In-Person Interview Tips

January 3, 2012


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Telephone Interview Tips

 Research Research Research!

In today’s information age, there is no excuse for showing up at an interview uninformed.  Use the web to learn everything you can about the company and its employees.  If you uncover any negative information, do not bring it up at the interview.  Every company knows what their challenges are.  They do not need a candidate off the street to remind them.  That said, should you become the successful candidate, you will have an opportunity at the end of the process when you hopefully receive an offer to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Be Prepared to sell Yourself 

At least a day or two before the interview, try to recall at least two examples of where you made a difference with your past employers.  Employers tend to hire candidates who have exceeded expectations in the past.  It could be that you created a program which increased sales, developed a new process that saved money, wrote an employee handbook, went out of your way for a customer, prevented a problem by being proactive, solved a problem with a difficult employee or in some way exceeded expectations. Be very detailed in your description of the situations as well.  Instead of saying “I had an employee in one of our locations who was having a problem with scheduling,” try “I had an employee named Mary in our downtown Cincinnati location, which is one of our largest volume stores, and she was having a problem with scheduling.”  Then go on to explain how you turned the situation around and what the final results were. Details make your examples more vivid, believable and memorable.

After you have decided on your examples of past success, apply adjectives to them.  Think about the personal qualities of yours that enabled you to be successful in the situations you are about to describe.  Was your success the result of the fact that you are highly creative, resourceful, strategic, energetic, analytical, executional, proactive or competitive?

Interviewers tend to ask the same questions many different ways:  “Why should we hire you, what sets you apart, what do you have to bring to the party, what have you done you done for your current employer,” etc.  You will be able to answer each question with the same string of personal qualities you have developed above.  Do not be concerned if this seems redundant.  They will be the words/qualities the interviewer is longing to hear.  By having specific actions related to those adjectives, you will be able to add substance to the interview.  Instead of just spewing a string of adjectives (which anyone could do regardless of their true qualifications), you will state your list of qualities, but then add actual impressive examples of success/problem solving/exceeding expectations to underscore your intrinsic worth.  If you have questions about this prior to the interview, call our office for complimentary coaching.

Take at least two clean copies of your resume.

If possible, find out how many people you will be meeting and have a copy available for each one.  You do not want a prospective employer running around trying to copy your resume.  Have your reference list available but do not offer it unless asked.  I recommend putting the resume inside some type of paper portfolio cover and leaving it with the interviewer.  That way, after you leave your resume will be easier to find and will stand out from others.

Take something to write on.

A leather portfolio that holds a legal pad works well.  Don’t forget a working pen!

When You Arrive at the Interview

As clichéd as it may be, there is probably no adage truer than this one:  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  We live in a visual society and tend to size each other up almost instantly.  Be sure you look like a million bucks.  The interviewer is going to assume that however you look when you walk through that door is as good as you can ever look in your life.  Stand up VERY tall (think about there being a string on top of your head pulling you up), look the interviewer straight in the eye and SMILE as you firmly shake his or her hand.

Ask for a business card from everyone you meet the second you meet them or you may forget.  (You will want to write thank you letters as soon as you arrive home).


If you are wearing a jacket, unbutton it.  Do not cross your legs or your arms.  Try to show the palms of your hands at least three times while you are talking.  (Body language experts indicate that doing so denotes honesty).

Let the interviewer do most of the talking.  It should be about 60/40.  Also, try to keep your answers no longer than one minute and NEVER interrupt or try to redirect the interviewer.  You may want to ask at the beginning of the interview if they prefer that you ask questions as you go along or save them until the end.

What NOT To Do

Do not talk about money or benefits.  If the subject comes up, simply say, “I’m really here today to learn everything I can about your organization and how my skills/experience can add to your success.  Marsha (or the name of your recruiter) told me what the salary range is, and I am sure if you decide to make me an offer it will be a fair one.”

NEVER LOOK DOWN!  Just as showing your palms denotes honesty, looking down denotes dishonesty.  Look at the interviewer and occasionally to the side.  If you are concerned about appearing to stare, one technique you may want to try is to mentally create an inverted triangle out of the interviewer’s eyes and mouth.  Let your eyes drift from right eye to left eye to his or her mouth and then back to the interviewer’s eyes, etc.

Do not hold anything in front of you.  Lay the leather portfolio you have brought with you either on your lap or on the interviewer’s desk or side table.

After the Interview 

Be sure to write a thank you letter the minute you get home!  E-mail is acceptable in today’s business environment.

See our section on Thank You letters for additional tips and examples.


About Marsha McKim

Experienced Sales, Marketing and HR Recruiter with over 16 years of documented success sourcing top talent for some of America's largest Fortune 500 organizations. Specialty areas are Consumer Packaged Goods with a focus on food and beverage companies.