Interviewing Skills

The interview is probably the most critical aspect of determining whether you get the job. Although your resume may tell the hiring manager much about your history, the interview is key in making an impression that you are the right fit for the open job. Below are tips on how to prepare for questions prior to the actual interview, how your behavior can impact the interview and how to follow up after the interview is concluded.


  • Know the interviewer, know the position and know the company
  • Visit the company Web site
  • Ask the recruiter about interviewer and expectations
  • Know what you have to offer
  • Read the job description carefully
  • Conclude how your past experiences apply to this job


  • Look professional, show respect for the job, the interviewer and yourself
  • If you know there may be a chance of getting called for an interview, dress for the interview or bring interview clothes with you
  • First impressions are important
  • Do NOT chew gum during an interview
  • If you are a coffee drinker, smoker, or have a meal prior to an interview be aware of your breath
  • Do not wear perfume or cologne or wear little enough that someone cannot smell it unless they are closer than one foot from you
  • Remember to ask ahead of time what the expectation is on your attire
  • Make sure you are well groomed

Five Stages of an Interview

Entrance: The entrance is very important. It can set the tone of your meeting.

  • Arrive for your interview at least 15 minutes early but no more than 20 minutes early unless otherwise told
  • Remember you are being observed once you pull into parking lot
  • Be aware of the non-verbal communication messages you are projecting
  • Hold your head high, stand straight and tall, have a slight smile, be relaxed
  • Project confidence but not arrogance
  • Keep eye contact
  • Be pleasant when you greet the receptionist.
  • Don’t fidget (don’t tap your fingers or twirl your hair)
  • Look interested (nod, smile, lean forward)
  • Make the handshake strong and firm; neither too weak nor bone crushing

Opening: This is when you start talking and begin to build rapport with the interviewer. This is when the employer will decide if he or she is going to like you or not. Most researchers suggest the first impression happens within the first three seconds. The opening is when you have the first opportunity to disclose who you are and what you do. The interviewer may first share something personal, such as his or her kid’s last soccer game. This is just a way to help you feel comfortable. If you choose to share something personal it is purely up to you. It could be a way to find common ground or interests.

Background: This is where you begin to share your work history or educational background. A very common question is, “So John, tell me about yourself…..” Try to keep your responses to your professional experience. The interviewer doesn’t need to know you are a deacon in your church. You may want to start with a brief overview of where you attended college, then begin to show the progression of your career. The key word is brief.

Communication Exchange: Ideally this is where the interviewer asks questions and you answer them. You then ask questions and they answer them. This part of the interview helps you build the bridge between your work history and skills to the open job. Show them how your past experiences apply to this job. You may experience behavioral style questions during this segment. The basis of behavior questioning is past performance predicts future performance. One way to convey your answers during a behavior exchange is to think of STAR: situation, task, action, result.

When handling interview questions:

  • Be honest
  • Limit your answers to 60 seconds
  • Be confident, but know the difference between confidence and arrogance
  • Yes and no, but rule: when answering a question, if the answer is yes make sure to expand with examples of using the skills asked about; if the answer is no, say “no, but” and expand on other skills you have that are similar and how they can compensate for what you are missing. This leaves the interviewer thinking about skills you have rather than ones you may not. It also allows you more control of the direction the interview is taking.
  • When asked to describe a difficult problem or one of your successes or failures (behavioral questioning technique), describe the situation, what was your task, what action you took and then wrap it up with the result or what happened in the end.

Questions to ask the interviewer:

  • Ask questions about the job; it shows an interest
  • Ask how quickly they are looking to fill the position

Wrap Up: This is where the interviewer may ask if you have any final questions or anything else to add. Remember that he or she is looking for the best person for the job. What differentiates you from the others and why should the company hire you? This will be your final time to relay that message to them.

  • Have one final question
  • Ask what the next steps will be for the hiring process
  • Ask how often should you follow up and how they would like to be contacted
  • Ask for the job. Briefly summarize how your skills apply to this job, why you are interested in working for the company, and that you are very interested in moving forward in the process

After the Interview

  • Send a thank you note to all participants in your interview
  • Call to check on status based on the timeframe the interviewer asks you to follow-up, but do not call everyday to check status

How to Handle Responses

When you don’t hear back from a recruiter, a hiring manager or a company after submitting a resume, it may be difficult to accept that you didn’t get an opportunity for that particular job. Maybe you hear back after an interview that you didn’t get that job, or you receive an e-mail or a letter in the mail stating that you didn’t get the job. If you get feedback that may make your next interview stronger, use it in a positive way. Don’t replay multiple times the negative thoughts or what you could have done or said better. Focus on what you can control – talk to yourself like a winner.

If you find yourself stuck on the negative rather than focusing on what you can control, please consider finding a coach, mentor or other advisor to help set you back on track.

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