A Conversation for Interview Techniques

From an interviewer

Post 1

Brian Rice

I interview applicants for employment several times each week. Here's my advice on how to be on the opposite side of the table from me.

You will have a huge advantage if you are confident and show it. Of course, a lot of applicants are nervous, and I suppose it's natural to feel nervous...if you have the common and wrong attitude about job interviews. This company you're interviewing with is not necessarily the right one for you; you need to find out whether it is or not. Thus you are interviewing the potential employer as much as he or she is interviewing you. Keeping this in mind should help you avoid feeling like some kind of supplicant on bended knee.

You may think you reallyreallyreally need this job. Well, trust me: you don't need the wrong job. If you think you need a particular job even though it may be lousy, then I suggest you re-evaluate the way you're living your life.

Worrying about what to wear is mostly wasted energy. Just look like a pleasantly attired normal person, and you'll be fine. If you are paranoid, lurk near the offices of the company on the day before, see what kinds of clothes people are wearing as they emerge, and dress like that. But your garb is not going to matter unless it is so outlandishly different from the way people dress at the company you're visiting that the folks there think you're trying to send a disrespectful message.

To prepare for the interview: there is no excuse for not having read the employer's Web site if they have one. Also, know what's on your own CV or resume.

Next step: know what you want. Visualize your ideal job; write down characteristics it has. Your job in the interview is to find out whether the employer has these characteristics. Another good reason to be ready with this information is that the interviewer may ask you for it. If you're interviewing with me, I will certainly ask you.

You might say, "Well, what if this causes me to not get the job?" If you want a job that involves, say, smashing rocks, and there are no rocks that need smashing at my company, why do you want a job here anyway? Maybe you need the money, but you can probably find both money and some rocks to smash.

Next step: have some stories to tell. I always ask candidates to narrate something they did that they're proud of. Even if the interviewer doesn't ask, being able to tell a few coherent stories of things you did not only shows what you've done, but also shows that you're capable of logical, organized thought.

What if the interviewer asks hard questions? What if they ask you about your experience at XYZ Company, and you actually screwed up there big-time? Look the interviewer right in the eye and say, "I screwed up there big-time. Here's what happened. And here's how I plan to make sure that never happens again." Your candor and willingness to admit mistakes will overshadow your error, even if it's a big one.

Other approaches you could take, of course, are stammering, weaseling, or lying. All of these approaches will have the reverse effect: they will overshadow everything that's positive about you.

By the way: you are not as good a liar as you think you are. Trust me on this one.

Ask who your boss would be if you were hired. Chances are that his person will be one of the people who interviews you. Pay special attention to how this person deals with you...if this company offers you a job, and you accept, this person is going to be very important in your life. If you don't click, take a pass on any job offers. Do ask your boss-candidate questions about how he or she manages.

One other tip: bring extra copies of your CV or resume...chances are that at least one of your interviewers will have mislaid his or hers. Having a copy to offer shows that you are organized and think ahead.


From an interviewer

Post 2


smile....really big...not cheesy, just a lot. usually this will take away some of the nervousness. dont pain your nails some outrageous colour like bright red, blue...etc. try a pale shade of pink. make eye contact...even if you are afraid to look at the interviewer, at least look at the top of thier head.

dont say that you dont have any weaknesses..be honest

as for strengths...dont mention things such as underwater basket weaving unless you are interviewing for a job as an underwater basketweaving....they dont wish to hear about your cheer leading trophy from the 9th grade. say things that you think will be nessicary skills for the job.



From an interviewer

Post 3


I also interview people frequently. I can heartily concur with almost all the points above and emphasise a few:

I will always ask you what you're doing now and why (how do you fit in the company? Do you know how your role relates to the rest of the firm? Are you interested in the company you work for?). Apart from anything else, it acts like an ice-breaker and lets me frame some of my follow-ups.

I will ask about strengths, weaknesses, things you're proud of, things you wish you'd done differently. Don't hide the negatives. I will never believe a candidate who has no weaknesses or never made a mistake and if I start distrusting you on that, I will distrust you totally.

I will ask you why you want the job and why you want to get out of your existing one. If you have specific relevant skills beyond the more general (obviously this depends on the role) I'm bound to ask about them.

Think like an employer. I will not know what the PQR system or department is. If possible, don't put things on your CV that will just confuse me, but if you do, expect me to ask. Have a simple and concise explanation prepared.

Expect me to probe. I will not always take your first answer for granted.

Try not to make me feel ill at ease. If I ask you what you've been doing for 6 months (say you have a break in your CV) and the answer involves a death in the family, etc., do your best to tackle the subject in a matter of fact way. I have been taught to handle things if you get unexpectedly emotional, but that doesn't mean I feel comfortable with it. If you have something like that lurking in your CV, expect it to come up.

Be honest. Always. I'm not even sure I would try the "ask a general" question approach.

If you're using an agency, be aware that they might have re-drafted your CV. Make sure you have a copy of their version. Also, ask be aware that some agencies highlight relevant words in the document. They don't do this well. I am always looking for knowledge of Fixed Income products. Most of my job specs include that phrase. I have lost count of the number of CVs I've seen which have the word 'fixed' highlighted in the following: "... we fixed the problem with...."

From an interviewer

Post 4


Oh yes, make sure you have some questions for me. It shows you're interested and gives you an opportunity to lead the conversation to interesting areas we may not have explored.

From an interviewer

Post 5


All the above contributions are absolutely spot-on. It's true - you really shouldn't worry too much about how you dress. However, CLEAN is a must! If, like me, you spill coffee down your clothes on any and every occasion, mention it if and when you can - perhaps when asked what your weakness is ('apparently clumsiness!' should get a sympathetic laugh) but don't harp on about it - the interviewers will be embarrassed. Always make sure that you look and smell clean. Arrive early enough to go to the loo to brush the dandruff from your collar and wash your hands and mop your brow.

One caveat - when asked what your 'weaknesses' ('challenges', 'developing skills', 'training needs')are, DON'T say 'I'm a bit of a perfectionist' 'I expect everyone to work as hard as I do' or any other self-aggrandising, mock-deprecatory answers. Trust me on this - because people are still being trained to say this sort of thing - the only effect you will have on the interview panel is that they will laugh themselves sick after you've left the room. If any of these things are _really_ faults of yours, explain why you think this is a problem for you rather than a problem for your colleagues. (Nevertheless, these are such serious faults, I'd suggest you conceal them and admit to something less appalling!)

If you're nervous to the point that your voice shakes or you can't conceal it in other ways, it won't hurt to say so to the interviewers. They've all been there and know how it feels.

Take time to think about the question BEFORE you start to answer. A pause of 6 or 7 seconds (longer than it sounds) is definitely okay. If you lose track halfway through the answer, stop, ask the interviewer to repeat the question and MAKE SURE YOU STICK TO THE POINT.

Points already made about asking questions are both sensible and well-made. Make sure that you ask a question appropriate to the post. If you really must ask about promotion, ask whether people who have come into the company at this level have been promoted internally. That sounds less pushy and less as if you are going to leave if you don't get promoted in the next five minutes.

From an interviewer

Post 6

Xedni Deknil

I've also interviewed a lot of people, and the number one reason we have for not hiring someone is that they're not actually interested in specifically working for us in this job. Many people come in looking for A job, they don't care if it's THIS job or not. They have to know something about the company beforehand or at least sound enthusiastic when they hear what the job involves.
If an interviewee seems nervous, we don't hold that against them (anyway, the work doesn't require courage!).

From an interviewer

Post 7

Barney's Bucksaws

I had a 1 hour telephone interview awhile ago - the company I was interviewing with is a long way from where I live. It was - interesting. Two people on a conference call with me, and they picked my resume apart point by point. One of them was familiar with a company I had worked for 5 years ago, and asked me how they were doing now! Threw me off completely! I made some sort of recovery, and told them what I knew about recent developments, without telling them I'd heard they were going to lay off 50 workers.

The advantage of a telephone interview was that I was in jogging pants sitting at my kitchen table, with my resume spread out before me. And they couldn't see me sweat! Advice from a salesman and actor - if you're nervous, swallow it! Don't let them see you sweat. Be as totally prepared as you can.

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