Insight into the Interview

Phone Screen

The interview process generally begins with a phone call between the hiring manager or HR representative.  This step in the process is just as important as a face to face meeting and will determine whether you are invited in to meet the hiring manager and others in the organization.

Sometimes it can be harder on the phone to make the right impression or get your point across because you’re not able to see the other person’s reaction. The person conducting the phone screen will not only be evaluating your answers but assessing your level of energy and positive approach in the call. 

Human Resource professionals have an important role in this process and will expect you to be prepared and have good questions about the position and the organization.

Schedule the call in a quiet place and a time you won’t be interrupted and never on your cell phone while driving.  Stay focused and make sure you understand the question before answering.  Your goal in a phone screen is to be invited in to meet face to face and continue the discussion so always ask about next steps in the process.

The Interview

Dress Code: This is a tough one in today’s business casual work environment.  Remember you are making a first impression and want to portray the importance of this meeting regardless of how employees at the company dress.  It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed especially when you are interviewing in a customer facing role or will be representing the company as a spokesperson in the marketplace.

Resume: Always bring several copies of your resume to the interview.  If you meet additional people, your resume may not have been distributed.  You may end up meeting people who were not originally on the schedule and will need to provide your resume.  The resume is a portfolio of your work experience which you will bring to life in the interview.

Interview:  Many interviews are conducted in a discussion fashion.  This is usually the most comfortable for everyone as long as the right information about you and the position comes out. Your resume will often be used as a guide to the interview which is a more direct approach.  Some people will turn the interview right over to you and ask you to tell them about yourself.  Believe it or not candidates are more uncomfortable when the interview takes this direction because they are not certain where to begin.  There is not necessarily a right starting point as long as you don’t make your story too long.   

Pointers:

  1. Stay focused and maintain eye contact. Present yourself in a confident and engaging manner.
  2. Put your best foot forward. If you go into the interview on the fence regarding your interest, donít let it show in the interview. You will leave a negative impression and make those you meet feel they are wasting their time. Reserve your right to withdraw your consideration rather than being told you are no longer a candidate for the position.
  3. Donít play to your audience. Some people are very laid back and create a relaxed environment for the interview. Donít take that as a queue to sit back and relax as well. Always sit forward and maintain your energy level regardless of the interviewerís style.
  4. Communication skills are always important but donít forget to be an interested listener as well.
  5. Be direct in your responses to questions. Better to answer the question first and support it with the conditions that existed at that time. Be clear with your reasons for joining and leaving each of your jobs but donít ever speak poorly about any of your past employers. You can always find something positive about any experience.
  6. ďJust because you say itís soÖ.doesnít make it soĒ. Always have examples to support your responses. Hiring managers want to know your approach in the role and the process of how you get the job done.
  7. Consider your ďclaim to fameĒ in each of the companies you have worked. Think of your greatest accomplishments in each of your jobs and why you were successful. What differentiates you from others in your profession?
  8. Donít make it all about you. Managers are more interested in the impact you will have in the job vs. what this experience will do for you.
  9. Make sure you understand the question before you answer it. Itís OK to ask if your response answered their question if you are not sure.
  10. Ask thoughtful questions and show you have done your homework before the interview. These questions should be about the position, company/business/products/market and how this position impacts others in the organization. You can show real interest and enthusiasm with the kind of questions you ask. It can also show them whatís important to you. Be ready with good questions for everyone in the interview process even if you ask the same question of more than one person. You donít want the last person you meet to say you didnít have good questions when they give their feedback.
  11. Keep in mind when you are invited in to meet the team they are trying to see the value you bring and how you would fit into their culture. You need to show confidence in your position and your ability to work well together.
  12. Before leaving, always ask what the next steps are in the interview process and how your experiences fit the position you are interviewing. Express or reinforce your interest before you leave the meeting.
  13. Ask everyone you meet for a business card so you will have their email addresses for a follow up note. These are thank you notes and should be brief. If appropriate, express your interest and let them know you hope to speak with them again.