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Interview Tips

Your Strategy For The Interview

A typical interview may take from only thirty minutes to an hour, yet it could determine your business career for years to come. Obviously, therefore, it’s well worth taking the time to prepare for the interview so that your confidence will be increased and you’ll be able to make the most of your qualifications.

Your primary objective, of course, is to convince the interviewer that you are the best qualified candidate. You need to “sell” your experience, qualifications and ability. If you make your living in a field other than sales, you may feel that you don’t have a sales personality. But consider this: all of us are selling all the time. Every day of your life, you are selling your views and ideas to your family, friends and business associates. Every time you persuade your colleagues to use your solution to a business problem you use your selling skills. So you can sell, and selling yourself in an employment interview doesn’t require any new selling skills. All you need is a basic sales strategy that anyone can use: Find out what the prospect (the interviewer) really needs; then package your product (your experience, qualifications, ability) to meet those needs.

This sales approach involves more than simply listing the virtues of your product (which you really do when you prepare your resume). It means that you must evaluate all of your past responsibilities and accomplishments in terms of the position to be filled.

To use this strategy effectively for your interview, you need some advance preparation:

  1. Research the company.
  2. Review your experience and qualifications.
  3. Revise your resume, if necessary, to emphasize the experience and qualifications most pertinent to the company.

Research The Company

If you’ve ever conducted an interview, you know how impressive it is to talk with a candidate who has shown enough interest to find out more about the company than their name and address.

You should know about the company’s products or services, markets, sales volume and growth. Check out its plant locations, recent stock market activity, and its standing in its particular field.

In addition to what an annual report and your Martin/Alexander associate can tell you about a prospective employer, there are various directories and source books that report on both public and private companies.

Once you’ve found out as much as possible about the company and the job, you’re ready for the next step in your pre-interview strategy.

Review Yourself

Review your experience and qualifications in terms of the specific job. Suppose, for example, that your ability to solve marketing problems or reduce production costs is a significant feature of your experience and would be a valuable benefit for your prospective employer. Be prepared to offer specifics about the savings or profits that resulted from your efforts, or about other contributions you’ve made to the success of the companies you’ve worked for.

Revise Your Resume

Prepare a brief resume, preferably one page, showing your work experience chronologically and highlighting at least one major accomplishment for each position held in the past 10 years. If at all possible, choose examples that show experience that could be of special value to your prospective employer.

Proofread your resume carefully for misspellings and grammar, and be sure it is neatly typed, or preferably, laser printed.

Think About Your Answers To Questions You’re Likely To Be Asked

To help you consider answers ahead of time, we’re listing some of the probable questions:

“Tell me about yourself.”

With what you’ve learned about the company and the position, plan an answer that emphasizes your experience and accomplishments in terms of the position to be filled. Don’t be modest and do take credit for your successes. You can use this same question to get the interviewer talking about his own needs, by answering him, “I’ll be happy to tell you about my qualifications, but there’s so much to cover that I’d like to know more about the position and your company so I can answer more specifically.” Then, depending upon what the interviewer says, you can modify your planned response to put even greater emphasis on relating your experience and qualifications to his requirements.

“What are your goals?”

This is a very popular question because well-thought-out goals show maturity and a commitment to your profession or business. Your goals should be both long- and short-range; ambitious but realistic.

“What is your greatest strength?”
Again, answer the question in terms of the position to be filled. State your greatest strength and support your claim with illustrations of past accomplishments.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

This is a loaded question because negatives usually won’t score pluses for you on the interviewer’s evaluation sheet. Offer a job-related minor shortcoming or a “positive-negative” such as, “I’ve been accused of being a workaholic.” Or, “I’ve been kidded about being a perfectionist.”

“Why do you want to leave your job?”

Be sure you have a good answer to this question before going on an interview. Your reason for leaving might be because of corporate changes, lack of opportunity or recognition, insufficient authority, or unsatisfactory earnings. If appropriate, you might say, “I wasn’t thinking of changing jobs. I’m not unhappy where I am, but I was told this was an opportunity worth discussing.” If you were terminated, or are leaving because of a personality conflict, be very careful not to make negative statements about former employers or colleagues. Explain the situation as factually and briefly as possible. Then – to turn what might be a negative into a positive – you might add, “Despite that problem, I really feel I learned a great deal in that job and from that company, and I’m sure I could put that experience to work for you effectively.”

“What salary range are you looking for?”

You should avoid discussing compensation on the first interview unless you’re actually offered the job and want to accept it. If the interviewer asks specifically what your salary requirements are, your answer should be, “What I’m really looking for is the right career opportunity. I’m sure you’ll make me a fair offer if you want to hire me.” If you are pressed for a specific figure, describe your current compensation and then add, “I believe on the basis of what I’ve accomplished I’d be entitled to some increase, but I’d rather hear what you think I’m worth to your company.”

Plan On Asking Questions As Well As Answering Them

During your research and preparation, you’ll probably think of several questions you’d like to ask the interviewer. Questions about the job duties, the company and its services show your interest.

Questions about people who held the position previously and where they are today illustrate your interest in the company’s future and can keep you from making a wrong decision. Questions about the importance of the job, your responsibilities, and the career potential indicate that you are goal-oriented and motivated to succeed.

Questions that boost the interviewer’s ego and give you an insight into general company morale are: “Why do you like working here?” Or, “Are there any major company problems that might affect your decision to stay here or my decision to work here? After all, I’m looking for a long-term relationship.”

Questions To Avoid

Until the job is offered, do not ask questions about benefits, vacations, retirement or, of course, salary. Before your interview, Martin/Alexander Executive Search will tell you the earning potential and other basic benefits.

Dress Conservatively For The Interview

Visual first impressions are important. Consider your personal grooming. Your own personal taste in clothes may not always be most appropriate for a job interview. You are safer to err on the side of conservative attire. Try to appear as businesslike as possible.

The Interview

Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for your interview. Carry a briefcase or portfolio with several copies of your resume and some examples of your work. Be sure you know how to pronounce and spell the name of the person who will interview you. Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and maintain eye contact at all time. It’s best not to smoke.

Your Attitude And Tone Are Important

Answer all questions positively and enthusiastically. Remember your basic strategy: show how your qualifications, experience and ability relate directly to the company’s needs. Always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing. Never close the door on opportunity – the more positions you can choose from, the better.

Close The Interview With Enthusiasm

When you sense the interview is coming to an end, try to summarize a few of your key credentials, and stress your interest in working for the company.

If you are really interested in the position, this is the time to say so and to ask about the next step., If the position is offered to you, and you want it, accept it on the spot. However, if you are not prepared to accept, tell the interviewer you’ll need one day to think it over. If no offer is made, ask for a second interview date.

Don’t be discouraged if an offer is not made at the first interview, or if an appointment for a second interview is not set at this time. The interviewer might first want to communicate with your Martin/Alexander associate before further negotiations.

And Finally, before you leave, be sure to get the interviewer’s business card – you’ll need it for an important follow-up contact.

After The Interview

After the interview, there are three things you must do: review, report, and write.

Review what happened. Take a few minutes to summarize (on paper) what happened in the interview while it’s fresh in your mind. Write down the names of the people you met and a description of the job duties. Jot down the portions of the interview that you thought went well and those that caused you some problems. (If you’re called back, this analysis will make your next meeting even more successful; if not, you’ll be better prepared for an interview with someone else.)

Report to Martin/Alexander Executive Search how the interview went so that we can be more effective in talking to the employer about you.

Write a “thank you” note to the interviewer. Within 24 hours of your interview, write the interviewer a short letter of thanks. In your letter, mention at least one feature of your experience that would be useful to the company, and again express your strong interest in the position. Conclude your letter by mentioning that you hope to meet again soon.

Good Luck!