Some Basic Tips on Job Interviews

The Ubiquitous Job Interview


Before I went to work for the federal government, I was in the private sector for about 15 years. The last five years I worked as an assistant superintendent for an industrial controls company. We had offices throughout the southeast. From Houston, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina we were spread out pretty much in the industrial controls industry. As the assistant super, I did the hiring for our company. It was not a job I wanted. But, it was thrust upon me. So, I did the best I could. Usually, the Human Resources Department would send me three candidates for each position we had available. That didn't mean I was forced to hire any of the three sent to me. Sometimes, when I wasn't satisfied with the three sent to me, I would personally go over the resumes myself to find someone I thought was more qualified. But, that was rare. We had a good HR department.

After listening to a number of people lately who have had no luck being hired, I was amazed at how little people knew about the job interview process. Most are common sense. But, a lot of people just don't know basic concepts of getting themselves hired. You can have an MBA, but if you can't articulate yourself in the interview, you won't get that letter or phone call for a second interview. Below are some of the basic things I looked for when I interviewed job applicants.

Be prepared to talk about yourself.  I knew a little by what was in the resume and job application. But, that doesn't give a good description of yourself. It amazed me how people acted when I would ask someone to tell me about themselves. Many would hem and haw, stutter and just get all nervous about the idea of telling me what they were all about. The company is going to spend thousands of dollars on you. At least give a brief, accurate summary about yourself.

Make sure you are dressed up for the interview.  Some may tell you this isn't as important as it once was in the interview. Nonsense. If you come in dressed like you slept in your clothes, I didn't give the interviewee another thought. I would just thank them for their time. I never promised I would get in touch. I did not believe in giving false hope. Dress yourself for the occasion.

Be prepared to talk about your qualifications.  Too many people think what they have in the resume/application is enough. That just tells me you fit the qualifications on paper. It doesn't tell me you can do the job. I could tell within two minutes if someone was qualified to do the job. I knew that because I had done the same job myself. Always assume the interviewer knows EVERYTHING about the job. Don't go in thinking you can BS your way through. While that may work sometime, it doesn't work most of the time. Know the job you are applying for during the interview. If you are applying for a job you know little or nothing about, you are wasting your and the interviewers time.

One of the toughest questions you ask a job applicant; why should I hire you over all the people that have applied for this job. This is where people really show if they are prepared for the interview. Many people couldn't give an adequate answer. I'll give you a clue to the answer I was expecting. I always looked for the job applicant to tell what he could bring to the job. I needed him or her to tell me how his or her qualifications could help the company productivity. I wanted to hear that you wanted to begin and end your career with the company (even if you viewed it as a stepping stone). I didn't want to hear "Because I'm more qualified than all the rest." If you say that, I'm going to ask how you can be more qualified when you have not seen any of the other job applications. End of interview usually and they didn't know it.

One more thing on this "to do" list; Know something about the company before you enter the interview room. I always asked what they knew about the company. Conservatively, I would say 60% did not know one iota of information about the company other than that they were hiring. Now, some things not to do:

Don't come into the interview chewing gum. Amazing how often that happened.
Don't look away from the interviewer when he is talking to you.
Don't pick at your teeth for crying out loud!!! Yes, this really happened a lot.
Don't pick at your nose for crying out loud!!! Ditto
Don't be nervous. I know that is easy to say. But, you have to act like you are self-confident.
Don't ask the interviewer if he knows so and so. Trying to get personal won't garner you any points.
Don't ask how much the job pays at the very beginning of the interview. You will make it appear the only reason you are applying is because of the salary. Time and place for that during the interview is at the end. If the interviewer doesn't mention salary at the end, ask him how much the job paid.
Don't look at your watch or the clock on the wall. Are you in a hurry to be somewhere else?

Finally, don't come into the interview DRUNK. That happened three times. Most likely, they drank because they were nervous. The interviews lasted about 10 seconds each. If I smelled alcohol, the interview was over.

These are just some basic tips and common sense I was able to convey to some people who were having a tough time during their job interviews in my area. I was amazed how many said they did the "don'ts" and did not do the "do's" in this post.   I hope this will help someone out there in this tough job market (despite what our fearless leaders in D.C. are telling us).


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