You mailed, faxed and even hand-delivered dozens of resumes in an effort to get the attention of HR or the hiring manager. One of the companies just contacted you to schedule an interview. Now is the time to prepare. • How do you ensure the interview is a positive experience and that you give the best, most correct answers to the tough questions? Here are some tips to prepare for the interview and a peek at the inside secrets of the hiring professionals and managers you may face.
Before the interview
Prepare for an interview as if it were a final exam, giving appropriate time to reviewing your resume and being able to clearly and correctly identify your past achievements. Remember that your resume is meant to get you an interview so they can learn more about you and whether you fit into their company culture. Treat your resume as a PowerPoint presentation of your working life, and be prepared to provide some color commentary on your accomplishments.
Be comfortable with the facts and specific achievements you identified in your resume. Don't take credit for a project if you were only a part of it. Do take credit if you were a leader or key player. Check work history dates, sales or revenue figures, and awards, citations and other recognition for your previous work. A good HR department will verify these, and a misstatement or fabrication may eliminate you from consideration for the job. Don't memorize your resume, but be able to speak about your accomplishments and how you added to the company's success in your area.
Annotate a reference resume with key words and phrases to serve as a reminder of relevant facts or illustrations of your accomplishments. Use this resume during your interview to ensure you mention key points and important accomplishments.
Ask who will be interviewing you when you confirm your interview date and time. That allows you to go to the company's website (and Google or Facebook) to learn more about them. You may find something you have in common to bring into the conversation. You will want to focus on any shared experiences that are positive and avoid sensitivities.
Do your homework on identifying the salary range for the position. Check with salary.com, job.com, salary expert.com or the U.S. Department of Labor at dol.gov. Do not go into an interview with a specific salary amount since benefits may play a large part of the total compensation package. You won't know that until the interview is completed.
Have a binder or folder to hold additional copies of your resume and to collect business cards at the interview. Refresh your resume with updates. Invest in card stock to print your own business card or have them made professionally. A simple card with your name, phone number, e-mail address and generic job description (executive assistant, licensed building contractor, civil engineer, attorney) will leave a positive impression. If you have expertise in software or systems certification, include that, too.
Ready for the interview? When introduced to an interviewer, repeat their name while shaking hands firmly and ask for their business card. If they don't have a card, write their name and position down. Ask how their job would relate to the position you are seeking and whether they would be a supervisor or manager. If you did your homework and researched the company on their website, you may get points if you mention something you learned during your interview preparation.
Here come the questions. A seasoned professional interviewer will ask simple questions to begin the interview. The intent is to relax the applicant to make them comfortable and lower their guard. Keep your answers to the point, and don't expound unless asked. Good eye contact and a steady voice are important. Remember that anything you say can be used against you so keep your responses relevant and don't let them see you sweat. Relax and let the interviewer think they are leading the interview. If you are adequately prepared, you can answer their question and insert examples of your talent.
If applicable, relate your work experience to questions asked. If the question is about leadership, identify from your resume when you were in a leader position, how many people worked with you and the budget amount or project deadline. Keep it short and let the interviewer lead. If they want to know more, they will ask.
Watch out for the wild card questions. What didn't you like about your last job? What supervisor was a problem for you? Did you ever see anyone steal something or use company material for their personal benefit? Do you ever get really angry? These questions are meant to offer the interviewer insight into your personality and potential problem areas. Don't forget to think before you answer.
Be ready for questions that identify your personality and goals. They tell the interviewer whether you are looking for a career or a paycheck, whether you can be managed and motivated, and whether the company will be more productive, efficient and effective with you as a team member. You must sell yourself and leave them with more than just your resume.
Don't take the bait if they ask you for a salary range or what you need to take this position. They know what they plan to pay. You can politely refuse to negotiate by stating that you need to review the job duties and responsibilities as well as the benefits package to have a better understanding of the position. If they want you, they will make an offer. Don't blink first.
Have a list of references ready for the interview. Don't put "references upon request" in your resume. Provide the list at the interview on a separate sheet and verify with your references that they agree to be contacted.
Beware of the walk to your car. Much can be learned about you when you think the interview is over and are strolling to your vehicle with the hiring manager. Ask when a decision will be made and ensure they have a number where you can be reached.
Keep in touch via e-mail every two days, and don't forget to acknowledge the interview with an e-mail or mailed note. If you were prepared, informative and left them drooling at the prospect of having you on board, the job is yours.
Irv Dupre is chief operating officer at Davron Staffing. The Tampa-based firm recruits executives and technical experts in engineering, architecture, geology, finance and accounting, information technology, and related technical support to meet their local, national and international client companies' needs. Go to davron.net for more information.