You’ve got the interview set-up, now let’s make sure you did your homework and show you’re the best candidate for the job.
Job interviews can be tricky. There are companies looking to solve a problem by hiring a qualified candidate. But then there are companies looking to get insight or learn about specific products and services from candidates employed by the competition, just so they can get a pulse of what’s going on in the industry. Ask questions during the interview process.
You might be able to uncover why the interviewer has the opening and what their intentions are in interviewing for the position. Remember, the interviewer’s objective is to find a qualified candidate. You’ll give yourself a head start on getting hired if you show the interviewer that you understand and can solve their problem.
The only purpose of the first job interview is to get the second interview. Basic guidelines for the first interview include:
- Punctuality – Arrive early. The interviewer does not want to hear about the problems you had getting to the interview late. It leaves a bad impression.
- Dress/Attire – Dress to impress. There are two options here, depending on the position for which you are interviewing. You could dress conservatively, in dress slacks and business shirt, but for the majority of interviews, a suit jacket and dress pants or 2-piece suit usually works well. If you choose the conservative mode, you will need to impress through conversation, demeanor, and your response to interview questions.
- Listen Attentively – Don’t just hear what your interviewer is saying, but listen to what they are saying. Then, when the time arrives to answer questions, you’ll understand the specific needs and objectives of the interviewer and the company.
Remember, it’s in the second and subsequent interviews that you will attempt to “close” the sale. That’s when questions will be more specific and you will have the opportunity to speak with numerous individuals within the company. You’ll also be given the chance to ask your questions.
Essential to any successful job interview are the following characteristics:
Substitute strengths for weaknesses. Don’t tell your interviewer you have no experience with a specific accounting software program. Instead, you could tell them that your experience with accounting software includes Quickbooks, ADP Workforce, Sage Business, each of which you were easily able to learn quickly with some proficiency.
Attitude and demeanor matter as much as your response to questions. Be professional and focused, yet friendly and personable. Remember, you need to fit into the workplace. No one wants to hire an individual with no personality, no matter their qualifications.
Be brief, but thorough in your communication style. Long-winded, endless responses to questions are not the answer. You’ll lose the interest of the interviewer and get “lost” in your own response.
Be enthusiastic. People love to hire individuals excited about their company. Be professional, yet demonstrate your interest and energy.
Demonstrate phone interview etiquette. Phone interviews for some job seekers can be terrifying, but you can develop techniques and skills that will maximize your phone interview’s impact on the hiring manager. Here are some phone interviewing tips to get you going.
Pre-contact preparation. It’s important to prepare for a successful phone contact when you are applying for a position. It’s recommended that the last paragraph of every application letter include contact information so the recruiter or human resources person can contact you with questions or request an interview. List correct working numbers where you can be reached.
You should also mention whether or not it is acceptable to be contacted at your current position. Include your email address if you check it often. An applicant who cannot be contacted during work hours might include information such as
“Although I prefer to receive messages at my home number, I check messages frequently throughout the day and can usually return calls during lunch or other breaks.” Don’t use music on your voicemail message, because this is very annoying to a recruiter and you want to impress upon them that you are a professional.
It helps recruiters if you leave one of these identifiers in the message: “You’ve reached Cindy, Jenny, and Tom. Please leave a message,” or “You’ve reached 219-111-1111. Please leave a message.” Again, each job seeker must determine what’s comfortable. Don’t change your message if you feel uncomfortable about having this information on your outgoing greeting.
If you have roommates, housemates, guests, a spouse, or children, it’s important to work out a system for message-taking. It wouldn’t good if your toddler picks up the phone and says “Oh, daddy’s in the bathroom,” before hanging up. It might be a good idea to invest in individual voicemail boxes for each member of your household.
Many new mobile and home phone systems have this feature. In the event a recruiter’s call is answered by a family member, instruct everyone – even youngsters – to carefully write down the entire message with contact names and phone numbers and remember to give it to you ASAP.
When you’re waiting for a phone call from prospective employers, this is a good time to create a job log to have near the phone. My advice to job seekers is to make a list of the companies at which they’ve applied and the titles of the positions for which they’ve applied. Some people even list qualifications requested for each position.
This way if you are called by the hiring staff, you will have some idea of which job they’re calling about. Ideally, the interviewer would like to think his or her company is the only employer to which you’ve applied.
But this hope dies quickly when you say something like, “Now what job is this again? I’ve applied for so many.” At best it makes you look disorganized, and at worst, it looks like you’re desperately sending out hundreds of resumes.
If you miss a call from the contact. If the hiring staff leaves a message for you, return the call as soon as you can. As you are returning the call, remember that the recruiter may have called 10 other people that day about the same or for a different position. Give your full first name and last name, say that you are returning the recruiter’s call, and mention the position for which you are applying.
You’re there when the contact calls. The moment of truth: The contact person calls and you answer. Here’s how a typical call might begin: “Hi Adam, this is Jennifer calling from the Widget Company in San Antonio, Texas. I’m calling regarding the marketing analyst position. Do you have about 15-20 minutes so I can ask you some preliminary questions about your background?” Most interviewers like to make sure that interviewing now is convenient for the candidate. Most recruiting professionals will give candidates this courtesy, particularly when calling a candidate at her current place of employment or on their mobile phone.
A part of this preliminary questioning is to qualify your background. You should also expect questions about your work history, duties and responsibilities, length of employment, reasons for leaving current and past employers, compensation history and expectations, and maybe cultural questions about the type of work environment you worked in. The idea is to determine whether this position will be a good fit for you and the prospective employer.
When speaking to the recruiter over the phone, it’s important to treat this phone interview the same as you would an in-person interview. Greet the person on the other end by saying good morning, afternoon, or evening, and say that it is a pleasure speaking to them and you appreciate their interest in you for the position.
Remember to stay positive, and smile when answering questions or giving explanations. If the recruiter happens to call during a bad time for you, let them know right away and schedule the call for another time that is more convenient.
Here are a few things that you should always bear in mind: If you’re using a mobile phone, make sure the battery is fully charged. If you have kids in the house, find a room or space where you can speak in privacy without disturbances.
If you live with roommates, make sure they don’t have music or other distractions in the background. It’s also important to keep a notepad handy. Better yet, have the notes from the advertisement for the position ready so you can speak intelligently about the position.
Speak clearly, take your time to answer questions, and ask questions about the duties and responsibilities for the position. Lastly, thank the caller for their time.
After the phone call. Write a short thank you note after the call. Here is one of many examples: “Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk to me about the marketing analyst position. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and have a better understanding of the job. I’d be interested in a second in-person interview to see if this position will be a good fit for both parties.”
Online meeting services. Online meeting services are becoming increasingly popular among recruiters and hiring managers. The recruiter can send an invitation via e-mail to the candidate with specific login information to this service. The candidate opens his or her e-mail, clicks on the link and is directed to the online meeting service website to have the meeting.
There are services that offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling, which allows you to speak to the interviewer through your internet connection on your computer. In similar services, you can also call into a conference number and log on to your computer to participate in voice and video meetings.
The latter option is used more frequently by candidates who want to present their work through a PowerPoint presentation, Word document, or Excel spreadsheet. Some online services also request that candidates take aptitude tests and work- or industry-related skills tests.