Job Search: Part 3—Interviews

Your cover letter did its job and got your resume reviewed. Your resume did its job and got you an interview. Now what?

Don’t just expect to show up at the appointed time without preparation and get the job. If you want to be successful, you need to prepare for the interview.

You will find it helpful to know what kind of interview you will be having. In addition to the traditional interview where one person—probably your potential supervisor—meets with you to discuss your experience, you may encounter several other types of interviews. Especially if you are applying for an executive level job, you will probably have several interviews before a decision is made.

Some of these kinds of interviews may be used together—you may be interviewed by a panel that asks behavior-based questions, for example—or you may go through a series of different kinds of interviews.

  • Telephone Interview: The employer may use a telephone interview to narrow down the candidates for an in-person interview or to save travel expenses when interviewing out-of-town candidates.
  • Panel Interview: The panel may include your potential supervisor along with higher level executives and representatives from Human Resources and other departments you will interact with if hired. Each of these people will have different interests and concerns.
  • Behavior-based Interview: This type of interview—sometimes called the competency interview—is based on the theory that past performance is the best indicator of future performance. You will be asked questions about specific challenges you have encountered in your previous work life and be asked to described how you responded to them.

You will need to be prepared for any or all of these kinds of interviews.

  • Research the company and the interviewer(s). You should have researched the company for your cover letter, but you may want to dig a little deeper to be prepared for the interview. If you know the name(s) of the person(s) who will be interviewing you, do some research on them, too. Congratulating an interviewer on a recent award or sharing that you volunteer for the same charity will make a favorable impression.
  • Know your resume backward and forward. You may have had to research to find details and numbers for your resume. Remember, the interviewer may be looking at your resume during the interview and will catch any discrepancies. Be sure you have everything on the resume committed to memory or have it front of you and know where to find any piece of information immediately.
  • Be prepared with questions of your own. After you answer the interviewer’s questions, you will be given an opportunity to ask questions. Questions prepared in advance will keep you from being caught off guard. You want to ask questions about the company and the job, not about salary or benefits at this point. Raise those issues after the job offer—asking during the job interview makes the interviewer think that you are more interested in how much you will make than in what you will be doing.
  • Be ready for typical questions. In addition to being able to address everything on your resume, you will need to prepared for other questions. See sample questions and suggested answers at Quint Careers. You may not know you will having a behavior-based interview, but you need to be prepared to answer those kinds of questions. A typical competency question might be, “Tell me about a time in a previous job when you faced a difficult challenge.” The best answers to these kinds of questions are stories of your experiences that follow the SAR format: S=Situation (the challenge or problem), A=Action (what you did about it), and R=Results (what happened).  Mentioning a compliment from your boss or other third party reinforcement of the good results makes your story more powerful.
  • Practice for the interview. Give a friend or family member a list of typical questions and ask them to be the interviewer in a mock interview. Every time you answer a question, you will become more comfortable, and when you’re in the actual interview, you will be prepared for suitable answers. You can find mock interview guides for a variety of jobs at
  • Dress appropriately. What is appropriate depends on the kind of job you are applying for, but you should dress in the kind of attire you would wear on the job or slightly more formal if that is work or casual clothes. Even on a telephone interview, many people feel that dressing up gives them more confidence for the interview. Put extra effort into your grooming as well.
  • Plan your schedule and logistics. If you traveling to an in-person interview, even if the trip is only a few blocks, allow time for construction and other delays. If possible, check out the location in advance so you know exactly where you’re going and the best route to get there. Plan to arrive in plenty of time to make a last-minute stop in the restroom and still check in with the receptionist several minutes before the appointed time. Realize that you might be observed as you sit in the waiting room—sit up straight, smile, and look relaxed and confident. If you are expecting a phone call from an employer for an interview, eliminate distractions such as barking dogs and loud music. Use a corded phone or be sure your phone battery is fully charged and give yourself a chance to relax and take a deep breath before the phone rings.
  • Have everything you need with you. Have extra copies of your resume. Although the interviewers should all have your resume, be prepared if someone doesn’t. Also have notepad and pen to take notes.
  • Introduce yourself and shake hands with the interviewer(s). If you are in a panel interview, shake hands with each interviewer. Ask for business cards or write down each name so you can address the person by name during the interview and send them a thank-you note later.
  • Give your full attention to the interviewer and answer questions distinctly and honestly. Don’t rush or mumble your answers. Look at the interviewer as you speak. If you are addressing a panel, give your attention to the person asking the question at the beginning and end of your answer and look at each person on the panel during the answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you will get the information and get back with an answer. Make a note to be sure you remember to follow up.
  • Ask your questions if they haven’t already been answered. The interviewer(s) will give you the chance to ask any questions that haven’t been covered. Taking advantage of the opportunity demonstrates your interest in the job.
  • After the interview, send a handwritten thank-you note to each interviewer. You can also include any additional information that you would like the interviewers to know, elaborate on any of your answers, or emphasize how you can contribute to the company.

You can find more information about interviewing at Cleverism Best Interview Practices.

Do you have any advice for job-seekers on how to succeed in a job interview? Share them in comments.

Good luck to you job seekers. Tell us about your success.

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