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Real Time - During the Interview

A big yawn in the middle of the interview is very bad...don't do that. Oh...chewing gum is not very good either.
Getting enough rest the night before is an understated assumption.

An interview is a two way conversation. You will be asked a lot of questions, hopefully to which you will be able to respond in meaningful ways...but don't forget to have prepared a few questions that you want to ask too. All interviewers want to tell you about their company and themselves. This desire to share with you makes your asking questions very appropriate and a valuable tool through which you can show interest in the position.
Ensure that you have answered the question fully by asking, "Did I answer your question completely?" This will prompt the interviewer to seek clarification if it is necessary.

We have had plenty of candidates talk themselves into an offer and right back out of it. Knowing what to share in a minute or two from the 30 minute explanation of a lifetime of experiences is a critical skill which can showcase your ability to know important facts from "the rest of the story."

Honesty is a good thing. Don't tell untruths. However, too much honesty is probably not always appropriate in an interview. I once had a candidate explain her involvement in an animal rights organization and as her voice became noticeably more agitated, she reached into her purse and produced a number of horrific and gory photographs of maimed animals. She proceeded to lay them out onto my desk. Of course I became very uncomfortable. The interview went very wrong. It was a creepy experience. Now, the candidate did not say anything that was not true, but it was definitely a case where she could have (and should have) said much less.

Too much humility can harm you in an interview. Articulate your specific role in a success rather than being too general in your response. "We saved the company a lot of money" is not as effective as stating, "The team under my leadership generated a savings of XYZ for my employer over X months." Whenever possible, be specific in your answers. All too frequently we see resumes that list employment in terms of years without months designated. It's just a pain to have to ask for that information when it should be on the resume. Likewise, speaking in general terms ("I supervised a team" as opposed to "I supervised 13 programmers") just means that the interviewer will have to either ignore you or...well ignore you...either way you are not being highlighted. Did you notice in the above example that the generalization used the word "we" and the more specific example used the more direct and possessive "MY." Whenever possible, I and ME and MY should be used in your examples. The interview is not about hiring the people you worked with. The interview is all about you and your skills.

Don't find yourself in a position where your resume says one thing and you communicate another. Read your resume while you are checking for typographical errors and know its content, be prepared to explain the resume and perhaps how you edited it to the length it is.  If the interviewer asks a question based upon the material in your resume, you really should know the genesis of the material. If you state on your resume that you have a background in such-and-such a software, know in which of the firms you have worked for that you used that software and how it was used in that application.

A very common conversation is the answer to the question, "why did you leave your last position." You can answer this particular question in many ways and most employers will understand. However, the "creep factor" that the photographs exuded in the previous example is frequently applied by candidates if too much information is shared. Frankly, employers don't like to hear "trash talking" about other former/current employers...even their competitor you may have worked for. It sort of goes along the thought, "if they say that about, what will they say about us?" And the crème de la crème would be one's explanation of suing your former employer (for whatever reason regardless of legitimacy).

There is almost nothing one can say about a former employer that will not be taken poorly (and perhaps wrongly so), so avoid speaking about a former employer directly and keep the conversation focused on why you left the last "position" rather than the last "employer" If you get backed into the proverbial corner with a question like, "So what was it about your former employer that made you leave?" you could always be polite with a response similar to, "My abilities were outgrowing my responsibilities and now is a good time to look for new challenges."
Interviews should be comfortable situations for the most part, especially in the first couple of conversations.

If you find yourself in a "behavioral" interview with lots of questions about situations and hypothetical scenarios you may need to politely dodge some questions. There is a possibility that your past situations are not all that dramatic and of course there also is that possibility that the outcome of your decision was not favorable. Do not let that stop you from giving a positive answer. If that is the case, you can always say (and it's perfectly acceptable), "I would do things a little differently if I was to find myself in the same situation" or "I learned a lot from the experience. I look back on that time as a great education."

Not all interviewers are very good at the task of interviewing and don't do it all that often. Most are excellent at their full time job but have little background at the interview itself. In reality, most managers with whom you will probably interview have pretty limited experiences and you might actually have more experience in the interview process than they do. In many cases, both the interviewer and the interviewee are inexperienced. There is a possibility that the person sitting across from you is as nervous as yourself so relax. It is important that you do you homework so that you can make the most of the interview....but be prepared to help them from time to time. We have found that "tagging" some extra information onto the answer may become necessary so that you can best outline some of your best skill sets.

The ability to "tag" or add a value to the answers you give begins with listening to what is being said.

What Happens if the Interviewer Doesn't Ask?

Listening during an interview is important. Not only will you want to listen to the exact question that the interview will be asking, but even prior to any questions the conversation will probably include clues as to what you will want to emphasize (or avoid) in the answers you give to the questions asked.

For example:

The interviewer talks a bit about the company saying that the Acme Company is a Global leader in providing Blue Widgets to an academic vertical and has recently gone to a JIT system. The interviewer also talks about the firms desire to diversify into the wodget market, the home schooling market place and RD is working on a new color. The question is then posed, "how long did you work at"

Oh wonderful. Your resume clearing states the dates of your employment. You need to answer the question, but you also need the interviewer to hear something meaningful about your abilities. Your background in market analysis allows you to give some strong information back to the interviewer and you should take the opportunity. You could say something like, "I worked for XYZ for a total of 6 years, 2 of which was in analysis where we tracked several new markets, including distance learning and home schooling." So you do answer the dry and shallow question while at the same time showcase some of your talent without over selling.

You could not have added this value to the answer if you were not listening to more than just the questions asked. In this example you were listening to the whole conversation and using the information you learned to give yourself the opportunity to share a little more about your skill sets.

Have you ever had a party at your home and a guest stayed too long? We attended a party during the recent holidays, finding out the next afternoon that one of the quests stayed nearly four hours after the party had broken up and the last of the guests had left (except him)...ouch. Not good even amongst friends. During an interview, too long can be a deal breaker. If the interviewer is still asking questions, it's not too long. If you are doing all of the talking you need to return the conversation back to the interviewer and let them be in control of the time. So, while "war stories" are fun to share and even to listen too, remember that the time should be controlled by the interviewer.

On the other hand, you don't want to rush the time you have either. So while you do not want to be spending time beyond the comfort level of the interviewer, you also don't want to have over committed your own time.

Over committing your day so that you feel rushed during the interview will surely create some anxious moments for you. While you might think that the anxiety does not show it probably does. Most good poker players never become great because they "show their hand" while playing. They think that nobody can tell that they are bluffing...all the while their left eye is twitching the signal, "I got nothin..." One certainly does not want to find oneself twitching in the interview as the clock keeps ticking closer to the next appointment. Give yourself more time between appointments than you think you will need. The interview you are currently engaged in is the only one that you should be thinking about. And whatever you do...please don't make that oh-too-close next appointment be something like a nail appointment. Give yourself time to feel comfortable and sell your skills appropriately.

There are a couple of tools you will want to take to the interview. A pen...take a writing tool with you so you can take a few notes immediately after the interview. A pad of paper...for the notes you will take. Glasses...if you need them, take them and use them if you need (and I can not tell you how I hate to sit across from someone with dirty lenses). A comb...for the last minute touchup in the restroom (why are most interviews scheduled on the windiest days of the year?). Take copies of your standard references. Bring a number of copies of your resume.

Take your cell phone of course. But turn your cell phone off during the interview. Don't even put it on vibrate. You don't think you flinch when it above about the poker player. Forget about the text messages for the time you are in that interview. Liberate yourself for a while.

Some of these tools are obvious. Some look like they are obvious, but there is a bit more too them than the face value. When we suggest that you take a copy of your standard references we are assuming that during the interview there will be some clues given that may suggest an additional reference or two. If that occurs, it is entirely appropriate to hand a copy of you references to the interview while telling them that during the interview you thought of a person or two that would be able to fill in some additional details. Ask the interviewer for the best way to get a new name or two to, fax or telephone.

You should take several copies of your resume with you. You may end up meeting several people and you may have the opportunity to give each one of them a copy. It will seem a little short sighted on your part (not to mention looking "cheap") if you do not have a copy available for anyone you meet. A dozen is probably too many but two copies is not enough...and about using those "cute" fonts. Don't use a font that may be even the slightest bit difficult to read. In some cases you don't want to stand out in a crowd and this is one of them. If it's too difficult to read you may be passed over during the first reading. If a scanning system can not input you into their data base you might be out of luck in a different this case, plain is good. Just one more issue...please do not print the resume on run-of-the-mill copier paper. Use a good quality bond paper in white or cream. Of course you will check for miss spelled words, industry specific acronyms and buzzwords and poorly created punctuations.

Many times, an interviewer will ask if you have any questions. We're sure you have heard that before. You have probably also heard that interviewers also like to ask, "Do you have anything else you would like to add." You need to have a plan for closing the conversation with highlights of your skill set and at the same time showing your interest level regarding the opportunity. Plan your "end game"...if you need help with that, ask your recruiter.

Of course, don't forget to ask for the contact information of the person(s) who conducted the interview(s) so that you can follow up, with first a thank you note...and hopefully, if everything has gone well...with subsequent conversations.

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