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Acing the Interview

Posted on 20 August 2008

If you have been granted an interview, there is a good chance that you are qualified to do the job – otherwise the interviewer would not be wasting their time talking to you. So relax, enjoy the process, and sell, sell, sell yourself.

Here are some pointers to help you control the interview and keep you on track.

Before the Interview

  • Before each and every interview, research the employer and know the following information:
  • Products, services, and mission
  • Competitiveness and market share
  • Corporate culture and organization
  • Recent news articles
  • Review of annual report: annual growth, sales, customer base
  • Assets and liabilities, present stock price, etc.
  • Location of subsidiaries and headquarters
  • Training programs or on the job training
  • Typical career paths
  • The name of recruiter/interviewer

Much of this information can be researched on the web (Wetfeet.com, Vault.com and CareerSearch.com are excellent resources) and should be reviewed and studied before an interview.

Warning: You really can’t get away with not doing your homework — good interviewers will pick up on this very quickly.

Practice interviewing with your roommate, friends, or a career counselor is essential. (You should do at least two mock, video-taped, interviews that can be scheduled in most university career centers. Doing this will actually give you a competitive advantage over the majority of your classmates who do not do it.) Also, career Centers can provide you with a list of the most frequently asked interview questions. Also prepare at least five specific questions to ask ahead of time — questions which show the recruiter that you have an in depth knowledge of the company, its competitors, and the playing field within the industry.

At The Interview

It’s important you combine confidence and humility. This allows you to establish yourself as an equal partner in the interviewer/interviewee relationship, and will allow you to use the interview as an opportunity to exchange ideas of mutual interest.

Make sure that you have a clearly defined career focus for every interview. Be honest and eager, but not overbearing. Be genuine too, as recruiters can easily be turned-off by a candidate who is “too perfect”, “overly rehearsed”, and “slick”. Make sure that you have had a chance to ask your questions. Finally, conclude the meeting with a quick one-minute summary restating your relevant skills and the match you see between you, the company, and the position — and don’t forget to ask what the next steps will be in the hiring process. Salary issues — such as a signing bonus, benefits, and other forms of compensation — should only be discussed when an interviewer raises the question. This is normally addressed on your last interview. Go to Salary.com to get information on average salaries.

The ability to perform well in the first five minutes of an interview is critical, as recruiters can usually tell within the first few minutes if the interviewee is a good match for their company. Focus your responses on the single over-riding question that the interviewer is asking throughout the interview, namely: “What can you do for our company?” This question requires that you know how you will “fit” into the organization.

Interviewers will be evaluating you in the following areas:

  • Appearance: Dress and groom yourself appropriately. Simple quality clothing and accessories are a must! Dress slightly better than the corporate culture of the organization would dictate.
  • Interview Preparation: It’s essential to know what kind of career you want, and know as much about the company as you can. In other words, why have You always wanted to go into Finance at XYZ, Inc.? Why is this a good fit for you and them?
  • Skill-Sets: Be confident as to what job functions you can perform, have a realistic sense of how much training you may need, and what your net-worth/value to the company will be. How are you going to make them or save them money, solve some problems, or create something new?
  • Previous Experience: It’s your job to interpret any past experience and have it be relevant to the job for which you are applying. This may take a good deal of creativity on your part.
  • Style: Your personality, manners, maturity, and communication skills must be clearly communicated throughout the interview.
  • Academics: Emphasize strong GPA and/or test scores, coursework in relevant areas, and academic skill-sets that you have honed. If you have poor grades, tell them honestly the cause for them, but focus the conversation back to your experience, skill-sets, and your determination to be a contributor to the company.
  • “Fit”: is this the right job for you and how will you get along with everyone at the office?

After the Interview

Thank-you letters are essential. Express appreciation, refer to others in the organization you may have met that day, recall those parts of the interview where their interests were piqued and restate your strong desire to work for the company. This is also an opportunity to clarify any points that may need to be re-addressed; however, do not appear to be back-pedaling on any issue. After each interview, make sure that you call the recruiter within seven to ten days to find out “next steps” in the interview process and to reaffirm your strong interest in the position.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Amanda Veal says:

    This article was very helpful. “Acing the Interview” will surely make a positive impact on my interview tomorrow. I was very nervous about it. However, after reading your article; I now feel prepared and confident.

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