December 22, 2008 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
A number of job seekers have called wanting to know the basics of interview- etiquette, for the interviewer as well as the applicant. They asked, they said, because they felt that they weren’t treated fairly by the process.
Here are several different examples they provided. See what you think:
- “I was kept waiting for more than half an hour.”
- “I was told after arriving at the meeting site that the interview had been canceled.”
- “My interview lasted 20 minutes, and the interviewer spoke for most of it. He didn’t give me an opportunity to describe my accomplishments or abilities and I’ve not been called back.”
- “The interviewer said I’d hear from them within a week and that was a month ago. They haven’t returned my calls.”
For balance and perspective, we called several human resource professionals and invited them to react to these observations and offer a few of their own.
Here’s a summary of their comments:
Waiting time - The HR Professionals we talked to mentioned their regret when they have had to keep applicants waiting more than 15 minutes. They noted that they are often balancing multiple priorities and sometimes-unforeseen emergencies outside their control. They also mention that when an applicant exhibits patience, forgiveness, and resilience in situations such as these, they are appreciative.
Call backs – If applicants have been invited to interview and haven’t heard anything regarding their status, either by phone or mail, within two to three weeks, the HR Professionals we contacted suggested that applicants continue to pursue other opportunities. However, we noted that these same professionals told us that applicants who get the job are those who don’t give up, so we think it is reasonable to contact the organization with which you interviewed and ask for an update.
The lopsided interview - Applicants who complain that the interviewer does all the talking may not realize that some candidates don’t say enough on their own behalf. While it is possible that some interviewers are verbose, most are looking for applicants who as employees can hold their own in an important conversation.
The interviewers also offered several examples of frustrations they experience when working with applicants:
- Individuals who show up without an appointment and expect to get an interview.
- Unsolicited calls from would-be applicants expecting to interview for non-existent positions.
- Applicants who are unclear about what they want or what they can do.
- Misspellings and misinformation included in applications and resumes.
- Unsuitable clothing, physical bearing, and negative attitudes.
Don’t forget the importance of spell check and fact checking before submitting any written information. Also, these interviewers told us that applicants should carefully, neatly, completely, and appropriately fill in each blank in the job application, despite the information possibly appearing on resumes already. We know from experience that sometimes only part of your application packet gets passed along to the hiring manager.
Applicants should dress to impress, whether stopping by to complete an application or appearing for a formal interview. The right look includes attitude as well as a clean, pressed, fresh appearance. Hiring professionals are looking for employees who are polite, positive, energetic, and well spoken. Most organizations believe that they can provide skills training but they know they can’t instill desire and determination to learn and grow – that, you have to bring yourself.
What’s more important: experience or a solid track record?
Both are valuable, for obvious reasons, but experience isn’t as important as a solid track record. It isn’t realistic to think that an applicant would have the exact and specific experience, but it is realistic to expect an applicant to know how to keep a job and get along with a variety of people and perspectives. It’s not enough to be a specialist or technical wizard. Organizations want people who are self- starters, quick learners, flexible, able to deal with change and have the potential to lead themselves as well as lead others.
What turns off interviewers?
Glib talkers who brag about how they save the day but don’t have the facts to back it up; people with low energy, rude behavior, poor eye contact, who are late to interviews, don’t ask questions, who don’t know anything about the company, and who don’t fully participate in the interview.
Who gets the job?
Those individuals who have what it takes, can articulate it, believe in themselves, and don’t give up.
“I get everything I interview for, everything! The problem is, I can’t keep any of those jobs more than a few months. I’m sure I need fixin’, I just don’t know what’s broke!”
How’s that for an enviable problem? It’s not an exaggeration, either. There are folks who are so personable they blend into every situation they find themselves. They are so perceptive, they seem able to read the minds of those who interview them, and can respond with just the right words, spoken in just the right way.
What’s broken? They can’t make it last.
“I get every candidate I go after. They may not want my company at first, but by the time I’m finished talking to them, I’ve signed them up! The only problem is, they don’t last very long. I think I’m doing my job but the boss thinks turnover is my fault. Who’s right and what’s the solution? ”
The goal of an interview, for applicant and interviewer, is to determine if the job and the person are well matched. A simple method, and one that actually works, is for each to ask the other questions, consider the responses, ask some more, reflect, and decide the next step: go for another interview or keep looking.
The goal isn’t achieved if the interviewer sells the company to the applicant, overcoming objections and discounting questions. The goal isn’t achieved if the applicant sells to the company, stating abilities well beyond capabilities, and achievements that just aren’t so.
Vision that is short-sighted has no benefit beyond the present. Consequences count: A bad hiring decision costs a company plenty; in lost time, production and morale. It costs the employee plenty too, in hard to explain resumes and bad references.
How can applicants avoid traps of their own making? Stop selling.
Job seekers who know themselves and can describe their strengths with authority are not boastful. They are self-confident. They know what they bring to the table that can make a difference to an employer. They know what they don’t do well and are honest about that too. They know where and when they have been successful, which managers have challenged them most and have brought out their best. They know what they seek and what to leave alone.
- They know what to ask and how to ask it.
- They know how to listen without jumping to conclusions.
- They know how to understand without premature judgment.
Good interviewers do their homework. They learn what their companies need and why they need it. They understand their company’s goals and methods for reaching them. They know what makes management tick and the personality types who are rewarded for achievement. They know the obstacles to success, for the new employee and for the company. They know what doesn’t work and the behaviors that turn people off. They believe in the value of people and product. They can talk about what they know in ways that are objective and candid.
- They are perceptive without pre-judgment.
- They know how to ask and how to listen.
- They probe without intimidation.
Salary questions can short circuit the interview. Applicants and interviewers have to establish their case before putting a price tag on it. Both want to know how the other responds to change and challenge. Both need to know the others’ track record to predict growth potential. Both need to take time in the interview. The work place will be rushed enough.
Second interviews are revealing. Initial interviews, like first dates, can be deceiving. Cautious applicants who start out slowly, saying little and asking less, can become downright chatty in subsequent meetings. Others who come on strong can fade in later sessions. Second interviews benefit all parties, giving each person the time and space necessary to focus on reality and not illusion.
Use the carpenter’s rule: measure twice and cut once. Interviewers and applicants can increase their potential for success by doing just that.
What are three reasons that applicants and organizations benefit from networking?
- Each has opportunity to learn more about the other without jumping too quickly or rejecting an opportunity prematurely.
- Each begins with a level playing field, putting more emphasis on the job challenge and what it takes to meet it than looking for individual differences and exceptions.
- Each can present and respond with greater candor and less concern of rejection.
What are three mistakes that both interviewers and interviewees commonly make?
- They don’t listen as much as they should.
- They don’t probe as much as they could.
- They don’t create a safe environment that encourages a healthy exchange of information necessary to determine if there would appear to be a fit between the applicant and position being discussed.
Good interviewers are able to strike a balance between intimacy and formality. They know what to say, what to ask, and what combination is necessary to do the job right. They build in sufficient interview time to probe the unexpected response and respond to the unanticipated question. They realize that human beings are unique in presentation style even while sharing common skills and strengths. They value the differences by withholding premature judgment or award until they’ve had time to fully evaluate the individual relative to the competencies desired.
What are three things the applicant wants to achieve by the interview’s close?
- You want to have understood the challenges the company faces and how you can make a difference for them, going forward.
- You want to have made your case, presenting your track record of accomplishments as they relate to the position you seek.
- You want to have learned how working for the company can advance your career goals and objectives.
What are three things the interviewer wants to achieve?
- You want to have conducted a fair interview; having given the applicant the same time, questions, and opportunity to present as you provided others.
- You want to have learned more about the applicant’s work history, track record, and potential to contribute than the application and resume combined would otherwise have told you.
- You want to have described your company, the position opening, and the challenges of both in a fair and balanced manner.
What are three common mistakes that interviewees make?
- Talking too much.
- Coming on too strong.
- Saying too little.
Think through what you want to say, in advance of saying it. That’s called practice, and verbose candidates aren’t apt to do it. Coming on strong typically results in over-promising and under-delivering. Saying too little leaves too much to the imagination, none of it helpful or productive.
What are three rules that every good resume writer should follow?
On average, a company representative takes about twenty seconds to review your resume. Therefore, keep it brief and on point, saying as much as you can in as few words as possible.
- Outline the essentials without elaboration. Be succinct!
- Start with your current position and go back in time. If you did it more than 15 years ago, summarize it. Include three accomplishments for each key position you’ve held.
- Don’t use industry jargon. Write your resume so that someone in Human Resources understands it as well as someone in your specialty.
What are three things you should know before heading out to an interview?
- Know about the company.
- Know why you want to interview them.
- Know why they ought to interview you.
Learn about the Company
Let’s get down to basics. Do your homework before interviewing. If you’re short on time, check the prospective employer’s web site. If you have the luxury of more time and the company’s track record is good enough to merit space in business journals or business publications online, go there. Read for information that describes their core business and business strategy; where they’re going and how they intend to get there. If they are a publicly traded company there is a wealth of information in the materials provided to investors, including podcasts of their quarterly results. The company’s providing you the information you need to interview intelligently by asking good, relevant questions.
Why interview with them?
- Where’s the match?
- What can they offer you that reinforces your strengths and furthers your professional goals?
Why should they interview you?
- Find out what they need and why they need it.
- Make your case by linking your experience and expertise to the challenge they present and the direction they are taking.
- Organize your presentation around a proven track record of accomplishment.
Remember, they don’t know that you can do the job, you have to explain how your history of experience matches with their need. Take the time to know these three things before you interview — and practice!
“I have a telephone interview scheduled for later this week. What should I consider when preparing for it?”
More and more employers are conducting screening and even full interviews by phone or video. Here are some thoughts specific to interviewing by phone to help guide you and prepare.
Be mindful that while you and the interviewer will be asking and responding to questions, you’ll both be interpreting, evaluating, assessing, and concluding, without benefit of the visual cues that clue you into a sense of how it’s going and how you’re doing.
With that in mind, create color and definition where there isn’t any, and with the only means you have: the energy you project through the words that you say.
Your goal is to project positive strength, enthusiasm, and optimism while sounding relaxed, friendly, and encouraging, as you listen, process, and articulate responses that are as smooth and succinct as they are informational. If you do all that you’ll have a successful telephone interview. That is, unless your dog knocks the phone out of your hand, your toddler bangs pans in your ear, and your teenager screams that she needs the phone because her boyfriend might be trying to call. In other words, telephone interviews can be a bear.
Prepare for the phone interview as you would a personal interview.
- Research the company’s mission, vision, products, locations, history, and culture.
- Be ready to discuss your qualifications as they match the job’s requirements (and clarify your understanding of those requirements).
Don’t forget your location – take care of the small stuff before it becomes the big stuff and you’ll be ready.
- Arrange a quiet, well-lit place to talk: make sure you have a comfortable chair and a table or other writing surface.
- Gather and arrange your needed materials and supplies: a copy of your resume, a calendar, paper, pencil, questions you want to ask, and points you want to make.
- Have any ad materials handy: If you’ve responded to a want ad, have the ad in plain view, be familiar with the job’s requirements, as well as information you’ve taken from company’s web site.
Get validation and practice.
Rather than wonder how you sound, find out. Record yourself during a mock interview and rate your performance on your voice tone and expression as well as your responses. Next time you’re on the phone with friends, ask how you sound to them. See if a friend will help you practice over the phone and give you some feedback on your responses. Here are some questions you can ask your friend to help you with:
- Do I speak in a monotone? Am I too quiet, too loud?
- Do I respond to your questions directly, do I take too long to get to my point?
- When I call you, am I clear about my intent, or do I beat around the bush?
- Do I talk too much, too little?
- Does my energy under-whelm or overwhelm you? Do I come across as positive and energetic, or negative and apathetic? “
Then take a deep breath. Exhale. And listen to the feedback. Ask for suggestions that will enable you to become a more effective communicator. Then practice what you’ve learned with friends, record yourself practicing, listen and practice some more.
How you sound communicates more about you than the words you use.
During the interview.
When the phone rings, confirm the name of the person calling, title, company he or she represents, and phone number. Be ready to get down to business without much small talk. Let the interviewer take the lead. She knows what she wants to accomplish and the time frame she has allocated for the conversation.
If you’re asked a question and you’re stumped, say something to let the interviewer know you’re still on the line (“that’s a good question and one I’ll want to think about before responding.”).
You’re not apt to be asked questions regarding compensation, and you shouldn’t broach the subject. If the interviewer does ask your salary requirements, indicate that you’d like to learn more about the position and the company; that you’d be interested in setting up a face-to-face appointment to see the facility and meet the individuals with whom you’d be working.
Speak in complete sentences so that the telephone screener has sufficient information to determine if you’re someone they want to interview. Yup, nope, hmmm, errr, uhhh, may fill gaps but aren’t inspiring word choices. And soda slurping, gum popping, food chomping, and cigarette puffing aren’t sounds an interviewer wants to hear.
As you conclude the conversation, keep the door open by indicating your continued interest in the job and desire to take the interview to the next level.
After the interview, take a few moments to write down your reactions and thoughts. Do this while the interview is fresh and your reactions spontaneous. Make note of anything your should follow up on if you get to the next stage of the hiring process. Make sure to list where you think your skills matched up with the interviewers questions and where you might have to make a stronger case for yourself. Think if there are any “value adds” that you offer, for example, do you speak a second language or are you proficient with technology.
Take a moment to email a thank you note to your interviewer. Don’t make it too long, but if you have a few points from the notes your made, use the opportunity to show that you understand the job and your ability to do it.