The Ultimate Guide to Interviewing

interview tips Most jobs interviews are meant to be a conversation, not a test. But no matter the style of the interviewer, there are keys to making the right impression.

The primary goal of an interview is to determine if you are the most qualified candidate for the job. But a secondary goal is to determine whether you are a good fit with corporate culture and the others already working in the group. The way you approach the interview indicates more about you than you might think.

I have interviewed hundreds of candidates at Fortune 500 companies and small start-ups. Based on my experience, I offer this advice.

1. Dress for success

Unless instructed otherwise, wear proper interviewing attire. Even if this means putting on a tie and coat on the way to the interview. Many companies with a casual dress code want to know you can present yourself well for the occasional customer meeting. Although, I recommend you don't go over the top (i.e., cuff links).

2. Be on time; don't get lost

Know the exact time and location of your interview; this might require a dry run drive to assess traffic. Traffic is not a good excuse for being late, so plan to arrive 10 minutes early. In case you do run late, have a contact number with you in the car so your interviewers can use their time wisely. On larger corporate campuses, make sure you know which entrance to the campus and which building you should enter.

3. Remember the interview is always "on"

Realize that the interview starts and ends right as you enter and exit the parking lot. You never know who might be watching from the windows as you: 1) exit your car and finish getting dressed, or 2) drop your papers and chase them around the parking lot, or 3) finish a heated argument on your cell phone.

The receptionist, administrative personnel, and anyone you meet are all a part of the team critiquing your soft skills. So treat other people you encounter at the company with courtesy and respect. Do not assume the interview turns on and off during your stay. Anything you do or say is part of the interview -- even small talk.

4. Watch the body language and tone

Offer a firm handshake, make eye contact, and have a friendly expression when you are greeted by your interviewer. Keep that eye contact and friendly demeanor throughout the interview. People want to hire candidates who seem like they would be easy to work with (and friendly). Smiling and politely laughing at the appropriate times convey more about you than you might think. The key is not to be stiff or nervous. Have a comfortable and conversational tone.

Also, sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting and slouching. A simple way to avoid slouching is keep your lower back pressed against the seat. Doing this keeps you from leaning forward (appearing a little too intense) or slouching (and looking a little too comfortable). Keep your hands in your lap to avoid fidgeting; only hold on to your pen when taking notes. Candidates who click or tap their pen can be annoying during the interview.

5. Have concrete examples when answering questions

Your examples should be filled with details, but be concise in your wording. Remember, being concise ensures your intended message is not lost and allows you to bridge to related, important experiences. You should have a list of examples in front of you in case you get stuck.

When discussing your experiences, do not be afraid to use the word "I." Sure, everyone looks for a team player and you can say "we" whenever appropriate (e.g., "we brainstormed on the solutions, and I executed on the plan"). Ultimately the interviewer wants to know what YOU did versus the team.

6. Attitude is as important as knowledge

Although you might have options, treat each interview seriously and as though you are truly interested in the opportunity presented. You can always decide the job is not for you after you have had a chance to consider all your options and reflect on the decision. While in the interview, consider this job your BEST option.

Don't give the impression that you are only interested in an opportunity because of its geographic location. Or continuing education program, or company stability, or health club benefits, or salary, or ... you get the picture.

Remember, the interviewer is evaluating you as a potential co-worker. Positive attitude stretches beyond the workplace. They might even comment on the rainy weather to see how you respond. "Our lawns really need this water" is a POSITIVE response. Having a bad attitude includes making negative comments about previous employers or others.

7. Remember to interview them

Have intelligent questions prepared to ask the interviewer. Your questions should be ones that prompt a discussion about subject matter you are familiar with so you can be part it. You can ask procedural questions (such as "when will you make your decision?") on the walk out the door.

Your questions should help you determine whether you would like to work for that hiring manager and the company. Having no questions indicates you're not all that interested in the opportunity.

8. Listen as well as you talk

You need to be an excellent listener. Half of being an "excellent communicator" is being able to listen and understand what you are being told. Certainly ask for clarification if you do not understand a question, but if you have to do this too much, you will send a signal that you might not listen well (and therefore, not take direction well).

9. Capture the details

After the interview, make notes right away so you don't forget critical details. You can also jot a few notes during the interview, too, especially when getting answers to your questions. It sends a signal that you are listening and very interested in what they have to say. Just be careful about losing too much eye contact when putting too much detail in your notes. The details can be added later -- just write down enough for recalling the conversation.

10. Don't assume they read your resume

Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes a company will throw a few staff members into an interview on the fly. Maybe just to get more opinions or to let you meet some of your potential co-workers. In these situations, they may know little to nothing about you. So expect to cover some of the ground usually addressed by a resume.

Another circumstance where this occurs is when an interviewer skims the resume and is more interested to hear what you have to say in person about your experiences. They key is to avoid thinking, "Gee, don't these guys do their homework? I'm concerned about how much they care about my interview today." Thoughts like these sometimes get telegraphed by your facial expressions.

For more tips on interviewing, see: 10 Things About Interviews Job Seekers Need to Know

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February 11 2011 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

O.K. people, I feel your frustration and pain . . . My husband and I honest, educated, hard-working AMERICANS who love God and family more than anything and we are on the verge of losing our home . . . So . . . When I say that I feel your pain, I truly do, however, I resent that so many of you are taking God's name in vane. It is rude and inappropriate. I have small children that often come in and read what is going on in front of me. Yes, our country is in a mess and it is maddening. I have a couple of suggestions . . . Either do something constructive to make your life better or move to another country. Life is too short to sit around going, "Poor, pitiful, me!" I pray that continues to bless ALL of us more abundantly than we could ever possibly imagine. God bless the U.S.A and the world!

January 30 2011 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No such thing as "reverse" discrimination---it works both ways all the time no matter who is being discriminated against.

January 29 2011 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only places interviewing are low ballers and cherry pickers. I have seen several jobs that want you to supply your own equipment (cell phone, computer, software, pick-up, insurance). They want 20K of stuff and pay u 19 bucks an hour.

The last interview I went to was for a software specialist. I asked the interviewer what version of said software they use, and he did not even know. (The smart ass know it all hiring manager did not even know what his own company uses). Why dont they get a hiring manager that knows something? Isn't it ironic that I can't get hired by some jerk-off that dosn't know anything?
No wonder this county is a gonner!

January 29 2011 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is one of the first articles that I liked. I've had two interviews in the year-plus I have been unemployed. The first interview, I didn't really want the job, so I probably wasn't as upbeat as I should have been. The second job, I really wanted it. I dressed nice, colored the little gray out of my hair, was very pleasant to the four people I talked to and answered every single question correctly. I was careful when I got out of my car and when I walked back to my car. I honestly believe that people do watch you. I was pleasant to the receptionist. I smiled at everybody who walked by the room I was in. I was told by the recruiter that they really liked me, but unfortunately the owner's niece decided she needed a job. Can't fight that. But I do believe all of this advice is great.

January 29 2011 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Hyland

Although there is nothing new here, each piece of advice is valuable. Unless you are going to work alone, hiring managers want to know how you will fit in with other staff. Will you show up on time every day and not whine when you have to work later than you thought? Will you refrain from belittling colleagues that you believe lack your experience or special talents? Will you actively listen and actively respond to what you hear? Can you accept professional criticism without becoming sullen and aloof? They will want to know you are reasonably well organized, dress appropriately, speak properly and have enough humility and sense of humor to leave the interviewer with the idea that he or she would have no fears about sending you solo to a client lunch. Universities can be helpful in offering practical advice in business manners but it won't help if all the candidate gets out of it is a cookbook. You have to be that person, not pretend to be that person. You won't fool people for very long if you are pretending.

January 29 2011 at 9:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It has always been so from the begin of so-call society, rich get richer,and poor gets well you know the line, all rich people do the same, they are only interested in how they can make more money even if it means sacrificing billions of people to get that extra buck. They only concerns are making more money and invest it in ways of keeping and protecting it, (arms,drugs,bribes and corruption),this country is BROKEN and as far as i'm concern DEAD,there isn't money left for anything but more millitary arms and aid to help only (OTHER COUNTRIES) in diasters, sad but true, the reason for millitary investing believe me it's not really to protect this country its already dead but to keep us AMERICANS in check, do you think what happening in Egypt can ever happen here, yes maybe in the 50's to 80's but not now, these rich corrupt people have taken all steps to make sure they are protected and will get away with this for a very long time, the sad part is they will be protected by our sons and daughters in the arm forces (millitary) brain washed with the:- "ask not what your country can do for but what you can do for your country BS" TRY REPLACING COUNTRY WITH (RICH CORRUPT PEOPLE) and you'll see the big picture. Any revolt taking place in this country by us we will stop by our own children in the arm forces willing to give up they lives to protect these bastards if things get out of hand, so you see they have almost every corner covered t o protect their asses, but remember we elect them to run this country or should i say we elected them out of the choices they gave us, in the end rome fell and every great nation like it. A wise man once said "those who chose to forget the past are doomed to repeat it", but we know the past and yet we are repeating it.just like in the past all these greed people will die and live the land and money behind no lives forever.

January 29 2011 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@ Fat T: Count your blessings if JK is the one interviewing you. Stay positive and sell yourself. @ JK: Maybe some constructive criticism is what's needed here? Are you really a hiring manager? If so, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you have a lot of low performers reporting to you. Never, ever judge a book by its cover.

January 29 2011 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

see that it's attitudes like yourself who think just because they are a hiring manager they are better than everyone else, and you would be a big cause of the unemployment rate, it is obvious that if they are not a size 1-2 and can not or will not have sex with you then they are not worth hiring, I have dealt with people like you before

January 29 2011 at 8:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Something tells me that this is also what Steve's resumes look like, and the nail in the coffin would be the interview.

January 29 2011 at 8:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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