When the call comes inviting you to an interview, you can take charge by
saying, for example, I am very excited to be coming in for an interview. Of
course I read the ad (or position posting), but is there any more you can tell
me that wasn't in the ad that will help me be more prepared for my
"The message is, I am here to do my best. I'll do my homework. I am
motivated. Most people just say 'thank you very much' when they get the
call, and then they are stymied about how to handle the interview.
Most interview questions can be grouped into five basic categories:
1. Questions about your experience and your skills.
2. Questions about your interest in the job and knowledge about the
3. Questions about your previous employment.
4. Questions about your motivation and commitment.
5. Questions about your ability to fulfill specific job requirements.
Having a general idea of what to expect in an interview helps to improve
your confidence, and provides a much better first impression.
Here are five key strategies to comfortably manage and control your
interviews to help ensure success:
Sell It to Me, Don't Tell It to Me
Interviews are the time to sell what you have accomplished, not simply to
tell what you've done. For example, if you're asked how many people you
managed in your last position, it's tempting to quickly respond, "I had a
team of 35." However, a much stronger response is, "My staff at IBM
included 35 professionals and support personnel. Not only was I responsible
for managing those individuals, but I also directed all recruitment and hiring
activities, set salaries, designed bonus plans, facilitated the annual
performance review process and projected long-term staffing requirements.
What's more, my team increased annual sales by more than 35 percent
within just one year."
Turn Every Negative into a Positive
What do you do if your interviewer asks about your experience working with
Excel spreadsheets and you have none? Don't simply say you don't know
Excel. Instead, use related experiences to illustrate you have some relevant
knowledge. For example, you could answer, "I have extensive experience
designing Lotus spreadsheets, so I'm sure getting a handle on Excel won't
take any time at all." Then, even though you've been honest, you've
positively positioned yourself and your knowledge.
Big to Little
When someone asks you about your experience with mergers and
acquisitions, use the big-to-little strategy to organize your thoughts, respond
seamlessly and make it easy for your interviewer to understand your specific
experience. Start big, with an overview of your experience in M&A
transactions -- just a short description of your overall scope and depth of
experience. Then, follow up with smaller details -- two to four specific
achievements, projects or highlights that are directly related. You might talk
about your involvement in due diligence, negotiations, transactions or
acquisition integration. In essence, you're communicating, "This is what I
know, and this is how well I've done it."
Remember, You've Already Passed the First Test
Therefore, go into the interview knowing you've already got them on the
hook. Be confident, yet not boastful.
Take the Initiative
You're nearing the interview's close, and you had wanted to share your
experience in supply chain management. However, the topic was never
brought up. It is your responsibility to introduce it into the conversation. You
might comment, "Before we end, I'd like to share one more thing with you
that I think is important to the position and my fit within your organization."
Then proceed with sharing the information. You must take the initiative
during an interview to be sure you have communicated all that is of value.
You need to dance with your interviewer and let the interviewer lead. Your
job is to follow with practised intent. An interview, like a dance, brings two
people together for a common purpose. And you both have to be fully
engaged and know your respective roles for magic to happen. The music
playing in the background of this dance is, "Getting to know you, getting to
know more about you.
Interviewers dance to learn about you and your suitability for the job, your
skills, personality and attitude, your interest in the position, the
organization. You dance to learn more about the job and the employer and
to discover whether this opportunity will help further your own career goals.
At the end of every interview, critique your skills (and your dancing
partner's, as well).
Try these steps to prepare for job interviews and create an opportunity to
successfully market a product you have been developing for years - you.
1. Know your resume - This sound obvious, but aspects of a resume
prepared weeks or months before can escape you on the day of the
interview. Make sure that you re-read your resume, and are comfortable
with the wording, the way you have described your skills, responsibilities
2. Know the "story" of your resume - If you have prepared your resume
well, the job you are applying for should look like an obvious next step.
Some people have a variety of different experiences and work histories -
look for common themes (entrepreneurial companies, similar positions in
different fields, similar types of issues dealt with), that provide a logical and
somewhat consistent story as to what you have been doing.
3. Know what you have to offer an employer and ensure you read
the job description. Knowing the employer's expectations will help guide
your answers and the questions you ask. You can bridge your pertinent skills
to the job by being prepared to discuss your related strengths,
accomplishments and personal qualities, demonstrated with relevant
examples. Know the skills you wish to develop and be able to relate how
they will benefit both the position and yourself.
Don't overlook valuable transferable skills from, for example, teamwork and
leadership experiences, or successful decision-making/problem-solving
Remember, you are both the salesperson and the product you are selling.
4. Plan ahead to present a professional appearance. Remember, your
appearance also includes body language, posture and facial expression.
5. Research the company. Before your interview, ask your company
contact person about the interview process and if, for example, it includes a
personality, aptitude testing component, or both. Other reasons are to to
become knowledgeable enough to determine if this organization "fits" you,
your needs, ethics, philosophy; to become knowledgeable enough to
compose good questions to ask; and to show you've done your homework.
6. Anticipate question areas and specific questions you will probably
Ask yourself "If I was an employer for this particular position, what kinds of
things might I want to focus on, or get clarification on, in an interview?
Try this too: Immediately following each interview, jot down all the industry-
related questions you were just asked. You will quickly and easily compile an
important resource for yourself.
7. Rehearse your answers, but don't overdo the practice.
8. Prepare good questions to ask your interviewer based on the job
description or your understanding of the position. Develop questions
that will provide more information about the job and company that you knew
prior to your interview.
9. Get your references ready now. Don't forget to ask your referees'
permission before offering their names. In advance of your interview, send
each referee a brief thank-you note for his or her assistance and enclose a
copy of your resumé. The resumé updates their information and helps them
speak more knowledgeably about you.
Well run interviews generally progress through three stages:
1. A short introductory stage in which the interviewer is "sizing you up".
2. An exchange of information stage in which both you and the
interviewer ask questions of each other to evaluate fit for the job.
3. The "closing" stage that wraps up the interview.
It is helpful to keep in mind that, "You don't get a second chance to make a
first impression." Most interviewers "size up" the candidate in the first three
minutes of the interview. In many cases, the rest of the interview serves
primarily to confirm either a positive or negative impression. Candidates who
make a strong first impression are often forgiven for any weak responses
that might occur later on.
Near the end of the interview, the interviewer will probably inform you about
the process used for selecting the successful candidate and how long it
might take. If appropriate, ask if it would be acceptable for you to call the
interviewer and if so, when you should call.
Thank the interviewer(s) for their time and the opportunity to meet them.
Leave with the same level of confidence which you entered the meeting
because even if you think the interview went poorly, the interviewer may
think otherwise. It is a good idea to write a brief letter of thanks for the
interviewer's time and consideration. This helps set you apart from the other
candidates and can serve to remind the interviewer of your strongest
It is a good practice to make some notes about how the interview went while
the details are still fresh in your mind. Jot down your impressions, how you
might respond to the same questions in future interviews.
1. Describe your ideal job and/or boss.
2. Why are you looking for a job?/Why are you leaving your current
3. What unique experience or qualifications separate you from other
4. Tell me about yourself.
5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
6. Describe some of your most important career accomplishments.
7. What are your short-term/long-term goals?
8. Describe a time when you were faced with a challenging situation and
how you handled it.
9. What are your salary requirements?
10. Why are you interested in this position?/ Our company?
11. What would your former boss/colleagues say about you?
12. What are the best and worst aspects of your previous job?
13. What do you know about our company?
14. What motivates you?/ How do you motivate others?
To avoid rambling and being too general, try the S-T-A-R formula. Tell them
about the specific Situation, the Tactics/Thoughts you used, the Action you
took, and the Results
Tell me about yourself. What the interviewer is really saying is, "Tell me
about yourself in relation to this job." The question provides an opportunity
to begin your sales pitch.
Tip: Keep your answer brief and targeted. Prepare a two-minute response
about your work history, training, goals and personal interests. Before each
interview, customize it to the position in question.
After you have finished answering the question you might ask, "Is there
anything I've mentioned that you'd like to know more about?"
What are your strengths? Identifying your strengths and matching them
to the job is an important step in preparing for your interview. Again, target
your response to the needs of the job being discussed.
Tip: Answering this question directly isn't bragging, it's salesmanship.
Rather than list all the positive adjectives, identify three descriptors at most.
When the list gets too long, you answer seems less genuine.
Consider this example; “I believe people will likely notice three things about
me. I work well with others, I am consistently professional in my approach
to responsibilities and I like to deliver results.” Regardless of what three
things you choose to say, you leave the impression that your answer is a
thoughtful one rather than a barrage of complimentary phrases.
"If I had to name three of my key strengths, they would be dependability,
teamwork and communications." You can then embellish a bit on those
three, or another three you choose, but limiting the list helps the listener to
focus and makes you sound much more prepared and thoughtful.
Find your value proposition. What is it that makes you uniquely
qualified and desirable to your target employers?
You have a combination of skills, experiences and personality characteristics
that sets you apart, so make sure you get that message across.
It is the right combination of attributes that wins the day, rather than single
features. So when you are responding to the implicit (or explicit) question
"Why should we hire you?," directly refer to a combination of possibly three
or four attributes that add up to a valuable addition to the team.
Assessing Your Strengths
Assess your skills, and you will identify your strengths. This is an exercise
worth doing before any interview. Make a list of your skills, dividing them
into three categories:
1. Knowledge-based skills: Acquired from education and experience
(e.g., computer skills, languages, degrees, training and technical
2. Transferable skills: Your portable skills that you take from job to
job (e.g., communication and people skills, analytical problem solving
and planning skills).
3. Personal traits: Your unique qualities (e.g., dependable, flexible,
friendly, hard working, expressive, formal, punctual and being a team
When you complete this list, choose three to five of those strengths that
match what the employer is seeking in the job posting. Make sure you can
give specific examples to demonstrate why you say that is your strength if
Assessing Your Weaknesses
Probably the most dreaded part of the question. Everyone has weaknesses,
but who wants to admit to them, especially in an interview?
The best way to handle this question is to minimize the trait and emphasize
the positive. Select a trait and come up with a solution to overcome your
weakness. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate more on
professional traits. For example:
"I pride myself on being a 'big picture' guy. I have to admit I sometimes
miss small details, but I always make sure I have someone who is detail-
oriented on my team."
Why did you leave your last employer? If you left your last job seeking
greater challenge and responsibility and on good terms, you will probably
have little trouble with this question. But if you were let go, or nudged out in
some way, this could be a touchy issue.
Work diligently to develop a philosophical view of the circumstances.
Something like: "Leaving wasn't my idea, but it became necessary because .
Still, I learned a great deal in that job. Now, I'm very keen to apply that
knowledge to another position, like this one, that better suits my abilities."
Tip: Never bad-mouth a previous employer, no matter how sympathetic the
interviewer may seem.
Common Acceptable Reasons for Leaving:
Looking for a new challenge
Current employer is downsizing
Current employer is relocating
Advancement opportunities are very limited with current employer
Business is poor and the company’s financial situation is looking
Relocating to be with a significant other
Why should we hire you? This question is generally asked toward the end
of the interview and may be worded in softer language, such as: "Are you
interested in this job?"
It gives you an opening to indicate your strong interest in the position and
the organization. Here's you can summarize what you've learned about the
position and re-emphasize your skills, abilities and experience as they relate
to this position.
Your answer should repeat information about being organized. “From what I
have heard throughout the interview, it sounds like you're looking for
someone to come in and bring order to projects here. Since I am known for
my organizational skills, I know I would be a real asset.”
Tip: This is often your final chance to sell yourself.
Question: "What is your greatest achievement to date, and why?".
Do I answer with a personal "life-growing" achievement, an employment
achievement, a combination of both (if possible), or something different
Employers pose this question to learn more about you and what makes you
tick. Your answer says, "This is what's important to me, what I value, how I
make judgments, how I handle myself." It indicates how self-aware you are,
how you understand the requirements of the job and your suitability for it.
Accomplishment is something that gave you two pleasures: enjoyment while
doing it, and satisfaction from the outcome. That doesn't mean that you may
not have sweated as you did it, or hated some parts of the process, but it
does mean that basically, you enjoyed most of the process. The pleasure
was not simply in getting it done.
It doesn't matter whether your accomplishment comes from school, work or
your personal life. It will be most provocative, however, when you're able to
point out how the accomplishment relates to the opportunity under
Here's an example: Let's say you're applying for a position that requires an
active team player, but your formal work history doesn't include much
teamwork, at least nothing that gave you a sense of achievement. On
campus, however, you were happily involved in several organizing
committees for large student events.
Search your memory to find the one event that was the most challenging,
enjoyable or satisfying. Prepare to discuss the event, and your role in it as
an "accomplishment story." (These stories are most illustrative when they
feature a single event.)
Recall the entire process in detail from your first meeting to the final event.
What was committee's objective? What challenges, problems or obstacles
arose? How did the "team" meet or overcome them? What role or roles did
you play? What skills and abilities did you use? What was the outcome?
What did you learn about working as part of a team? What did you learn
about yourself? What gave you a sense of satisfaction?
Use this information to craft the SAR (Situation/Action/Result) storytelling
formula. Begin your SAR story with a description of the situation. What was
the committee's objective? How was it structured? What problems and
obstacles had to be overcome?
The challenge is to "set the stage," providing the listener with a context in
which to place you and your abilities. Next, talk about the "action" that was
taken, both by the committee and by you.
When discussing your own actions, you're offering a glimpse of you on the
job, so be thorough. Close the story by noting the "results," the successful
outcome, the lessons you learned, the satisfaction you felt.
You may be wise to come up with several accomplishment stories and
prepare to tell each one. Then, when asked about your "greatest
accomplishment," you can pick one that relates to the position for which you
It is likely that you will be asked to give an example of an achievement or
contribution from a previous job. After you describe this example, you might
follow it up with a question like, "Would I be facing similar situations here?"
or "Does that example fit with what you were looking for? Would you like to
hear other examples?"
What Are Your Long-Term Goals?
This open-ended question -- and others like, "Where do you see yourself in
five years?" -- throws most candidates off balance. Interviewers ask this
question to gain insight into your self-awareness and communication skills.
Think about what you really want. Most successful business people will tell
you that a key success factor is the ability to set and achieve goals.
Begin by setting short-term goals. Right now your goal may be to get a job.
But what kind of job? And where do you go from there?
Be employer-centered. The employer is looking for someone to come in and
After giving some thought as to where you want to go and how you can help
the employer achieve results, try scripting your answer. Here's an example:
"I have learned that long-term goals are best achieved when I break
them into shorter goals. My short-term goal is to find a position that
will put me in a forward-moving company with solid performance and
future projections. As part of a team, I want to add value and continue
to grow the company. My long-term goal will depend on where the
company goes. My plan is to move into a position of responsibility
where I can lead a team."
What motivates you?" is another one of those soul-searching interview
questions where your answer will depend on your background and
Two candidates answer the motivation question, reflecting their values and
what is important to them.
The first one says, "In my previous job, I worked directly with customers
and their problems. What I liked was solving problems and helping people.
Sometimes it took a lot of effort on my part, but it was very rewarding when
the customer appreciated the service."
This answer reflects the candidate's interest in helping people and the
satisfaction he gets in finding solutions.
The second candidate says, "Two years ago, I was involved in a project I
was really excited about. The team I was working with had to come up with
innovative ways to market a product that was not received well by
consumers. It took lots of effort and long meetings, but we met our deadline
and launched a terrific marketing campaign. It was really a motivating
This candidate likes thinking outside the box and being part of a team. He
loves a challenge and works well with pressure and deadlines.
Prepare Your Script
What was it that was motivating about this experience? Being in charge?
Being the source of information? Controlling the flow of work? Making sure
the standards were in line with your work values?
By making a list of motivating experiences from your last two or three jobs,
you will begin to see patterns of projects and tasks that stand out. Analyze
what you did before. Do you want more of this type of responsibility in your
next job? The answers to these questions will give you insight into what
stimulates you as well as possibilities for fulfillment in future jobs with
Additionally, by focusing on times when you were energized by your work,
you may become more enthusiastic about the job you are seeking.
There is no such thing as the perfect answer to the motivation question.
Your answer will be based on your own individual experiences and analysis.
Ultimately, this exercise will help you reveal to the interviewer what turns
you on in your work. Even if you are not asked this question, your pre
interview thinking, analysis and scripting will help you be more focused and
in control of what you want in your next job.
To put your best foot forward in any job interview, you need to
a) What is the message I want to get across to the interviewer or
b) What three or four pieces of information about myself do I want
to make sure I bring out?
If you're applying for a job in the aviation industry, your message may be
that you've worked in that industry, or that you've had experience in other
fields that are rapidly deregulating, or in other industries that have faced
Whatever your message, think about the best way to communicate it. You
should have a few facts or stories you want to bring out, and you should
never finish an interview until you've done so. Maybe you just want to drop
the names of a few industry leaders who know your work. Maybe you have
an anecdote that shows how you took charge of a troubled situation -
preferably one much like those that your prospective employer may be
currently facing - and turned it around.
Your best chance will probably come when the interviewer asks you how you
think you can contribute to the company. Be prepared. If the interviewer's
questions don't seem to be heading in a direction that would let you cite
your accomplishments, it's okay to subtly take the initiative.
I am extremely underpaid and normally exaggerate what I am currently
earning when asked in hopes of increasing my chances of earning a better
salary. How can I ensure my worthiness after divulging the truth about my
A: Do not divulge your "pathetic salary". What you earn presently does not
have to be a starting point for salary discussions. Tell the client that you
would be interested in a position which pays the going rate for your kind of
work. Then state what you believe a reasonable rate would be and ask them
if that is what they had in mind. Even if they directly ask what you are
presently earning, tell them you prefer to discuss what is reasonable pay for
the job they have. Some diplomatic assertiveness as well as some
knowledge of reasonable pay rates is necessary here.
After having been downsized from an EVP position in a multinational
company how do I convince potential employers of my sincerity in applying
for and accepting less senior positions.
A: Taalk in terms of finding a match with an opportunity you value rather
than focusing on position titles. Genuinely demonstrate your belief in how a
particular opportunity fits with your career to date, your values and your
future plans. People will want to know why you are applying for positions
that might be seen as a step back. If they are not assured that you would
quickly leave them for a higher position, they bring both commitment and
“bench strength” to a position. When asked for references, respond by
asking how many they would like and who they would like to speak with. Let
the prospective employer guide your choice of references.
Peruse the action verbs we have provided for you. They are divided into specific job
roles. Even if you have an excellent skill set, your resume is still the single most
important tool to introduce yourself and sell your services. Giving your resume a
polish and keeping it up to date will really pay off.
Project/Team Leadership/Management Roles
Administered Developed Managed
Analyzed Directed Motivated
Assigned Encouraged Organized
Attained Established Oversaw
Built Evaluated Planned
Chaired Executed Prioritized
Coached Expedited Produced
Consolidated Founded Recommended
Contracted Improved Reviewed
Coordinated Increased Scheduled
Delegated Instituted Strengthened
Designed Led Supervised
Administered Educated Restored
Advised Facilitated Rolled-out
Assessed Familiarized Set-up
Assisted Fixed Supported
Clarified Guided Taught
Coached Maintained Tested
Communicated Referred Upgraded
Verbs of accomplishments
Achieved Improved Reduced
Developed Launched Restored
Generated Managed Spearheaded
Implemented Pioneered Transformed
Exude Confidence And Be At Your Very Best In Job Interviews
In this article I will be covering a peak performance strategy - mental
rehearsal + NLP , you can be at your best when you need to be in a job
I will walk you through the process by applying it to an interview situation.
1. Define in detail how you want to perform in the interview:
Describe to yourself in words the way you want to be. How would you
look and sound to a neutral observer? e.g. I see myself in an interview
room sitting by a desk. I look relaxed, and I am smiling, alert and
energetic. I am paying close attention to the other people in the room.
My posture is upright and I am making conversation easily and
effortlessly. I exude confidence.
2. Mentally rehearse the interview from the perspective of an
observer: In your imagination visualize yourself at the interview
comfortable and at ease meeting people, feeling relaxed and confident.
Pretend that you are observing yourself from the other side of the
room. The trick here is to imagine events unfolding in vivid 3D with
rich colors. For many people, making the image large and close also
helps to make it feel more realistic. Have fun playing with the image
until it seems as real as watching T.V. or a movie screen.
Take care also to introduce sounds - maybe the scratching of a pen on
paper, the squeak of a moving chair or the sound of your own voice
exuding authority and confidence. You can make sounds come to life
by turning up the volume as you imagine that you are listening to full,
resonant sounds in the room so that it is as if you are really there.
Introduce feeling as well - sense the atmosphere in the room, the
temperature and mood, and soak up the aura of success that you
exude in the imagined picture.
Then introduce different scenarios for different types of people you
may encounter. Imagine talking to someone who is putting you under
pressure! See yourself politely dealing with everything thrown at you.
What will you do if you are left sitting there facing a wall of silence?
See yourself acting decisively and without fear to move onto the next
opportunity to create rapport. Picture yourself at ease whoever you
talk to, it is especially important to consider worst-case scenarios and
to visualize yourself handling each challenge with unstoppable
3. Mentally rehearse the interview from your own perspective:
When you are pleased with the imagined performance you are
producing, step inside the image of yourself and run through the
scenarios again as if YOU are now doing it. See, feel and hear it as if it
is really happening. This time, you are looking out into the world from
your own eyes, so your arms are directly in front of you with people
facing you, as you feel your clothes on your body. Allow it all to unfold
in great detail - make it as real as possible by letting your imagination
free to create a rich and colorful panoramic view of a successful day.
Finally, pay special attention again to feelings, really spend time
imagining yourself feeling exactly the way you want to feel, and then
crank it up and double the intensity until it could not possibly get any
better. Then, imagine it even better again!
4. Set up a peak performance signal: Ask yourself - what signal will
you use as a reminder to use your ability to perform in this way? I use
the feeling of sitting on my own and getting tense as my mind goes
blank. The signal can be something you see, feel or hear inside or
outside yourself and it must happen at or close to the point of wanting
to speak to someone. Other examples include seeing yourself
surrounded by a group of strangers, hearing someone ask you your
opinion, or the feeling that you want to be more outgoing even as you
feel yourself getting more self-conscious right now - why not use self-
consciousness to trigger better communication skills!
Imagine the signal happening and visualize yourself performing at your best
in the interview.
Some final points. Like anything in life it takes time to get really good at
mental rehearsal. Using this visualization technique for twenty minutes a day
will train your brain to perform new behaviors. The results will astound you.
Judge mental rehearsal by trying it out in the real world and decide for
yourself how effective it can be. Use it to prepare
for those crucial job interviews and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from
knowing that you are performing at your very best.
Eventually you will be able to use this approach in day-to-day situations on
the spur of the moment by focusing on using the power of your imagination.
APPEARANCE & ACTION
According to one study, people evaluate one another using the "Three Vs":
visual (appearance), vocal (voice) and verbal (what you say). About 93
percent of a person's communication effectiveness is determined by
The first 30 seconds make or break the connection between two people
when they meet for the first time. So the next time you're on an interview,
keep in mind that the interviewer may be drawing conclusions about you
before you've even gotten to the real interview.
The following seven steps, or "two-minute drill," will guide you toward a
best-case interview scenario.
Appearance counts. When you look good, you feel good. Make sure you look
groomed and neat. If you were a book, would someone want to read more?
Your clothes and accessories should be conservative and neutral, rather than
wild and loud. Your clothes are your packaging and should not take attention
away from the product.
Nonverbal communication sometimes conveys a stronger message than
verbal communication. When you slouch, whether sitting or standing, you're
saying volumes about you and your confidence level. Sit up straight -- like
your mother always told you to. When you stand, make yourself as tall as
possible: shoulders back and head held high.
Eye contact and smiles can indicate a confident and upbeat attitude. You will
notice that many job postings ask for enthusiasm and energy. This is a good
opportunity to demonstrate your social and interpersonal skills as well as
your excitement about the opportunity for which you're interviewing.
The handshake sends a strong tactile message. Whether your hands are hot
and sweaty or cold and clammy, you can try some tricks to control the
temperature. To cool your hands, try running cold water on the insides of
your wrists. Use hot water if your hands are cool. If you have particularly
sweaty hands, try using a deodorant gel (antiperspirant) as a lotion.
Your voice and the volume of your speech convey a strong impression.
Whether the interview's over the phone or face-to-face, you should speak
with enthusiasm and energy. Use a firm voice to demonstrate your
Your vocabulary reveals your communication skills and ability to interact
with people, especially ones you've not met before. The words you choose
will say something about you, as well as your knowledge of the industry. It
is important to use their words and talk their talk.