1. Job Description Breakdown
2. Company Research
3. Interview and Human Resources Research
5. Interview Location
9. During the Interview
10. Common Questions
11. Questions to Ask
12. What They Care About
13. What To Avoid
14. Culture and Culture Fit
16. Ending the Interview
17. Thank You Letter
18. In Summary
&Advanced Interview Preparation& & Advice is an accumulation of advice I have shared with countless professionals while preparing them to interview.
We prepare for important parts of our lives: athletics, music, drama, exams, hobbies, speeches, etcetera. When it comes to our interview, why do we treat it differently?
Thoroughly working through the instructions on the following pages will make you a smarter, more confident candidate. The success of your job search also depends on criteria outside of your preparedness. For instance: how your qualifications align with a certain position, how your experience lines up against other applicants, or sometimes a company interviews several candidates, but for internal reasons is unable to hire anyone.
Following the steps laid out in the following chapters will help you put your best foot forward and make an impression.
I have worked to keep this as concise as possible – no fluff. Thorough and comprehensive, while brief enough to accommodate an interview scheduled with short-notice. Part of the beauty of following this advice is that this preparation will make your interview easier. You will be more relaxed, less distracted and able to focus on the moment-at-hand. The following will help you get everything out of the way, so that when you walk into your interview, you will be (over) prepared and ready to have a professional conversation about your next job.
&The Job Description& – a document that can be skimmed over, or carefully dissected.
Preparing for your next position starts with the Job Description. At your very first opportunity, save a copy of this in your personal files. Download a .pdf from your prospective company’s website, or even better – copy all the text from the original source and paste it into a format that you can edit (like a .doc).
This will be your map – your main source of information to build from as you prepare for your next position. If your talent and experience truly lines up with any job you are pursuing, the position description will be the strongest source of proof of your candidacy.
The following exercise will broaden your view of your qualifications and build a case for why you are well suited for this position.
After you have copied the text from the job description on your computer, paste it into a blank document.
Highlight all the text in that document, and increase the size by 1-2 points, and make it bold.
Separate all bullet points so each one has space above and below it. This should turn a 1 or 2 page document into multiple pages.
Change your text color to red (not the color of the words that are already there – the color of the words you will be typing). This may change back to black as you navigate the document, but make sure to change any text you type to a smaller, red font.
Starting with the very first word at the top of the document, you will now carefully dissect the information contained, and create a case for your candidacy.
Dissecting the Position Description
By now, the importance of this exercise has been made clear. If you already feel you are a strong candidate, this will put those feelings into words. If you feel less confident, this exercise will bring to light relevant experience that you may not have originally realized.
1. Start at the top of the page
Start with the company name. Write out 4-6 sentences about the company and your personal experience or interaction with it. If it’s a store you used to shop out, write about that. If it is a product you have used before, write about that. If it is an advertising agency, or research lab, write about why you want to work at one, or what you know about this specific organization. No matter what the history is, put it into your own words.
2. Overview/General description
There are various formats for job descriptions and these instructions might not line up with them. Typically a job description will begin with the overview. You will break that down by sentence.
“We’re looking for a highly skilled and passionate ________ to join our fast-paced environment.”
If this is the first sentence, write out a couple sentences about times you have demonstrated passion for a job or project. Why are you passionate about this? Have you worked in a fast-paced environment? How about a restaurant or check-out counter? What have you done that is fast-paced, and how did you handle it? Write about it. If you can’t relate, express your desire to experience this. If you know you will struggle in a fast-paced environment, don’t immediately be scared away, but consider alternative positions.
The position description will continue to sections with various titles. No matter what they are, in the end they are describing the skills and experience necessary to perform in this role. At each bullet point, write out any personal experiences/interactions/projects/ideas/locations/skills/etc/etc/etc/etc you have that relate.
Some of these points may seem to have nothing to do with you. Never, ever lie, but don’t leave any spaces blank either. If you see:
…and you don’t have an MBA, write about how you would consider pursuing one if your employer provided tuition reimbursement. If you would never, ever consider attaining one, write out how you believe attaining an MBA would benefit this position. If you don’t know, you will have to research to find out.
If you see:
“Knowledge and experience in WXYZ development environment.”
…and you don’t have that experience, research what steps need to be taken to get that experience. You don’t have to go out and attain it immediately, but the research is what’s important. Write it down.
You should have written – a lot. This new document serves to build a strong case about you and your candidacy for this position. Now that you have this prepared, when you are in your interview, you will have this to refer to each individual aspect of the job and everything you have done to be a top candidate.
And the experience that you don’t have? You can now confidently and positively reply as a well prepared, thorough candidate.
“I don’t have experience in WXYZ development, but there is a certification that I am confident I can attain in 2-3 months at their website. It is a skill I have wanted to master, and I have already started the process of signing up for the certification!”
&One of the first&/only steps that are taken by most of your competition for the same job is reading through the company website. That is a good step, but we are going to dig a lot deeper.
Depending on the company, there is a lot you can learn. Don’t disregard this research because it takes time, and you are applying to multiple organizations. Consider this time a short-term investment in attaining an important job, and a long-term investment in insight into a company in the industry that you will likely be working in for many years, if not a life-time.
You will want to open a new document. and be ready to take notes. Name it “CompanyName Research”.
1. Company Website
2.[* Google Company name*]
3. Find out who company leader (President, CEO, Owner, Director, Partner, Founder, Etc) is via website or Linkedin
4.[* Research who leads your department*]
Depending on the size of the organization you are applying to, there might be a leadership position in charge of the department you will be working in. For instance, Director of Marketing, or Vice President of Technology.
5. Read company “Wikipedia” if organization is big enough
Look for historic information or unique stories here. Utilize the referential links at the bottom of the page for more research.
6. Complete big picture, industry research
You will gain additional insight by investing time to learn about other companies, market forecasts, new companies, hiring and layoff trends and more. Find information about which similar companies have public offerings (sell stock). Look at several company stock prices at 1, five and ten year charts.
Search for news articles about any industry news or trends. Save anything you find interesting. Take care about what information you quote or refer to in your interview – some sources are more respected that others.
You should have notes, quotes and enough information to give you a “feel” for the organization. Company culture is important, and even though you may not get a great grasp of it online, you now know much more than you did before – more than some current employees! Parts of a website like the Blog or News are great resources for finding the more “fun” side of a company – e.g. company parties, fundraisers, outings, employee highlights, etc.
&The advice& in the book is applicable to any interview situation. Most of the situations I refer to involve an interview that consists of you, and several professionals from the company you have applied to. However, there are several types of interviews:
As mentioned, most of the content here revolves around a multiple-interviewer (perhaps the most challenging) interview.
The same advice applies to this as a Multiple-Interviewer-Interview. Some might think that a multiple-interviewer interview is more nerve-wracking, but 1-on-1 can be just as challenging.
These may be planned due to time or distance constraints. Phone interviews are not uncommon. This gives you a chance to lay out all your materials in front of you. Make sure to find a quiet place where you can concentrate. Dress up a little bit for this phone interview – it will help get you in the right mindset. Also, feel free to stand and walk around while you talk as this can help clear your mind and relieve stress. Make sure not to walk so fast or far as to lose your breath.
Also due to time or distance constraints. Dress up for this interview. Make sure the room is clean and no one else is around. I wouldn’t advise a coffee shop or busy area. Most public libraries should have a room you can do this in, if needed.
These don’t happen frequently, and aren’t optimal at letting your personality shine through. If you find out you are assigned to a group interview, research the purpose of this type and how to excel at them. The main idea is to find out how you work with others.
Online Assessment Test
Although this does not require speaking with anyone, it is worth mentioning. Many companies are moving towards personality tests to assess what type of worker you are, and how that fits into their company. Do not be alarmed or offended if you are asked to take this before your interview. Immediately take the test and treat it like a first interview.
There may be a situation where you are asked to interview over coffee/lunch/dinner. These are typically more of a “get to know you” interview. Make sure to order something that won’t fall apart and is easy to eat – go for something you don’t have to touch with your hands. Don’t order anything too expensive. Avoid feeling too comfortable and checking your cell phone, etc. Also, if you are offered an alcoholic drink, my go-to avoid is to say no thank you. You don’t need to make up an excuse as to why not. If the person interviewing you ends up ordering a drink anyway, you can tell the server, “you know what, that looks great. Can I please try what she/he is having?”
Researching the Interviews
Utilize Linkedin to learn about who will be interviewing you. The interviewers will typically consist of 1-2 people from the Human Resources department and one (possibly two) managers/leaders from the department you will be working in. During a first interview, sometimes it will simply be you and one HR professional.
If your correspondence allows, inquire as to who at this organization will be conducting your interview. If you are directly corresponding with someone at this company, it is a great question to ask.
If you don’t know who will be interviewing you, take the following steps to find out. If you do know, enter their names into Linked and view the profiles.
1. Create a Linkedin account if you don’t already have one
2.At the Linkedin “Home” page, click the “Advanced” link to the right of the white search bar at the top-center portion of the page.
3.You will see empty white forms to the left of the page
4.Fill out the “Company” portion. If you are interviewing at Microsoft, type “Microsoft” here
5.There will be a “Current or Past” option that pops up. Choose “Current”
6.In the “Location” field, switch to “Located in or near:” – enter your zip code and search within the appropriate distance – say 25 miles.
7.Under the “Title” form, type in “Human Resources”
8.There will be a “Current or Page” option that pops up. Choose “Current”
9.Scroll down and click the “Search” button
If this is a large company there will likely be more than 20 results. In this case, just scroll through the pages and get a feel for the “look” of the people.
If this is a small or medium sized company with 1-10 results, open all the results. Spend a little time reading through each page. Look at the career history. Some of these people will have been with the company 5-10+ years, some 1-2 years.
If there are less than 5 results, you can be sure that 1-2 of these people will be interviewing you. Try and put a face-to-a-name. Look at these professionals profile photos and imagine meeting them for the first time. It sounds goofy, but it will make you a little more prepared for the first, real life introduction.
&There is more& information about you online than you think. You can use this to your advantage, or it can be your downfall – something that prevents you from even getting a first interview.
You are a professional, and I suggest never letting any information, opinions or photos surface online that you would not want a parent, grandparent, neighbor, pastor, mentor or boss to see. Beyond this, consider all of your public behavior – whether it is posted online or not. When you are out-and-about, you represent yourself. When employed, you represent yourself, and the company you work for. I recommend personifying respect and professionalism in all situations. This does not mean avoiding fun, but simply presenting yourself as a self-aware, mature adult. This will keep you out of all kinds of trouble throughout life.
Assume that anything you see in the following will be deeply scrutinized by Human Resources. Assume that anything can and will be used AGAINST you. Do not go on the defensive and decide that this is wrong of Human Resources.
When it comes to the intersection of professional and personal life, social media can break you. Or it can improve your image! Let’s start with Facebook.
[*1. *]Remove any and all photos that you have posted and have been tagged in that involve partying, drinking or engaging in immature or questionable activity. Even if the job you are considering tolerates this behavior (unlikely), keeping images like this off of the internet will serve you well throughout life.
[*2. *]Lock down your profile. Go through your settings and switch all criteria to either “Friends” or “Only me”. Search the internet for “how to lockdown Facebook privacy”.
3. Facebook defaults profile and cover photos to public view. This means that if someone finds your Facebook page, they can see many of your photos. Go through all profile photos and cover photos and set them to “Friends” or “Only me”.
4. Go through your “About Me” information. Remove anything personal. No quotes, no religious views, nothing except for information that would be found on your resume such as current location and place of study.
5. View your Facebook profile and find the “View As” button. This will give you a public view of your profile. Scroll down your page until you can’t scroll any longer. Switch ANY posts to “Friends” or “Only me”. Anything that you have seen here can be viewed by the public.
At this point, when you view your Facebook page as “View As”, there should be no posts, and only your current profile photo and cover photo.
Now, we can use Facebook to your advantage!
1. Invest in a professional photo of yourself. If you have a professional photo from the past two years, that will work great. Wedding photos don’t count. If you don’t have anything professional available, Target stores have an affordable studio – check out prices online. If you don’t want to spend the money on that, put on your most professional outfit, style your hair/makeup and have a friend snap photos outdoors with the best camera you can get your hands on. If the weather allows, find a park with trees and natural growth as your background. Take a lot of photos, and a couple of them will turn out great.
2. Make this new, professional photo your profile photo.
3. Your Facebook profile WILL be viewed by potential employers, and everything they see says much about you. I recommend using your cover photo to your advantage. Do not feature a photo of you and friends, or activities. The best option in this situation is finding a professional photo online of the town that you live in. Most towns have skyline photos, or photos of the the surrounding area. Find the most professional, best quality photo of this type that you like, and set that as your cover photo.
4. Hopefully in the last two years you have done charitable work – some type of volunteering. If there are recent photos of you engaging in charitable work, and they look somewhat professional (think of a photo that you could put on your desk at work), feel free to change the setting on 1 to 5 of those photos so they can be seen by the public.
Instagram, Twitter and all other social media
There are too many social media sites to list. Simply change every one of these sites to [*Private. *]This is crucial. After you are employed, you can undo these settings back to public if you want, but during your job hunt, this will be viewed by multiple professionals and everything will be used to judge you. Companies will respect that you keep your Social Media life Private.
After changing your profiles to Private, change all of your profile photos on these sites to the same professional photo of yourself.
Now when Human Resources, Recruiters, or your potential boss searches for you, they will see a unified, professional and buttoned up image of YOU. Even if they themselves don’t care about your after-work activities, they know that if they hire you, you represent their company – they don’t want images and evidence of anything unprofessional.
[*1. *]Search for your name
[*2. *]Search for your full name
[*3. *]Search for your first and last name and any cities you have lived in
4. Search for your first and last name and any states you have lived in
5. Put your first and last name in quotation marks e.g. “Jane Doe” and search with the above criteria
There may be articles written about you – all the way back to grade school. Some old accounts from websites might show up.
Any sites that you have an account with, or comments on – delete them if you believe necessary. Things like articles and such can’t be removed, but go forward assuming the HR has read all of these articles. This isn’t a bad thing, but you will want to be ready to go into detail about any content they see.
The same steps above apply to this, but on Google, search through these under the “Images” tab. You will likely see a couple pictures of you pop up. Take the necessary steps to remove anything that is not professional.
You are likely aware of any legal dealings you have experienced – whether that be traffic tickets or worse.
1. Find the online courts website for the city you live in. Search “YourCity Courts Online” or “YourState Courts Online”.
2. Search through this site until you can find a “Case Search” section. If you can not find this, locate a phone number and call in and ask where this is located.
3. Search with your first and last name
4. This is an important section to study. Depending on how common your name is, there might be multiple cases for the same name. You should be able to find yourself by your birth date.
5. Read through any cases about yourself. If there is anything serious, be prepared to have an honest conversation about the situation. Your prospective employer is not likely to search for you on this site until later (2nd or 3rd interview) in the process, but assume that they already have.
As a side note, I recommend not posting anywhere online about your upcoming interviews. Some people wear their lives on their social-media-sleeve – this is something you should keep personal.
Why? You have to look at the big picture.
Finding a job is difficult, and can be a rollercoaster of interviews that don’t result in job offers. By no fault of your own, you might be interviewing for and missing multiple jobs, and it is in your best interest to not publicize your difficulties in acquiring a job. This can cause you to be perceived as an under-qualified professional. Although it’s normal to interview for multiple jobs multiple times, posting things like “Wish me luck” over and over, or “Another job interview today!” will cause you to appear less-than-employable.
Also, people will care about the outcome of those interviews and ask you about how they went. Having to explain to multiple people, multiple times that you didn’t receive an offer will wear on you and your confidence.
Keep the interview process to yourself, and then once you accept a great job offer, you will have great, positive news to share with the whole world!
&A week& or so before your interview, find out the location of your interview and drive there.
If you live in a high-traffic area, drive to this location the same time of day as your interview. Take an accurate recording of how long it takes you to get there (you will want to give yourself much more leeway than this specific amount of time).
If this company has an open parking lot, drive all the way to the front entrance of the building. Look around for guest parking. Do a circle or two around the parking lot. Figure out where you want to park the day of your interview.
Having already been to the building, parking lot, and specific parking spot will increase your confidence and awareness the day of your interview. Instead of confusedly driving around, trying to figure out where to park while nerves are high, you will enter the parking lot with confidence the day of your interview. Saving your energy for more important subjects than parking lot logistics.
&Plan the outfit& you will wear far in advance.
1. Take note of what was worn in the photos of the Leadership Team on the company website, and HR professionals on Linkedin. Navy Blue? Black skirt? Gray suits? Red neckties?
2. Try to match your outfit to recurring themes you observed in these photos. You don’t need to go out and buy an entirely new outfit, but use what you have to the best of your abilities.
[*3. *]If you do not frequently wear the outfit you will be wearing to your interview – start wearing it. Put on your interview outfit and go work/study/read at nearby coffee shop for a couple hours. Walk around the mall for a bit. Look at yourself in your outfit – make sure it fits great. Feel confident!
[*4. *]If you decide to buy a new suit/outfit, take it to a local tailor and try it on in front of them, including your dress shirt. Ask if anything needs to fit better – ask for a “modern fit”.
*5. * Unless you are 101% sure that your outfit fits well and does not look sloppy, take it to a local tailor. Try it on in front of him/her, and ask if anything needs altered. The investment is absolutely worth the money.
Make sure to shave before your interview. No stubble, no nasty facial hair.
*** Ask the Hiring Manger, Recruiter, HR professional, etc, what the dress code is before your interview.
**** Plan ahead and have your suit or outfit cleaned/pressed before your interview.
&Prepare& all necessary materials for your interview
1. Leather portfolio. You will keep all of your materials in this, as well as a place to take notes. It is the only thing you will be bringing into the interview with you (unless requested otherwise)
2. Print out 5 copies of your resume. One for you, 4 for anyone else in attendance of your interview. I recommend that you use paper of substantial weight for your resume.
3. Print out two copies of the job description. One for you during the interview – one as a backup for anyone that might need one.
[*4. Print out your edited version of the job description that you added personal information to. *]You shouldn’t be handing this out to anyone at your interview, but keep it readily available to glance at for reference when-needed.
5. Bring two-three pens – nice pens – not bics.
6. Copy and paste the “About Us”, “Company Description”, slogan, motto, tagline into a word document and print this out. Write the CEO name and any other names you want to remember on the piece of paper. Any other information you learned from your research can be added to this document.
7. If you were ever instructed to do so, fill out the job application online.
[*8. Write down the interviewer names ahead of time. *]There many be unexpected people attending. Make sure to have all names written down. You can even take a note next to each person’s name once you get there. “John – blue shirt. Jonathan – Blonde”
&Crafting& a great resume comes before submitting your candidacy.
Perfecting your resume takes time and is a subject for an entire book of it’s own. There are many great resources online to help guide you through this process – no matter where you are in your job search, here are 5 quick suggestions:
[*1. *]Keep it to one page if you have less than 10 years of experience.
2. Always submit your resume as a .pdf unless instructed otherwise
3. Format that .pdf as Firstname_Lastname_Resume.pdf
4. In your contact information on your resume, use an email address formatted as [email protected] If your email address is not your first and last name, or a variation of that, create one and use it for all professional purposes.
5. Search online for “How to Write a Resume” or “How to Improve a Resume”. Follow all the steps suggested in the articles and guides that you will find.
&The big day has come&. You arrived 15 minutes early with a depth of knowledge about the company, leadership, interviewers, culture, department and position.
Meeting new people and making a strong impression is important – but not easy for everyone. Feeling nervous is natural, and a good thing. This is an important event in your life!
Also realize that the professionals that will be interviewing you interview countless people – all of who were just as, or more nervous than you. You want to portray confidence, but some semblance of nerves can be disarming to the interviewers and work on your behalf. Breathe steadily, stand up straight, be and practice the following steps.
Your first interaction at the office will likely be someone working the front desk. Treat this professional, and every person within a 1-mile radius of the office like they are interviewing you as well.
Being told to “be confident” doesn’t help much, does it? Here are a couple tips that help take the edge off:
2. Eye contact
If you have time before your interview, practice eye contact with people that you don’t know. Coffee shop, grocery store, work, etc. Anyone you talk to, hold eye contact as long as possible without feeling uncomfortable.
Eye contact is important during the interview, especially during the hard questions. If eye contact is uncomfortable for you, look at the bridge of a persons nose instead – right in between their eyes. For the most part, anyone you do this to will perceive you as looking them in the eyes.
While meeting or being introduced to anyone during your interview, combine your eye contact with a smile and handshake.
There is plenty of material on a good handshake if you search for it. Keep it simple! Practice absolutely helps. If you know anyone that has been in the professional world and shaken a lot of hands, ask if you can practice with them. That’s right, shake hands over and over.
Fully grasp the other person’s hand. Grasp it firmly – not hard. It can last 1-3 seconds – it is fine to follow the other persons lead.
Practice eye contact, smile, firm handshake and “Hi ___, my name is ____. Nice to meet you!”
4. Interview Setup
As you enter the room you will be interviewing in, follow the lead of the other workers. It’s ok to wait until being asked to sit in a specific spot. If this isn’t happening, feel free to ask “Where is the best place for me to sit?” After sitting, if anyone else enters the room, stand up and greet them and shake her/his hand with a smile.
Place your portfolio slightly off to the side.
If you are offered water – accept it unless you really don’t want it. It will be nice to sip on as your nerves might dry your mouth a little bit. If you find your hands noticeably shaking while taking a drink, don’t stare in disbelief or overthink it – also don’t drink too much more. It is amazing how much hands can shake – even for seasoned professionals. This isn’t a terrible thing, but you don’t want to spill water everywhere!
5. Be Likable and Memorable
The easiest way to be perceived as likable and friendly is to wear a smile as much as possible – act like you are meeting with professional friends, not nervously attending a funeral. Be easy to speak with – when listening to questions, wear a friendly face.
When learning about the company, respond with a level of enthusiasm and excitement. Combine this with positive body language, so that any time a company employee is speaking about the company, you look alert, interested and excited.
Positive body language means not crossing your arms. Don’t lean back in your chair and try not to look too concerned or worried.
The interview is a time to be personable, smart, likable and confident. In almost any other situation, humility is a fundamental characteristic to being a well rounded person or professional – interviews are not a time to be humble. There will be a multitude of people applying and interview for this same position, and you need to outperform all of them. The sheepish, hesitant, pessimistic interviewee will not get the job.
[*Look professional. *]This circles back to the “attire” section. On top of this, practice good posture. Sit up straight at the table. Lean forward, not backwards. Avoid responses like, “yah”, “nope”, “yep”, “sure”, etc.
[*Tell the truth. *]Any lie will sink you. Whether it be during the application process, or once you are hired. Lying at any point can have devastating consequences to your career and the company you work for. Tell the truth and spend your energy focusing on more important things than back-pedaling to cover a lie.
[*Demonstrate your employability. *]This requires in-depth research on the position before the interview, but you should already know how to do this job. Explain to the interviewers how you would execute tasks required for the job you are applying for. Demonstrate that you know how to do things very well, or improve them. Position yourself as an active, achieving professional that knows how to get things done. Prepare examples of times you have taken initiative in the past.
Prepare real life examples. This is why it is important to know your resume well. Be able to explain any situation or part of your background with an interesting, well told story. Make it relevant to the position.
Be Concise. Keep your responses smart, and relatively short without seeming smug. Avoid rambling. Be specific.
[*Do not say anything negative *]about your former employer, supervisors or coworkers. It is unprofessional and only reflects badly upon you. Even if you worked in the worst conditions imaginable, speaking badly about your former/current employer works as an instant disqualifier.
[*Don’t get TOO friendly. *]This might seem counter intuitive to earlier points about establishing rapport. You might get along with your interviewers very well, and that’s great. If you start to feel too comfortable, you will let your guard down and and slip up.
You want to remain professional and not start playing the best-buddy game. Depending on the nature of those interviewing you, they might ask “trick” questions to gauge your response – this can be a test to see if you are a risk. After a couple laughs, you are asked to tell a joke. Will you tell something slightly offensive? If you start to feel comfortable, will you slip out something inappropriate to try and get a laugh?
Some HR people attempt not to give physical or verbal feedback.
[*Don’t give a bad answer, just to answer. *]If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t try and power your way through it. Employees that are not transparent and ask for help when needed, or can not admit that they “don’t know” are dangerous.
It is perfectly fine to say, “I would like to research that before giving a sure answer”, “I’m glad you asked because I have never thought of ____ that way before.”, “Can I give you an answer to that question when I have had time to research and give you a proper response.”
[*Don’t make it about you. *]Even if you have zero sales experience, your interview is selling what you can do for your perspective employer – that is why they pay you. Don’t ask “ME” questions: what will this job do for me, what is the policy on “face time” (i.e. do I have to be here all the time). Ask questions about what it is like here as a team, etc. (i.e. what’s your day to day like, how do you interact with other employees)
[*Don’t use filler words. *]This is a difficult habit to break. Avoid “Ummm” at all costs. Practice allowing a brief pause while speaking instead of using filler words.
From the Perspective of the Interviewers
Human nature is to think of how things benefit oneself. Human Resources does not, and should not care how “happy”, “satisfied” or “fun” this position will make you, or how much you will enjoy it (although happy employees are good employees).
You will need to establish the benefit to hiring you.
- How will hiring you benefit the company?
- Are you the type of person that will fit in in our environment?
- How will you collaborate with current employees?
- Are you a hire that will stay with the company, or come and go quickly?
- Can you actually perform the necessary tasks?
- Why hire you vs. another applicant with similar credentials?
&The variety& of questions that you can be asked is endless. There will be questions specific to the requirements of the position you are applying for, and more generic questions that seek to define you as a person, and as a candidate. If you are well-qualified for the position you have applied to, the more technical, position specific questions should be the most enjoyable, and easy to answer.
Basic interview questions:
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Why do you want this job?
Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?
What’s your ideal company?
What attracted you to this company?
Why should we hire you?
What did you like least about your last job?
When were you most satisfied in your job?
What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
What were the responsibilities of your last position?
Why are you leaving your present job?
What do you know about this industry?
What do you know about our company?
Are you willing to relocate?
Do you have any questions for me?
Behavioral interview questions:
What was the last project you led, and what was its outcome?
Give me an example of a time that you felt you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.
Can you describe a time when your work was criticized?
Have you ever been on a team where someone was not pulling their own weight? How did you handle it?
Tell me about a time when you had to give someone difficult feedback. How did you handle it?
What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?
How do you handle working with people who annoy you?
If I were your supervisor and asked you to do something that you disagreed with, what would you do?
What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?
Give me an example of a time you did something wrong. How did you handle it?
Tell me about a time where you had to deal with conflict on the job.
If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?
If you found out your company was doing something against the law, like fraud, what would you do?
What assignment was too difficult for you, and how did you resolve the issue?
What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made in the last two years and how did you come to that decision?
Describe how you would handle a situation if you were required to finish multiple tasks by the end of the day, and there was no conceivable way that you could finish them.
What salary are you seeking?
What’s your salary history?
If I were to give you this salary you requested but let you write your job description for the next year, what would it say?
Career development questions:
What are you looking for in terms of career development?
How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
What kind of goals would you have in mind if you got this job?
If I were to ask your last supervisor to provide you additional training or exposure, what would she suggest?
Getting started questions:
How would you go about establishing your credibility quickly with the team?
How long will it take for you to make a significant contribution?
What do you see yourself doing within the first 30 days of this job?
If selected for this position, can you describe your strategy for the first 90 days?
More questions about you:
How would you describe your work style?
What’s your favorite movie?
What’s your favorite website?
What’s the last book you read for fun?
What makes you uncomfortable?
What would be your ideal working environment?
What do you look for in terms of culture -- structured or entrepreneurial?
Give examples of ideas you’ve had or implemented.
What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
If you had to choose one, would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?
Tell me about your proudest achievement.
Who was your favorite manager and why?
What do you think of your previous boss?
Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?
What kind of personality do you work best with and why?
What are you most proud of?
What do you like to do?
What are your lifelong dreams?
What do you ultimately want to become?
What is your personal mission statement?
What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
What negative thing would your last boss say about you?
What three character traits would your friends use to describe you?
What are three positive character traits you don’t have?
If you were interviewing someone for this position, what traits would you look for?
List five words that describe your character.
Who has impacted you most in your career and how?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your biggest regret and why?
What’s the most important thing you learned in school?
Why did you choose your major?
What will you miss about your present/last job?
What is your greatest achievement outside of work?
What are the qualities of a good leader? A bad leader?
Do you think a leader should be feared or liked?
How do you feel about taking no for an answer?
How would you feel about working for someone who knows less than you?
How do you think I rate as an interviewer?
Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.
Tell me the difference between good and exceptional.
What kind of car do you drive?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
What’s the last book you read?
What magazines do you subscribe to?
What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Who are your heroes?
What do you like to do for fun?
What do you do in your spare time?
What is your favorite memory from childhood?
How many times do a clock’s hands overlap in a day?
How would you weigh a plane without scales?
Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.
Sell me this pencil.
If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?
Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball?
If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?
If you could get rid of any one of the US states, which one would you get rid of and why?
With your eyes closed, tell me step-by-step how to tie my shoes.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Being asked the strengths and weaknesses questions gives you the opportunity to show your tact in conversation, as any decent candidate is going to carefully navigate through the “weakness” answer. You want to accurately represent yourself and give truthful answers without throwing yourself under-the-bus. Prepare for this question with the following guide.
1.Strength for proposed job
2.Strength from last job
Bonus: Something that fits in company culture
1.Something that you are correcting
2.A weakness that does not interfere with job
3.A real weakness
You might be asked your motivation for applying for/exploring this position. In my opinion, motivational questions are crucial to learning the “why” behind a candidates decision.
Everyone has different reasons for their motivations for leaving a current job, and seeking a potential one. Many times you will be seeking new employment for negative reasons. Management at your current job is awful, you were laid off, negative work environment, terrible co-workers, etc.
You want to leave all of this behind you in your interview. There are multiple reasons for this. One is that Human Resources people believe that “drama begets drama” or “people who complain about drama are the ones who create it.” So when you mention anything negative, it will be assumed that you are part of the problem, even when you are entirely innocent. This is not unfair – this is simply the way the world works. In my experience, the people who complain most about their coworkers are usually the cause of most problems.
This, however, is not the most important aspect of motivation. Whether your current job is the best or the worst – it doesn’t matter. You want to channel all of your motivation in to one factor – the company you have applied for.
Think about it this way:
You are on a date with someone new. The discussion gets a little more serious and your date asks why you are interested in him/her – they ask you to list three reasons you want to date him/her.
If all three of your reasons were based around things you didn’t like about your ex, how do you think that would go?
Question: “Why do you love me?” Answer: “Because my ex-boyfriend played too many video games”
Question: “Why do you want to date me” Answer: “Because my ex-girlfriend was really mean”
This does nothing. You wouldn’t have a second date.
The correct answer to the above questions would center around the great qualities of the person you are on a date with – of course!
The exact same reasoning applies to your prospective job.
-Type of projects
&There are stupid questions&. At least stupid questions during your interview. Don’t ask anything obvious just because you were told you should ask questions.
But you should definitely ask questions.
Before your interview, write down all of the questions that you genuinely have. The more specific the better.
During your interview, a majority of those questions will be answered before you ask them – this is a good thing. Make an effort to cross off questions that have been answered, as you don’t want to accidentally repeat a question that was answered.
There will be opportunities to ask questions during your interview as certain subjects pop up, and then towards the end when you are given the opportunity to inquire on anything that was not covered.
If you have a specific question that comes up in conversation, feel free to ask while inserting a small level of dialog during the interview. But don’t ask too many questions – this can break the rhythm that the interviewers prefer to follow. You also want to avoid too many questions during the interview because you don’t want to “turn the tables” and become the “interviewer”. To a certain extent, the expectation is HR learning about you, not you grilling them questions.
Example Questions to Ask:
"I was on your website researching your company and I found _______ interesting, can you tell me ______?"
Could you give an example of a typical working day in this position?
What options are there for advancement?
How would you describe your company culture?
What do you offer in regards to educating the staff?
What are the travel requirements for this position?
If I were to step into this role tomorrow, what would be my first priority?
What improvements do you want the new hire to bring to the role?
What is are the options for finding a mentor within the company?
What are the options for leadership or professional training?
What do your best employees say about working here?
What does success look like in this role?
Is there anything in my resume or application that I should tell you more about?
How will my performance be evaluated?
What is the on-boarding process?
What is the average speed to proficiency for this role?
What’s the toughest part of the role I’m applying for?
What was the team’s biggest success in the last year? Mistake?
From what we’ve discussed, what would I need to learn to get up to speed on this role?
Can you give me an example where a current employee exceeded your expectations?
What are some typical career progression opportunities for people in this role?
Can you please describe some challenges and/or opportunities that the company must address within the next five years, particularly concerning this role/division?
On the way out, could you show my where my work area would be?
Will there be an opportunity to meet any members of the team during the interview process?
How long have the most senior and most junior members of my team been here?
&This section is here& to summarize and simplify things as a quick brain-break while you prepare.
What really matters as you navigate the process?
1. Can you do this job?
–Will you pull your own weight?
-Do you work hard?
-Can you handle the responsibilities?
2. Are you going to be a team player?
–Will you interact well with your coworkers?
-Are you a risk for trouble making?
-How will you fit-in at the company?
Any question that starts with “Why?”
This makes people uncomfortable and puts them on the defensive.
Are you interviewing other people?
This is unprofessional. Just assume they are, and you will be fine.
Questions about Benefits or Salary
Also unprofessional. Wait for this to be brought up by the employer.
Asking about promotions or bonuses.
Take this one step at a time. If you really need to know, ask after salary is brought up
How frequently do reviews occur?
Why would you make yourself look like you are nervous about your performance (feeling defensive?)
Who’s Your Competition?
You should already know this from your research. Asking a question like this shows that you are underprepared.
Asking about flexible hours or working from home.
This can make you sound a bit entitled, unmotivated or disinterested in being around your co-workers. When flexible hours are available, they are typically earned.
More things to avoid:
&Emphasis on company& culture increases every year. Organizations want to create an atmosphere that is unique to them. Something that reverberates through the walls of the building – a temperament and personality that is eternal to the employee, and a way of doing business that clients and customers can feel and appreciate.
This is important to them, and it should be important to you. Your happiness and success depends on it.
Spending a large portion of your time working with people that are more like you than aren’t - like minded and fun - makes an impact on the quality of everyone’s work. Seasoned employees with a decade+ of time spent in offices often value cultural fit over the highest bidder for their next job.
Employers benefit from cultural fit as well. Less friction, less fighting. Most everyone is on the same boat, and happy to go the same direction.
Not every part of cultural fit means “happy, healthy, easy”. A company’s culture might be one of resilience – requiring the type of person who doesn’t complain about the dysfunctional mess around them. Someone who keeps their head down and works.
Your research on the company you will be interviewing with should have given you some ideas of that company’s culture. Company culture can be hard to define, even by a long-time employee. This is something you can learn more about during the interview process. Those interviewing you should be able to sense whether you are the right fit for their company.
You will want to find out as much as you can if the job you are interviewing for is with a company that [_you _]want to work at. Be mindful of anything that feels like a red-flag to you – trust your instincts if anything comes up that doesn’t feel right, or doesn’t feel like “you”.
&Salary negotiations are& delicate for both sides. Depending on your situation (or desperation), you might have room to negotiate, or prefer to secure the job without concern of the compensation. Navigating the conversation(s) is tricky, as you don’t want to start too low or aim too high.
The first rule of salary negotiations is to not bring it up during your first interview. This is a standard across industries and positions. Don’t bring it up during your second interview either – at this point it is in your best interest to let your prospective employer broach the subject.
Once the subject is broached, try to keep things light-hearted and friendly – the process is awkward for both parties and you don’t want to come across as defensive, uncomfortable or focused on “winning” the interaction.
As in most negotiations, you don’t want to show your hand first. Again, if you are in need of this job, don’t play “hard to get.” This advice applies more to a person in a situation where he/she can easily walk away and continue with a prosperous, happy career. If you are somewhere in the middle, apply this advice as you see appropriate to the situation (e.g. did you apply to this job, or were you recruited to it?)
Your goal for discussing salary should be to attain a “salary range” for the position you are discussing.
“What are you looking to make?
What are you making now?
What did you make at your last job?”
Practice your answers in advance of these conversations. These answers will serve you well throughout your career. When asked your salary requirements, respond with an answer such as:
“I’m more interested in finding a position that’s a good fit for my skills and interests. I’m confident that you’re offering a salary that’s competitive in the current market.”
“Well, I don’t think I can make a good determination of a fair salary without a better understanding of the duties/benefits/nature of the work.”
“According to my research and past experience, my understanding is that 75-90K per year is typical based on the role and requirements.”
“Since this position is not exactly the same as my current job, let’s discuss what my responsibilities at this company will be and work together to determine a fair salary for this position.”
The interviewer may press hard to get an answer, and you don’t want to represent yourself as difficult to deal with. Prepare for this scenario by:
Option 1. Search for industry and regionally standardized salary ranges for similar positions. Narrow this range to your liking, and when asked for your salary requirements, use this range.
Option 2. Write out the lowest amount of money you would accept (and could survive on) for the position. Write down the maximum amount you believe perfect efforts in the position should earn (you can base this off option 1 if needed).
a. Average out those two numbers.
b. Make your stated salary range $5k above and $5k below that number – in essence, giving a $10k range.
*Option 3. * Write down your current salary. Add 10% to it. Use this number as your “current salary”. Then add 5-10% to that number as your required salary to accept a new position.
“Depending on benefit specifics, and final details on the position, I will need to earn between $70-80k/year to move forward with my next position”
(if things happen to get a little tense, but you feel that you’ve made a good impression and have rapport, you can add “but, I am willing to accept more!” with a smile – this might break the tension and get a laugh)
Factors to consider:
Health insurance, 401(k) Retirement Savings Plan With Company Match, tuition assistance, dental and vision, life insurance
Flexible working options or reduced hours
Location (driving distance, cost of living)
Opportunities within company
Paid Time Off (PTO), Holidays and Sick Time
&Most of the time&, you should find a way to “close” the interview. “Closing” the interview means asking for the job or expressing that you are seriously interested.
As your interview comes to an end, and you feel that everything has gone well, express your interest in an active way – ask for the job. This may make you a little nervous – that is alright. This is a delicate request and shouldn’t be taken lightly. You want to make sure this is something you want, and be prepared to accept the job immediately after requesting it (even though this is unlikely to happen).
Some advice states that asking for the job is too pushy, and that since companies rarely hire on-the-spot, it is a set-up for rejection. I half-agree with this, so my advice is to express your interest in the job and subtly ask for it without requiring the interviewer to answer a yes or no question.
As things wrap up, here are some ideas on how to express your interest in the position:
“Based on my background and the skills and experience we discussed, how well do I fit the profile of the candidate for which you’re looking?”
“I believe I can make a positive impact for your company and that we will work well together. Have I given you all the information you need to move forward?”
“My skills and experience align so well with this position, and I’d really like to work with you and your team.”
“I am truly interested in the job. What is the next step for consideration? When will you be making a decision? Are there any questions I have left unanswered?”
Summarize your qualifications that align with the position and then say, “That’s why I think I’d be a good fit for this position. Is there anything I haven’t covered?”
“I feel/see my background and skills are a good fit for this position, and I’m very interested. What is the next step?”
“Based on my research and what we’ve discussed, I would really like to work for you in this job. How soon until you’ll be making a decision?”
“I am deeply interested in this job and working with your team. Do you have any more questions for me?”
“Considering what we’ve just discussed during this interview, do you have any concerns about my fit for this position?”
“I am confident I can make a difference at your company, and I’d love to work here! I think I have a lot to offer, such as ‘x’ and ‘y’. What is the next step in the hiring process?”
“This job aligns your needs with my skills and experience. I’d really like to work with you and your team!”
“After what I’ve learned about you and your company, I’m confident I’d be a good fit. I hope to hear from you soon.”
“What are the next steps in the hiring process, and is there anything I can provide to help move things forward?”
“This discussion has made me even more excited about this job opportunity and I would love to be the person you hire. Is there anything else you need from me before you make a decision?”
&If you care& about securing a job, write a thank you letter. This is one of the most crucial parts of your interview – it has a huge impact on your candidacy. A thank you email, phone call, or any other type of delivery is less-than-professional. Lazy.
Immediately after your interview, while you are heading home or back to work, stop by a nearby store and purchase “Thank You” letters. Walgreens and Target are a great resource.
You have to write and mail this letter within 2 days of your interview.
As far as content – keep it simple. Thank them for their time, and if pertinent, add something specific to your interaction to give context and solidify who you are.
Again, if you want the job, push yourself to promptly write a thank you letter.
&Congratulations&! In working through Advanced Interview Preparation & Advice, you have positioned yourself at the front of the line of job candidates.
The resources in this book apply to interviewees at all experience levels, and will be useful for review at many points in your career.
My passion is helping people prepare for their interview so that they can give a strong, true impression of their best-self. The goal of this book is to help as many people as possible walk into their interview with confidence. Please feel free to share this book with anyone you know personally that desires to thoroughly prepare for their next interview.
Do your research. Prepare, and get the job.
Work hard and be brilliant!