During the Interview
When you go on a job interview your goal, of course, is to make a good impression on the interviewer. Sometimes your nerves may interfere with your ability to do that. If you're a veteran interviewee, at least you know what to expect. If you're a novice, however, the whole interview process is a mystery to you. Once you become familiar with it, your anxiety may subside a little, thus allowing you to present yourself well.
Interviews fall into one of two categories: structured and unstructured. In a structured interview, the recruiter asks a prescribed set of questions, seeking relatively brief answers. In an unstructured interview, the recruiter asks more open-ended questions, to prod you into giving longer responses and revealing as much as possible about yourself, your background, and your aspirations. Some recruiters mix both styles, typically beginning with more objective questions and asking more open-ended questions as the interview progresses.
Try to determine as soon as possible if the recruiter is conducting a structured or unstructured interview, and respond to the questions accordingly. As you answer, watch for signals from the recruiter as to whether your responses are too short or too long. For example, if the recruiter is nodding or looking away, wrap up your answer as quickly as possible.
Make an Impression
As the interview continues, the interviewer will probably mention some of the most important responsibilities of the position. If applicable, draw parallels between your experience and the demands of the position as detailed by the interviewer. Describe your experience the same way you do on your resume. When describing your activities at work, emphasize your results and achievements. Never exaggerate — be on the level about your abilities.
The first interview is often the toughest. It is where many candidates are screened out. If you're interviewing for a competitive position, you'll have to make an impression that will last. Focus on a few of your greatest strengths that are relevant to the position. Develop these points carefully and reemphasize them where possible.
Remember to keep attuned to the interviewer and make the length of your answers appropriate to the situation. If you're really unsure as to how detailed a response the interviewer is seeking, ask.
Avoid the Negative and Emphasize the Positive
Try not to be negative about anything during the interview, particularly any past employer or previous job. Even if you detest your current or former job or manager, don't make disparaging comments. The interviewer may construe this as a sign of a potential attitude problem and not consider you a strong candidate.
Take some time to really think about how you'll convey your work history. Present “bad experiences” as “learning experiences.” Instead of saying “I hated my position as a salesperson because I had to bother people on the phone,” say “I realized cold-calling wasn't my strong suit. Though I love working with people, I decided my talents would be best used in a more face-to-face atmosphere.” Always find some sort of lesson from previous jobs, as they all have one.
The interview isn't only about you making a good impression on the employer. The employer should also make a good impression on you. You should be observing the interviewer, especially if he is someone with whom you'll be working. If you don't like this person in the interview, you probably won't enjoy working with him either.
Don't Talk about Money
It's usually best to avoid talking finances until you receive the offer. Otherwise you'll look like you care more about money than putting your skills to work for the company. Your goals at an interview are simple: (1) to prove to the recruiter that you're well suited to the job as you understand it and (2) to make sure you feel comfortable with the prospect of actually doing the job and working in the environment the company offers. Even if you're unable to determine the salary range beforehand, don't ask about it during the first interview. You can always ask later. Don't ask about fringe benefits until you've been offered a position. Then be sure to get all the details.
If the interviewer presses you about your salary requirements during an interview and you feel you must name a figure, give a salary range instead of an absolute number. Naming a salary range gives you a chance to hook on to a figure that's also in the range the company has in mind. In fact, many companies base their offers on sliding salary scales. Therefore, if you name a range of, say, $25,000 to $30,000, it may be that the company was considering a range of $22,000 to $28,000. In this case, you'll be more likely to receive an offer in the middle to upper end of your range. Of course, your experience and qualifications also play a part here. If you're just starting out and have little experience, the recruiter may be more likely to stick to the lower end of the scale.
When discussing salary you should never talk about your needs or wants. For example, don't say “I have a lot of bills to pay, so I need more money.” You are requesting a particular salary range because that is the going rate in your field (which you will discover through your research) and you will earn that much money because of your hard work, your experience, and what you will bring to the job.
In anticipation of the salary question, you must know what others in your field with your skills and experience are earning. You can use the Web to search for salary surveys. You can also learn about salaries through trade and professional associations, and by looking at government resources such as the