JOB INTERVIEWS FOR DUMMIES? 3rd EDITION

By Joyce Lain Kennedy

January 2008

1. How is an interview like a drama?

Really knowing someone or a company is impossible in brief snatches of time. Job interviews are business events in which all parties tend to be on their best behavior ? staged like scenes in a drama.

Once you're inside an office and engaged in an interview, your entire future may rest on how successful you are in presenting yourself to a stranger across a desk in 15, 30, or 60 minutes. These events have been described as everything from school final exams to mating rituals, but here?s the real secret:

Job interviews are show biz.

Like reality shows on TV, interviews are based on reality but in fact are staged. And, as in reality shows, only one survivor beats out the competition to win the prize.

2. You in chapter six talk about research playing a role in the interview. How does that work best?

Research has become indispensable when seeking a responsible job. Today?s winners find out the requirements of a position and then analyze aspects of their qualifications to match each necessity, item for item.

The old-school idea that an education or experience credential is all you need to get the job is short-sighted. Without research, you don't have the basis to explain in detail how your qualifications fit the job's requirements, casting you as the ideal candidate.

3. Can you give tips for a typical interview scenario for our readers?

In Advance

  • As you travel to the interview, visualize yourself as someone about to be hired. As though you were starring in a movie, run interviewing images through your mind. Imagine the stories you?ll tell and the impressed look on your interviewer's face as you ask your own questions and present your own commercial of qualifications ? skills and accomplishments. Float pictures through your head about the scenario as you wish it to be.
  • Imagine yourself being at ease, radiating sincerity, credibility, energy, enthusiasm, and competence. We act the way we think.

Showtime!

  • When you feel a sudden case of nerves, learn from the dramatic arts. Think of yourself as a favorite media personality who is cool, calm, collected, and confident.
  • Exhibit energy and optimism as you're lead into the interviewing office. You can, for instance, comment on the wall pictures to break the ice.
  • Ask the question that reveals the key to the entire interview ? What is the scope of the position and what are the qualifications of the ideal person for it? And then work it into your answer, starting with your personal commercial.
  • When you think the decision on you is headed towards thumbs down, try a last-chance statement:
    Because I'm very interested in this job, I want to be sure that you have all the information you need to make a positive decision on my candidacy. Would you be interested in hearing more about my ??.
  • Try to avoid money talk until a job is offered. (Chapter 8 in Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition presents many secrets on exactly how to avoid being low-balled on a salary offer.)

It's a wrap

  • Learn sales closing techniques; those who do not learn to close a sale do not get job offers.
  • Leave the door open for a follow-up contact. Ask if you can call back to check progress on the hiring procedure.

Thanks that work

  • Did you leave out significant selling points? Add them to your thank-you letter. Your thank-you letter (e-mail is fine for all but upper management jobs) is a sales message ? a bookend to your resume. Resell your qualifications in it (see examples in Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition).

4. Your book mentions video online interviews and is one of the few that does. How common are they these days?

The online video interview using Webcams at home is still in the breaking-news department but is coming on strong because of (1) faster Internet speeds and (2) the blastoff of mobile (wireless) Internet. The online video interview is replacing the phone screening interview in many cases.

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My book covers details of how to make the most of your video face time. (Remember: a video interview is not the same thing as a video resume; the video resume is initiated by the job seeker while the interview is initiated by the employer.)

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My book details how to do your best and avoid clunkers and bloopers when you're on screen.

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Recruitment videos, also called employment branding videos, often are presented as a day in the life of a company's typical employee. Expect some hype ? you know that a company isn't going to highlight employees describing the company culture as authoritarian and the environment as a cesspool.

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For job applicants, the videos are especially useful to learn how people dress in a specific workplace and whether they're all young or a mix of ages. Develop your judgment about what's real and what's staged by reviewing many recruitment videos; find them on company sites, job boards and video-hosting sites such as YouTube.com

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5. What is the best way to handle the usual statement, 'Tell me about yourself'?

Don't wing it. Memorize ? literally memorize ? a personal commercial about yourself of between one and two minutes. Dial it back to information and achievements related to the job you seek.

Typically your commercial will include some combination of the following:

  • Competencies, skills, and experience for the job
  • Academic degree or vocational-technical school training
  • Positions of leadership or internships
  • Specific job training
  • Date of expected graduation (if applicable)
  • Honors or achievements
  • General goals
  • Branding brief (a new tool of 20-30 seconds, also called ?elevator speech,? or 'profile summary' ? it means the bare bones of your story as it relates to an employer. It is a statement that brands you -- makes you easily remembered, such as: The woman from East Bay who went back to school to get a credential in project management and saved a bundle for her last employer.

6. Pay is a very difficult area for most people. How does the job seeker bring up the subject if the interviewer doesn't do so first?

You probably can determine the market rate for the position online through such free Web sites as salary.com or payscale.com. Research what you reasonably should be paid.

The greater challenge for the job seeker is not raising the issue but in mastering the art of tactfully ducking premature money talk before you know you're at least a finalist for the position.

Employers almost always bring up the issue of how much you?ll cost, sometimes very early in the recruiting process when you are required to fill out an online application revealing your salary history, salary requirements, or both. You no longer can get away with writing Open or Will discuss in interview because recruiting software will not allow the application to continue if you fail to put in numbers.

Remember, it's not in your best interests to name figures until you've been offered, or nearly offered the job. The time between the offer and your acceptance is the magic moment to talk money and benefits. Even if the company's salary structure is cut and dried, the magic moment is when you hold the most power to negotiate ? if not for more money, for extra benefits and the agreement for a performance review (and raise) sooner rather than later.

7. Is there a color you should absolutely not wear for an interview?

Dress appropriately for your workplace. Look like most of the other people or a little better. Wearing a hot pink suit and purple shoes would be wildly inappropriate for a bank but perhaps admired in an artistic environment.

8. What is the biggest obstacle for most people in having a successful interview?

A failure to snag positions for which you are qualified typically can be laid at the feet of inadequate research about the job's dimensions and a lack of rehearsal for each important interview.

(Alternatively, rejection may occur because you and the hiring authority have mismatched vibes and the authority just doesn't like you. Or some form of discrimination may be the real culprit.)

But most often, the dice is in your hands. The trick is to start by eliminating the kinks from your basic self-presentation before you begin customizing each interview to fit the job. Shape up with plenty of rehearsals.

Discover yourself through an employer's eyes. With a friend feeding you practice questions, work with a video camera. An audio recorder is useful, but isn't in the same league as being able to see as well as hear yourself in interviewing action.

Watch videos of your mock interviews with these lists of don'ts in mind:
Don't say

  • Uhm
  • Uh
  • Yeah or Yup (instead of yes)
  • Y?know
  • Like
  • Okay
  • I guess
  • Pretty good
Don't
  • Jingle pocket change
  • Tap feet, fingers
  • Twirl, pull, or rearrange hair
  • Fold arms
  • Sit with arms or legs far apart
  • Offer a limp handshake
  • Fidget
  • Maintain constant eye contact
  • Display shy eyes
  • Have gum or anything else in or near your mouth
  • Mumble
  • Interrupt
  • Speak too fast
  • Slump
  • Twiddle props ? pens, paper, or desk items

9. If you are a bit green, how is that situation best handled?

Data-mine your life to put into play every morsel of experience related to the job you seek. A new graduate might say, for example
I try to handle conflict on a team by making fair judgments about what's best for the group and our goal, and then I use good communications techniques to make my point. Let me tell you how I mediated a conflict over ?

Broadly speaking, when faced with no relevant experience, the fall back tactic is asserting that you are a hard worker who learns fast.

10. Is there anything else that you would want to tell the readers of this website?

As I explain in my companion book Resumes For Dummies, 5th Edition, sea changes have taken place over the past several years that affect who gets interviewed and why. The outdated all-purpose resume is being replaced by the targeted resume that is tailor-made for a specific employment goal. A targeted resume, by addressing a given opportunity, makes it easy for an employer to see how your qualifications are a close match to a job's wish list and want to meet you in person.

The identical strategy applies to your interview: Once you're in a room with an interviewer, try to make it easy for the interviewer to believe that you have all (or nearly all) of the skills and attributes that the hiring authority is trying to recruit for the position. Emphasize that you meet the specs ? point for point.

Tip: Organize your Job Search.