Interviewing Skills and Techniques - Career Services

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The Art of Interviewing

Article: You've Landed the Interview. Now What Should You Wear?

by Lucinda White.

Lucinda White graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a degree in Psychology. She has more than 15 years of recruiting and human resources experience in the defense, semiconductor, Internet and networking industries. In addition, she has served as a graduate assistant for the Silicon Valley Dale Carnegie Speech and Sales seminars.

The interview is scheduled, and you have directions to the company and a copy of your resume ready. Now: What do you wear? There are numerous stories of embarrassed interviewees who arrived for interviews definitely overdressed or seriously underdressed. My favorite is the story about the gal who was lecturing her brother on the importance of always dressing professionally, as he was frequently wearing a tie-dye shirt, shorts and sandals. A few weeks later he called to tell her that he got a new job with a hot company with a boss who wears the same clothes!

To ensure your interview is a success, investigate the history, culture and dress code of the company!

The First Impression

As you choose what to wear to your interview, the most important thing to remember is that you will be making your first impression with a potential employer. Your decision of what you wear will say a lot about you as an individual. The clothing you choose will make you feel confident in how you look.

Does this mean you have to go out and buy new clothes for an interview? No! You may have a favorite outfit that fits you well (not too tight or too loose) and that you really like -- it may be your best choice. However, if you think you will feel better with new clothes, then go for it! Wear clothing that makes you feel good. Is it clean? Are there any visible stains? Holes? Check to make sure that the garment is in good condition; therefore, no buttons will be falling off during the interview.

Jewelry, Cologne or Perfume, and Accessories

It is best to limit the amount of jewelry or accessories you wear so that it does not distract or make noise during the interview. Cologne or perfume should be applied sparingly so as not to overwhelm your interviewer.

Smile!

You will no doubt be excited about meeting your future peers and boss, so you will be smiling a lot. Be sure to take the time for a quick tooth brushing, mouthwash rinse or even a breath mint. Chewing gum to freshen your breath isn't a good idea as it is difficult to talk intelligently with gum in your mouth and hard to dispose of before the interview begins.


Article: Anticipating Interviewing Trapdoors

by Joyce Lain Kennedy, excerpted from Job Interviews for Dummies.

Make sure you avoid these pitfalls and faux pas during your interview.

No matter how well you're doing as you sail through an interview, certain things can leave a bad impression on your interviewer. Here's how to avoid them:

The Silent Treatment

Remember this mantra: Never should the unnecessary be volunteered by the unwary for the unforgiving. Anticipate this trapdoor by closing it with good questions or by waiting it out. Interviewers use silence strategically. Moments, even minutes of silence, are intended to get candidates to answer questions more fully -- and even to get them to spill harmful information. Instead of concentrating on your discomfort during these silences, recognize the technique and either wait out the silence until the interviewer speaks, or fill it with intelligent questions. Do not bite on the silent treatment ploy and spill your innermost secrets.

Interference

As you rehearse, keep in mind that not everything that happens during the interview is related to you. A ringing telephone, the interviewer's coworkers, or even the interviewer's needs may interrupt your meeting. Add some interference to your mock interviews. Because the show must go on, find methods to politely overlook these interruptions with patient concentration being your purpose. Practice keeping a tab on what you're discussing between disruptions in case the interviewer doesn't.

Not a Pretty Interviewing Picture

Watch out for the don'ts on these lists:

Don't say:

  • uhm
  • uh
  • yeah or yup (instead of yes)
  • y'know
  • like
  • okay
  • I guess
  • pretty good.

Don't:

  • jingle pocket change
  • tap feet or fingers
  • twirl, pull or rearrange hair
  • fold arms
  • sit with arms or legs far apart
  • offer a limp handshake
  • fidget
  • maintain constant eye contact
  • display shy eyes
  • have gum or anything else in or near your mouth
  • mumble
  • interrupt
  • speak too fast
  • slump
  • twiddle props - pens, paper or desk items.

Questions to Ask During the Interview

How and when to turn the tables on the recruiter and ask your own questions?

So you just finished answering a seemingly endless line of questions about your work history and your education, and you're pretty confident that you held your own. Now the interviewer turns to you and asks, "Do you have any questions?"

This is your cue to ask how much money you're gonna make at this outfit anyway, right? Wrong! The types of questions you ask and when you ask them are the least understood parts of the interview. Find out what you should ask -- and when.

Questions to Ask Before the Offer

These guidelines and sample work-related questions will help you learn about the company and job -- and impress the recruiter.

For all jobs, asking about anything other than work issues before a hiring offer comes your way is a serious strategic error. The interviewer, particularly a hiring manager who resents the time "diverted" to an interview, doesn't give two figs about your needs at this point. What's important to the interviewer is solving the hiring problem. First we decide, then we deal -- that's the thinking.

To talk about your needs before an offer turns the interviewer's mind to negative thoughts: All you want is money, insurance and a nice vacation on the company. You're not interested in doing the job.

But as a smart, prepared candidate, you're not going to make that mistake. Keep your focus on the employer's needs and how you can meet them. Sell yourself by asking questions that are:

  • Work-focused
  • Task-focused
  • Function-focused
  • Ask about the position's duties and challenges. Ask what outcomes you're expected to produce. Ask how the position fits into the department and the department into the company. Ask about typical assignments.
  • Don't ask questions about information you can glean from research. And don't ask questions that could cause the interviewer to wonder when you were chipped from a glacier and thawed, such as quizzing an interviewer from Xerox "Do you make anything other than copiers?"

Questions to Ask After the Offer

How much time should you invest in asking selling questions?

Five to 10 minutes is not too much. Gregory J. Walling, a top executive recruiter in Alexandria, Va., says he's never heard an employer complain about a candidate being too interested in work.

Fifteen sample work-related questions:

  • What would my key responsibilities be?
  • How many and who would I supervise? To whom would I report?
  • Does the staff maintain a team spirit?
  • Will on-job training be required for a new product?
  • Can you describe a typical day?
  • Was the last person in this job promoted? What is the potential for promotion?
  • How would you describe the atmosphere here? Formal and traditional? Energetically informal?
  • Where is the company headed? Merger? Growth?
  • What would my first project be?
  • What type of training would I receive?
  • What resources would I have to do the job?
  • How much travel, if any, is required?
  • (If a contract job) Do you anticipate extensive overtime to finish the project on schedule?
  • Where does this position fit into the company's organizational structure?
  • What results would you expect from my efforts and on what timetable? What improvements need to be made on how the job has been done until now?

Questions to Draw Out Hidden Objections

How to address and overcome the thorny issues that crop up during the interview?

Questions you ask can have one more mission: They are a good way to bring concerns or objections to the table that the interviewer may not want to verbalize.

Why doesn't the interviewer want to raise certain issues? Such unspoken anxieties are usually related to legal vulnerability, or interviewers may simply be uncomfortable asking about them. Whatever the reason, silent concerns are hurdles standing in the way of your getting the job. Before the interview is over, you need to find a way to address the thorny issues and overcome them.

Good salespeople call techniques that do this drawing out objections. Once you know the issues you're dealing with, try to calm anxieties that keep you from being hired.

Ask the interviewer questions to give the interviewer an opening to ask you questions the interviewer wants to know answers to but can't figure out how to bring up without getting hauled into the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Here is a pair of examples of easing an interviewer's hidden concerns by bringing up a legally risky topic:

  • "In your place, I'd probably be wondering how my children are cared for during the day. I may be concerned that I'd miss work should they become ill. Let me explain my very reliable child care arrangements to you . . ."
  • "If I were you, seeing on my resume that I have spent a great deal of time in Paris, I may be questioning my legal residency and, green card or no green card, whether I plan to stay in Chicago long enough to complete this project. Let me assure you . . ."

As I see it, your basic choices are to allow an employer to make assumptions about you or to control the unspoken problem by telling the employer what you want known about the situation. Once hidden objections see daylight, you've got a chance to clear away obstacles standing between you and a job offer.

Questions to Ask Very Carefully

How to ask your potential employer those touchy questions?

Questions to potential employers about their own performance should be handled with great tact -- especially when you ask it of a boomer generation boss:

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • Do your employees admire you as a boss?

While you need as much information as possible to make good job choices, asking a potential boss these kinds of questions in the wrong tone of voice may make you seem way too audacious. Moreover, direct questions about personal characteristics and values tend to elicit pure topspin.

Instead, ask questions designed to draw out company-wide anecdotal answers:

  • How did the company handle a recent downsizing?
  • How did managers react to someone who took a stand on principle?
  • Who are the company's heroes?

This approach encourages conversation that can be very informative. One of the best ways to find out about a company you're considering is to track down former employees and get a debriefing. Ask a customer how the company responded when problems occurred. Go online. Questions are tools. Use them wisely.

Critics Pan Showoffs

"I noticed in subsection 3.a of the government defense contractor's manual I.2.A, concerning future plans, that you squared the round table, using your supercomputer's component play box, and found your sandbox is 95 percent superior to the market's; does this mean you plan to circle an outer galaxy and return to earth on Greenwich mean time?"

Huh? Research is essential, but guard against flaunting your newly found knowledge with questions that might give Einstein a little trouble. Interviewers interpret these questions as a transparent bid to look smart. But, you ask, shouldn't you look "smart" at an interview? Yes, just don't cross the fine line that exists between being well researched and fully prepared for an interview, and trying to be a nouveau omniscient. (Don't you love that term? It means newly informed know-it-all.) Showing off is a quality that causes otherwise charming , bright, gregarious and attractive people to be turned down. It's just not a likable trait. If you don't have a good handle on what is and what isn't showing off, maybe a friend can help you work on that distinction.


For more information on the art of interviewing, please go to the MonsterTRAK website at the following URL: static.monstertrak.com/careerguide/inside_interviews.html.