A good interview is based as much upon your ability to answer an interviewer’s questions as it is on good, solid preparation. Have you put time and thought into WHY you want to interview with this company for this position? Do you know what they will be looking for from you? When you walk through the interviewer’s door, are you as prepared as you can be? The guideline below is geared to point you in the right direction and to help you to put your best foot forward. There are three primary stages to an interview. Please select one of the tabs below to go to that particular stage, or scroll down to view all information pertinent to a successful interview.
PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW
Research, Prepare & Be on-Time!
Gather as much information as you can about the company that you are interviewing with.
- Does the company have a webpage? Go check it out, it could be full of valuable information.
- Is the company publicly traded? Get your hands on their last few annual reports.
- Do you know anyone who works for this company? Get their insight into the corporate culture and philosophy.
- Have they received press coverage? Look at recent trade publications & business periodicals or newspapers. The local public library or university library can be a great resource for this information.
After you know all you can about the company, make sure you know the specifics of the position you are interviewing for.
- How did you find out about the position? Make sure you have reviewed all information from that source.
- Do you know someone who has worked for this company? What can they tell you about the position?
- Do you know someone who has held a similar position? What were their responsibilities?
- If the interview is in-person, do you know where you are going? Make sure to get directions to employer’s office. It is then a very good idea to get a map out and make sure you know the route. If you are unsure about how to get to the interview it may be a good idea to drive the route a day or two before.
- If the interview is over-the-phone, do you know where to reach the interviewer?
- Be sure to have the phone number and name of the interviewer. It is also a good idea to get the name and number of the interviewer’s assistant in the event that you cannot make the interview.
What should you bring to an interview?
- Your attention! The interviewer should receive 100% of your attention, this means put all other worries and concerns out of you mind for the length of the interview.
- Bring a clean, professional looking copy of your resume. It is a good idea to bring more than one, you never know who else the interviewer may want to pass your resume to.
- Does someone in your profession generally have a portfolio? If so, make sure you have one that has received your time and attention. You don’t want to bring something that was put together the night before.
- Pen and paper (generally in a presentable folder or portfolio). You may have to take notes regarding the position, the other people you will have to interview with, the names of people who were introduced in the course of the interview, etc.
- Anything else the interviewer indicated that he/she would want to see. Not being prepared is tantamount to not being interested.
THE DAY OF THE INTERVIEW
details, details, details!
Your appearance says a lot about you!
- Have a polished appearance–dress conservatively.
- The only time to “dress down” or go “business casual” is when an interviewer offers (never ask this question!) that you should come dressed so. In all other circumstances professional dress is a must.
- Practice good hygiene and good grooming.
- If you carry anything into the meeting (e.g., briefcase or purse), place it on the floor by your chair.
Other pre-interview tips
- Be well rested and alert. For early morning interviews be sure to have a good breakfast beforehand.
- Use the facilities before you get to the place of the interview, you don’t want to have to excuse yourself for a restroom break.
- BE ON TIME, but don’t be more than 10 minutes early.
Getting through the basics of the interview
- If someone offers coffee, water, etc., accept or decline gracefully.
- GIVE A FIRM HANDSHAKE, but don’t go overboard.
- Wait until a seat is offered before sitting down.
- Maintain good posture, lean slightly forward in your chair. Remember that body language says as much about you as your appearance and presentation.
- MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT!
- NO gum chewing or smoking (even if the interviewer is).
Here come the questions…
- Let the interviewer ask their questions! Do not interrupt or “step on” the end of an interviewer’s statements or questions. Let the interviewer complete their question or statement before issuing your response.
- Use action words to describe your accomplishments, such as: I planned, created, originated, initiated, developed, conceived, implemented, formulated, organized, directed, led, supervised, guided, managed, was responsible for, contributed to, demonstrated, saved, reduced, collected, achieved, provided for, increased and evaluated.
- Be prepared to ask good questions. Good questions reflect that you have an understanding of the company, the position and/or the industry.
The questions themselves…
It is impossible to know exactly what questions are going to be asked. Following is a list of some of the questions that might be asked:
- Past work experience. How did you get your last job? What are/were your responsibilities? Why did you leave your past position? Why are you considering leaving your current position? What have you liked the best/least about your past & most current positions?
- Shrink questions relating to current or most recent position . What is your shrink? Is shrink based on gross or retail? What three steps do you take to control shrink?
- How do you manage your time?
- What is your level of proficiency in Excel? Provide examples of spreadsheets that you have created.
- What is your management style?
- What is your current labor percentage?
- How do you control the cost of labor?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- How would your employees describe you?
- How do you control cash losses?
- What is your average cash variance?
- Give me an example of a bad cash control situation and how you turned it around.
- What three skills or attributes would you bring to the table?
- What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
- How would you (have you) handle a situation that required the termination or discipline of a long term employee?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your opportunities for improvement?
- What is the greatest lesson that life has taught you thus far?
- Tell me one word that best describes you?
- Who are your hero’s, people who have had the most influence in your life?
- If a person cannot address shrink and their numbers they will not be moving forward.
- Clients look as much at character as they do at job ability – they will want to hear someone talk about their personal integrity.
MOST IMPORTANT – Be enthusiastic about the opportunity
QUESTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO ASK
- Can you describe a typical day for someone in this position?
- What is the top priority of the person who accepts this job?
- What are the day-to-day expectations and responsibilities of this job?
- How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be measured? And by whom? How often?
- What is the company’s management style? Corporate culture? Values?
- How would you characterize the management philosophy of this organization? Of your department?
- What is the organization’s policy on transfers to other divisions or other offices?
- Are lateral or rotational job moves available?
- Does the organization support ongoing training and education for employees to stay current in their fields?
- What do you think is the greatest opportunity facing the organization in the near future? The biggest threat?
- Why did you come to work here? What keeps you here?
- How is this department perceived within the organization?
- Is there a formal process for advancement within the organization?
- What are the traits and skills of people who are the most successful within the organization?
The tests given to job applicants fall into four categories: General aptitude tests, practical tests, tests of physical agility, and medical examinations. You can practice for the first three. If the fourth is required, learn as soon as possible what the disqualifying conditions are, then have your physician examine you for them so that you do not spend years training for a job that you will not be allowed to hold.
To practice for a test, you must learn what the test is. Once again, you must know what job you want to apply for and for whom you want to work in order to find out what tests, if any, are required. Government agencies, which frequently rely on tests, will often provide a sample of the test they use. These samples can be helpful even if an employer uses a different test. Copies of standard government tests are usually available at the library.
Test Taking Tips
If you practice beforehand, you’ll be better prepared and less nervous on the day of the test. That will put you ahead of the competition. You will also improve your performance by following this advice:
- Make a list of what you will need at the test center, including a pencil; check it before leaving the house.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Be at the test center early–at least 15 minutes early.
- Read the instructions carefully; make sure they do not differ from the samples you practiced with.
- Generally, speed counts; do not linger over difficult questions.
- Learn if guessing is penalized. Most tests are scored by counting up the right answers; guessing is all to the good. Some tests are scored by counting the right answers and deducting partial credit for wrong answers; blind guessing will lose you points–but if you can eliminate two wrong choices, a guess might still pay off.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
A follow-up letter to the interviewer is an important step in the interviewing process, one that candidates often forget to take. Sending such a letter is not only proper interviewing etiquette, but it also makes you stand out from the other candidates competing for the position. Write your follow-up letter as soon as possible after the interview.
- Your thank-you letter should be typed in a business letter format. Address the letter to the person with whom you interviewed. Include the interviewer’s name, title, organization, and complete mailing address.
- Express appreciation for the opportunities to interview, tour the facilities, meet other employees, etc.
- Mention the day of your interview and the position for which you interviewed.
- Express continued interest in the position and the company.
- Re-emphasize your most important skills and qualifications and how you expect to contribute to the organization.
- Include any information you forgot to mention in the interview, if necessary (be brief though).
- Close your letter with a comment about future contact with the employer.
Good Luck with your Career Search– “Always remember, be prepared you only get one chance to make a first impression.”