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Posted: May 17, 2011

Top 10 interview must-dos

It's scary out there, so be prepared

John Heckers

If you've been on an interview lately, you know that things are a little bit scary out there. Companies are interviewing people more times before making a decision, and taking longer than ever to make that decision, leaving many people in limbo for a very long time. While you can't force the company's hand, there are some things you can do to assure that you won't be the last candidate they think of when they're ready to make an offer. Here are ten tips that might help.

1). Dress the part. The rules have changed on this! My new rule is to dress at least one step above what everyone at the company wears. So, if everyone is corporate casual, go in with a tie and sports coat. If everyone is "business grubby," go in with a sports coat and open necked shirt. Women should do the equivalent, although they have more latitude. Of course, dress as they instruct if an instruction is given.

2). Be well prepared. Know about the company. Know all you can about the job. Do extensive research before the interview. The candidate who goes in knowing the company, the position, and the duties is much more likely to answer the questions correctly than the candidate who asks, "So, what is the job, dude?"

3). As much as you avoided H.R. before, be nice to them now. My advice is to try to avoid H.R. if at all possible during the search phase. But in the interview phase, be very nice to them. Remember that they have the ability to say one word and one word only. That word is "no." They say it often enough. Don't give them any more encouragement.

4). Don't assume that any interview is "just a formality." How many times have you been told that meeting old J.B. is "just a formality." It isn't. Every interview is your most important interview. Act like it, dress for it, and keep your eyes and ears open.

5). Prepare examples for everything. Most companies now are doing some variant of "Behavioral Interviewing," a technique that looks to past behavior to predict future performance. Make sure that you have plenty of examples for any interviewing question that you might be asked. Remember that people remember stories better than facts.

6). Know what questions you might be asked. If you don't know what interviewing questions you might be asked, buy a good interview prep book and study it. Look for both obvious and "killer" questions.

7). Know how to answer the dreaded salary question. You cannot lie or fudge on this one, regardless of what you've read or been told. Simply state what you made in the past, and indicate that you'd like to make in the same ballpark, if possible, but that you know things have changed. Then state that you're open to their best offer.

8). Don't play salary games with the company. Too many people are afraid of "leaving money on the table" if they name a salary too low. It isn't going to happen. Most companies have a salary range for each position and try to offer at the midpoint of that range, regardless of what you ask for. Don't play stupid games of chicken by saying, "Well, what do you think you'd like to offer me," or the like. Employers are on to that.

9). Ask some intelligent questions. At the end of each interview, you'll be asked if you have any questions. Ask questions that show you know the company and you've done your research. Avoid any questions about salary, vacation, benefits or bonuses. This is certainly not the time. You want to maintain the illusion that you're only interested in the opportunity. For a while yet, anyway.

10). Write a thank-you note. At the end of each interview, get a copy of the interviewer's business card. Then, before you go home, to a local coffee shop and write an actual hand-written thank you note to everyone who interviewed you. They don't have to be long or complex. In fact, short and simple is best. But reiterate why you'd be good for the position, and state that you look forward to working with them. Mail these before you go home.

There are many more tricks and tips about interviewing I have to share with you. And I'll be doing just that in person on Monday, May 23, at the DAC in my class Interview to Get That Job! More information and required registration are here. And look for my book of the same name here.
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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

Too bad, as it will be a fun and informative class. Anyone else who wants to come is welcome! Brad, I'll look forward to seeing you soon. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 22
Thanks for the invite to your program on Monday. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend. I do plan to contact your wife and schedule a time for us to get together to do some networking. Thank you. By Brad on 2011 05 22
Brad --- Another thing that just occurred to me a minute ago....the question you asked is getting answered in some detail at our class on Monday, May 23rd, 6:30 - 9 at the DAC, Interview to GET THAT JOB! We'll also answer several other "killer questions." There is more info and registration at http://interviewtogetjob.eventbrite.com . Unlike some of our classes, this is geared for all levels of job-seeker. I hope to see you there. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 22
Hi Brad. I'm happy to get together next week or the week after. Just call my wife and practice partner, Nicole, at 303.480.5484 and set up a time. Other people who want to meet with me are welcome to also call and set up a time. It might take a couple of weeks, but I am very happy to network with my loyal readers! By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 19
Thanks John. I'll check out your book and yes, I am local. Saw you last week at the Comedy Works. Maybe we can get together for a cup of coffee one day. By Brad on 2011 05 19
What you want to do, Brad, is prepare some "STAR" (Situation, Tasks, Action, Results) stories that demonstrate your skills and abilities above and beyond what the other candidates have probably prepared. There isn't room here (or even in a column) for the whole script. My book, INTERVIEW TO GET THAT JOB, available through my website http://topcareershop.com, has a complete script for this and over 1,000 other killer questions. If you're in the Denver area, I'm also happy to meet with you and go through this tough question. I hope this helps point you in the right direction. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 18
You make some great points here John. Your comments on playing "The Salary Game" were helpful. This is one of the more difficult parts of an interview for me. Personally, I also have a problem with, "So tell about yourself." No matter how much I prepared in advance for this one, I seem to bumble around when I'm asked. Anyway, thanks for the tips. By Brad on 2011 05 17

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