Once a recruiter realizes your experience and skills are applicable to the position, he or she more than likely will schedule an interview or series of interviews. Depending on the company, there are typically at least two parts: a screening interview and a standard interview. The screening interview is typically managed by the recruiter; then, the standard interview will be with a member of management. Some companies perform multiple standard interviews with different members of management or team members.
The screening interview will allow the recruiter to confirm your skills and experience. He or she will ask a series of questions that relate directly to your resume. This is your opportunity to provide any clarification or elaborate on details of your resume. Typically, it is best to keep this conversation at a high level unless the recruiter asks for more specific information. The recruiter will also discuss the company atmosphere and possibly benefits and salary requirements.
When discussing salary, the first person to show his or her hand loses. Try hard to politely avoid the salary conversation. Stating that you would rather discuss salary after better understanding the requirements of the position is an adequate response to the question, “What salary are you looking for?” Why should you avoid discussing salary? If you decide to disclose an amount, you could either state an amount that is well above their range and omit yourself from consideration, or you could understate your salary and omit yourself from consideration because they will think you are under qualified for the position. If you avoid the question, this will give the interviewer the opportunity to present his or her offer and allow you room to negotiate. If forced to answer this question, oftentimes recruiters can be very persuasive; give a range rather than a single number.
Before ending the screening interview, the recruiter will most likely ask if you have any questions. Because you were listening very intently to the information he or she was delivering, you will surely have at least a single question to ask the recruiter. Be sure to ask your questions; this will confirm your interest in the company.
Once you’ve passed the screening interview, you will be invited to interview with a member of management. This interview, unlike the screening interview, will most likely be in person. Up until this moment, you’ve been represented by your resume. Once you arrive for the standard interview, you will be representing yourself—represent well! A first impression is everything in your career: you will be scored from your arrival to your departure, so ensure your encounter is worthwhile.
We’ll first discuss your appearance and arrival at the interview site. I’m sure you have heard the expression, “Dress for success.” Although this sounds trite, it is true. Business attire is a must at a standard interview. Unless you are told otherwise by the recruiter, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Wear a suit in a non-flashy color: black, blue, or brown are acceptable colors to wear. If you cannot afford to buy a new suit, consider visiting Goodwill or Salvation Army. There are also programs in many cities that offer clothing for the unemployed who are going on job interviews.
For women, you may wear either pants or a skirt. If you choose a skirt, be sure the skirt is a conservative length: it should be at least fingertip length. Be sure the blouse you select provides full coverage—a peep show is not necessary. Be mindful of how your blouse looks with or without your suit jacket: if you decide to remove your jacket at any point during the interview, your blouse should be appropriate. Your nail color, hair, and accessories are also important. Conservative is always safe. Just think, you want the interviewer to pay close attention to what you are saying; you do not want him or her to be focused on your appearance. Nail color should be basic: clear, pale, or French tips would all be acceptable. Hot pink with yellow flowers would be very distracting. Your hair should be neatly combed; save the wild hairstyles for after hours. Accessories should be minimal: you do not want to leave the recruiter with the image of Mr. T as you exit the building. Lastly, your shoes should also be modest. A blue or black pump with a short heel is sufficient. Your eight-inch stilettos should remain in the closet during your interview.
For men, ensure that your clothes fit appropriately. Your proper-size pants and jacket are a must: not too large and not too small. You should also pair your suit with a complementing shirt: consider neutral, conservative colors like white or light blue. The tie you choose should be basic—nothing too flashy—with minimal colors and patterns. It should also complement your suit and shirt selection. Both your facial hair and the hair on your head should be well groomed. You should also keep your accessories to a minimum: a professional watch and a ring are sufficient—anything more would be too much. Definitely consider removing any earrings before your interview. I’m sure you’ve heard that women judge a man by his shoes; well, this is true. Your shoes should be brown or black dress shoes, and they should be polished.
“Being early is on time, being on time is late, and being late is unacceptable.” When traveling to your standard interview, be sure to allow enough time to be at least fifteen minutes early for the interview. Many employers will appreciate your punctuality. Once you arrive at the interview, if you are greeted by a staff member other than your interviewer, be sure to be cordial. Your impression begins at the front door. Each person you encounter will have a valued opinion and can positively or negatively impact your chances of getting hired.
An interview can be conducted in many different formats: one-on-one, a panel of interviewers, or multiple interviews with different individuals. No matter the interview format, the goal of the interview is to demonstrate your ability to perform the job. The interviewer(s) will ask questions regarding your experience, your goals, and your work personality. Focus on the questions; if you do not understand the question, ask for clarification. When answering the question, be direct and concise: only providing relevant detail. Once the interviewer has completed his or her questions, he or she will most likely ask you if you have any questions. Questions relating to the tasks of the job and team environment are good questions to ask of this interviewer. Avoid questions related to Human Resources: such as salary, benefits, or flexibility. If you ask these questions, it can be presumed that you are more concerned about what you will gain from this job versus what you can contribute.
Interviews can be nerve-wracking. The best way to calm your nerves is to be well prepared. Research the company to understand the culture, values, and environment. Be knowledgeable about the overall company as well as the division for which you are interviewing. Does the company value independent thought or a team environment? Understanding this will allow you to tailor your responses to your interview questions. If the company values independent thought, your responses should elaborate on your individual efforts versus your contributions to a team. Thoroughly read and understand the job description, think through your experience and note areas in which you have performed similar tasks. There are many sites that also offer feedback from interviewees—this feedback is invaluable. Use this feedback to understand how the interview will be conducted. Lastly, ask a friend to conduct a mock interview with you.
When responding to interview questions, many companies have a methodology for scoring responses to questions. Often, they will instruct you how to respond to the question. Understanding the methodology beforehand will allow you to prepare responses from your experiences. One such format is the STAR format: the interviewer will want your response to describe a situation or tasks, actions performed, and the results of those actions.
Here is a sample question: “Tell me a time in which you had to lead a group project.”
Sample response: My senior year of college, I led the final project for our Systems Analysis and Design course. (Situation) During the course of the semester, I was responsible for delegating assignments and ensuring the assignments were complete prior to their deadline. I was also responsible for completing our project reports detailing the work of the group and any issues we may have encountered. (Actions) At the end of the semester, our group successfully completed our project on time, and each of our group members received an A on the project. (Results)
Remember, an interview is not only an opportunity for the company to confirm your skills but it also gives them the opportunity to understand your personality and whether you will fit into the culture of the company or the team. On the flip side, this is a great opportunity for you to get a feel for the company and the type of people who work at the company. Starting a new job should be a fit for both you and the company.