The Art of the Interview

Posted by in Career Advice

Your resume has made it past the slush pile in your company of choice and the HR Manager has invited you in for an interview. Pat yourself on the back – you’ve gotten yourself noticed and have made it past the toughest part of the job search process. All you have to do now is nail the interview. Relax! This is not as hard as you think. Play your cards right and you’ll have an offer in hand in no time. The key to stress-free interviewing is to prepare, but not too much. You want to do just enough research so that you know what to expect and can speak intelligently on the points related to your job function. It helps to jot down a few “wow ‘em” facts about the company that you would never know unless you did your homework. Don’t spend so much time on the company’s website, though, or you’ll end up sounding like an encyclopedia in the interview. It’s in your best interest to find out as much as you can about the person or people interviewing you so that you arrive at the meeting with some preliminary information about who you’re dealing with. A Google search might prove helpful in this regard. Determine in advance what type of interview you’ll be having so you aren’t caught off guard. Will the meeting be one-on-one, or will you be sitting in front of a panel of executives? Will you be asked to consider a real-life business problem? Will any type of written or computer test be required while you’re on site? If your past experience can be demonstrated on paper, I recommend putting together an interview portfolio. A portfolio is a three-ring binder in which you can include anything that highlights your business achievements and shows your level of commitment to previous positions. For example, I’m a marketing communications executive, so my portfolio includes press releases and business plans I’ve written, magazine articles I’ve contributed to and print advertising campaigns I’ve helped develop. A neat and professional portfolio can be an excellent tool to refer to during an interview. Most people don’t bother to create one, but it speaks volumes about your ability to package yourself. While it’s a good idea to be conversational during an interview, be careful how much personal information you divulge. There is never a good reason to bad-mouth your previous employer, even if everything you say is justified. While he is listening to your sob story, your prospective employer is thinking that in a year, you will be sitting in front of another interviewer complaining about HIS company. Don’t be fooled by an interviewer that seems compassionate. Remember, the two of you are not friends and the interviewer’s first loyalty is to the company he’s hiring for. If you are asked why you left a job, answer with a neutral statement like “I was spending more time on the train than I was at work” or “I wanted to gain experience working in a different industry.” Many companies have their human resources representatives conduct interviews, but you should try to meet, or at least speak with, the person who will be your official manager. The reason behind this is pretty simple. If your personalities clash or if you have fundamental differences in the way you work, you need to know immediately so you can determine if you want to pursue the opportunity further. I’m not saying that one conversation will accurately reflect how your boss will act on the job, or that problems won’t arise later that were impossible to predict. However, if you hate the person on site, you should consider if it’s a smart move to work for her. While you’re interviewing, you should also talk to existing employees at the company, preferably in your department. Tactfully learn as much as you can about the corporate culture, or the working environment and the politics of the organization. Think seriously about whether you could fit in, because you won’t be able to have a happy and fruitful career in a company that makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t meet your individual needs. Get a sense of the overall mood and morale of the employees and listen carefully to what they say…and don’t say. If you think that every employee is going to sing the company’s praises just because you came up from HR, you might be surprised. I interviewed at a technology company that really impressed me until two of my potential colleagues told me to leave “before I got sucked in.” I didn’t take the offer, but I might have if I hadn’t taken the time to get the insider view. Alexandra Levit worked for a Fortune 500 software company and an international public relations firm before starting Inspiration @Work, an independent marketing communications business. She's the author of They Don't Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something's Guide to the Business World (Career Press 2004;

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  •  Cynthia W
    Cynthia W
    I appreciate the article. I get tongue tied when I go to interviews and I am trying to practice, practice, practice.  Even after awhile I feel foolish and not so confident afterwards. The best part of the interview is to apply the skills I have learned while in training and if it is what I know I am encouraged to keep job searching until I get the job I fit in.
  • Nadya P
    Nadya P
    Very interesting information!Thank you!
  • Carla L
    Carla L
    Fantastic information, just what I needed...Thanks
    Informative article.  However, I would find it even more helpful to find a similar article aimed specifically at administrative positions that do not leave room to make huge contributions to the company that can be brought out in a verbal interview or on a resume.
  • Christopher M
    Christopher M
    Very informative article.Thank you!
  • Pamela L
    Pamela L
    Several good points are addressed. Appreciate the input from your personal experience.
  • Nicolas S
    Nicolas S
    Informative and provided important pointersThank you
  • David L
    David L
    Great article! I will learn from it
  • Geneva C
    Geneva C
    Thanks so much for your advice on stress-free interviewing.
  • Gloria M
    Gloria M
    Somehow it left me thinking I need to know more. A bit too brief
  • William H
    William H
    The information is well presented along with the straight happenings towards accomplishing the obtaining of a job. Thank you.
  • Rachida A
    Rachida A
    very helpful.
  • Kimberley W
    Kimberley W
    The advise is what I had used in prior interviews and it is nice to know I am on the right track.
  • Christopher M
    Christopher M
    I am going to have a phone interview in few hours - it helped me a lot, we all know how but to perform better outside advise dose make you more confident.
  • Sally S
    Sally S
    Excellent information. It assisted me to actually picture myself in the interview, what I was to prepare for and what kind of impression I wanted to leave.Thank you.
  • Cynthia L
    Cynthia L
    I have been interviewing since November 2012 and found a couple of helpful hints to help me prepare for future interviews.  An article geared toward 50+ job seekers on this same subject is welcome!
  •  Pamela H
    Pamela H
    I totally enjoyed reading all the helpful material in this email.  It not only accelerates my job search energy, but it allows me to stand out from the crowd.
  • Lisa B
    Lisa B
    This article on the interview & what to plan for is Excellent. Unknown to me I had already accomplished some of the ideas - the research, but not to much - but the article gave me other ideas, such as listening.  Much Appreciated!
  • SefakorS
    This is a very useful material
  • Jon J
    Jon J
    Great tips for an interview I used some of these suggestions in my last job interview. I felt I was well prepared for my interview.
  • Van P
    Van P
    These are very good tips for having an interview.
  • RoslynS
    I enjoyed the article. It gives me a lot of insight on what i should do at an interview. I haven't worked in the business world in a long time. I am hoping to get back out there. I work in a gr0ocery store and its hard to even get people to look at my resume. I am still trying tho. Your article gives a lot of great things I can do to help me plan for interviewing.
  • Wishart K
    Wishart K
    I am to be interviewed shortly for a job. I am happy to have read this article and better understand what interviewers look for in a candidate and the importance of being prepared. Thanks.
  • John M
    John M
    You  should also think of questions you  will be asked ones you want to ask the interviewer as you prepare, good article
    Good advice! Thank you!

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