Home » Interviewing Advice
Category Archives: Interviewing Advice
If you’ve just received a phone call from one of the companies you’ve sent your CV/resume off to recently offering you a face to face interview, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do to give yourself a fighting chance of winning that all important full time contract. Spending an hour or two online reading guides like this could be the perfect way to brush up on your skills and work out exactly what you should, and shouldn’t say to this potential employer. Remember, as much as we all hate to admit it, first impressions really do count, and people are generally very quick to judge, so you need to ensure you appear confident, hard working, and knowledgeable. Any failure to do this could result in a negative outcome.
Considering all that, the post you’ve found today will aim to highlight a number of points you may wish to consider. So long as you follow all my advice, the chances of you winning the employer over and obtaining the job of your dreams will be greatly increased. No matter which industry you’re looking to join, the advice beneath this paragraph is guaranteed to help you achieve your goal.
Learn About The Role For Which You Are Applying
Firstly, you’re going to look pretty stupid if you sit down and you haven’t done any research into the job on offer. Whoever is sat in front of you could well ask what you know about the role straightaway, and while you won’t completely mess up your chances if you admit you know very little, it’s much better to impress them with your knowledge and show that you’ve been doing your homework.
Learn About The Company Offering The Job
Secondly, in almost all circumstances, those people running the interview will likely ask you about your knowledge of their company’s operations as a whole. To find out all the information you need, just visit their website for an hour or two before leaving home for the interview, so all the interesting facts about their business are fresh in your mind. Again, this will make you look smart and incredibly keen.
Think About Your Appearance
While it might be suitable to attend an interview at a manual company like Access Platforms Online wearing smart jeans and a shirt, if the role advertised will be more focused towards the office environment, you’ll almost always create a better impression by wearing a full suit. Of course, this is something you should work out on an individual basis considering all the details you’ve learned about the business. For instance, some modern thinking young companies might encourage their staff to come in wearing casual clothes, even in an office environment.
Think About Your General Attitude
No matter what you say and whom you see, it’s vital you display a positive and motivated attitude towards the prospect of working for the company. Even if you turn up and see things are much less exciting than you imagined, it’s important not to let this show. At the end of the day, you want to earn a good wage don’t you?
Well jobseekers, that’s about all we’ve got time for today. Just make sure you also take a pen and paper along for any interviews you may have in the near future, as this also makes people think you’re 100% committed to winning the role.
Sam Gatt, a UK-based contributor who writes on all things business and career related
I have a Bachelor’s in Marketing, two Master’s degrees (Mass Media and and MIB) and a Ph.D. I can’t seem to get a single interview when sending my resume online. I am frustrated. I have consulted experts, and they all agree that my resume format is OK. What am I doing wrong?
Hi Armando –
I can sense your frustration, That said, I can’t tell you what you are doing wrong unless I know what kind of work you are seeking and how you are going about your search.
I do know this: Simply applying online for jobs and hoping for interviews is not an effective job search strategy; it is a small part of an effective job search strategy, but not a strategy unto itself.
You also mentioned that you consulted experts … what are their areas of expertise? Just because someone is expert in one field, does not make them an expert in all fields or in job hunting or recruiting. So, be careful to evaluate all advice you receive (including advice from me!), because not all of the advice you receive is good advice!
With that caveat – here is some of my advice:
More is not necessary better when it comes to education
You are certainly well educated. You have four degrees! Unfortunately, more education does not necessarily mean more marketable or more desireable to employers. The qualifications you offer must make sense to potential employers and must be relevant to their hiring needs. If someone needs to hire a chemical engineer, they are not going to care that you have a Ph.D. in Computer Science.
Also, does your series of degrees tell a coherent story? Are the degrees in related fields? Do they complement each other? Or, are they in widely different fields and unrelated? As a job seeker, it is your responsibility to help potential employers understand who you are, what you offer, and what you want.
While one employer might look at your resume and say: Look at how well-rounded and highly educated he is!
Another might look at it and say: Why did this guy get degrees in three different fields? He’s all over the place!
It’s not about the volume of the education. It’s about the relevance.
Resumes are not “one size fits all” documents
Most employers do not hire “renaissance men”, so a generic, all-encompassing resumes are not typically effective job search tools. They might be exceptionally well-formatted, well-written and free from typographical errors, but if they are full of information that is not relevant to the hiring employer, they may actually hurt your cause. I recommend that you focus your resume to feature those aspects of your education, experience, skills and characteristics that are relevant to the employers you are targeting. Leave the rest off.
You may need to have a few versions of your resume, so be prepared. Don’t waste time customizing a unique resume for every job, but do make sure that the resumes you send are written to present your qualifications in terms relevant to the employers and kinds of jobs you are seeking.
Employers hire based on what they need, not on what you offer
Employers hire to meet specific needs when they have those needs. They do not usually hire people when they are available just because they are available and have strong general credentials. If you have what employers need, and you tell your story well, you will get considered for available opportunities. It really is that simple.
If you tell a clear and compelling story about your qualifications, and your qualifications align well with the needs of hiring employers, you will get interviews. If your story is unclear and/or your qualfications do not align well with hiring needs, employers will have no need or desire to interview you.
It’s basic, supply and demand economics.
One last thing: I strongly recommend you review my post Four Job Interview Questions You Must Be Able To Answer.
If you can answers these questions, you will be poised for success.
A job interview is dialogue – a two-way exchange of information.
The interviewer is interested in learning more about what you have to offer.
You (the interviewee) should be interested in learning more about the organization and the position for which you are interviewing.
If you want to ace the interview, you must be ready to answer the following four questions.
Why? If you can answer them, how can you expect the interviewer to do the same? You can’t!
Why do you want the job?
You have to be able to explain and defend your reasoning for wanting the job for which you are interviewing. ”Needing a job” is not a sufficient response.
You have to explain how you think this job fits you.
You are not the only candidate, so why should they select you over the others? Again, “needing a job” is not a sufficient response. You have to explain how your combination of experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics match up with the experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics they are seeking in candidates.
You have to explain how you think you fit the job.
Why do you want to work for this organization?
You must demonstrate that you have done your homework. When you say – “I’d love to work for your company!” – you have to be able to back it up. What is it about the company that you find appealing.
You have to be able to explain how and why you think you will fit in their culture.
You must demonstrate that you have some knowledge about the profession/industry. They aren’t going to just take your word for it. Just as every company’s culture is unique, every industry and profession has its own unique features and characteristics; features and characteristics that – depending upon what you are seeking out of your career – can be viewed as advantages or disadvantages.
You have to be able to explain that you understand and will be able to fit in their world.
Employers do not expect college students or recent graduates to be able to answer these four questions with the same depth and detail as would an experienced candidate. They are realistic, but you still need to be able to answer them based on your knowledge, experience and research.
In a job interview, how should I respond when an employer says “Tell me about yourself”? What kind of answer they are looking for?
Hi Nathania –
The “Tell me about yourself” opening question is the home run pitch of the job interview. No other question gives you the opportunity to knock one out of the park the way “Tell me about yourself” does. So, why do so many people strike out rather than hit home runs? Lack of preparation, nervous energy and a compelling urge to over share. Let’s start with the last one first.
Overcome your urge to over share
“Tell me about yourself” does not mean tell me everything there is to know about you!
Employers are most interested in the current version of you, so start there. If you are getting ready to graduate, don’t begin your answer with a detailed account of everything you have done since Freshman year and finish 15 minutes later with an out of breath summary of what you just had for breakfast.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit here, but when confronted with “Tell me about yourself,” too many people go on far too long about stuff that really doesn’t matter to the interviewer.
This question is intended to help you get comfortable speaking with the interviewer. It also gives the interviewer the opportunity to see how well you can summarize a large and complex subject (you!) into three or four main ideas. It is your elevator pitch!
Give a brief, concise and focused summary of your relevant education, experience, skills and characteristics, and give it in 90 seconds or less.
Use your response to get your tongue untied using a message you are prepared to deliver.
Harness your nervous energy
Why do people over share? Typically because the are nervous and/or unprepared. When you are nervous and unprepared, those short awkward silences during an interview feel like an eternity, so you try to fill the silence with syllables!
We have all been there! While words are spilling out of your mouth, you are having a silent debate with yourself about how to stop talking. You’re not sure what you are saying or how long you’ve been talking. You just wish you could stop, but you just keep going. The only thing worse than the words spilling out of your mouth would be the sound of silence when you finally stop, so you just keep going until you run out of words.
Whatever it takes! Harness your nervous energy and do your homework. Both are things you can control.
Going into a job interview, you know the recruiter is going to ask you about your qualifications. Be prepared to answer those questions.
The recruiter is probably also going to ask you why you want the job, why you think you are a good fit for the job, why you want to work in their industry and why you’re interested in working for their company.
You know those questions you hope they won’t ask? About your GPA, a time you failed, your weaknesses . . . ? Guess what – they are probably going to ask those questions, too. Be prepared to answer them honestly, authentically and with confidence.
There is no such thing as the “perfect candidate” – don’t try to be one. Try to be the best prepared, best qualified and most professional candidate. That is all you can ask of yourself. Be prepared.
Four Words that Can Transform your Interview
Related to this position . . .
These four words can change your life, if you attach them to every interview question you get:
Tell me something about yourself (related to this position).
What are you greatest strengths/weaknesses related to this position?
Give me an example (related to this position) of your ability to work well on a team
What accomplish are you most proud of (related to this position)?
Get the idea? Every response to every question should – in some way – position you as a candidate for the job. As you prepare responses to possible interview questions, ask yourself: “Why is it important for the interview to know this information about me?” If you can’t answer that question, you can’t expect an interview to answer it.
How do you respond to “Tell me about yourself”
With your elevator pitch! A 60-90 second summary of your qualifications (education, experience, skills and characteristics) relevant to the position for which you are applying. Start with the present, focus on the future, share sparingly from the past. Make sure that what you are sharing is relevant to the job for which you are interviewing.
When you have done this. Shut up, smile, and wait for the next question. Your interviewer will thank you!
I interviewed with a company a couple weeks ago, and they said I would hear back within a certain time frame. That time frame has passed, and I am getting discouraged. Does it come across as annoying or too eager if I send a follow up email asking where they stand in the hiring process?
Hi Stephanie –
Whenever you interview for a job, always be sure to ask about their decision timetable. A question series like:
You: Can you tell me about the next steps in your candidate review process? I’m very interested in this opportunity. What are the next steps, and when should I expect to hear from you regarding this job?
The Recruiter: We are interviewing candidates over the next three weeks and hope of have made our decision soon thereafter.
You: So, if I don’t hear back from you in the next 3-4 weeks, would it be alright if I followed up with you via phone or email?
The Recruiter: Yes, that would be fine.
You should never leave an interview without inquiring about next steps so that you won’t be unsure as to when is the right time to follow up.
If you asked for the recruiter’s consent to follow up in 3-4 weeks, and you actually do follow up in 3-4 weeks, you are not being annoying, you are showing the recruiter that you are dependable and that you keep to your commitments.
Don’t ever promise someone you will follow up with them in 3-4 weeks and then follow up in 1 week or, worse yet, not follow up at all. The former says you are impatient, and the latter says you’re not dependable; both of which are annoying.
If the stated timeframe has past, I strongly recommend you follow up to re-state your interest in the position and the company.
In reality, you don’t know whether or not employer has:
- experienced unforeseen delays in their recruiting
- been preparing to off you the job
- offered the job to someone else and is waiting on a response
- offered the job to someone else who is negotiating with them
- offered the job to someone else who has turned them down
- suspended recruiting to fill the position
The only way to find out is to ask; politely, professionally and succinctly.
I have 9.5 years as a Marine Leader, and a BA in Criminal Justice. Now I am pursuing an MBA in International Business and want to be a consultant. However, a lot of firms I have applied to have told me I do not have experience. Any suggestions on how to enter the field?
Hi George –
There are a lot of layers to your question, and I want to be sure to address all of them as thoroughly as I can. So, first . . .
Are you taking advantage of the variety of career services available to (and designed for) veterans?
Making the transition from a military career to a civilian career can be challenging. The language, jargon, work context and organizational structures in the military are very different from what is found in most civilian work environments. As the job seeker, it is your job to do the translation. Everyone in the military understood your role and your activities were determined largely, I’ll bet, but the direct orders you received. The civilian work world is not nearly that clear cut, particularly in consulting. You have to show civilian employers that you understand and can successfully navigate this cultural transition. You bring a lot of value to the table as a veteran; you just have to demonstrate that you are not going to approach your civilian assignments the same way you would approach military assignments. This is a hard transition (as you probably know better than I). Be sure to seek out the assistance of your veterans’ services office and career center at your university. Also, check out our Resources for Veterans Links.
How are you marketing your military experience, your undergraduate degree and your MBA degree in your job search campaign?
When you are looking for a job, you are conducting a marketing and sales campaign. It is a process – a pursuit, not a simple transaction or exchange of information.
Your job is to understand the hiring dynamics of the industry you are seeking to enter as well as you possibly can. Then, you must identify what you offer (your combination of experience, education, skills, and qualities) that matches up well with what that industry seeks in candidates. Through your resume, your correspondence and your professional networking and relationship-building activities, you must pursue opportunities the same way a sales person pursues new clients.
Are you really prepared to answer the following questions?
- Why should we hire you?
- Why are you a good fit for this position?
- Why do you want to work in our industry?
- Why do you want this job?
If you can’t offer compelling answers to these questions, you can’t expect an employer to answer them. Again, your college career advisers should be able to help you develop your message.
What really is consulting?
Do you know the classic definition of a consultant?
Someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it!
Okay, that’s not entirely fair, but on some levels it is true. A lot of very different kinds of people call themselves consultants, so when you say you want to go into consulting, no one really knows what you mean until you clarify your intent.
What do consultants really do? The offer expertise, perspective, insight, advice and services that companies or individuals need (and are willing to pay for) in order to achieve a business or personal objective, transition or implementation. When the goal is achieved or the advice is received, the consultant moves on to the next assignment. Consults are experts for hire.
So if you want to be a consultant, what expertise do you offer that someone will be willing to pay to access? Anyone who has a special expertise that they make available to clients and customers can be considered a consultant.
Often when people (particularly MBAs) say they want to get into consulting, they mean working with one of the big management consulting firms like Bain, Deloitte, McKinsey, Accenture, Mercer and their peer competitors. And, these firms target MBAs from the top MBA programs, domestically and internationally. This is demanding, competitive and intellectually rigorous work, so the application and screening process is also very challenging. It is meant to weed out the average and identify the exceptional, and the first hurdle is the case interview.
If you want to get into management consulting, you had better be prepared to answer case interview questions
Do poorly in a case interview and your chances of getting into management consulting will go from fair to slim to none. You must be able to ace the case!
Talk to your career adviser for advice on case interviewing. Check out our Job Search Resources for Management Consulting. You’ll find some good information there as well.
Like I said, George, there are a lot of components to your question. Getting the job you want requires a combination of effort and activities to go along with a keen awareness of yourself and what you offer and how well this aligns with the industry or career paths you are targeting.
Sometimes when an employer says you don’t have experience, they mean that they don’t understand how the experience do have translates into their world. It’s your job to help them understand.
Hope this helps!
Webcam interviews are different from in-person interviews and telephone interviews. If you’re not prepared, you might just miss that opportunity to make a good first “virtual” impression.
Here are five tips to help you prepare for your webcam interview:
Know Your Technology
Whether you are using Skype, Google WebChat or one of the other webcam apps available for your computer or smartphone, make sure you know how to use it. Check the speaker and microphone volume and settings; check the picture quality; know how to use the screen sharing functions; know how to set up a multi-person web conference. The day of your interview is the wrong time to learn how to use your webcam application! If you’re worried about how to use the app during the interview, you’re not going to be focused on interview. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Eliminate all distractions! Roommates, pets, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents – ask them to leave you alone. Twitter and Facebook accounts, your Pandora account and your iPod – turn them off! Allow yourself to focus. Make sure you are budgeting enough time. Be ready to go 10-15 minutes beforehand and budget extra time in case the interview goes long. Have a glass of water nearby and have all of your notes ready to reference. Like an in-person interview, you can’t get up and move around during your webcam interview. They can see you and everything you do.
The image you project on your webcam is a combination of you and your surroundings; and you control ALL of this. Take a look at yourself in your webcam. What do you look like? What do you see in the background? What you see is what the employer will see when they are interviewing you. Clean up the room; make sure the light from a nearby window isn’t washing out your picture. Adjust the webcam so that it is capturing the image of you that you want to convey. Remember, you control the camera, how it is positioned and the image it captures. Manage that image!
Double-Check your Connection
Wireless communication is great, until it doesn’t work or until the wireless signal strength is weak. Signal strength is particularly important when you are transmitting video, so make sure you have a fast and reliable internet connection (wired or wireless). Test your connection speed and/or wireless signal strength to be certain it can effectively handle webcam communication.
You can check and double-check. You can do everything right and be as prepared as possible, and sometimes technology just fails to do what it’s supposed to do. You need to have a Plan B ready just in case Plan A doesn’t work. Make sure you know your interviewer’s phone number and email address. Have both ready in case you need to use them. It the first sign of trouble, alert your interviewer and see if you can get the technology issues resolved. If you can’t, suggest the telephone as an alternative.
I have a two day career fair next week focusing on engineering. I am working on my master’s in mechanical engineering, and I have a question about attire for the career fair. I know not to do t-shirts and jeans. My career service representative said to wear a business suit and tie, but I have also heard business causal (khaki pants with a collared shirt) is acceptable. I feel the suit would be overkill for the career fair, and I would feel more comfortable in the khakis. Which one is more acceptable? Is a plain color polo shirt an acceptable collared shirt for this situation?
Hi Nicholas –
I recommend you listen to your campus career services representative; particularly if they have told recruiters that students have been instructed to wear business attire. I know this sounds cliché, but you never do get a second chance to make a first impression.
Now – you might be thinking: “But the recruiters are wearing khakis and golf shirts with their logos. Shouldn’t I try to look like one of them?”
My response to that: “You can’t wear the uniform until you are on the team.”
You might be able to get away with wearing khakis and a collared shirt to the career fair, but why would you even want to take that chance?
On some level, career fairs give recruiters the chance to meet candidates under abnormal circumstances and stressful conditions. This is intentional. When you enter the working world, you will routinely encounter stressful conditions. From the very beginning of the process, recruiters want to see how you perform under pressure. Observing how you approach a career fair will give them an indication of how you approach “non-standard” situations and how seriously you are taking the recruiting process.
People dress up for weddings, ceremonies and other special events because they are NOT ordinary. A career fair is NOT an ordinary event in your life, so don’t treat it like one. Wearing a suit might be uncomfortable for you, but part of the career fair experience is demonstrating how well you can present yourself in inherently uncomfortable circumstances.
Here’s one final reason to dress up rather than dress down for the career fair.
If you are dressed in full-on business attire (suit, shirt, tie, nice shoes) and you feel overdressed, you can always loosen or remove your tie, take off your suit jacket, and roll up your sleeves. If you show up in a golf shirt, khakis and loafers and feel under dressed, your only option is to go home and change clothes.
When attending a career fair, standing out from the crowd is the biggest challenge. You want to stand out from the crowd, but you want to stand out for the right reasons!
An interview is (should be!) a two-way exchange of information. The interviewer is interested in learning more about what you have to offer. The interviewee (you!) should be interested in learning more about the organization and the position for which you are interviewing.
If you are prepared to answer the following four questions, you should be able to ace any interview:
Why do you want the job?
You have to be able to explain and defend your reasoning for wanting the job for which you are interviewing. ”Needing a job” is not a sufficient response. You have to explain how you think this job fits you.
You are not the only candidate, so why should they select you over the others? Again, “needing a job” is not a sufficient response. You have to explain how your combination of experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics match up with the experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics they are seeking in candidates. You have to explain how you think you fit the job.
Why do you want to work for this organization?
You must demonstrate that you have done your homework. When you say – “I’d love to work for your company!” – you have to be able to back it up. What is it about the company that you find appealing/ You have to be able to explain how and why you think you will fit in their culture.
You must demonstrate that you have some knowledge about the profession/industry. They aren’t going to just take your word for it. Just as every company’s culture is unique, every industry and profession has its own unique features and characteristics; features and characteristics that – depending upon what you are seeking out of your career – can be viewed as advantages or disadvantages. You have to be able to explain that you understand and will be able to fit in their world.
One Caveat! Employers do not expect college students or recent graduates to be able to answer these four questions with the same depth and detail as would an experienced candidate. They are realistic, but you still need to be able to answer them based on your knowledge, experience and research.
Welcome to TheCampusCareerCoach.com – a service of CSO Research Inc.
This blog provides career advising and coaching resources and information to benefit the students of CSO’s 600+ client colleges and universities across the US and around the world.
Content is provided primarily by me – Matt Berndt, CSO’s Director of Communication & Career Services with additional content provided by Mason Gates, CSO’s Director of Employer Engagement, and other of our colleagues at CSO and friends in career services and recruiting.
I have been described as a “career evangelist“ because of my passion for helping college students proactively explore their career options and pursue careers paths that match their skills, interests, goals and aspirations.
My philosophy of career planning and management is simple:
Life is short. Work somewhere awesome!
Yes, I know that “working somewhere awesome” is not easy to achieve. Why is that? Well . . .
Consider this:According the the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of us will have more than 10 jobs over the course of our careers.
And this:Many of the jobs and careers that will drive economic development in the future don’t even exist yet. Remember, social media didn’t exist ten years ago!
Kind of makes the whole “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” question college students ask sound a little bit silly, don’t you think.
See, it’s not about about knowing what you are going to do with the rest of your life RIGHT NOW.
It’s about learning how to navigate your career journey through its unavoidable changes, peaks, and valleys in a way that will allow you to live the life you want to live, meet your obligations, and make decisions according to your personal and professional priorities.
The content of this blog – and my philosophy in general – is centered on helping college students explore their options and navigate their career paths from the minute the step on campus for the first time to long after they graduate and progress through their careers, because no one else will do this for them.
You may not always agree with the advice and commentary I offer.
That’s okay! There is not one specific career planning and management “recipe” that will work for everyone.
My goal with this blog to to get students thinking about how they can best use their skills, gifts, talents, education, resources and relationships to forge a work life that suits them well and meets their wants and needs.
Welcome aboard – put on your seat belt – enjoy the ride!