interview tips

The Interview
A successful interview is the key to getting the job.  The interview process is an opportunity for the Employer to see if you have the necessary skills to do the job, it is also an opportunity for you to identify why you are the right person for the job.

The following “tried and true” tips are strongly recommended for leaving a long-lasting favorable impression.

Two important elements of the Interview process include preparing for your interview by doing your homework, and being your own ambassador during your interview. Lastly, watch out for common mistakes or “don’ts” and the importance of a closing comment and follow-up.

Do your homework:

  • Find out in advance exactly where your interview is and arrive no later (or earlier) than 10 minutes before your scheduled interview. Late attendance is inexcusable.  Know the full name and title of the person you are meeting.
  • Have your research done ahead of time; history of company; including size, product and competitors. Know the Job Description inside and out.
  • Review common interview questions and anticipate the harder questions by preparing in advance.
  • Prepare a small number of thoughtful questions to ask throughout the interview. Some recommendations include anticipated company growth, goals and how performance is evaluated.  

Be your own ambassador:

  • Dress appropriately; typically this means a dark or neutral jacket with matching pants or skirt. It is important that women should minimize accessories, nail length and anything bright.  Neutrality is key to keeping the attention focused on what you are saying; not wearing.  Make your first impression a professional one.
  • Be attentive and listen. This is probably the most important ability of all, by concentrating not only on the Employer’s or Interviewer’s words, but also on the tone of voice and body language, you will be able to pick up on their style. Try patterning the style of your answers accordingly and you will be able to better relate to him or her.
  • Conduct yourself professionally. Be aware of what you appear like to others and what your body language is saying. Be friendly, smile and make eye contact, don’t slouch and don’t fidget.
  • Early in the conversation, if possible, get the Interviewer to outline the position and responsibilities in their own words so you can tailor your answers to the specific position.
  • During the interview clarify questions. Be sure you answered the questions the Employer asked keeping your answers short and relevant to the position.
  • Make sure at some point during your interview that you have included your most pertinent job experience related to the position, detailing your qualifications and focusing your accomplishments that are most important to the job.

Some very important “don’ts”:

  • Don’t be overly familiar; even if you feel a strong connection.
  • Don’t ramble. On the other hand, don’t answer questions with a simple "yes" or "no." Explain whenever possible.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Don’t launch into discussions about salary, vacation, or benefits during your initial interview. If this topic is brought up, state your current salary and follow-up with a neutral response that would include, “I would seriously consider any offer that would be reasonable for someone in this position with my background and level of experience”.
  • Do not lie. Answer questions as truthfully as possible.
  • Very important; do not make derogatory remarks about your present or former Employers or companies. The Employer may get the impression you could be a problem Employee.

A Closing Interview Comment:

The interview is over and you’re not sure how it went.  You’re tempted to leave quickly, but don’t leave so soon.  More often than not, the interview was a success and with a strong closing and by asking the right closing questions during your departure, you can improve your chances of being asked back, or at the very least, get direction on the Employers thoughts about you as a candidate.

Prior to departing, take a moment to thank the Interviewer and if you feel confident the interview did go well; reconfirm your ability to do the job and express your interest in continuing the process including how much you would enjoy working with him/or her either personally or within the company.

A few things to remember during the closing process:

  • Don’t be discouraged if next steps are not discussed. (Very rarely is an offer made or specific salary discussed in the first interview, that is usually saved for next steps after the Interviewer has had time to communicate with the office first, or interview other applicants).
  • Ask for the Interview’s business card so you can write a thank you letter as soon as possible.


A "thank you" letter should be written no later than 24 hours after the interview.  Individual hand-written “thank-you” notes are always preferred, however if a hand-written letter is not possible, then an e-mail “thank-you” is an option.  If your interview was with more than one person; do not send out a “group” thank-you, but customize each note and mail individually.

Typical Interview Questions:

Tell me about yourself.
Keep it simple and focused on your professional experience. 

Why are you interested in this position and why do you want to work for our company?
Explain how your prior experience could benefit the company.  Match your qualifications with the job. Express a desire to work for their company, a suitable response would be because of their reputation as a leader or a similar answer relating back to their industry standing, history or mission statement.

Why should we hire you?
Be positive and focus on your strengths and attributes that will be an asset to the position.  Don’t hesitate to point out your past accomplishments in similar positions.  Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn without exaggerating.

What motivates you?
Suitable responses include career opportunity, friendly team environment, a chance to learn new skills.

Why are you leaving your Employer?
Never, repeat; never say anything negative about your previous companies or past management. Instead focus on what you are looking for in future employment.

What are you looking for in a new job?
Tailor your answer to the position and company you are interviewing with.

What was your greatest success and how did you achieve it?  What was your biggest failure or weakness?
The first question is easier than the later, focus on a professional success that is related to their needs and make sure to back it up with examples. When answering a question about failure; try to pick an experience that you were able to correct later or that turned into an asset.  With a weakness; use an example of minor weakness and how you overcame it.

Other Questions:

Where do you see yourself in two years and five years from today?
How would you describe your personality?
How do you perform under pressure?
Have you ever been fired?
How would your co-workers describe you?
What other types of jobs or companies are you considering?