The Intelligent Interview

“ Keeping Your Cool in the Hot Seat”
Bob DuBois, MA, CPC, SPHR Remedy Intelligent Staffing

© Sunrise Solutions, Inc.

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it’s your turn to step beyond the paper and show them your strengths. You ask yourself: What should I wear? What are they going to ask me? What will I say? How should I act? The best way to overcome these fears is to prepare. Page 2 of 16 . This booklet focuses on strategies and helpful tips that will enable you to interview with confidence. However. Your resume is often the ticket to winning an opportunity to have this conversation. not unlike the feelings you might experience after your dream person accepts an invitation for a date. the interview stands out as one of the most important. you are nervous and edgy. © Sunrise Solutions. You can control some aspects of an interview. Now.Among the conversations you are likely to have across your lifetime. Your career and dream job with a target employer often depends upon your performance during this conversation. The target employer invites you to have this conversation because they saw something in your resume that interested them. Inc.

Before the Interview From the moment your target employer invites you to interview to the moment you walk in the target employer’s door. their last annual report. Dun and Bradstreet). job title – correct spelling and pronunciation) What is the interview format How long is the interview expected to last If travelling. ask for the specific details up front. the Internet is an excellent source for the answers to many of these questions. including: Where the interview will occur and at what time Where should you park Who will interview you (name. what are the arrangements Research the Organization Hopefully. and recent financial analyst research reports (for public firms). you should review the employer’s web site (if they have one). The manner and degree to which you complete these tasks are directly related to how well you will perform in the interview.. You may also contact the local Chamber of Commerce or check out relevant trade journals. values and key objectives? What are its products? Who are its customers? How are they unique in the industry? What key initiatives are underway? How is the employer structured? Where are they located? Who is the CEO? Are they public or private? If public.g. now that you have an interview. Key things to learn include: What are the employer’s mission. it is key that you review and extend your earlier research so that you feel comfortable sharing your knowledge of the target employer. Hoover’s Business Index. Page 3 of 16 . However. how’s the stock doing? What do they look for in good employees? Thankfully.g.. magazines (e. These critical tasks include: Get the Facts of the Interview Up Front When the invitation to interview comes. © Sunrise Solutions. At a minimum. you have many important tasks to complete. Inc. your research on the organization is not just beginning. Business Week) and business indexes (e.

Carefully match your qualifications to the job. For each requirement. check out the company’s products and services. During this review. Page 4 of 16 . © Sunrise Solutions. The employer may also ask about your job-related education and other sections of your resume. You could really impress an employer if you can detail the steps you would take right away to meet their needs.Other key tasks include: If possible. Research Your Job Fit Review all of the information you have about the target employer and job. Your research should help you prepare to answer these questions: What are your transferable skills and abilities and how can these skills meet the employer’s needs? What problems can you solve for the employer? What personal traits and experiences distinguish you from other job candidates? What accomplishments show that you are not just an average worker and that you possess eht key skills and other characteristics that are key to the target job and the company’s mission? In what areas is your match to the job weak (or less than that of potential competitor candidates)? How can you offset these weaknesses and turn them into strengths? How will you approach and complete key projects that encompass this job? Anticipate and Review Possible Questions Using the results of your research in steps 3 and 4. Typically. the employer will ask specific questions about your responsibilities and accomplishments at each job. and the results of your research. If the job posting or advertisement provides hints about some of the key position objectives. including the original job postings. anticipate questions that the employer may ask during the interview. A good idea is to make a table with two columns: (1) what the job requires and (2) what I offer. you will be asked the following types of questions: Resume Walk-Through Questions Using your resume as a guide. Inc. You will also likely be asked why you left each firm. Check your network to see if you can learn anything from company insiders. now is the time to plan how you might accomplish these goals. the employer will ask you to review your work history one job-at-a-time. particularly near-term projects. try to identify as many accomplishments as you can that demonstrate your match. prior written communications.

Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or coworker. Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills. Sample Behavioral Questions Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.Behavioral or Work Sample Questions Using the job requirements as a guide. Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it. Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example. Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead. You will need to be ready to share specific situations from your past and reflect on hypothetical situations you may encounter on the job. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision. © Sunrise Solutions. You will likely be asked specific questions that require you to reflect on situations you will likely face on the target job. Tell me about a difficult decision you've made in the last year. Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low). Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend. Page 5 of 16 . Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed. Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion. Give me an example of a time when you motivated others. Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision. Inc. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventative measures. the employer will ask behavioral questions to demand that you prove that you possess critical skills and traits necessary for effective job performance and organizational fit (in their opinion). Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem. Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).

Some ask riddles that appear unrelated to the job just to see how you think on the spot. Don't tell what you might do. you must have analyzed your experiences and know how to relate them to the current position the company is seeking to fill. To be successful using a behavior-based approach.T. It is even possible that events could be staged during the interview to see how you would react.Behavior-based interviewing is built on the premise that past behavior predicts future behavior. Page 6 of 16 . © Sunrise Solutions. not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Traditional Questions Using their own instinct as a guide.R.A. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort. Use the S. or any relevant event.T. answer states a Situation or Task you were given describes the Action you took and explains the Results of that action. For example.A. An interview could even attempt to start an argument or irritate you. The S. some employers will key in on areas where your skills may be less than others (or the posted job requirements) and try to test your proficiency and see if they can scare you off the job. describe what you did -. If you were fired from a job. from a volunteer experience.A.T. tell what you did.not the efforts of the team. Results: What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Weakness Questions Using your resume as a guide. Answer The S. Be prepared to counter likely weaknesses with illustrations that show you have the core skills and personal characteristics that are critical to effective job performance. approach to answer questions.R. be prepared to discuss what you learned from the situation without giving excuses or badmouthing a prior employer. Action: Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. the employer representatives will ask broad open-ended questions that require you to think on your feet and sell yourself. most employers will want to know why you want the job and why you want to work for them. For example. Inc. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job.R. Stress and Problem Solving Questions Some employers are now testing the waters by asking more difficult problem solving questions or questions that place the candidate under stress. Situation or Task: Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation. two interviewers could pretend to argue on an issue and look to see how you react.

talk about your professional characteristics and background. have you established for yourself for the next ten years? What do you see yourself doing five years from now? Ten years from now? What do you really want to do in life? What are your long-range career objectives? How do you plan to achieve your career goals? What are the most important rewards you expect in your business career? What do you expect to be earning in five years? Which is more important to you. © Sunrise Solutions. the money or the type of job? What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses? How would you describe yourself? How do you think a friend or colleague who knows you well would describe you? What motivates you to put forth you greatest effort? Why should I hire you? What qualifications do you have that make you think that you will be successful in business? How do you determine or evaluate success? What do you think it takes to be successful in a company like ours? In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company? What qualities should a successful manager possess? Describe the relationship that should exist between the supervisor and those reporting to him or her? What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why? Why did you select your college or university? What led you to choose you field or major study? What college subject did you like best? Why? Do you have plans for continued study? An advanced degree? Do you think that your grades are an indication of your academic achievement? Why did you decide to seek a position in this company? What do you know about our company? What two or three things are most important to you in your job? Are you seeking employment in a company of a certain size? Why? What criteria are you using to evaluate the company for which you hope to work? Do you have a geographic preference? Why? Will you relocate? Does relocation bother you? Are you willing to travel? Are you willing to spend at least six months as a trainee? W Why do you think you might like to live in the community in which our company is located? What major problem have you encountered and how did you deal with it? What have you learned from your mistakes? Each question you may be asked gives you an opportunity to illustrate your favorable characteristics. Inc. focus on subjects related to the job. Page 7 of 16 . For example.Sample Traditional Questions What are your long range and short range goals and objectives? What specific goals other than those related to your occupation. not your personal life. if asked to describe yourself. When responding.

Otherwise. such as those about hobbies or interests. In addition. Develop Questions to Ask the Employer Think ahead and identify the key questions you want to ask the employer. your questions can help to further sell your job-related skills. Use these questions to further highlight your strengths. doing needlepoint may highlight your attention to detail. Questions that reveal weaknesses. may seem irrelevant. If salary and benefits are brought up. Interviewers ask these questions to learn more about your personality and interpersonal skills. Questions you should not ask include: What can you do for me? Questions that reveal insecurities. wait for a firm offer to begin discussion about exact salary and the benefits package. playing chess may illustrate your critical thinking skills. accomplishments.Some questions. such as questions phrased in terms of job security. Keep in mind. Come up with interesting. thoughtprovoking questions that will make the interviewer(s) believe that you are sincerely interested in the organization’s future and your work there. An employer anticipates that you will have questions. (Will I have to meet a lot of deadlines?) Questions asked in a confrontational tone. the interview is a two-way conversation. Questions you may ask include: Can you describe a typical day for someone in this position? What is the top priority of the person who accepts this job? What are the day-to-day expectations and responsibilities of this job? How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be measured? And by whom? How often? Can you describe the company’s management style? Can you discuss your take on the company’s corporate culture? What are the company’s values? How would you characterize the management philosophy of this organization? Of your department? © Sunrise Solutions. Like a first date. your goal is to become comfortable speaking about yourself. Instead. Inc. The best time to discuss salary is after you have been offered the job. you want to convey flexibility. Page 8 of 16 . Your goal is not to memorize answers to possible questions. Participating in a sport may demonstrate teamwork. particularly your job-related experiences. Before the interview you will want to research salary and benefits for the position you are interviewing so you can have a range in mind if the interviewer asks. Ideally it is best to have the interviewer initiate discussion on salary range and benefits. Questions demonstrating you failed to listen to earlier information. both parties (the employer and you) are evaluating your fit. training and personal characteristics.

Vacuum and clean the inside. Inc. or other items that may offend some employers. © Sunrise Solutions. Keep the resumes in a clean. Prepare high-quality laser prints of your resume on 100% cotton. Be sure your clothes are clean and pressed and that your shoes are polished. Page 9 of 16 . Be sure to have plenty of copies so that every interviewer can have a copy. 3. If you smoke. Shave. arrive late. Be sure your car is clean and waxed.What is the organization’s policy on transfers to other divisions or other offices? Who would supervise me? Are lateral or rotational job moves available? Does the organization support ongoing training and education for employees to stay current in their fields? What do you think is the greatest opportunity facing the organization in the near future? The biggest threat? Why did you come to work here? What keeps you here? How is this department perceived within the organization? Is there a formal process for advancement within the organization? What are the traits and skills of people who are the most successful within the organization? What do you like most about working for this company? Practice the Interview Take time before the interview to practice responding to possible interview questions. 4. 6. 7. Before the interview it is imperative that you: 1. Conduct a test drive. 20-24 pound paper. Prepare for Success Failure is near certain if you dress inappropriately. professional binder or portfolio. flags. Clean your ears. do everything possible to keep your clothes from smelling like smoke. Get a haircut. professional folder. Make copies to share if asked about references or when the time is right. Trim and clean your nails. Travel to the employer to verify the time needed to make the drive and to be comfortable with directions. Remove any bumper stickers. Clean your car. 2. white or ivory. Clean up yourself. Identify and prepare what you will wear. Include them in a clean. Add a pleasant fragrance (particularly if you smoke). Identify relevant work samples to share during the interview. Ask friends and relatives to serve as interviewers. Prepare a high-quality and job-related reference document. or arrive unprepared. 5. Empty and clean the ash tray.

Dressing for Success Guidelines In one major survey 95% of the employers interviewed said a job seeker's personal appearance affected the employer's opinion of that applicant's suitability for a job. You may be asked to do so before or after the interview. Do not bring your cellular phone or pager into the interview. professional (polished) shoes Very limited jewelry Neat. conservative suit (pressed) Coordinated blouse (pressed) Moderate (polished) shoes Limited jewelry Neat. Inc.8. Page 10 of 16 . professional hairstyle Tan or light hosiery Sparse make-up & perfume Manicured nails Portfolio or briefcase Men Solid color. safe meal the night before. professional hairstyle Clean-shaven Go easy on the after shave Neatly trimmed. Use mouthwash and wash your face and hands. conservative suit (pressed) White long sleeve shirt (pressed) Conservative tie Dark socks. Avoid drinking coffee or other drinks or eating food that may stain your teeth or cause bad breath before the interview. 9. Get a good night’s sleep the day before the interview. Brush your teeth just before you leave for the interview. 10. Have a professional pen and pocket planner or Palm Pilot (or similar device) ready. Women Solid color. Be sure you have everything with you at the interview that you may need to complete an employment application. clean nails Portfolio or briefcase © Sunrise Solutions. Eat a light.

Be sure you have your portfolio. Even in small talk. Here are a few tips to guide you through the interview: Don't be afraid to be yourself. briefcase. Inc. The sooner you seem comfortable and turn the interview into a conversation. Be sure there is no lint on your clothes. you have done your homework and you are ready. wait until the interviewer directs you to take a seat. The interviewer has to make you feel comfortable so they can elicit the best responses from you. smile and cheerfully greet the receptionist. to let your enthusiasm show. the better it will be for everyone. ask intelligent questions. or initiate friendly conversation. As a gatekeeper. now the questions will begin. If you do sit down. do not get too comfortable. Personal Interviews Be sure to arrive at least 10 (preferably 15) minutes before your interview. discuss the company. Wipe your shoes on the entry mat. be sure you are ready to get up and shake the interviewer’s hand as soon as he or she arrives. This is your chance to shine. Once you arrive at the interview setting. This is not the time to cram for the interview. remember your answers and think of the next question. You are prepared and raring to go. Be sure when you do sit that you use good posture. check your attire and grooming. If the interviewer asks. While you want to be your "Sunday best" self. Page 11 of 16 . for example. Keep in mind. Assuming you are asked to wait for the interviewer to come to the lobby and get you. While you can't be prepared for every question and every contingency. Walk upright at a professional pace through the door. product samples – you may learn some last minute information about the company that could help you. Carefully look at things in the lobby – awards. Be sure to develop a positive rapport with the receptionist. “Did you have any trouble finding us?” – don’t rush to tell him that you got lost or were nearly late. you can put your foot in your mouth if you are not careful. Just before you walk in the employer’s door. The employer may also take some time up front to explain the job in more detail. You wouldn't want the organization to misrepresent itself. the receptionist is important to you. On your way to the interview. etc.The Interview The day has finally arrived. A typical interview will usually begin with a firm handshake and a few minutes of "small talk". call to mind some of your happiest memories or proudest moments and listen to uplifting music. phone or selection interview. At this juncture the employer is attempting to put you at ease and to establish rapport. you don't want to be somebody you are not because they won't be hiring the person they thought they were. Keep things positive. © Sunrise Solutions. or folder. the employer has to be on his/her toes. Check your teeth. plaques. Comb your hair. Whether it is a screening.

Beware of giving lengthy answers and watch for the “gotcha” look that shows you’ve answered the question or absent looks that show you are off track. Listen attentively and be sure to answer the question that is asked. Avoid vague answers such as. The interview is a conversation. Don't hang out your dirty laundry. and you know. volunteer positive. If asked. There will be tough questions that you didn't expect. Eat a light meal. You are better off taking 30 seconds. Don’t take the interview over. maintain comfortable eye contact (you don't need to stare them down). “I’m a people person. Page 12 of 16 . © Sunrise Solutions. If you don't respond to a question as well as you would have liked let it go and move on. Don’t bad mouth prior employers or anyone for that matter. like. you don't need to say you are not familiar with PCs if you are not asked. relevant information that the interviewer may not have asked for. smile and try to be at ease. describe the specific ways you demonstrate day-to-day that you are a people person. and above all. don't volunteer negative information that was not asked for. getting to the middle of an answer and realizing you are giving a poor answer. Watch for behavioral (body language) clues from the interviewer. Try to speak about 50% of the time. Don't minimize what you have done. Avoid words like just and only.Be prepared to answer many of the same questions over and over since you will be meeting many different people. you carefully guided the group. You didn't just lead a student group through the rewriting of their constitution. Avoid using words like um.” Instead. respond honestly but put a positive spin on your response by letting the interviewer know that you are very comfortable with computers and you are confident that you will be able to learn their system easily. Don't keep dwelling on it in your head or else it will affect the rest of your interview. breaking eye contact and developing a well thought-out response rather than starting. uh. The corollary is. If you need a moment to think about how to respond. At meals. Inc. For example. avoid ordering messy or expensive foods. Sit up. Relax and connect with the interviewer. Let the employer guide the interview. Don't smoke (before or during the interview). take it. That is. Do not order alcohol with your lunch or dinner.

Finally. Focus on your strengths. scratching head Sweating Smoking Chewing gum Twiddling thumbs Tapping a pencil or fork Humming Whistling Nose picking Stretching parts of the body Staring Cleaning or biting finger nails Using slang or profanity Calling the interviewer by his or her first name (unless asked) Touching things on the interviewer's desk Fidgeting Twirling in chair © Sunrise Solutions. At the end of the interview. Asking about something positive you've recently learned about the employer is a good way to end this portion of the interview. but don’t lie. don't hesitate to ask what the next step might be. let them know. During the course of the interview you might also have thought of additional questions to ask besides the ones you prepared in advance. ask for clarification. thank the interviewer(s) and if you are interested in the job. Inc. "Do you have any questions for me?" But you will not be caught off guard because you are well prepared. Finally.If a question is confusing. and say. if the interviewer does not give you a sense of when you might be hearing from him/her. This is not the time for asking "yes" or "no" questions. it is helpful to know what will be happening next. Page 13 of 16 . the interviewer will pause. neutrally phrased questions. Bad Habits to Avoid During the Interview Um’s Speaking too softly Fading out at end of response Touching face. If you are juggling interviews and potential offers. If you interview with several different people from the same organization there is nothing wrong with asking each of them the same or similar questions. take a deep breath. Make you questions relevant to the position for which you are interviewing and specific to the employer's needs. mouth. it might be interesting to hear the answers. Use this portion of the interview to ask open-ended.

Answer the phone with a professional greeting. Be assertive. Be sure to have your resume and the results of your research in front of you for quick referral. You do not want to put the interviewer on hold or hear persistent beeps during your call. Disable the call waiting feature prior to the call. Inc. Page 14 of 16 . Speak with a smile on your face. © Sunrise Solutions.Phone Interviews Prepare a quiet. comfortable place for your telephone interview. Ask for a face-to-face interview so you can share samples of your work and meet the hiring manager(s). Be sure to speak clearly and at a pace that is easy to listen to.

But. Inc. ask for it. It is important to ask yourself how you did. This may be your last chance to demonstrate to the employer how your skills fit with their needs. This letter should be eMailed (if possible and if there has been prior eMail exchanges before the interview) and followed up with a card in the mail the same day as the interview (or no later than the next morning). Be sure you meticulously proof your letter so that it is error free. If there were key questions during the interview that you wished you had answered with additional information. Paragraph Three: Thank the interviewer again. here are just a few things you need to do after the interview. What were some of the strong points of the interview? In what way could your performance be improved? Feel free to set up a time with the director of career services to go over the interview and do some additional role-playing. Address any questions from the interview where you left out important information. Key guidelines for a thank you letter include: The letter should be no more than one page.After the Interview Interviews themselves can be a stressful and draining process. Paragraph Two: Briefly sell your skills and qualifications – particularly the key areas that make you a best fit for the job. It may be handwritten on a card or word processed using the same paper and format as your cover letter and resume. Address the letter to the interviewer and be sure to spell the name and title correctly. Write A Thank You Letter This is a necessary and effective way to thank the employer for their time and consideration. Paragraph One: Thank the interviewer and express enthusiasm for the job by title. This is a time to reflect on your interview experience. Besides saying. you give yourself the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and strengths. (You may refresh the interviewer’s memory by mentioning the date of the interview). A separate letter should go to each interviewer. If you want the job. Mail the letter in a nine by twelve inch white envelope so that it remains flat and wrinkle free. Share your contact information and state you look forward to hearing from him or her. © Sunrise Solutions. Page 15 of 16 . now is the time to do so. Evaluate the Interview By evaluating the interview. "Phew. there are some important things you must do following the interview. it's over".

Page 16 of 16 . Remember that it is a twoway street.Think About Fit Is this still a place where you would like to work? Were their values in synch with yours? Did people seem to be enjoying working there? Do not be afraid to take stock of the organization. © Sunrise Solutions. You deserve it. It is a great way to relax after a hard day's work. movies. You can bet that they are evaluating your performance. exercise. Winds down by taking some time to do something you enjoy (reading. or food). Do Something Nice for Yourself The interview itself requires much preparation and work. Inc. so do not be afraid to do the same with the organization or person who interviewed you.

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