumes and cover letters for one purpose - to get an interview. The employment screening interview is a two-way street or a conversation with a purpose. It is an opportunity to provide and evaluate information. Your role is to provide adequate and accurate information to assist the interviewer in evaluating your skills, education, experiences, goals, objectives and personality for the position in question. You should also listen and obtain information from the interviewer about the employer, the position, the work environment and the company.

Screening Interviews:

In the screening interview the interviewer determines whether you are a viable candidate to invite for a follow-up interview. You have approximately 30 minutes to convince the interviewer that you have the skills, education, and experience to be successful in the position. Remember you are a salesperson selling yourself to the interviewer as the best person for the position. Know yourself, your goals, your objectives and your skills. Research and analyze the company and its industry. Present an attitude and appearance that will allow the interviewer to be proud to present you to their fellow employees during follow-up interviews.

A screening interview is designed to exchange information - so communicate effectively! The interview may have three parts, introduction, interview and close. The introduction is the ice-breaker to set the tone of the interview and put you at ease. You only get one chance to make a first impression - do it well! During the body of the interview, the interviewer will evaluate your self-confidence, motivation, attitudes, skills, knowledge, experience, initiative and responsibility. Remember that the interviewer is comparing you to an "ideal" candidate. Be positive! Be prepared to discuss the organization, job responsibilities, operations, policies, your career objectives, geographical preference and mobility. Don't be "weeded out"! Only the interviewer should bring up salary and benefits. During the close, express a sincere interest in the job and leave knowing who contacts whom.

Interview Preparation:

Do the following things to prepare yourself for an interview:

  • Record the exact time, place and directions to the interview (don't be late!).
  • Record the correct name and address of the company.
  • Record the interviewer's name and know how to pronounce it.
  • Do research on the company to show your interest and knowledge (there are a number of publications on the internet or at your local library, as well as a company's annual report, that can help you research a company.)
  • Prepare questions for the interviewer.

Some Questions to Prepare Beforehand:

  • How old is the company?
  • Where are its offices, stores, plants, facilities located?
  • What are its most successful products and/or services?
  • Who are its competitors?
  • What share of the market does it possess?
  • How has its growth within its industry been?
  • What is the industry's outlook?
  • What sort of training programs does it provide?
  • If I am hired, what type of and/or size dept. would I likely be managing/supervising or working in?

It is especially important that you practice being interviewed beforehand. This will help you frame your answers and rehearse your responses to difficult questions as well as ensuring you incorporate all the significant points you wish to make. Ask a friend or your spouse to help you. Record your practice interview if possible and afterwards critique it with your partner to improve your interviewing skills.

Take note-taking materials to the interview and don't be afraid to jot things down during the session, though don't become so immersed in your note-taking that you ignore the interviewer!

Arrive for the interview at least 10 minutes early and be appropriately dressed, neat and clean. If possible, try to schedule the interview on a non "casual" day so you can see how employees regularly dress, as well as being less self-conscious.

Interview Presentation:

Follow these basic guidelines during any interview:

  • Don't be late! And if you are unavoidably detained, CALL to let the interviewer know and re-schedule as necessary.
  • Check your appearance before greeting the interviewer.
  • Greet with and formally use the interviewer's last name until they allow first names.
  • Introduce yourself in a confident manner and express your interest in being there.
  • Shake hands firmly, but no "death grips"!
  • Remain standing until offered a seat.
  • Sit erect, not rigid, with your arms in your lap.
  • Avoid excessive note writing during the interview.
  • Use your voice and gestures to communicate enthusiasm.
  • Avoid being sidetracked from the topic at hand.
  • Avoid answering questions in a negative manner and maintain a pleasant demeanor.
  • Avoid talking ill of anyone, especially a past employer - always be positive!
  • When finished, shake hands again and thank them for their time and consideration. This is a good moment to ask when you might expect to be hearing from them again, or if they would prefer you to get back to them.

Questions Often Asked By Interviewers:

Prepare answers to the following questions
(and any others you can think of) and practice answering them in a natural fashion, always pointing out the positive:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How would a friend describe you?
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • What major problems have you encountered?
  • How did you deal with them?
  • What motivates you?
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  • What are your goals for the next ten years?
  • What are your long range career objectives?
  • How do you plan to achieve your career objectives?
  • What rewards do you expect to achieve in your career?
  • What are your life goals?
  • Which is most important to you? Money, type of work, or time off?
  • What qualifications do you have to fill this position?
  • How do you determine success?
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in our company?
  • Why did you seek a position with this company?
  • What do you know about my company?
  • How can you immediately contribute to my company?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What qualities should a manager possess?
  • What accomplishments have given you the greatest satisfaction?
  • What led you to select your career field?
  • Would you change your field if you could?
  • Do you have plans for additional education or training?
  • In what kind of a work environment are you most comfortable?
  • How well do you work under pressure?
  • How well do you work with other people?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or with others?
  • What size company would you prefer to work for?
  • What is your geographical preference?
  • Can you relocate?
  • Are you willing to travel?
  • Are you willing to spend at least X amount of time as a trainee?
  • What type of community would you prefer to live in?
  • What (some number) things are most important to you in your job?
  • What did you like most/least about your last/current job?
  • What did you like most/least about your last/current employer?
  • How do you evaluate the companies that you're interviewing with?

Questions Asked Of Interviewers:

Fill lulls in the conversation and impress interviewers with well thought-out questions. After your research, decide on specific questions, and show that you are interested in the industry and company and that you have done some homework on them. Here are a few examples:

  • What is the employer's management philosophy?
  • What is the company's culture?
  • What is the nature/extent of their training program?
  • What is the level of supervision you will initially be given?
  • What will be expected of me as a new employee?
  • Are there any aspects of the job that are especially significant?
  • How does the company's performance review and evaluation program work?
  • Will I be required to relocate? How often?

Follow-Up Interviews:

If the interviewer is interested in you, you will receive an invitation to visit the employer for a follow-up interview. Promptly acknowledge the offer of the follow-up interview in writing, noting any scheduling difficulties. You will meet more employees during the follow-up, but the interviews should be similar to the initial screening interview. But be prepared! Do even more in-depth research on the company. Plan to spend an entire day at the employer's location. It's a stressful situation in respect to being "under the microscope", so eat and sleep well the night before.

80% of those asked to a follow-up interview receive job offers. You may even receive an offer before leaving, so be prepared to decide on the spot or ask for some additional time. Or, it's possible the offer may come a few days later. After the interview, review your notes in case you have any follow-up questions for the employer. Immediately write post-interview "thank you" letters to all the people that you interviewed with. (See Post-Interview & "Thank You" Letters).

Travel Expenses:

Some companies will reimburse you for traveling and other expenses for distant interviews. Reimbursement policies vary; all, some or none of your expenses may be paid for. Learn your potential employer's policy before committing to an interview. You may be reimbursed for the following:

  • Airline tickets
  • Taxi fares from/to airport, hotel and interview
  • Baggage service and tips
  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Automobile mileage and Parking

While you may receive tickets in advance you'll probably have to pay for the rest out-of-pocket, so take cash and credit cards. Obtain receipts whenever possible - employers will expect them. Reimbursement can take as long as four weeks. Set aside funds for this purpose or, if necessary, seek a loan.

Drug Tests:

Nearly 50 percent of employers nationwide screen job applicants for drug use, and the number is increasing. Almost all employers screening applicants test for both marijuana and hard drugs. Drug screening is on the rise and within two years nearly 70 percent of all employers will require a drug screening. Employers recently ranked safety in the work place as their major concern. Industries that usually screen include: utilities, transportation, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and petroleum. You may even be asked to have a physical examination, or take an HIV test.

Rejections Are Learning Opportunities:

If you get a letter of rejection, turn that rejection into a learning opportunity. Remember that the average job candidate contacts 40 potential employers to get one suitable offer of employment. This means a lot of rejection letters! Don't get discouraged; consider each rejection as being one step closer to an offer. See if you can decide why you failed to receive an offer. Employers often cite the following as reasons for not considering a candidate:

  • Sloppy resume, letters, or application form.
  • Late for interview.
  • Poor personal appearance.
  • Lack of eye contact during interview.
  • Extreme nervousness, often characterized by talking too much.
  • Lack of confidence and poise.
  • Timid, introverted, non-assertive.
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm, passive, or indifferent.
  • Failure to participate fully in the interview process.
  • Inability to express oneself, poor diction, poor grammar.
  • Lack of career planning, no goals or no objectives.
  • Over-emphasis on money, interested only in offer.
  • Poor scholastic record.
  • Unwilling to start at bottom, expected too much, too soon.
  • Ill-mannered, uncourteous.
  • Overbearing, conceited, know-it-all-attitude.
  • Made excuses, evasive on unfavorable factors in record.
  • Asked no questions about the job.
  • Lack of knowledge about the employer.
  • Indefinite response to questions.
  • Questionable long-term potential for advancement.
  • Unwilling to relocate.

If you're not sure why you were rejected, contact the employer or interviewer who rejected you and ask them for help. Ask them why you were not given consideration. Was it due to your resume, letter(s), interview(s), skills, education qualifications, etc.? Ask them if they know of another employer who might be interested in you. Be very tactful! Tell them, you are calling to improve yourself and your job search abilities. You'll be surprised at how helpful they may be.

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