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Interviewing Tips

Quick advice on how to nail that interview

By Pat Kendall

The first part of interview preparation is research. The idea is to learn as much as possible about the organization, its philosophies, goals and plans. In almost every interview situation, the question is asked: "What can you do for this company?" How can you answer this question if you don't know anything about the firm?

Once you learn about the company, you can get a much better "feel" for how you might fit in. Then, during the interview, you can use this information to your advantage. Are they a fast growing company? Then explain how your experience working with fast-track firms would benefit them. Are they quality-oriented? Then make them aware of your personal commitment to quality. Do they work with charitable organizations? Then tell them about your volunteer experience.

Your goal is to show them that you are like-minded—that you understand and agree with their philosophy, and therefore, would be a good addition to their team.

Another benefit of research is this: By showing them that you've taken the time to research their company, you demonstrate by example that you are the type of person who gives 110%. Most candidates don't know anything about the companies they interview with. They don't know their products, their philosophy, their position in the marketplace or anything else about them.

Show them that you are different... show them that you are better than other candidates who don't have the time or good sense to conduct some basic research. Preparing yourself for interviews by researching prospective employers also gives you a certain control of the situation—and if you have some control, you're much less likely to feel nervous or edgy.

Another key component of interviewing is knowing your strong points. If an employer asked "Why should I hire you?" would you know how to respond? Are you aware of your marketable skills? Can you provide a one-minute sales pitch on yourself?

Here's how to do it: Start with a blank sheet of paper and make a list of your qualifications for the job you want. This might include years of experience, education, special training, technical skills, "inside" knowledge of a product or market, etc. This list could also include transferable skills like communication, leadership, organization, accuracy, detail-orientation or work ethic.

Now, look at this list objectively. Which items on this list are most valuable to your potential employer? Refine this list further, then use this information to write a brief "sales pitch" that describes your qualifications for the job. Organize your information in a logical fashion, repeat it out loud and refine it until it comes out smoothly and naturally. To interview well, you must believe in yourself and be able to verbalize your best qualifications with conviction.

Now let's look at the merits of being proactive. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, how will you respond? Here's another situation where your research comes in handy. When asked if you have questions, you can respond: "Well, I know from my research, that ABC Company is planning to expand into the international market. How might that affect my job?" If you are replacing an existing employee, you might consider asking what your predecessor's biggest challenges were. You could also ask about opportunities for advancement, availability of corporate training programs, plans for expansion, etc. Develop some relevant and intelligent questions, write them down and be prepared to ask them at the appropriate time.

Interviewing Basics

  • Review Resume Key Points. Your resume is the potential employer's outline of your career—and in most cases, the basis of questions asked during the interview. Make sure you are prepared to provide details and expand on key points.

  • Dress for Success. Look the part of the position you're interviewing for (appropriate attire, meticulous grooming, etc.). Take the time to properly organize any paperwork you bring along (i.e., extra resume copies, letters of recommendation, references, performance evaluations, questions).

  • Do Whatever it Takes to Arrive on Time. Check out the address and parking facilities BEFORE the interview date.

  • Go Out of Your Way to be Polite—not only to the interviewer, but also to the receptionist or secretary.

  • Use a Firm Handshake, direct eye contact and a friendly smile; demonstrate a sincere interest and enthusiasm for the job.

  • Always Display Loyalty to Your Former Employers—no matter what they did (or did to you) never, say anything negative about them.

  • Maintain a Positive Attitude and believe in yourself!

  • Always Follow-up by sending the interviewer a brief thank-you letter or note.

  • Strategically Schedule Your Interview Appointment. If possible, try to schedule your appointment so that you're not the first person being interviewed. (Research conducted by Robert Half & Associates indicates that the first person interviewed gets the job only 17% of the time, while the last person interviewed gets the job 55% of the time. According to this study, it is also recommended that you avoid interviews on Monday or late in the afternoon.)

Pat Kendall is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) and Certified Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) with 19 years' experience in resume writing and job search consulting. Pat owns and operates Advanced Resume Concepts, a career services and resume writing firm based in Oregon. Contact her at For more information on Advanced Resume Concepts, visit


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