Interviewer: Do you understand? George: I enjoy understanding.
source: George Costanza (Jason Alexander) during interview, Seinfeld


Become Somewhat Honest during Interview

Often, you may be asked during an interview a question about your greatest weaknesses. Be careful of this dangerous question. Usually answer with a minor weakness, such as you are overmethodical. This minor weakness bolstered with a comment about you often working long hours for the firm will suggest you are a team player and willing to go the extra mile. You don't have to be so honest that you reply: "I find it difficult sometimes to get up in the morning and get to work." That sends up all kinds of bells and whistles in the prospective employer's mind and may deny you further interviews or a chance at the position. We can be too honest in this world; that honesty as commendable as it may be sends signals to a prospective employer you never intended. I am not asking you to lie; simply make sure how you tell the truth.

First Impressions Make All the Difference

You are judged when you enter a job interview on the first 30 seconds. You will be evaluated from head to toe. Therefore, as you hear me say on all the links, dress for success. If you are a woman, are you relatively free of most accessories, especially the ones that jingle? If you are a man, have you made sure your shoes are shined and your hair is combed? If you are a woman, have you made sure to wear a skirted suit? As John Molloy, the famous advocate of Dress for Success, suggests, dress for one position better than the one you are applying for.

If you are think you are good at job interviewing, try these questions from Martin Yate's Knock 'Em Dead:

Make Your First Moments Sizzle

Recently, I had the privilege of listening to the opening moments of a job interview. The student, apparently, was going for a position in an aerospace company with heavy technical emphasis. The interviewer started out by explaining the products of the organization. I detected certain problems in the interviewing process immediately:

Then, suddenly, the interviewer turned the tables on the interviewee and asked: "Do you have any questions about what has been said?" I waited patiently for the student to respond with product know-how. The student should have been reading articles about this company in selected business journals and magazines. Instead, the student said: "No, not really." I was stunned by the response. What did the student forget about the interview?

The interviewed student should have started talking about the products and explaining what he would like to learn. The interviewer would have been impressed with the ability to dig out information and comment. The interview ground to a dead halt because of the interviewee's response.

Then, another major faux pas occurred in the interview. The second interviewer now took over and explained that the position involved computers and technical work. The position could be a steppingstone to more important work. The interviewed student should have picked up on the interviewer's remarks and explained what computer knowledge he possessed. Then, an effort should have been made to mention the interviewee was willing to start at a lower position and learn the in's and out's of the company. Golden opportunity after golden opportunity was lost because the interviewee did not pick up on the probes from the interviewers. I would not hire the candidate, because he expressed little enthusiasm and did not volunteer valuable information about how he could contribute to the firm.

Suppose I Am Asked This Question

Before you freeze going into the job interview(s), think about what preparation you can make. First, consider investing in the book, Knock 'Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Seeker's Handbook (current edition), or any suitable job search or interviewing handbook. Look over the kinds of questions that might be asked. One of my former students posed the following question he might be asked in an interview: "You currently work for one of our divisions. Why are you interested in changing to a larger division? I thought you were happy with your job opportunity." Before you gulp at such a question, consider it might be asked in some form. You have to respond positively:

"My human resources person has suggested that even more opportunities exist higher in the parent firm. I am happy with my current status as the excellent work record attests, but I see even more opportunities for contributing to your fine organization. It is not dissatisfaction, but an opportunity to serve even more interests in this firm."

Think about: Respond positively and take time to consider your answer. Even though the interviewing books may not have all the questions, you need to practice possible responses. Make sure the responses do not sound canned.

Candidate Reacts to Small Firm Question

One of my older students questioned me about an interview question he was asked at a job fair: "Why do you want to work for a small firm?" At the time he was interviewing with the Big Five accounting firms and smaller firms. He visited about 15-16 booths during the day. He asked me if his response were appropriate. He had stated in answering the question about small firms: "A small firm gives you a range of departments, such as tax, auditing, and so forth. You are able to experience numerous kinds of accounting transactions as opposed to specializing in one branch for a large corporation." I thought his answer was excellent.

Think about: He did not put down the large firm. He immediately saw the value of showing his flexibility and adaptability. He answered what the employer wanted to hear. Further, he showed he understood the major differences between large and small firms. This interviewee understood the profession.

Improve the Interviewing Credibility

Job interviewing preparation requires considerable thought. Even when you think you know the most about the interviewing process, along comes an idea you may not have considered. Many of my ideas come from National Business Employment Weekly, a publication of Dow-Jones & Company. It has some of the most pertinent advice you can read anywhere. The articles are usually written by career search professionals who have been there.

In an article, "Getting Interviewers to Really Like You," the author, Douglas B. Richardson and vice president of Key Executive Services for Right Associates, Inc., suggests we often spend too much time preparing for all the possible questions. We find, instead, in the interview that we have "to play it by ear." Sometimes we get muddled in expressing a particular idea. Interviewers, according to Richardson, look for credibility. Are the interviewers getting what they really see?

Suppose you are not sure what to say next. Richardson immediately sees the difference between the lyrics and the music in the interview. You may say: "Mr. or Ms. Jackson: I have really been keyed up about this interview, and it really shows." Here you are putting a human face on the interview. You are admitting you don't have all the answers. Such a suggestion allows you time to pause and get your thoughts better organized. The interviewer may appreciate your honesty and seeing the credibility you exhibit. I am not recommending you use this tactic when you don't have any qualifications to mention. You still need the credibility of qualifications. Check the August 24-30, 1997 now defunct National Business Employment Weekly for additional ideas by Richardson.

Roselle Kasten Gives the Tough Questions

At a recent PHIRA meeting, Roselle Kasten, Director of Human Resources, for TECOM, a manufacturer of wireless telecommunications for the military, commented on the kinds of questions that might be asked during a job interview. She stressed it was most important to rehearse for the interview. Your answers--I might add--don't have to sound memorized, but they should be rehearsed. She provided approximately 17 different questions that might be asked during a job interview. You may find the information about practice makes perfect on the web links. Mrs. Kasten emphasized not talking too much during the interview. Answer the question and stop. You don't have to elaborate forever. Always tell the truth, because the employer will end up checking. Here are some additional questions that you might ponder: