Interviewing Tips

I ran across this piece on interviewing yesterday. In reading it, I found most of the points to be common sense, although apparently the author has some video evidence to back up that assertion that common sense is not so common.

It seemed to me that most of the points are there to show that you are taking this interview seriously, that it is the most important thing going on in your life. Most likely, overlooking turning off the cell phone is a result of having other things on your mind. So a nice check list is a nice thing to have, helps you focus and not to make an obvious mistake.

One of the things that I did not fully agree with in the article was about making jokes. Obviously, you should not be trying out your stand up routine on your interviewer, but one of the points of an interview is to determine whether or not you and this company are a good fit for each other. Establishing a rapport with someone is part of that. Showing that you have a sense of humor could be part of that too. Although it is best to stay conservative and keep answers concise, showing a little personality can make you stand out from other candidates in a positive way, especially if the person you are talking with will be working with you closely.

I have had some good input on the subject of interviewing recently. A couple of key elements I heard from people who have interviewed recently are preparation and research. You need to go into an interview knowing who you are talking with – what the company is about, what they do, whatever you can find out. If you know a little about the people you will be meeting with, even better. With all the information on the intenet, it is significant what you can find out, but your network is, arguably, more important. Dry facts from a web site are not as valuable as someone you know who worked there or is neighbors with the guy on your interview schedule. Getting an edge like that can make all the difference.

But you should also know yourself, be ready to answer those questions. Go over your stories. We all have projects or obstacles in our history which we overcome and are proud of, and those are a valuable tool for communicating to your interviewer how you approach problems, how you operate. They are also incredibly valuable for giving examples of strengths and (sometimes) weaknesses. The catalog of tales should not be just success stories, but can show how you learned from an experience. One of the points from the web site I mentioned earlier was to not ramble. If you have rehearsed, then you will keep things crisp and on point. Be ready for difficult questions. The simple ‘tell me about yourself’ is not an invitation to tell your life story, the interviewer does not want that. Keeping it relevant to the job is key. One more tip I got was to summarize at the end, bringing the story into a nut shell as it were and reinforce the message.

Another point is your body language. Some people can tell a lot about a person without them saying a word. Everyone in an interview will be nervous, although good preparation will give you confidence that should show through in how you carry yourself. So you should be attentive and positive. Maintain good eye contact (without staring). Show your interest and enthusiasm for the position.

Although the guy on the other side of the desk is the one with most of the power in this situation, it is worth remembering they are being interviewed by you too. So if you are not comfortable due to what you are seeing or hearing, you should really think it through before taking a job there. Bear in mind, though, that interviewers are often much less prepared for the interview than the candidate. It is not a major part of their job in most cases, so they may ask odd questions or even ones they are not allowed to ask. Note that if you offer information they are allowed to follow up with questions – if you say you have kids, they might ask how old then. But this is again a reason to stay focussed on the job interview. And it is also an opportunity to steer the interview in a direction that suits you better.

Some last tips I heard were to prepare handouts or even a power point slide, if you have your laptop there. These can help reinforce a point, show that you are prepared and, incidentally, keep you on task too. If you have your bullets lined up in front of you, you are less prone to go off on a tangent.

I am always very nervous before interviews, so for me, preparation is key. I compare interviews where I felt unprepared with ones I was ready for and they are like night and day. The same, incidentally, often applies to presentations to customers or at conferences.

Of course, now all I need is the opportunity to put some of this stuff into practice.

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