Conversations, Not Cross-Examinations
Each interviewer has a personal style, but most interviews can be identified using a few common labels. Many interviews will be conversational or traditional, in which interviewers chat with candidates and ask fairly typical interview questions. Some are behavioral, in which interviewers ask about past achievements, seek details regarding the behaviors and skills that contributed to these undertakings, and ask candidates “what would you do in this situation” questions. Occasionally, particularly for consulting firms, interviews are case studies, in which interviewers ask candidates to analyze specific situational cases and problems; revealing how candidates think on their feet in response to specific analysis-driven cases.
Interviews should not be thought of as simply a series of questions and answers. They are conversations with a common purpose for you and the interviewer. Both use qualification criteria to assess the other's potential to succeed. During the exchange, the more verbally inspired images of success that are sent and received, the more likely an offer will be made.
What You Say
No matter the label used, resumes are tools for you to use during any interview. Interviewers review these documents during your conversation with a particular purpose, so you should do the same. To prepare, review typical questions. Be prepared to expand upon the key points and anecdotes you identified as illustrating qualifications. Bring a resume with you to every interview.
Don't be shy! Talk about your achievements with pride. Interviewers have limited time to get to know the real you. Don't think there are right answers. When asked a technical question, if you don't know the exact answer, talk the interviewer through how you would find the correct information. Don't wait to do so; always ask questions when invited.
Don't overanalyze or dissect your performance after each interview. Decision making is very subjective. The process changes from initial screening through call-back stages and, ultimately, through selection interviews. If your style and strategies remain sincere, no matter the interviewer's style, technique, or temperament, you will find a good fit. If you don't receive an offer, never stop to ask why. Instead, you should, via follow-up contacts, seek consideration for the next available similar opportunity. Remain confident and enthusiastic. Remember to smile and be friendly, yet professional. More often than you think, you can transform someone who rejected you into a strong advocate and network member who might interview you again very soon.
Bring extra resumes with you in case you unexpectedly meet additional interviewers. You might also wish to bring supporting materials to serve as illustrations of your work. Some fields, specifically publishing, public relations, and journalism, require writing samples or portfolios. Be ready to detail what samples you have included and why they demonstrate specific talents.
Ultimately, you will communicate motivations and, most important, qualifications successfully via phone and in-person interviews. Have confidence in your abilities to project qualifications and capabilities. Always check in advance regarding how many people you will be interviewing with and how long the entire process might take. Specifically ask, “Are there any materials you recommend I read prior to my interview?”
What You Wear
Inquire about the appropriate mode of dress. Some situations and organizations are business casual. Neatly pressed slacks, an ironed shirt, and a tie (a sport coat is optional) would be appropriate for men. Slacks or skirt and an ironed shirt or sweater would be appropriate for women. Others are business formal, and suits, ironed shirts, polished shoes, and ties are a must for men, and suits are required for women.
What was once known as casual Friday has become confusing Monday through Friday for contemporary candidates. Old-fashioned rules regarding power suits, colors, and ties may not seem to apply today, but because what you wear may impact what you say and how others perceive your professionalism, in truth, they still do. Your interview image, revealed by your attire, is a projection of common sense rather than fashion sense. It's always recommended that you remain conservative and traditional with the clothing you select for interview days.
According to a joint survey conducted by the job board Yahoo!, Hot-Jobs, and retailer Banana Republic, the majority of employees wear either business casual or casual outfits to work, indicating that more companies are relaxing office dress codes. As a result, 34 percent of job seekers said on the night before an interview, they spend most of their time deciding what to wear.
Ties can be loosened, jackets removed, and sleeves can be rolled up. It's easy to transform business formal into something more casual, but the opposite is not possible. Unless specifically told otherwise, dress more formally. Suits are always appropriate and required for banking, financial services, consulting, and conservative fields. For other settings, blue blazers, gray or khaki slacks or skirts, crisply ironed shirts, and appropriate neckwear may seem like prep school uniforms, but these basics are always good bets for interviews.
Remember potential red flags. Tone down jewelry, ditch the backpack, temporarily remove nose, eyebrow, or tongue piercings, go easy on perfume or cologne, and wear polished shoes (no flip-flops or backless). Ladies should watch cleavage and hem length, and men should go with long-sleeved shirts rather than short.
After reading this chapter, you are ready to use your resume as an interview preparation and implementation tool. You have learned how to use this document to focus preparation prior to and during these crucial conversations. On interview days, simply looking at your resume should instill confidence and generate effective communication. Resumes contribute to your chances for landing a job well beyond the initial contact stages. Used effectively, they impact all actions and outcomes.