Once upon a time, a job seeker landed an interview, skimmed the prospective employer's annual report, wowed the hiring manager with a few company facts and strolled into his dream job.
That late-'90s fairy tale rarely comes true these days. With employers in more control of the labor market, candidates feel compelled to give it their all in their interview preparation. And that includes mounting a broad, deep search for relevant information about the position, the company, the industry and even the interviewer.
Fortunately for you, diverse resources that are free, cheap and available on the Internet, enable you to achieve that competitive edge if you're willing to put your nose to the grindstone -- or computer monitor.
Employers' Web Sites
Your prospective employer's corporate Web site is the best place to see the company as it wants to be seen. Do check out that annual report, but also look for a "press room" or "company news" page that links to recent news releases. As you mull all this information, consider how the open position, as detailed in the job posting, relates to the company's mission.
But don't stop there. Use the company site's search facility to query the names of the hiring manager and any others on your interview dance card. You may retrieve bio pages or press releases that give you insight into their most visible activities at the company. "Learning about the interviewer is probably the most valuable thing you can do," says Ron Fry, author of 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions.
Finally, if you hope to have a company ogling you, try Googling them first. You just might come up with a nugget you would have missed otherwise.
While you're at it, Google yourself to make sure you and the interviewer are on the same page. Because if he's savvy, he's doing unto you as you've just done unto him and his company.
Ten Tips to Boost Your Interview Skills
Practice Good Nonverbal Communication It's about demonstrating confidence: standing straight, making eye contact and connecting with a good, firm handshake. That first nonverbal impression can be a great beginning -- or quick ending -- to your interview.
2. Dress for the Job or Company Today's casual dress codes do not give you permission to dress as "they" do when you interview. It is important to look professional and well -groomed. Whether you wear a suit or something less formal depends on the company culture and the position you are seeking. If possible, call to find out about the company dress code before the interview.
3. Listen From the very beginning of the interview, your interviewer is giving you information, either directly or indirectly. If you are not hearing it, you are missing a major opportunity. Good communication skills include listening and letting the person know you heard what was said. Observe your interviewer, and match that style and pace.
4. Don't Talk Too Much Telling the interviewer more than he needs to know could be a fatal mistake. When you have not prepared ahead of time, you may ramble when answering interview questions, sometimes talking yourself right out of the job. Prepare for the interview by reading through the job posting, matching your skills with the position's requirements and relating only that information.
5. Don't Be Too Familiar The interview is a professional meeting to talk business. This is not about making a new friend. Your level of familiarity should mimic the interviewer's demeanor. It is important to bring energy and enthusiasm to the interview and to ask questions, but do not overstep your place as a candidate looking for a job.
6. Use Appropriate Language It's a given that you should use professional language during the interview. Be aware of any inappropriate slang words or references to age, race, religion, politics or sexual orientation -- these topics could send you out the door very quickly.
7. Don't Be Cocky Attitude plays a key role in your interview success. There is a fine balance between confidence, professionalism and modesty. Even if you're putting on a performance to demonstrate your ability, overconfidence is as bad, if not worse, as being too reserved.
8. Take Care to Answer the Questions When an interviewer asks for an example of a time when you did something, he is seeking a sample of your past behavior. If you fail to relate a specific example, you not only don't answer the question, but you also miss an opportunity to prove your ability and talk about your skills.
9. Ask Questions When asked if they have any questions, most candidates answer, "No." Wrong answer. Part of knowing how to interview is being ready to ask questions to demonstrate an interest in what goes on in the company. Asking questions also gives you the opportunity to find out if this is the right place for you. The best questions come from listening to what you're asked during the interview and asking for additional information.
10. Don't Appear Desperate When you interview with the "please, please hire me" approach, you appear desperate and less confident. Maintain the three C's during the interview: cool, calm and confident. You know you can do the job; make sure the interviewer believes you can, too.
Interview Answers to Get YOU the Job
Do You Have the Skills to Do the Job?
According to Karsh, the employer must first determine whether you have the necessary hard skills for the position, e.g., the programming knowledge for a database administration job or the writing chops to be a newspaper reporter. "By really probing into what the candidate has done in the past, an interviewer can tap into hard skills."
But the interviewer is also looking for key soft skills you'll need to succeed in the job and organization, such as the ability to work well on teams or "the requisite common sense to figure things out with some basic training," says Terese Corey Blanck, director of student development.
Do You Fit?
"Every organization's first thought is about fit and potentially fit in a certain department," Corey Blanck says. That means the interviewer is trying to pinpoint not only whether you match up well with both the company's and department's activities but also whether you'll complement the talents of your potential coworkers.
Do You Understand the Company and Its Purpose?
If the organization fits well with your career aspirations, you'll naturally be motivated to do good work there -- and stay more than a month or two, Corey Blanck reasons. "I don't want someone to take the position because it's a job and it fits their skills. I want them to be excited about our mission and what we do."
How Do You Stack Up Against the Competition?
You're being evaluated in relation to other candidates for the job. In other words, this test is graded on a curve. So the interviewer will constantly be comparing your performance with that of the other candidates'.
Do You Have the Right Mind-Set for the Job and Company?
"I'm always looking for someone who has a can-do type of attitude," Corey Blanck explains. "I want someone who wants to be challenged and is internally motivated to do well.
Corey Blanck points out that an employer can't train for this essential trait. "But you can hire for it. And if you don't, you'll end up with a lower-performing employee."
Do You Want the Job?
Most employers know better than to believe everyone they interview actually wants the position being offered. They understand some candidates are exploring their options, while others are using an interview with a company they don't care about to hone their interview skills.
So you have to prove you really want the job, says Al Pollard, senior college recruiter for Countrywide Financial. "I use the ditch-digger analogy: Many of us can dig ditches, but few are willing to -- and even fewer want to."
Potential Interview Questions
Basic Interview Questions:
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Why do you want this job?
Where would you like to be in your career five
years from now?
What's your ideal company?
What attracted you to this company?
Why should we hire you?
What did you like least about your last job?
When were you most satisfied in your job?
What can you do for us that other candidates can't?
What were the responsibilities of your last position?
Why are you leaving your present job?
What do you know about this industry?
What do you know about our company?
Are you willing to relocate?
Do you have any questions for me?
Behavioral Interview Questions:
What was the last project you headed up, and what was its outcome?
Give me an example of a time that you felt you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.
Can you describe a time when your work was criticized?
Have you ever been on a team where someone was not pulling their own weight? How did you handle it?
Tell me about a time when you had to give someone difficult feedback. How did you handle it?
What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?
What irritates you about other people, and how do you deal with it?
If I were your supervisor and asked you to do something that you disagreed with, what would you do?
What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?
Give me an example of a time you did something wrong. How did you handle it?
What irritates you about other people, and how do you deal with it?
Tell me about a time where you had to deal with conflict on the job.
If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?
If you found out your company was doing something against the law, like fraud, what would you do?
What assignment was too difficult for you, and how did you resolve the issue?
What's the most difficult decision you've made in the last two years and how did you come to that decision?
Describe how you would handle a situation if you were required to finish multiple tasks by the end of the day, and there was no conceivable way that you could finish them.
What salary are you seeking?
What's your salary history?
If I were to give you this salary you requested but let you write your job description for the next year, what would it say?
Career Development Questions: What are you looking for in terms of career development?
How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
What kind of goals would you have in mind if you got this job?
If I were to ask your last supervisor to provide you additional training or exposure, what would she suggest?
More About You:
How would you describe your work style?
What would be your ideal working situation?
What do you look for in terms of culture -- structured or entrepreneurial?
Give examples of ideas you've had or implemented.
What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
If you had to choose one, would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?
Tell me about your proudest achievement.
Who was your favorite manager and why?
What do you think of your previous boss?
Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?
What kind of personality do you work best with and why?
What are you most proud of?
What do you like to do?
What are your lifelong dreams?
What do you ultimately want to become?
What is your personal mission statement?
What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
What negative thing would your last boss say about you?
What three character traits would your friends use to describe you?
What are three positive character traits you don't have?
If you were interviewing someone for this position, what traits would you look for?
List five words that describe your character.
Who has impacted you most in your career and how?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your biggest regret and why?
What's the most important thing you learned in school?
Why did you choose your major?
What will you miss about your present/last job?
What is your greatest achievement outside of work?
What are the qualities of a good leader? A bad leader?
Do you think a leader should be feared or liked?
How do you feel about taking no for an answer?
How would you feel about working for someone who knows less than you?
How do you think I rate as an interviewer?
Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn't want me to know.
Tell me the difference between good and exceptional.
What kind of car do you drive?
There's no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
What's the last book you read?
What magazines do you subscribe to?
What's the best movie you've seen in the last year?
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Who are your heroes?
What do you like to do for fun?
What do you do in your spare time?
What is your favorite memory from childhood?
How many times do a clock's hands overlap in a day?
How would you weigh a plane without scales?
Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.
Sell me this pencil.
If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?
Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball?
If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?
If you could get rid of any one of the US states, which one would you get rid of and why?
With your eyes closed, tell me step-by-step how to tie my shoes.