The Interview Itself
Feelings and body language – Try to stay relaxed. No tragedy will befall you if you don’t get the job. Amazing success stories have been told and have yet to be told by people who did not get hired for regular positions, went on with their lives and eventually achieved great things. Use the restroom before you go into the interview and don’t drink a lot before the interview. You don’t need another source of stress.
Concentrate on the task at hand – to present yourself and your abilities well in the interview – but keep it in proportion. Always keep in mind getting hired does not depend on you alone. Even if you make a great impression nothing is certain. There are other candidates, company politics and sometimes in the middle of the screening process the company decides to freeze the manning of the position. When you try to present yourself in the way best suited to the organization always remember to be yourself.
Be aware of preconceived notions. Both you and the interviewer have them and they can influence the way the interview is conducted. Styles of dress, background, body language, etc. Be aware of your outward characteristics and the impression they make and try to temper their impact. For example, if you grew up in a disadvantaged neighborhood, stress how you successfully coped with the environment and even helped others. You held an unimpressive job post in the army. Connect this to a health problem (one that is irrelevant, of course, to your ability to carry out the job being offered).
Keep in mind that you have already made a good initial impression, otherwise they would not have called you in for an interview. Now they want to have a better look at you. Remember this when you step in for the interview.
Display confidence – in accordance with the circumstances. Remember that you are on the interviewer’s turf and your future is in his hands. Except for certain exceptions, in this situation he has superiority over you. Even if you converse openly, which is the way it should be, the underlying messages should be clear to both of you, especially you. Don’t act like you’re in charge.
Do not use superlatives when talking about yourself and do not try to present a perfect image. Remain focused all the time on your abilities that are relevant to the job. Present your skills and abilities with judiciousness and humility.
If the interviewer receives you as you enter the room, step in first only when he invites you to do so and wait for him to offer you a seat. Do not make your own decision where to sit. If he is seated when you enter the room, sit when directed to do so.
Sit erectly, but not stiffly, and avoid clasping your hands around your neck as you settle back into the chair. You’re not at the pool. Appear comfortable, but not overly comfortable.
Do not make rapid, jerky movements. Don’t gesticulate wildly and in general do not get overly excited. Be aware of your speech and gestures. Moderate your behavior. If you are peppy by nature practice controlling your body movements. This will help you relax and it looks better. Be pleasant. Convey congeniality, optimism and restrained enthusiasm. In the end you will be working with people and it will be easier for you if you convey these qualities.
Some interviewers will not show respect for your time. For example, they will answer phone calls and apologize to you. This is unprofessional, but try to restrain yourself. If it gets out of hand, in a pleasant manner without any anger suggest rescheduling the interview out of consideration for the pressures on the interviewer, not because you feel imposed upon. Not every interviewer is trained in interpersonal relations and not everyone will accord you the respect you deserve. Don’t be quick to feel insulted by an amateurish interviewer. Keep the goal of your meeting in mind and try to advance your objectives. Still, set limits. Don’t let anyone step all over you.
If you are offered a drink ask for a glass of water. This does not place an imposition on your hosts, but you will be able to wet your mouth during the course of the conversation. Do not light a cigarette or ask if you can smoke. At best it won’t hurt, but it definitely won’t help.
Don’t be too saintly by volunteering information on your weaknesses. Let the interview uncover them – that’s his job. Tell the truth. You don’t have to tell all, but you do have to tell the truth. First of all the alternatives are unethical. Secondly, if you get hired your working relationship will be founded on a lie. Thirdly, most lies are eventually exposed, certainly over an extended period of working relations.
Answer questions matter-of-factly, even those that may be embarrassing to you. In many cases they are justified and the feeling of embarrassment arises only because the interviewer did not have the sense to pose the question in a tactful manner, or the source of the embarrassment lies in you and your personal circumstances. For example, the question, “What kind of work does your husband/wife do?” is embarrassing if you are in the middle of divorce proceedings. Yet the interviewer merely wanted to know, perhaps in a slightly roundabout way, how you manage with two small children if both of you work unconventional hours.
The interviewer may query you about your last job, particularly if it was in the same field the present organization is involved in. Do not rush to volunteer information. First of all, it is unethical to reveal internal details about your former employer and secondly, the interviewer may think you have a loose tongue that could one day damage him as well.
In response to questions that sound overly invasive you can gently say you don’t think it would be fair on your part to pass on this information and explain why. This answer may frustrate the interviewer for a moment, but clearly in most cases he will respect your integrity.
Never malign other people, even if they deserve to be denigrated. Touch on the problem, not the people. If you had a bad boss don’t say that, but you can describe a situation in which you did not see things eye-to-eye. Let the interviewer judge who was right and who was wrong.
Be aware of the interviewer’s body language as he listens to you speak. Do not wear him out. Many interviewees feel at ease during the conversation and talk too much. An interviewer may feel uncomfortable interrupting. Do not get caught up in yourself and in enumerating your attributes. It is important to pay attention to the interviewer’s reactions.
You’re allowed to feel nervous. You’re only human. You can even say this to the interviewer. He will generally accept this with empathy and may even feel more fondness toward you. He will feel you are on unsteady ground compared to him and will permit himself to be accommodating and help you overcome your nervousness.
You can jot down notes during the interview, but not in a way that will interfere with the flow of communication. It’s best to ask the interviewer if he does not object and explain why you are doing so (for example, points you may want to bring up later in the conversation).
Do not rush to answer questions immediately. If you were asked an involved question you can take a few seconds to think before you speak. Tell the interviewer you would like to think about your answer for a few seconds so he does not get the impression you swallowed your tongue. Try to find out, based on the interviewer’s remarks and questions, what his goal is, where he is leading to and what he is trying to find out. In this kind of conversation not everything is out on the table. The interviewer will want to expose things you may not feel comfortable discussing openly. Try to figure out what is important for him to know and stress this in your remarks. For instance, if he asks, “How important to you is openness at a place of work?” the issue is probably important to him, because another worker may have disappointed him in this matter.
Common Interview Questions
From the outset of the interview you may be asked to tell about yourself. This requires that you speak at length rather than giving just a brief reply. It allows the interviewer to look you over and decide in which direction to steer the conversation.
Not every interviewer knows how to make the most of this question/request. Nevertheless, don’t plunge into an autobiographical survey and don’t ask what he means or where to begin. Relate who you are at present: your profession, education, place of employment and achievements. Try to stress elements that might be relevant to the job to which you have applied – relevant experience, a reference from the interviewer’s field of work, etc.
“Why did you stop working at your last job?”
This can be an embarrassing question but it is important to the interviewer because it tells him about your needs, expectations and even your personality. If you left because you couldn’t get promoted any higher he will assess whether he can meet your expectations for advancement. If you didn’t see eye-to-eye with the new supervisor the interviewer will want to evaluate whether you will get along with the designated supervisor (whether it is he himself or another person at the company). This will also familiarize him with your personality and temperament. Changing jobs is a routine and legitimate matter but oftentimes it is mixed with emotions.Don’t focus on the feelings that were with you during this process; instead present matter-of-fact reasons. If you prepared for this question it need not put you on the spot.
The following are a few legitimate, acceptable explanations: A new boss came, bringing his loyal secretary with him. You outgrew your former position, anticipated a promotion and somebody else got promoted instead. You moved. Always remember not to denigrate or criticize. Stick to the point.
“What did you not like at your former place of work?”
This can also sound like a provocative question because it invites criticism. But a good interviewer will want to assess whether these characteristics are present at his company and will play a part in your suitability for the job.
In this case as well do not slip into criticism and denigration. Instead focus as much as possible on concrete elements that are legitimate to dislike and even are legitimate to find at a place of work. For example, because of the size of the company there were numerous procedures that made the work process slightly cumbersome (and you have already discovered this is not the case at the company where you are interviewing). Or because the company was small there was almost no room to advance (and you have already discovered this is not the case at the company where you are interviewing).
“Why did you choose to apply for this job?”
This question tells the interviewer about your needs and expectations and constitutes a central element in every attempt to make a match between job and jobseeker. Try to make sure you have specific points to present. Don’t say, “I just happened to see the ad and thought it could be right for me,” but “Professional development is important to me so when I saw the ad I spoke with a friend who worked here and he told me you invest considerably in professional guidance. I felt this might be right for me.”
Chances are good you will be asked to present your attributes. This will make it easier for the interviewer to identify them and will allow him to evaluate character traits such as humility or arrogance, self-confidence, pride and self-awareness.
When you lay forth your attributes be sure to give illustrative examples. You are likely to be asked to state them so be sure to prepare in advance. Focus on attributes that are relevant to the job. Persuasiveness is important in sales and less important in technical secretarial work. Orderliness and organizational skills are important in administrative work and less important for members of a development team.
If you are asked about your faults you should present a fault that is also an attribute. Instead of liar – diplomatic. Instead of stubborn – a person who sticks to his opinions. Instead of unthinking – spontaneous. If you add the word “too” to every trait it will make it sound negative enough, yet not ruinous, and you will be perceived as a candid person who is aware of his weaknesses. (Perfectionist, invest too much in your work – are these negative traits? Perhaps to your wife, but here they might be seen in a positive light. What’s wrong with a pedantic bookkeeper?).
In presenting your attributes you can present faults that are not relevant to the job, i.e. an underdeveloped sense of humor. Many interviewers see in the description of your faults your aptitude for self-criticism as well as help from you in determining your shortcomings, which is part of evaluating your suitability for the job.
If you present real shortcomings professional interviewers will greatly value your self-confidence and ability to judge yourself. But you must also take less skilled interviewers into account. Try to adapt your approach to the situation at hand.
At this point we must stress the following: Under no circumstances do we advocate misrepresenting yourself or creating a false impression. First and foremost this is unethical and of course will not help because eventually the truth will come to light – certainly in long-term relationships such as working relationships. All we are suggesting in the above recommendations is to create a situation in which you try to prevent the inexperienced interviewer from generating a skewed impression, not that you try to deceive an experienced interviewer (which generally will not succeed) or a less experienced interviewer (even if you do succeed, it is just in the short term)!
Another question might be, “What is your former employer’s opinion of you?”
You must keep in mind that if he considers you a serious candidate chances are almost certain he will contact this employer and really will ask about his opinion of you. To ensure your reply is not far off the mark you should speak with your former employer and ask him openly what he thinks of you. If you pose the question in a mature and matter-of-fact way, in most cases you will receive a mature and matter-of-fact answer. You will also know how to answer the interviewer correctly.
“Why are you right for this job?”
You have prepared for this question and have analyzed the elements of the job offered alongside your needs and abilities. Therefore you are able to provide the interviewer with a solid answer. This is not a critical question, although it can be posed as such by interviewers who lack professionalism. They are liable to give you the feeling you had a lot of nerve to even apply for the job. But this is actually a matter-of-fact question. What they really want from you is help in evaluating how well you are suited for the job.
Asking the Interviewer Questions
Toward the end of the interview generally the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. You do, indeed, since you’ve come prepared. However, you may have already received answers to them during the course of the conversation or during your preliminary inquiries (e.g. you clarified the salary range of the job with the person who called you in for the interview). If this is the case, don’t make a special effort to come up with more questions. Tell the interviewer you had questions but they have been answered. This approach will cast you as an organized, goal-oriented individual.
If you do have questions pose them in a pointed, matter-of-fact manner. Try not to focus on pay and working conditions in the initial stage, but on the nature of the job and the opportunities for development it offers. Wait until the end to address salary and terms if the interviewer did not bother to discuss them at an earlier stage.
Examples of other questions you can ask: Who will supervise your work and how? What potential for development/advancement does the job offer? What kind of training do workers undergo? What provisions are made to keep up-to-date professionally?
Some say questions on the potential for advancement and development, if not posed properly, can create the impression rather than focusing on the job for which you submitted your candidacy you already have your sights set on your next job. Your interest is legitimate, but less suited to the company’s needs.
A place of work is a human, social environment that has considerable influence on the quality of life of managers and workers alike. Questions directed at the interviewer about the way the place of work is run, the prevalent atmosphere, company social activities, etc. will indicate you are not just the next professional coming to fill the post, but a person to whom the social environment is important.
You may not remember all the questions you wanted to ask, but they appear on the list you prepared. There is nothing preventing you from politely asking to take out the list and glancing over it. This will convey the impression you took the interview seriously and came prepared.
Allow the interviewer to finish the conversation. Some interviewers will ask how the job strikes you, especially if they are interested in recruiting you. If the job doesn’t sound right for you, state this politely. (Sometimes the job’s unsuitability will come out during the conversation).
If you are interested, don’t display your enthusiasm overtly. Say the job seems interesting and you would like to think over the conversation and take things one step at a time. Don’t give this reply in an arrogant manner! Practice replying in such a way that you sound matter-of-fact and polite. If the interviewer tells you when you will hear from them – great. If not ask him when you can expect to receive a reply.
After the Interview
Reassess the organization and no matter what – continue your efforts!
Analyze the information you have gathered so far, both formal and informal. Place it alongside your list of expectations and desires. Assess whether the job comes reasonably close to meeting the important parameters you set for yourself.
For instance: Wage level and benefits, opportunities for professional growth, how interesting the work is, the staff you would be working with, the personality and professionalism of the superior and the job security the organization has to offer.
Assess the quality of the organization. Would you want to spend a significant portion of your day at this organization? Keep in mind that a place of work has a decisive impact on your quality of life. The way you were treated in every stage of the hiring process reflects the organization’s level of professionalism and the atmosphere that prevails there. If you were treated condescendingly and coldly during the recruitment process chances are this kind of treatment will prevail after you are hired as well. Pay attention to the warning signs that pop up along the way. Do not be blinded by your eagerness to find work.
Analyze the interview and do not be led astray by the way it went. For example, an inexperienced interviewer might show you he was enthusiastic over your candidacy. Take this in proportion and do not start celebrating prematurely. Remember in many cases he is not the only person making the decision. Keep in mind that he may be insufficiently trained and his assessment of whether or not you are suitable for the job is not accurate. You should also ascertain whether the job is suitable for you to avoid disappointment if you are hired. Most of all, check whether the interviewer’s enthusiasm over you did not encourage him to paint the job in pretty colors to entice you. Inexperienced interviewers tend to do this unknowingly when they want to recruit someone who appears to be an attractive candidate in their eyes.
Don’t stop looking for work during the two weeks they told you to wait before receiving a final answer. You may find your good feelings about the job misled you. Even if they were not mistaken the circumstances at the organization may have changed and now they are considering the possibility of eliminating the job. Meanwhile you sit back complacent and smug, sure the job is yours, and lose two weeks of valuable job-hunting time.
Prepare yourself emotionally to cope with rejection and keep in mind every failure is a possibility for something new and better. This maxim is not merely meant to encourage you, but has proven true on many occasions. Keep in mind in many cases you were rejected for a certain position not because you were of insufficiently high caliber but for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with you. Don’t take a vacation to sink into self-pity. Continue trying to apply to other positions from the same day you receive a rejection notice.