Preparing For An Excellent Interview, How To Get An Offer Every Time You Interview.


You’re about to go on an interview. You may or may not know if you want the job yet, but you do want to make the best impression that you can. The following ideas and strategies have been compiled over the years by numerous executive and staff level search consultants. This is not just one recruiter’s advice, but the advice shared by several excellent recruiters on how to get ready to Sell Yourself to the best of your ability. Much of this may not be new to you, but if you get one new good idea or attitude from reading this, then it is worth the time invested. Read this entire article a week or two before your interview (if you have time) or at the beginning of your search process. Refer to it several times during the process to see if there is anything that you are missing.

One week prior to the interview, you should cover these points:

Dress and appearance. Regardless of the position being applied for, you should always wear a suit, without exception. Make sure that you have a professional business suit, that it fits properly, and that it is cleaned and pressed. It is highly recommended that you read one of the dress for success books. These books have been redone, and are available for men or for women. If you cannot get a copy of these books, then dress in neutral colors and think conservative. Do not wear any bright colors, sundresses, or casual attire. Do wear a coat and tie and do avoid black. Have your hair cut or styled during the week prior to the interview. Women should have your nails done 24-48 hours prior to interview. A haircut the day of the interview is not best, but much better than a shaggy look. Extra pampering the day of the interview or the day prior helps you to feel your best. This can include shaving twice, a massage, soaking in the hot tub, or anything that makes this day different and special. Start making a list of questions that you need to have answered so that you can make a decision as to whether or not you will accept this position. Start assuming at this time that you are going to get an offer.

SELL. The purpose of the interview from your perspective is to SELL YOUR ABILITIES to a prospective employer. Your only reason for being there is to get an offer. Sure, you also have to determine if this is a place that you want to work, but only after you are sure that you have sold yourself. My goal is to help you make this your decision, not someone else’s, and unless you get an offer, you have no decision to make. You cannot start thinking this way too soon. If you go in to the interview with a "what’s in it for me" attitude, you have hurt yourself. If you go in thinking that you will ask questions to see if this is the right place for you, but don’t convince them that you are the right person for them, then you have wasted your time, and theirs. Obviously, you have to get enough information to determine whether or not this is the right position for you, but this can always be done after an offer is extended. You must respond positively to everything you hear during the interview. A negative response to one point can rule you out of the job, even if by the end of the interview you have determined that the negative point was really minor when you obtained further information on the job. {I.e., if they tell you that part of the job is shoveling horse manure, you say "great, I already know how to use a shovel," because you never know what they are going to say next. They might then tell you that there is gold beneath it, and suddenly shoveling manure doesn’t sound so bad. If you had taken the natural response and said no way, they might have then ruled you out.}

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT YOU HAVE TO DO ON ANY INTERVIEW IS TO SELL YOUR ABILITIES TO THE EMPLOYER. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE EMPLOYER KNOWS EVERYTHING THAT YOU CAN BRING TO THEIR TABLE. This knowledge will bring in the quickest and highest offer possible, with the least amount of effort or headache on your part.

Have a follow up letter ready to go. Prepare a basic ‘thank you for your time and interest’ note that you can quickly modify and personalize immediately after the interview. Follow up notes should be sent out the day of the interview.

Organize and prioritize the list of questions that you have come up with that you need to have answered prior to accepting an offer. Do not write out the questions as complete sentences. Instead, use keywords or short phrases to indicate the particular topic that you need to explore with them. The most important questions should come first, since you never know how much time you are going to have to get your questions answered. The questions should be on a legal pad in a professional looking binder or portfolio, and you should use an attractive, professional looking pen or pencil. Be sure to leave plenty of room for taking notes on the answers. You will need them later to compare the several offers that you will be receiving.

As close to the interview as possible, go over these points.

  • Always have your legal pad with you during the interview process, and use it. TAKE NOTES. Again, do not write out sentences or allow your notes to distract your focus from what the interviewer is saying. Use just one or two words whenever possible, or, if necessary, short phrases to remind you of what they just said. You may be referring back to these notes later in the interview, so be sure they make sense to you and that you can read them (as you won’t have time to study or decipher them later). Your questions should be prepared prior to arriving for the interview, and should be in the format of a checklist.

  • If you are interviewing through our recruitment agency, you are not allowed to discuss compensation or benefits during the interview. Salary is a trap question, with many wrong answers and only one correct one. The odds of getting it right are slim. This is information that your recruiter has covered with both parties to make sure that you and the potential employer are in the same ballpark. If the employer brings up the subject, there are several possible responses. My favorite is for you to tell the employer "my recruiter said that I am not allowed to discuss salary with you. He said that is his job". This works very well if your recruiter has a good relationship with the employer, but don’t use it unless we tell you to. The goal in any response to this question is to re-focus the conversation on the opportunity and on making sure that you and employer are right for each other. Other possible responses are: "Of course I would like as much as the position will pay, and I am sure that you will make a fair offer, but I would really like to learn more about the opportunity, as I don’t yet have enough information to determine what a fair offer would be"; or "I’m really more interested in the opportunity than the money. I’m sure the offer will be fair, and I would like to be sure that the position is right for me, and that I am right for you."

  • Ask for the job! If you want the job, make absolutely sure that you make the employer aware of your interest. Don’t assume that he or she knows that you want to work there. Tell them.

  • Your #1 priority is to get an offer.

  • Your #2 priority is to know what is next. Will they get back to your recruiter today, tomorrow, do they have other interviews scheduled. Make sure that you know what is going to happen next and when it is going to happen before leaving the interview.