As promised, here is the interview advice mentioned in my previous post. I have always done well in interviews. I can honestly say I have received an offer after 80% of my interviews. Much like the resume review process, I have been on both sides of the table. First, I will give my own personal tips. Then, I will get into reasons why I was, why I was not given an offer and a reasons why I recommended and did not recommend giving out job offers.
First, preparing for the interview. Research the company you are about to interview with. You can pull up its stock history and any recent news related to the company on most internet search engines very easily. Arm yourself with as much knowledge about the company that you can, then think of two or three questions about the company that show you have done your research. For example, in my most recent interview, I found a relatively new product that the company had released. I asked a question about that product during my interview (full disclosure, I now work for that company).
Next, research the position. The posting will list the qualifications and requirements, but you can find more information about what the job will entail. Also look for the salary range for that position. There are salary calculators on the internet that will give you a range for a job title and years experience. It may not be an exact match (it most likely won’t), but it will get you in the ball park. That knowledge will help you at the end of the interview. I lost out on a position because my salary request was too high. For my next interview, I researched the salary range and received an offer for the requested salary.
Once you are armed with knowledge about the company and the position, you are ready to face your interviewers. First impressions will go a long way. You want to ensure you are dressed according to the job you are interviewing for. A good rule of thumb is one step above your interviewer. In today’s day and age, many interviews are given over video phone/skype/facetime. It is important to dress as you would for an in face interview. How you present yourself is affected by what you are wearing. Strange, but true. There may be some exceptions to this. For example, for my last two jobs, I was wearing the Army’s Multicam uniform for the interviews. However, I still made sure my hair was trimmed neatly and my face was clean shaven.
I won’t get in to the “typical interview questions” as those have been done ad naseaum. I will say, that you need to be honest in your answers. In most cases, the person who is interviewing you will be the person you are working for, or at least a colleague the person you will working for trusts. Trying to “get one by” your interviewer is a sure way to lose out on an offer. you want to make sure you have the knowledge required for the position. That being said, be confident in your answers as well. If you do not know something, it is ok to admit it. Say something like, “I would have to look in XYZ reference,” or “I would have to research that again.”
It might seem counter intuitive, but interviewers are impressed when their interviewee acknowledges he/she does not know everything. At one prospective job I was interviewing for, my soon to be boss asked me what my weakest engineering area was. I told him it was electrical. I even told him I was one class away from a minor in college, but I had so much of a hard time, I did not go for it. It must have worked, I was offered the job [side note: my first project was to oversee the replacement of the main electrical switchgear at the facility...maybe that wasn't the right approach after all :)].
Finally, I would encourage you to have a little personality. That can be tough for introverts like me, but a little bit of charisma can go a long way. At the interview above, they asked about my availability. As I was leaving Active Duty, I made a joke about being a “free man” on a certain date. They all laughed and were at ease during the interview. Believe it or not, your interviewer can be just as nervous as you are. I know I was nervous for the first few that I gave. Putting your interviewer at ease will help you in the long run. Be careful not to overdo it. Interviews are not improv nights at the Apollo. Still a little ice breaker, a little personality can be extremely helpful. The interviewer is most likely not only assessing your knowledge, he/she is looking at how you would interact with others in the office as well.
I do not mean to brag, but I can honestly count on one hand the job I was not offered after an interview. For one job, I asked for too much money. It’s not that I was not worth that much, but the job did not rate that much. Had I done a little research ahead of time, I could have saved the time and effort (though I did get a free steak out of it). For another, I did not have the experience they were looking for. Again, had I done a little research, I could have saved some time and effort.
Notice a theme here? Research is key! Research the job, research the company, research the salary ranges, research, research, research! There was one job I was not offered, and I am not sure the reason. The interview went well, they invited me in to do a presentation, that went well, everything seemed to go well, but I never heard back. Sometimes, no matter how well we think things go, there will be no offer coming. Do not be disheartened. I kept up the search and landed a great job!
At two different jobs I was tasked with interviewing prospective employees. I personally tend to go easier on people based on their experience. If they have experience that is close to what we are looking for, and they have a variety of experience, to me that shows they are quick learners and would be just fine. I interviewed one gentlemen who had experience that was close to what we would need, and he had a self-deprecating sense of humor. Put me at ease right away. I not only recommended him, I asked if he could be on my team (we hired him, but he’s on someone else’s team). However, in another case, I interviewed a prospective employee who had absolutely none of the experience we were looking for, not even close. I had to recommend we keep looking.
I will end with a tip to entry level job seekers: Know your stuff! If you have just graduated (congratulations!), you will not have the experience/background that a typical interview would go into. Instead, they will ask you questions about your field of study. Essentially it will be like a final exam on all four to five years of schooling. Know your stuff! I interviewed one entry level candidate and he did not even know the basics, but he still tried to bluff his way through. I could not recommend him. However, the next one I interviewed was very smart. While he did not know everything, he was open about what he did not know. What he did know, he knew. So, if you are interviewing for an entry level position, know your stuff! Just in case it’s not clear…know your stuff!
Anyone else been on either side of the interview table? Both? Leave a comment and share your tips!