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What to Expect in a Job Interview


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This is the extended version of my "Do's and Don'ts of a Job Interview". Presented to college students at various institutions.

This is the extended version of my "Do's and Don'ts of a Job Interview". Presented to college students at various institutions.

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  • 1. What to Expect in a Job Interview Do’s and Don’t of a Job Interview
  • 2. Get Their Attention
    • A young student wanted to get into a University that had very stringent standards and was known for its 'creative' students. He was taken into the interview room and met by a gentleman sitting behind a large newspaper. With no eye-contact whatsoever the interviewer said "You have exactly 30 seconds to get my attention" and continued to read his outstretched paper.
    • !
  • 3. ...he passed the interview
  • 4. 7 Second Impression
    • Confidence!
    • Firm Handshake
    • Eye Contact – look them directly in the eye
    • Direct and simple introduction:
      • “ Hello, my name is ____, it is great to meet you!
  • 5. 29 Minute 53 Seconds
    • Knowledgeable:  Do your homework and know more about the person and company than what is on their website.
    • 3 degrees:  reach out to somebody that knows somebody and pick their brain!  Do more than visit a static website!
    • Honest & Transparent:  Tell the truth about your resume, don’t make excuses for shortcomings, but offer solutions.
    • Don’t Be a Bad Date:  Be interesting, offer stories that are short, to the point and highlight successes and mistakes you learned from.
    • Engage in the conversation:  Just like above, it is a two-way conversation.  Don’t just ask questions about sales volume, benefits etc.  Instead, discuss how your long-term goals match with the company’s strategy.
  • 6. Key Categories
    • Personality
    • Experience
    • Relationship
    • Communication
    • Long Term Outlook
  • 7. Personality
    • Attitude
    • Appearance
    • Confidence
    • Approachability
    • Professionalism
  • 8. Attitude
    • Always be honest
    • Enthusiasm & Passion.
    • Expressing your passion = interest.
    • Don’t be nervous – you already have a good chance since your in the interview!
  • 9. Appearance
    • Maintain positive body language
      • Be on the lookout for certain gestures that communicate negative messages, such as poor eye contact, hurried nodding or crossing your arms.
    • Posture and body language, and manners are still at the top of the list.
    • Differentiate yourself from others, find a way to make an immediate impact (this does not mean wear a crazy tie)
    • Social network clean-up (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc…).
    • “ Go Search Yourself” Google yourself and see what employers will find, trust me they are doing the same thing.
  • 10. Appearance
    • Basic presentation issues:
      • no heavy cologne/perfume/powder odor
      • no ornate jewelry
      • no chewing gum/mints/cough drop
      • turn off (not to vibrate) your cell phone
      • don’t bring water bottle to interview
      • have a professional email (nothing like [email_address] )
      • Bring a notebook/portfolio & pen
    • Image is a paramount consideration for any interview.
      • no visible piercing along with the usual; clean hair cut (do), clean teeth, fresh breath, nails, nose
  • 11. Confidence
    • Be a listener and engage in a two-way conversation
    • Eye contact
    • Sit up straight, lean slightly forward with hands on table
    • Firm handshake, if you miss the shake, ok to say “hey, let’s try that again”
    • Never take a defensive stance on a question (honest answers)
    • Don’t complain about workloads, hours worked, your boss etc…
    • Do not speak negatively about anyone.
    • DO NOT compare yourself to other people, be your own person.
  • 12. Approachability
    • Smile for 5 seconds when you enter a room & say “nice to meet you”
    • Make eye contact for two extra seconds when being introduced (and saying goodbye) to someone new. One-one-thousand…two-one-thousand…
    • Develop an unforgettable answer to a few common questions.
    • Sit with toes pointed AT the speaker (away signifies resistance)
    • Discover the CPI, or Common Point of Interest, between you and any new friend as soon as possible. Ask creative, unique, interesting, thought-provoking and challenging questions like, “Can you describe the best day you had at work last year?”
    • Keep your hands away from your nose or mouth while talking, it is a display of dishonesty.
  • 13. Professionalism
    • Arrive 15 minutes early
    • Make sure you understand the employer’s next step in the hiring process; know when and from whom you should expect to hear next.
    • Know what the next actions/steps are: and DO IT!
    • Back everything up by solid, detailed scenarios or experience.
    • Personal thank you’s and not just an email.
    • LinkedIn profiles need to match up with their current resume.
  • 14. Experience
    • Jobs
    • Initiative
    • Education
  • 15. Story: Experience is in the Eye of the Beholder
    • Several years ago, I was hiring a talent acquisition assistant and interviewed 20+ people but could not find the organizational skills and personality I was seeking.  I then interviewed a young lady, right out of school with a great personality.  She had me in the first 7 seconds (personality, confidence, solid handshake)!  Then we discussed her upcoming wedding and HOW she was planning for her nuptial bliss.  I invited her in for an interview and requested she bring her wedding planner (folder) that she poured months into!  It was phenomenal, I hired her and today she is a Human Resource Manager for a major global organization!
  • 16. The Job
    • Know the job role and be able to address how/why you fit the role.
    • Be honest about your skills
    • Communicate how your skills transfer into the job role
    • Have a prepared list of references from previous employers (co-op’s, internships, professors and managers) that will address your skills (e.g.  she is highly organized because ____)
    • Describe what you like most about previous positions and also be prepared to describe what you like least
    • Know your resume; you should never need to “refer” to it during the interview (you wrote it and did it, right?)
    • Be prepared to discuss your plan to achieve career goals.
    • Be realistic; many skills transfer, however I am a marketing major involved in Talent Acquisition –  I AM NOT AN ENGINEER, some skills will not transfer.
  • 17. Initiative
    • Interviews: always have tangible information prepared for the interview (portfolio, website print-outs with annotations highlights etc…) this WILL set you apart.
    • Ask for a business card and respect the card.
    • Discuss projects or work assignments where you identified issues and suggested a solution that was implemented.
    • Define what motivates you professionally and personally.
    • Definition of initiative is: an introductory act or step; leading action!  Take some initiative!!
  • 18. Education
    • Clearly show all education, continuous learning and training
    • Education, continuous learning and training should match your goals, highlight how they match your goals (even if your degree is not in line with your field, find a connection).
    • Address GPA concerns directly; explain low GPA’s and never shy away from the discussion. 
    • Bottom-line; be honest and address these concerns up front.
  • 19. Relationship
    • Knowledge
    • Real World Experience
    • Business Acumen
  • 20. Make a Connection
    • I look for 3 keys items;
      • knowledge (what do we know about each other)
      • experiences (relating “real world" experience to each other)
      • business acumen (understanding the mutual business insights of each other).
    • MKS Story:
      • Knowledge of our industry
      • Related her experiences to some of my personal experiences when I was in that role.
      • Her insight into business was clearly expressed. 
      • She did her research on me & I was blown away by how much she knew about me professionally, our company and the position we were hiring. 
      • She got the job!
  • 21. Knowledge
    • Static Research : know what they do, company size, locations, a little about their operational methodology!
    • Dynamic Research : LinkedIn , Google , Facebook ,
    • Know about the role for which they’re being interviewed:
      • regular tasks
      • typical goals
      • key accountabilities
      • expected deliverables (week 1, month 1, 6 months, 1 year)
      • Be able to demonstrate how you can perform these initiative and provide clear examples from your past. 
      • Past actions predict future behavior!
  • 22. Real World Experience
    • Relate your professional experiences to the goals and objectives of the company. 
      • What can you do for them vs. what can they do for me!
    • Chances are the hiring manager has performed your role, the more you know about them, the better you can relate your experiences to some of their past experiences.
    • Discuss your career transitions and how you handled them;
      • i.e.  When you left home for college is a great example.
  • 23. Business Acumen
    • All employers want to know that you understand how business in general works:
      • Metrics driven resume = metrics driven employee
      • See the big picture, it is about the company not you
    • Be able to talk to your interviewer about recent company results, products, projects, mergers, acquisitions and share performance. 
      • Be prepared to share an opinion on these items
    • Answer questions with specifics and numbers (“Data entry made up 60% of my summer internship” or “I input 2500 client files into our database”)
  • 24. Communication
    • Written
    • Verbal
    • Body Language
    • Q&A
    • Ability to listen
  • 25. Communication: First Impression
    • Interviewers will judge your communication on more than just verbal (how well you translate your thoughts), they will also rank:
      • Written (your resume, application, paperwork etc…)
      • Body Language (what are you really thinking vs what you say)
      • Questions & Answers (how well thought out, relevancy to the interview – i.e. not canned)
      • Ability to Listen (indicates how you will take direction)
    • Let’s pick these apart….
  • 26. Written
    • All paperwork (resume, application, forms) must be well written, neat, clean and complete. 
      • Employers relate this to what type of employee you will be.
    • Writers are readers, how many blogs, books, articles have you read about interviewing?
    • Size matters; when you write something go back and try to make it shorter with the same or more impact
    • Read your resume / thank you notes out loud, make sure they flow and sound memorable.
  • 27. Verbal
    • Leave a lasting impression; make sure the interviewer knows what they need to about you.
    • Don’t start your conversation with
      • “ I was just going to say…”
      • “ I’m not sure if I’m right, but…”
      • “ I don’t know if…”
      • “ This is probably a stupid question…”
    • Use self-disclosure openings as conversation starters, they ease communication apprehension.
    • Be ready to offer insight into you and appeal to the inherent helpful nature of other people. Examples include:
      • This is my first interview (if it is)
      • I am really excited to learn more about your company (this will open them up to state, “well what do you know”), then tell them!
  • 28. Body Language
    • Interviewing is like dating, be engaged in the conversation and the person!
    • Connect with the interviewer, they should feel as if you are an old friend and you’re catching up!
    • Research positive body language for interviews, a few tips include;
      • smile when entering the room
      • firm handshake (if you miss simply state “hey, let’s try that again), this shows confidence.
      • DO NOT fold your arms
      • MEN:  Never, ever, ever CROSS YOUR LEGS.
      • DO NOT put your elbows on the table
      • DO NOT clench your fist (indicates anger)
      • Sit down after the interviewer
  • 29. Questions & Answers
    • Always ask GOOD questions about the company AND the person(s) conducting the interview.
    • Start with an introduction, followed by a question like:  “What else can I tell you about myself?”
    • Ask questions throughout, be conversational, but precise.
    • End with a good question:  “Was there anything you were looking for that we haven’t discuss?”
  • 30. Ability to Listen
    • Don’t talk yourself out of a job, relax, be confident and professional.
    • Pay attention to verbal and non verbal cues.
    • Prepare responses to “standard” questions with 30 – 120 second responses that drive home a point. 
    • Repeat back key points from the interview and address them in your response.
    • Above all LISTEN!!!
  • 31. Long Term Outlook
    • Leadership
    • Goals
  • 32. Leadership
    • You must communicate to employers that you have the ability to lead in some capacity!
    • Discuss your involvement as a leader, no matter the roles (no role is too small);
      • sorority/fraternity
      • charities
      • intramural sports
      • church activities
      • clubs/organizations
      • projects
    • Leadership and management are two completely different things
      • Leadership:  to go before or with to show the way, to conduct by holding and guiding, to influence or induce, to guide in direction, course, action, opinion, etc
      • Management: The act, manner, or practice of supervision.
    • How do you influence outcomes that are in the best interest of employers?
  • 33. Goals
    • Discuss your short and long-term goals; be ready to explain your plan of achievement.
      • If your goal is management (common response), then discuss the steps you are taking; i.e. reading books (give title of book), taking classes, volunteering to manage projects etc…
    • Clearly communicate your professional and personal goals
      • Professional first; discuss your previous career path and key milestones.
      • Discuss why you chose previous employers or positions that tied in to your professional road map.
      • Have a professional road map!
    • Achievements
      • Discuss recent goals you have achieved and how you achieved.
      • Don’t be shy, you are in an interview to sell yourself, but don’t be arrogant/blow hard!
  • 34. General
    • Do’s
    • Don’ts
    • Always
  • 35. Common Questions
    • Tell me about yourself?
    • What is your greatest accomplishment?
    • What is your greatest strength?
    • What is your weakness?
    • How do you handle stress?
    • What is the toughest problem you have faced and how did you overcome?
    • Why do you want this position?
    • Why are you the best person for this job?
  • 36. Any Last Questions?
    • Often the interviewer's last question is, "Do you have any questions for me?"
    • Not having questions indicates a lack of initiative. It also gives the impression that you have minimal interest in the position.
  • 37. Prepare Your Questions
    • Prepare your questions in advance.
    • Relate them to the company or its accomplishments/challenges (your research of the company will show and further impress the interviewer).
    • Don't ask any question that indicate a lack of research about the company.
  • 38. Ask The Interviewer
    • What do you enjoy most about working here?
    • Is there anything I've mentioned that makes you think I'm not the best candidate for this job?
    • When do you expect to make your final decision?
  • 39. Phone Screen Tips
    • N ever be caught unprepared. 
    • A lways prepare like it is an in person interview. 
    • I nterview in a quiet place with limited NO distractions! 
    • L and line. 
    • I nitiate request for in person interview and open the door for more information about yourself. 
    • T alk with confidence. 
  • 40.
    • Alex Putman
    • Twitter:
    • @ alexputman
    • Facebook Page: www.
    • Go to blog and search “interview” for applicable articles on interview, questions employers ask and topics covered in more detail