Some basics about interviewing will never change, but in the interest updated business ethics, creative skill selling tactics and new technology, I think it’s time to see how you measure up when your next potential career move is on the line. A job offer is not always based of who has the best skills for the job, but rather who has convinced the potential employer that they are the best choice for the position. The best choice is a combination of key ingredients that you control.
You have gotten the employers interest with a good resume and now you are invited to interview with them.
1. Research the Company – Whether you interview through a search firm or directly on your own. Find out the company’s web site and find out about their company history, products, customers and testimonials, growth, financial results. Ask the recruiter for some background on the interviewer or other people they may have placed there in the past. Let the interviewer know you have done some research about the company and that you are very interested in an opportunity with such a company.
2. Appearance – Dress for Success! You should always wear a conservative business suit / business dress for an interview. Even if the company is a business casual environment, you should dress as if you were meeting the company CEO.
3. What to bring to the interview? – Bring your company notes, directions, two extra copies of your resume, reference name & numbers, a lightweight folio (newer, clean, neat-buy one if you need to) with pad to take notes in the interview.
4. Promptness – You were given a specific time for an interview, so don’t be late. You should always arrive about 20 minutes before your interview time. If you expect to fill out an employment application, then 30 minutes. Allow for unexpected traffic. While you are waiting, look for a company newsletter to read or review your company notes.
5. First Impressions – Remember that your “first impression” opportunity starts at the reception desk. Be courteous and patient.
6. Cell Phone –Turn off your cell phone before entering the building.
7. Complete Applications – no shortcuts. When asked to fill out an application, fill it out completely. “See Resume” will not cut it with HR and shows you don’t like details. Print legibly. Employment applications are legal records of a company.
8. Integrity and Accuracy – Your resume/application must be accurate. Use month and year on job history, and don’t hide jobs or stretch dates. Most companies now require a background check that includes employment history, Social Security verification and Criminal check and often a DMV check, degree verification and salary verification. Some companies require that you produce a current copy of your pay stub before extending an offer. If you are concerned about something a company will find, bring it up to them before they find it.
9. Personality – Whether you are walking from the parking lot or through the lobby or to your interviewer’s office, wear a friendly smile. Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake. Remember that first impressions are the most important.
10. Courtesy – Wait to be invited to sit. Never put your briefcase or other items on the interviewer’s desk. Avoid an offer of a cup of coffee unless the interviewer is getting a fresh cup. It’s awkward to hold a cup of coffee and juggle your personal belongings.
11. The Interview – An interview should not be one-sided. Keep the interview a 50/50 exchange of dialogue. Ask questions about the job, duties, and the company, current IT projects, future IT projects and directions. Show interest in what the interviewer has to say. If your answers are all short “yes” or “no” answers, the interviewer doesn’t get a chance to see how you interact with people. Show how you would interact with a user or co-worker. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Give brief explanations of challenges and solutions to back up your accomplishments. Being able to briefly and clearly describe a task or responsibility is a sought after skill in itself.
12. Summarize and Sell – Summarize your understanding of what the interviewer is seeking and reassure the interviewer that not only do you feel qualified, but also very interested. Ask the interviewer “do you feel that my skills and personality would be a good fit?” “Are there any other points that I can give you more detail?”
13. Salary – A cardinal rule is to Never, Ever discuss salary with an employer. Your answer should always be, “I am open to any reasonable offer.” Employer: “I need to know a number, a minimum, give me an idea.” Candidate: “I would rather not commit to any number at this point. Please feel free to make me a reasonable offer.” “I would rather you discuss that with my recruiter as I feel real awkward at handling money.” “I am really interested in the position and I don’t want to jeopardize my chances with the wrong number.” If asked about a current or last salary, it is okay to give that number, but keep saying, “I am flexible and open.” Letting a third party negotiate for you is always best. In the absence of a recruiter, you have to let the employer offer a number first.
14. Closing the Interview – In wrapping up and interview, thank the interviewer for their time. Let them know that you are very interested in pursuing the opportunity and ask “would I be considered as one of their final candidates?’ Ask, “What would the next step be?” “When might they be scheduling people back for a second interview if that is necessary?” Thank the interviewer again with a smile and a handshake and exit.
15. After the Interview – If sent by a recruiter, call your recruiter immediately after the interview while everything is fresh in your mind. The following day send the interviewer a short Thank You letter (only 5-7 sentences). Thank the interviewer again for taking the time with you. Reaffirm that you feel that you not only could do the job, but also feel that this is the type of long-term challenging opportunity you have been looking for. Include your full name, daytime or cell phone and e-mail address. Use some nice businesslike stationary, not your company stationary for postage meter. If you were given a business card with an e-mail address, it would be okay to e-mail the note, but keep in mind we all get a lot of e-mail.