With the uncertainties in today's workplace, the ability
to continue your career may depend on your interviewing capabilities.
Few of us have many opportunities to practice the skills required
until they are most needed. The interview is an exercise in selling
yourself. There is seldom a second chance to correct poor first
impressions. You should not try to revise your image; just be yourself
- but put forth your best self.
A first rule we stress in interviewing is to concentrate
on selling yourself. Once offered an opportunity, you will have
adequate time to determine whether it is right for you. In order
to sell anything successfully, it is necessary to satisfy the buyer's
(employer's) needs. Careful research into the company, position,
and individuals with whom you will meet will provide valuable tools
to assure that you address the company's need. If the company's
interviewing style allows, it is very helpful to get them to elaborate
on their requirements early in the interview process. If available,
you should review the company's annual report. Speak with any friends
or associates who have worked for or with the company in an attempt
to learn all you can about the company and the people with whom
you will interview.
It is most important to be thoroughly prepared for
the interview. Have a fresh copy (or several) of your resume available,
as well as contact information on your references, so you can provide
immediate response if asked for this information. Dress appropriately;
this means very formal and conservative. Even if you are somewhat
overdressed for the occasion, you will still look your sharpest
and feel most confident.
Take an active role in the interview. Passive interviewing
never works. You must not assume that the company knows how to conduct
an interview and will ask you the right questions to draw out your
talents. While it is not necessary to wrest control of the interview,
you must be fully prepared to take advantage of every opportunity
to sell yourself. This means advanced preparation on how you plan
to answer a variety of questions, and a careful assessment of the
skills you bring to the table, so you can easily demonstrate how
you can be an asset in their position. Practice before a spouse,
a close friend, or a mirror, so you are comfortable with your responses.
Think of the interview as a professional process. While
both parties will be naturally nervous, you must work at developing
a pleasant, friendly and business-like atmosphere. A good interview
is like a good business meeting. If all that transpires is a discussion
of sports or fishing, little work has been accomplished; if the
meeting is so tense that both parties are on edge constantly, little
good will come of the meeting. Instead, both parties should come
away with the feeling that an excellent exchange of ideas occurred,
and that their objectives were in large part attained by the interview.
To be a successful applicant you must emphasize your
positive accomplishments. A company should be interested in you
for what you can bring to them. Avoid discussion of negatives. No
one ever left a job because he loved it. Even if the company asks
you why you left your previous employer, they are not interested
in the gory details, but rather want to satisfy themselves that
there was no problem that will carry over to their employ. Long
discussions of dissatisfactions with previous employers will only
harm you. Some interviewers, usually because they are uncertain
of productive questions to ask, will ask negatively worded questions.
Be prepared to answer them briefly, and turn the question to a positive
point. "What do you do least well?", could be answered
by an anecdote that describes how you took a former area of weakness,
and through diligent work, turned it into an area of strength.
Likewise your own questions during an interview should
be positive. Rather than asking, "How much time will I have
to spend in the field?", you might ask "Will I have an
opportunity to go to the field to visit the wells for which I am
responsible?" You can then use your own standards to determine
whether the company's response is to your liking, rather than having
implied an unwillingness to perform a particular task. Similarly,
avoid questions that concentrate on trivial matters, or subjects
best left for the company, such as "How much vacation will
While asking perceptive questions during an interview
may impress the company, you must be careful of your approach. Stop
to consider how your question will be perceived by your interviewer.
Many an interview has been spoiled by a tactless question. Asking
an exploration manager to explain a company's previous lack of success,
or a controller to discuss a poor financial performance, may not
be the best way to get yourself hired. If you have concerns such
as these, they are better saved until you have been offered a position,
or asked of a neutral bystander who will not be evaluating you as
a candidate for employment.
Do not undersell yourself. An interview is not the
time to be modest. No one else will be there to brag of your accomplishments.
On the other hand, make sure you only take personal credit for what
you have done. Giving credit for a successful team effort while
stressing your contributions to the effort is often much more effective.
Do not dwell on areas where you fail to have all the expertise the
company is seeking. If they are going to hire you, it will be for
what you can do, and not what you haven't done. I am not talking
about trying to mislead anyone into hiring you for a position where
you are unqualified, but most jobs should provide room for growth.
Rarely is anyone hired for a position where he is "fully qualified."
Too often we have seen individuals who meet ninety per cent of the
client's requirements spend most the interview trying to convince
an employer that they can do the remaining ten per cent of the job,
while ignoring their obvious qualifications. Often, as a result,
they talk themselves out of a position where they were the best
Remember that the interviewer will have to formulate
a recommendation on whom to hire. It is easy to recommend someone
who is enthusiastic about the prospects of joining the company,
and confident of his own abilities to do the job. Rarely will someone
recommend an individual who has expressed doubts about his interest
in the job or ability to perform the task. All too often candidates
assume that the company is aware of their interest merely because
they took time to interview, or satisfied with their qualifications
because they have perused their resume. Nothing could be further
from the truth. It is essential that, if interested in the position,
you clearly and overtly communicate your interest. Words such as
"This opportunity appears to be exactly what I'm looking for"
or a similar statement are most appropriate.
A very effective technique for expressing your confidence
in your abilities, as well as ensuring that you and the interviewer
have been communicating, is to summarize the course of the interview.
Tell the company what you understand they are looking for and why
you believe you are well-suited for the position. There are several
advantages to this approach. Most individuals when confronted like
this will level with you about your chances of being hired. While
you may find out early on that you are not a candidate, this is
generally preferable to receiving a rejection letter after four
to six weeks of nervous anticipation. If there are some doubts in
the interviewer's mind about your capabilities, he may share them
with you. This gives you an invaluable chance to correct any misunderstandings.
You may not have mentioned an area of expertise because you were
not aware of its importance; he may not have realized that a task
was part of your previous duties, etc. I can assure you that after
an interview is concluded, it will be almost impossible to correct
such opinions. Lastly, and most importantly, if you are an excellent
candidate, these thoughts are going to be firmly cemented in the
Frequently the process involves interviews with several
individuals. You cannot assume that they have adequately communicated
about previous conversations. Cover the same relative ground with
each new interviewer. Make sure you know what he is seeking in the
position, and satisfy his needs. Attempt to get everyone with whom
you interview to become your advocate; you can't have too many.
Compensation is always a difficult topic. The old adage
that says to let the company bring up the subject still holds, but
you must be prepared to talk money. Honest open communications are
essential when discussing such an important subject. Be tactful
in handling the discussion of compensation, because a salary request
can easily be misinterpreted as an absolute. The company may chose
not to offer you a position if it is not prepared to fully meet
your salary demands, yet your position may be more negotiable than
Be willing to share your present compensation, if asked.
If not willing to quote your exact salary, have a plausible reason.
Be hesitant to quote a base salary requirement until you have all
the facts. It is most appropriate to tactfully inquire about issues
such as benefits, moving expenses, incentive compensation plans,
etc. prior to responding to a request for a salary requirement.
Rarely should you respond to such a request with a range. This only
confuses the communication process. I recommend that you pick a
reasonable figure that you will surely accept, and qualify it by
saying that you are interested in more than just base compensation,
and that if the figure you have cited poses a problem for the company,
you would certainly entertain any reasonable offer that approaches
that number. You may then decide whether or not their offer provides
sufficient inducement to join their firm. Protracted back and forth
negotiation of compensation is usually counterproductive. If, however,
you have a compelling reason to reject an offer solely on compensation
grounds, it doesn't hurt to explain your reason to the company,
and give them the opportunity to respond. Perhaps they have misunderstood
your situation, or you have overlooked some aspect of their offer.
It is always to your advantage to preserve good relations, you may
have to deal with the same people at a later time.
Finally, end the interview on a positive note. Thank
them for their time, and, if they have not reached a conclusion
on your candidacy, assure them that you will be available for further
meetings if necessary. If possible make an appointment to contact
them in the near future about the results of the interview, and
let them know one last time of your continued interest. Follow up
with a thank you letter, usually to each person with whom you have
While these are very simple suggestions on how to handle
an interview, years of experience has demonstrated the importance
of adhering to these principles. They will help you make sure the
company fully recognizes your potentials as an employee, and give
you your best shot at being hired. Good luck on your next interview!
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