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Interview Preparation

  1. Interview Preparation
    1. Research
    2. Review Job Description
    3. Relax
    4. Directions
    5. Dress
    6. Smoking
    7. What to Bring to the Interview
    8. Be on Time
    9. Preparing your Attitude
  2. The Interview
    1. Key Points
    2. Closing the Interview
    3. Following Up on the Interview
    4. Expect these Interview Questions
    5. Questions You Should Ask
    6. Other Interview Tips
  3. How to Leave a Job

Interview Preparation [Top]

The first interview with your prospective employer is a critical meeting that will go much smoother and help you present your skills and experience in a more positive light if you spend the energy to properly prepare for it. Here is a checklist you should cover before any interview:

    • Research – You have access to one of the most in-depth research tools available, the World Wide Web. Take advantage of this resource and get answers to the following questions and research these key areas before you interview:
      • How large is the firm in terms of revenue and the number of people?
      • How many offices/key locations do they have?
      • What is the market position and strategy of the firm and its products? Be able to name some of their primary competitors and the differences in the products and services they offer.
      • Who are some major customers?
      • Where does the firm rank in terms of market share with its competitors?
      • Thoroughly review the company's website as many firms have financial information available, current press releases, announcements, and a host of other useful information. Lookup websites on competitors as well.

      Power Tip! – You may have competition for the job you want by candidates with similar skills and experience. Those candidates that do their homework and can incorporate what they have learned into the interview process will come out miles ahead of the competition. The hiring managers will be impressed with the time you took to understand some of the details of their business. Do your homework!

    • Review Job Description - It’s always a good idea to know what the company has put together as an initial description for required and desired skill sets and responsibilities. Prepare yourself to talk about some of the thinks they are looking for in a candidate.

    • Relax – Some people get very nervous during interviews. It’s a good idea to plan some relaxing time before the interview. Take a jog or do something aerobic in the morning if you can. Spend 10 minutes before walking in the door of your interview in a quiet place and concentrate on being confident and focused.

    • Directions – Make sure you have looked at a map the night before and know exactly where you are going for your interview. It’s a good idea to bring a cell phone and contact telephone numbers so you can easily let them know if you are inadvertently running late.

    • Dress - Unless you are specifically asked to dress business casual, wear the appropriate interview attire throughout the interview cycle.

    • Smoking– Showing up to an interview after you have had a cigarette could be a serious drawback for many hiring companies, and they will certainly notice. Play it safe and don’t smoke the day of the interview, take some nicotine chewing gum along if you don’t think you can get through the day without a smoke.

    • What to Bring to the Interview
      • Resume - Take a few minutes and polish up your resume if you haven’t done so already. If you can you might modify it to show skills that are applicable to the specific hiring company. Take two or three copies with you.
      • References – Many firms will have you fill out an application and will ask that you provide references. Be prepared to offer up a few and offer to provide more if needed on the application. Make sure you give them work related references and have contacted them in advance.
      • Salary History – Although you might not be asked for this in an interview, it might come up if you are required to fill out an application. Make sure you have this data with you.
      • Yellow Pad and Pen – Although you don’t want to spend too much time writing during your interview, there are some pieces of information you will need to jot down such as the name and title of the person that interviewed you (get a business card if possible), job responsibilities, and other tidbits of data and follow up items.

    • Be on time – You should never arrive early, you should never arrive late. If you appointment is a noon, get there exactly at noon. If you are early, spend some time relaxing until your scheduled time.

    • Preparing your Attitude - The objective of the interview is to leave a favorable impression and you should assume you want a job offer. So that all possibilities remain open to you, always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing. Your goal on an interview is to learn all that you can about the company and the opportunity and to present yourself in the best possible manner. Many IT professionals don’t realize that they need to sell their skills and experiences to the prospective employer. List your accomplishments you are proud of and the positive impact you have had on previous employers and be prepared to talk about them. If your decision at the end of the discussion is to join that organization, the proper positive attitude needs to have been conveyed throughout the interview. Be polite to anyone you come in contact with, especially the administrative assistants and receptions.


The Interview [Top]

Power Tip! You have three main goals during your interview:

  1. Convince the employer that you have the skills and experience to effectively do the job.
  2. Convince the employer that you want to do the job.
  3. Convince the employer that you fit into their culture



 Key Points



  • Arrive at your destination early and relax. Walk in the door on time and absorb the office environment. You might notice some things you can comment on later in a positive manner later in the interview process.
  • If presented with an application, fill it out neatly and completely. Although it may be tempting, don’t fill in the blanks with “see resume”, as it might give the impression that you are above these kinds of details. You should be considerate to the HR professionals that need information in a consistent format and have legal reasons why applications need to be completed by hand in its entirety and signed.
  • Shake hands firmly, smile, maintain eye contact, and greet the interviewer by name.
  • It is your responsibility to establish an immediate level of rapport so that you may communicate comfortably. Your goal is to get the interviewer to identify with you. (Remember, people like people who are like themselves.) Uncover the real needs of the interviewer. Market research says that most impressions of people are made in the first minute of contact. People love hearing there own name, be sure to use the interviewer’s name frequently in answering questions. “Bob, that is a very good question”.
  • Find out early on in the interview what it is that the company is looking before you answer questions so that you can modify your comments. “Bob, before we begin I just wanted to make sure I understand the position for which I am interviewing for today and was wondering if you could give me an overview as well as your impressions of the ideal candidate for the job.”
  • Make sure that your positive traits are communicated to the interviewer in a factual and sincere manner. “Bob, at XYZ corporation I successfully implemented a large software installation in six months by collaborating with team members, developing requirements, and carefully following a project plan”
  • Emphasize your strong points and minimize your liabilities. Stay calm and positive when challenged.
  • Respond to each question thoughtfully, truthfully, concisely, and completely. Make sure you are getting information you need about the job during the interview. It should be mutual exchange of information. Do not take charge, but establish a relationship where you both have equal footing in getting what you need from each other.
  • Be aware of your posture and body language as they communicate attitude and impressions.
  • Never close the door on an opportunity. Always conduct yourself as if you were determined to get the position you are discussing.
  • Always present a positive statement about your last employer. Negative statements, even carefully worded, tend to put you in a negative light. Accentuate the positives so you appear to have winning personal attributes.
  • Admire the achievements of the employer, and where possible, tie in your background to the hiring firm.
  • During the interview, your comments and actions should convey the following attributes:
    • Enthusiasm
    • Dependability
    • Confidence
    • Loyalty
    • Energy Honesty

Closing the Interview – Assuming your interview went well, it’s important to close the interview by asking questions and solidifying your candidacy for the job. Begin by thanking the interview by taking time to describe the opportunity. Then reiterate your interest level in the position, your ability to do the job, and the comfort level you have with the organization. Then find out what the remaining steps will be in the interview process and their general timeframe for the next step. If you feel brave, ask the interview if they have any concerns about you for the position and how many other people they are talking to. Thank the interviewer again and ask when a good time to follow-up would be.


Following Up on the Interview – If you booked the interview through an agency call your recruiter immediately following the interview. He/she will quickly relay you interest level to the employer and find out where you stack up in the interview process. Any stumbling blocks should be addressed immediately through your agency. Failure to follow-up will only hinder your efforts in getting to an offer situation. It’s also an excellent idea to write a thank you letter (in the mail the next day) to the people who interviewed you expressing your interest in the position and solidifying reasons why you are the right person for the job.

Expect these Interview Questions:
  • What is your current salary level in terms of base and bonuses? What are your expectations for this position? - It’s a fair question to know what you are worth in the current marketplace, and like it or not your existing salary level is a just one data point they will use in determining a potential offer. Answer the question honestly, and if you feel that you are worth a lot more than you are presently making you can mention that and give supporting reasons. It’s a mistake to avoid the question all together. The best answer is you make X dollars, and feel you are worth something in the range of X dollars to some number higher for the right opportunity. Be careful not to set your expectations so high that the company immediately eliminates you from the interview process. Most companies understand they need to be competitive and give you incentive to make a move, but if you require more than an 8% increase you might want to revisit why are you looking to make a change and consider asking your current employer for a raise.
  • Can you explain some of the reasons you have jumped from job to job? – The days where you began a career and retired from the same company are quickly becoming more of an anomaly than the norm. In the IT field the average life expectancy with an employer is in the neighborhood of three years. Nevertheless, if you have made a couple job hops in the last couple of job situations you will be asked reasons why you made these changes. Most of the situations can be understandable, a company downsizing, left for greener pastures, they eliminated my position. You want to answer these questions sincerely while not bad-mouthing former employers and showing the interviewer that there were some factors not in your control that caused some of this instability. You want to convey to the interviewer that your job hops are more due to bad decisions or bad luck than a reflection on your ability to stay with one employer.
  • Why are you looking to make a change right now? - The interviewer is trying to understand what it is that you are lacking in your current work environment to make sure that the situation wouldn’t repeat itself if they hire you. There are many reasons why people make changes in their careers. Acceptable reasons are things like lack of opportunity, lack of confidence in the firm’s going concern, looking for more of a challenge, etc. Its even O.K to say that you have a personality conflict with your current manager and haven’t been able to resolve your differences. The key here is to convey logical reasons why you can’t make the current situation work for you why you think you would be better off with a new opportunity.
  • What percentage of time are you willing to travel? - Go into the interview knowing what the requirement is for travel and make sure you give the right answer. If the job requires 50% travel there is no reason for you to interview if you can’t reasonably accommodate this requirement.
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? - Every job has some unique personality requirements associated with it. Sometimes they want a soft, easy-going personality, and sometimes they want an aggressive bulldog type. Be prepared to describe your personal attributes in terms of strengths. Typical areas of strength could be leadership, attention to detail, drive to get things done, diplomacy, customer service skills, problem-solving, etc. You should spend more time describing your strengths than your weaknesses, and put a positive spin on weaknesses. For example, if you are generally an impatient person, it would be better to say that “Sometimes my drive to get things done gives other people the impression that I am occasionally impatient”, rather than saying “I am a very impatient person and can’t tolerate when people prevent me from accomplishing my job”.
  • What do you identify as your most significant accomplishment in your last job? - Your past accomplishments show what you brought to the table to former or existing employers that a hiring firm can expect you to build on or repeat in your next endeavor. Make sure you have thought out what you have accomplished and try to think of its value to others in the organization. Explain why these accomplishments will help you in your next position with your interviewer.
  • What did you like and dislike about your current or last position? - The interviewer is trying to establish how you will fit into their company culture. If you were unhappy with a very structured work environment and the company you are interviewing for has the same type of environment, there isn’t a good fit. Describe the positives and minimize the negatives.
  • What are your career goals? - The interviewer is trying to see if you are motivated for advancement, but not too motivated to the point where they may not be able keep you happy long-term. Make sure your answers about career goals satisfy the hiring company’s needs as well as giving them reassurance they are going to be able to keep you happy long-term. If your career goal is to own your own business, for example, why would a firm take a chance on hiring you if you will inevitably quit and leave the firm after they have made an investment in you?


Questions You Should Ask:
  • What are you looking for in the person who will fill this job?
  • Why is the position available?
  • What are the major responsibilities of this position?
  • What are the company's major strengths and weaknesses in their product line?
  • Who would you identify as your major competitors? What is your market share?
  • How do you view the future for your industry and product line?
  • Do you have any plans for new products, services, or acquisitions?
  • What can you tell me about the individual to whom I would report?
  • What can you tell me about my coworkers?
  • How would you define your management philosophy and corporate culture?
  • Tell me about career paths within the company.
  • Describe the training and orientation program.


Other Interview Tips:
  • Avoid answering questions with a simple yes or no. Relate back to your own accomplishments whenever possible. Avoid close-ended questions.
  • Never lie. Remember, you are building a long-term relationship based on mutual respect and trust.
  • Never make derogatory statements about your present or former employers.
  • Make sure that the employer realizes that your interest is based on a positive opportunity that they have, and not a reaction to a negative situation in which you may be currently involved.
  • Initially, do not inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement, or any other benefits. After the employer has broached the issue, you may open yourself to discussion. After the employer initiates the subject of salary (never tell a potential employer the exact figure you are looking for in salary), indicate that your interest will be based upon the company itself, your associates, the position, and the opportunity. If those aspects are positive to both you and the employer, express your belief that terms can be reached fairly and amicably.
  • Never be overbearing, overly aggressive, conceited, or leave the opinion that "you know it all."
  • Do not make excuses or be evasive for unfavorable factors in your background. Simply try to put them in] a positive light. Remember, honesty is the best policy.
  • Do not display the attitude of "What can you do for me?" Even though you are also "interviewing" your potential employer and the company, allow the employer to feel that he/she is conducting the interview.





How to Leave a Job [Top]

The manner in which you depart can play an important role in how you do in the future. Every step you take should be directed at leaving on a positive note, no matter how unpleasant the circumstances. During discussions with your boss about why you are leaving, focus on you career objectives. Point out the advantages the new job will provide you without indicating you are dissatisfied with your present one. The same rules apply during exit interviews. Keep it positive in terms of your new opportunity while keeping personal complaints to yourself. Two weeks notice to your employer is generally accepted, try not to stretch it out past this point, as it will only slow down your progression to your new career. Two weeks is ample time to wrap up most of your work and delegate your responsibilities to others in the organization. Sometimes your employer will try to make you feel guilty for leaving or even go as far as a counteroffer.

Here Is a Sample Letter of Resignation:







Dear ______:

Please accept this as notice of my resignation effective _____ (two weeks from today). My experience at _____ has been both enjoyable and rewarding. However, I have chosen to accept a position elsewhere. I feel that this new opportunity is the most logical step in my career. It has been a pleasure working with you and for you for the past _____. I have attained a great deal of knowledge and work ethic that will remain a part of my entire career. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this organization. Good luck to you in the future.



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