The interview is a critical step in being offered the job. It is important for you to provide adequate and accurate information that will assist the interviewer in evaluating you for the position.


Now it is time to prepare you for the interview process. One thought before we launch into the interview; if you do not have an answering machine or service you must get one ASAP. Please ensure the message on your recording is professional while you conduct your job search. The majority of initial interviews will take place over the telephone.

Most initial or screening interviews are conducted to get to know you, validate your resume, and determine if the employer wants to invest in bringing you to the site for a more in depth interview process. Additionally, there is the human or subjective side to the interview and they will determine, do they like you, do you fit in with their environment, and did they enjoy speaking with you. Your goal during the initial interview (other than to be liked by the interviewer) is to qualify yourself for the job and express interest

Interview Attire

There are instances where an employer may specify type of dress for an interview. They may tell you to dress casual because you may be touring the facility. But if no one specifies dress, the general guideline is as follows:

Guidlines for men:

  • Hair should be trimmed, neat and clean. Have a clean shave. If you wear a mustache or a beard, be sure to trim it neatly.
  • Wear no more than one ring on each hand and only one watch. Do not wear any other jewelry such as bracelets, necklaces, or earrings. Cover or remove any body piercing.
  • Wear a dark (navy blue, black, dark gray), single-breasted business suit.
  • Ideal shirt color – white. Concerning shirt, if you refuse to wear white, wear a light solid color, nothing flashy or flamboyant.
  • Ideal tie color – burgundy or red. Concerning tie – same philosophy as with shirt, nothing too flashy… no fish ties, no cartoon character ties, no bow ties, no bolo ties, no ties with pictures, nothing but a conservative business tie.
  • Shoes should be dark shoes (black or brown) and wear a matching belt…. No cowboy boots, no white socks (black socks ideal).
  • No gum, candy or other objects in your mouth.
  • Little or no aftershave or cologne.

Guidlines for women:

  • Clean hair, short or tied back and professional.
  • Makeup should be simple. Avoid bright colors or too heavy of an application.
  • Simple earrings, not dangling if you wear them. A pin or necklace and watch. No more than one ring per hand and no more than one bracelet. Cover or remove any other body piercing.
  • A dark conservative business suit (navy blue, black or dark gray) with tailored or pleated skirt (or pants).
  • Ideal shirt color white or cream.
  • Nails should be short to medium length, manicured with light or clear polish.
  • Shoes should be medium heel pumps, no open toes or backs.
  • Stockings or pantyhose should be flawless and conservative in color.
  • Use minimal or no perfume or cologne.
  • No gum, candy, or other objects in the mouth.

Key to a successful interview

Answer the following questions about the job and yourself. First, question yourself concerning the opportunity.

1. What’s the job?
2. How does it fit in with your skills or how would you do the work?
3. How would you communicate the way you would do the work or how would you demonstrate it?
4. How does the employer profit from you doing this job?

How you would present each topic during the interview (you would initiate this to keep the interview on track and focus on your skills & potential value to the company)

1. As you understand it, the work that needs to be done is…
2. Here is why you can do the work and why you would do it…
3. It seems important that the job be done this specific way…
4. You can make this job more profitable for the company by…

Being able to answer these four questions prior to your participation in an interview is key to your preparation. Therefore, to get ready for an initial interview, ensure you have done some homework about the company and the position for which you are being considered, and of course, know your resume so you can answer the four questions above.

At a minimum, review the information that was made available on the job posting. Spend time reviewing more information that is available via the company’s web site.

  • Take notes. Just as we stated above, know the job you are interviewing for, what are the job requirements (skills, education, experience, etc).
  • Now write down what you bring to the table that meets these requirements.
  • Next, identify your accomplishments that make you competitive for the position, and that you want to highlight during the interview. A good practice is to list the impact or achievement you want to cover during the interview; one that ties into building your case as being the right person for this job.
  • List two or three bullets on the issue surrounding it (what makes it a significant issue or achievement, what extraordinary, creative, or innovative steps, plans, etc did you use to accomplish this task).
  • State what you did that made a difference.
  • Close with what made the accomplishment important and restate what you achieved.

During the interview

  • Be confident
  • Listen to the question
  • Provide concise answers that answer the question
  • Ensure you have answered all portions of the question
  • Be ready with specific examples of your achievements
  • Ask questions too; questions that are pertinent to the job or company and your skills
  • Win the job.

Now that your homework is completed and you’re ready to interview, here are some thoughts on how to conduct yourself while interviewing. You will typically have 30 to 45 minutes for an initial interview. That is plenty of time to win the interviewer’s confidence you are worth their company’s investment. The interview is usually broken into three phases:

1. Introductions
2. Body (the actual interview)
3. The Close.

The most common question that kicks off an interview is, “Tell me about you.” This allows you to loosen up and provide a two or three minute introduction and highlights of your resume. Do not get carried away. A typical introduction will include:

  • Where you are from (hometown usually)
  • Where you went to college (if applicable), maybe why you chose the school and major,
  • A brief overview of your experience or the jobs you have held to date
  • Why you are looking for a new career (keep it positive, even if you are a victim of “downsizing”, do not dwell on it).

Once you are past the introduction, the client will typically have questions they have prepared that they want to cover. Some will be rigid and intend to cover all questions they have written. Others will start with what they have prepared, but will be flexible as to what they intend to cover based on your responses.

  • Listen to and answer the question. Seems obvious, but we have heard overwhelming feedback that this is often not accomplished during the interview, particularly if the question was a two-part question. One client’s Feedback, “I asked candidates: Tell me about one of the achievements on your resume that reflects a quality of yours and what that quality is.” What he was looking for was an indication to the type of person they were, but in most cases, the candidates covered an achievement and the significance of the achievement, but rarely answered the personal quality portion of the question.
  • Answer the question directly. Too often candidates will talk around the answer before actually answering it, or providing the specific information the employer was asking about, wasting time.
    • Think about the question you have been asked for a moment (what does the interviewer want to know and what is the appropriate answer)
    • Answer the question with a concise answer
    • Then support your answer with a relevant fact or two
    • Whenever possible, provide specific examples of your experience to help answer a question.

Example: An employer asks about your problem solving skills; do not generalize about how you solve problems. Provide a specific example of a problem you faced, the scope of the problem, and provide the story of how you, or you and your team, solved the problem and the impact of your solution.

When given the opportunity:

  • Turn the interview into a conversation, not an interrogation.
  • Be prepared with questions of your own.
  • Good areas to cover to break the ice with the interviewer and you get a chance to ask questions:
    • What led the interviewer to the company for employment?
    • What are other kinds of work that he or she has done?
    • What are some of the major projects the company or your department are involved with, or will be involved with in the near future?
    • What would be your role in the projects?
    • What are some of the problems that you will have to tackle (You might take advantage of the answer to that question to offer an example of a similar experience you successfully resolved and/or provide some initial solutions to the problems. Ask for feedback to see your thoughts are on track with their approach)?
    • Note 1. Use caution and do not take control of the interview. Keep in mind that the interviewer is in charge, so do not steal the show… ask questions to move into a conversation mode, but watch the interviewers body language… if he or she is ready to ask another question, or is ready to move on, pass control back and allow the interviewer to do so.
    • Note 2. Never interrupt the interviewer or cut the interviewer off.

Toward the end of the interview you will have an opportunity to express interest in the company, the job, and it will be time to close. Do not end the interview yourself. The employer will start to wrap up the process. Often he or she will give you one more opportunity to ask questions, then after you have done so the employer will typically thank you for your time and may provide an idea of what to expect next. This is your opportunity to close. If you want a follow up interview and/or site visit, do not be bashful about letting the interviewer know about your interest. Some people are uncomfortable with this task. They do not want to appear desperate or come across as groveling. The bottom line is, if you want the job, state it. If you want the next interview, state it. If you want a site visit, state it. Suggestions (use what is applicable):

  • “I have really enjoyed our conversation, and based on what I know today, I see me as part of your team. I would like this opportunity.”
  • “This has been great; I would like to become a part of this company.”
  • “I have enjoyed our conversation and I have learned much. I would like to visit the facility as soon as possible.”
  • “What is the next step? I am very interested in moving forward with this.”
  • “Do you see me as the right fit for this job? Based on what I have learned, I do”

Again, during the initial interview, you must accomplish two goals for success – qualify yourself for the job and express interest.

Summary and other thoughts

1. Speak using words you are comfortable with. Do not attempt to use "corporate" words. Contrary to what many candidates think, there are no such words. If you use unfamiliar words during your interviews, you might as well be speaking a foreign language. Your natural enthusiasm and confidence will be muted by your concentration on what you are saying and not how you are saying it.

2. Make the best of the opportunity to interview. An interview should be your opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light. The only way they will know about your accomplishments is if you tell them. Being too humble and self-effacing may be desirable qualities in everyday life but they are lethal during interviews.

3. There are core areas that you will be expected to have answers for. The questions could be asked in a variety of ways but your answers can remain relatively constant if you prepare for general subject areas rather than for specific questions. The following subject areas will comprise 90% of all introductory questions:

  • High School
    Academics, athletics, leadership accomplishments.
  • College
    Why you chose to attend that particular college.
    Why you chose your major.
    Extracurricular including social organizations, athletics and any leadership accomplishments.
  • Industry
    Industry qualifications, Black Belt, ISO 9000 series, etc
    Significant accomplishments
    Why you are leaving your current job
  • Personal
    Your biggest strengths and weaknesses with examples.
    Where you grew up.
  • Sample questions
    Tell me about yourself?
    What are your short and long term goals?
    Why are you leaving your current position?
    What are your strengths and weaknesses (always out a positive spin on t he weakness)? Provide examples.
    What is your management style and how do you motivate others?
    Why should a company hire you?

4. Know yourself and your resume. Do not wing an interview. Review your life. Why did you make the major decisions you made? What successes and failures have you had? What do you really want to accomplish!

5. Never view yourself as being above a job. Odds are you will require extensive training before you are of value to any company.

6. You must sell yourself. Never assume that your resume will speak for you and that an interviewer will understand everything on your resume. You must be excited about yourself. If you are not, the interviewer will never be.

7. You must express a sincere interest in the company. A company doesn't want people who don't want them. Again, you must specifically state that you are very interested in the opportunity. Interviewers are not mind readers.

8. You must be prepared to answer why you want to do a certain type of job and what makes you interested in theirs.

9. The questions you ask during an interview demonstrate as much about you as the answers you give. Ask questions with depth that require the interviewer to think. Just because you know the answer to a question is not a reason to not ask it. Never ask about money or benefits on the initial interview. Questions should center on the specifics of the opportunity, the people you will be supervising or working with, the training program and the career track. If you run out of questions, ask the interviewer about him or her.

10. Be focused on the opportunity being discussed. Telling a company about your desire to get an MBA and eventually own your own company while interviewing for a manufacturing opportunity that requires shift work could kill your chances for employment with that company.

11. Interpersonal Interpersonal skills are a priority for most companies. When you discuss an accomplishment you must mention how great your relationship with your people was and how "we" did it. Discuss recognition programs, situations where you turned a "bad" performer around, etc

12. No negative answers. Regardless of how bad your boss was or how much you hated being in a certain place, negative comments give the impression that you are impossible to please and will be unhappy wherever you go.

13. Thank you notes should always be hand-written. Ensure you have the proper spelling of your interviewer's name and after writing a brief note that expresses your interest in the opportunity and mentions something specific about your interview get them in the mail ASAP. Speed impresses. This is a lost art. Do not take the easy way out with an e-mail you saved from a previous interview, cut and paste the new name and send…. Take the time to write a personal thank you letter; it will have a positive impact.

14. Salary discussion during an initial interview. It is unusual for a serious discussion concerning salary to be brought up during an initial interview, but it does happen occasionally. Never initiate a discussion concerning salary yourself. When asked about your salary expectations, do not give a flat figure right away; provide a range. You will have an idea of the salary being considered for the opportunity from the job posting. A smart approach is to provide a range, but before committing to a figure, a review of a complete offer package will help determine a good salary. If you are pressed for a bottom line during this interview, provide one; just do not lead with it when the question is first asked. Additionally, if being pressed for a bottom line or what is the minimum salary you would consider, take the time to emphasize your focus on a career and growth with the company, not just your minimum salary expectations for this job, or qualify your minimum salary with growth expectations and the opportunity to prove yourself.

Common Interview Questions

1. Why are you leaving your current position?
2. What do you consider your most significant accomplishment (key here is what you did—not what your company or group does on a regular basis)?
3. Have you ever accomplished something you did not think you could?
4. What did you like most about your last position?
5. What did you dislike about your last position (caution – do not go too negative and keep it short – safe answers bureaucracy, red-tape impeding progress, external factors that prevented process improvement – be ready to give an example)?
6. How do you handle pressure?
7. Give me an example of your initiative.
8. What is the worst or most embarrassing aspect of your career? Looking back, how would you have done things differently?
9. How have you grown professionally over the past few years?
10. What do you consider your most significant strength?
11. What do you consider your most significant weakness? This one trips up a lot of folks… but it’s your opportunity to show a weakness you improved upon and turned into a strength… for example, “I used to believe, if I wanted to get the job done right, do it myself. But as I grew, I learned how to maintain responsibility for the job, but to train and delegate to others to perform at my expectations, improving the effectiveness of my team.”
12. How do you handle meeting a tough – what seems to be impossible to meet – deadline?
13. What can you do for us someone else cannot?
14. What goals have you set recently?
15. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
16. How would your subordinates describe you?
17. What do you think of your supervisor?
18. Tell me about someone you had to work for, but you did not respect or like him or her? Careful here.
19. How long would it take you to make a contribution to our company?
20. Why did you choose this field of work?
21. What is the ideal job for you? If you answer anything different or too off track for what you are interviewing for, you have probably disqualified yourself for this job.
22. How do you spend your spare time?
23. What was the last book that you read?
24. Do you prefer working with others or by yourself and why?
25. What kind of boss do you prefer?
26. Give me an example of when you successfully overcame an objection, how did you overcome it, and what was the outcome?

Common questions that you should ask during an interview

1. I have a good picture of the job, but am there any more details you can provide?
2. How would you describe a typical day on the job?
3. What are the growth or promotion opportunities?
4. Where does this job fit into the organization?
5. To whom will I report?
6. What other positions would I interface with while performing my job?
7. How would you describe the work environment?
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
9. What do you like most about the company and your job?
10. Do you have any dislikes?
11. Will I have to consider relocation with promotion?
12. What further education or training does the company consider important for my future progress?
13. How are performance reviews done?
14. Is this a newly created position?
15. What is the extent of the training I will complete before performing my job?
16. Are there any travel requirements?
17. When do you expect to make a decision?
18. What is the next step?
19. What is your biggest concern when evaluating me for this position? Best timed during the close
20. Do you see me as a fit for this job? Best timed during the close and your last question

When you ask questions, if you preface some with specific information about the company, then it will show do you have done your homework. Examples:

  • I noticed on your website…
  • In a recent press release, it stated…
  • I noticed the company stock has sustained consistent growth over the past three years…


Once you have completed the interview, prepare and send a hand written thank you note. This is a professional touch that does make an impact. Resist the temptation to e-mail a standard blurb that you typically send where all you have to do is cut-and-paste the name of the recipient to an e-mail you have sent before. A short “thank you” note on a simple Thank You card is the professional touch that wraps up a good interview for you. Keep it simple. Thank the interviewer for their time. Include one sentence that you consider a highlight of the interview. Then, close with an expression of your interest in the opportunity

Career Planning Guide

Assessment & Career Counseling - Tools to help you clarify your career choices and identify jobs that might suit you.

Research - How do you find information on the things your are interested.

Networking - Links to other information sources related to careers, job searching, relocation, transition assistance, and more.

Resumes - Preparing your resume.

Interviewing - Communicating who you are and why you can do the job.

Offer Stage - Getting the compensation package you want requires knowledge of the market.