5 Tips: What to Do at the #Interview

When you make it to the interview, you want to be on point. Prepare answers ahead of time that show situations, actions you took, and results to respond to many behavioral questions. Research the company: the company culture, mission, news, and services, can help you relate your skills in a way that shows benefit to the hiring manager. The interview will go even smoother if you follow this advice:

1. Silence your cell phone

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Most people will say to shut off your cell phone or leave it in the car. However, if you use it to schedule appointments, you may want it handy if asked for a follow up appointment or date for a second interview. If your phone does go off, it’s not an immediate “fail.” It all depends on how you recover. Don’t look at who is calling; just shut it down and apologize immediately to continue.

2. Smile

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Sure, interviews make everyone nervous. It may be a combination of nerves and adrenaline, but researching and practice will help build your confidence before the interview. If you’re too worried about how you sound or are constantly wondering if you relayed everything you wanted to say, your face may not read that you’re someone who is excited about the opportunity. Take a moment, breathe, and smile right when you shake hands. If this is a phone interview, smile as you talk as well. Your voice transforms when you’re smiling and makes you sound more enthusiastic and engaged. Plus, everyone likes being around a friendly person. Would you want to work everyday alongside someone who constantly keeps a serious face on?

3. Don’t talk money or benefits

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Unless specifically asked by the interviewer, do not be the first to bring up pay or benefits. Save these questions for the job offer. The interview is a business meeting where you and the employer are trying to see if you will be a quality match for the position. Show that you can do the job and you want to work for the company. It can be a major turn off if a candidate doesn’t use this time well, but rather just asks how much they would make. If the interviewer does bring this information up first, research average salaries from Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information website. Always provide a range for salary to avoid being too expensive or underselling yourself. For more information on Salary Negotiations, see George’s post.

4. Speak clearly and avoid the “Yeahs, Ummms, and Likes”

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If you need to briefly pause and think about your answer before responding, take the time to do it. The interviewer may need you to be a representative of the company, and depending on how you present yourself, speech included, your casual way of speaking may be off-putting. “Umms” and “Like” are fillers that can be reduced by practicing your answers beforehand. I am guilty of the “Yeah” abuse, but in an interview, the answer is always “Yes”.

5. Dress Appropriately

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You can never go wrong with a button-down/blouse and dress pants/conservative skirt. This rule can be modified from company to company. Some company cultures prefer very professional attire. If that’s the case, then suit jackets and ties should be worn. Everyone can benefit from having at least one great suit in their closet. If the office is more casual, perhaps replace the dress pants for some khakis. Research the company and try to match what the manager would be wearing. Ask ahead of time if you think you may be touring any facilities that may require boots, a hardhat, or similar special circumstances. In general, I don’t know of a time where shorts, flipflops, sweatpants, anything low-cut, or anything revealing could be considered acceptable interview attire. Try on your outfit ahead of time to ensure proper fit, and remember: you want to be noticed for what you said, not what you wore. For more on this topic, check out Uriela’s blog post about appropriate interview attire.

If you have questions or concerns about these suggestions or anything related to your upcoming interview, please drop us a line in the comments below!

[All gifs thanks to giphy!]

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5 Tips for the #SecondInterview

By George Bernocco, CPRW

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Getting the call back from the employer is always a good sign. Something about your resume may have stood out, or something about your first interview made them want you. However, you might not be the only one that has caught their eye. They may need further information to determine who the qualified candidate really is. Having made it through a first interview, you may not know what the second interview will entail. Here are some expectations, information and suggestions when you get the call.

  1. The follow-up interview should not be a surprise

When the employer asked you at the end of the first interview if you had any questions, one of them should have been “when can I expect to hear back from you?” In the answer, the employer might tell you they are looking to narrow down a pool of candidates. Or they might tell you “there will be another round of interviews by this date”. Even if you didn’t get a response about a second interview, you should always expect it. Phone interviews (or teleconference interviews) can typically lead to in-person interviews. A strong candidate will know that there is always more to say about how qualified they are for the position, and should not be afraid to come back in to do it.

  1. You were seen as a viable candidate

Coming in for the second interview, you stood out to the person (or people) who interviewed you the first time. If you do encounter this person at the second interview, chances are that they will not be alone. They will be demonstrating you to their boss, colleagues or your future coworkers. Acknowledge this person, and don’t be afraid to reference anything you spoke about in the prior interview. This person is your key to the success of the second interview, and you want to make sure you elaborate. By the time the second interview has commenced, you should know why they identified you for the next round.

  1. What wasn’t asked, will be asked

If you feel like there were areas you didn’t cover in the first interview, rest assured you have your “second chance”. The second interview will be tougher, meaning more questions, more elaboration, more about you and more about the position. Some second interviews will bring up your salary requirements so be prepared for that question. Just remember that you should always let the employer bring up questions surrounding salary and you should never initiate the discussion. Situational questions, stress questions and/or tests will be provided to really distinguish you from the rest. Details you did not have time to cover in the first interview should be elaborated upon. Think of it this way: the first interview was generic, the second interview is specifics.

  1. Third interview is always a possibility

Don’t assume the interview process is complete when you walk out the door of the second interview. A third interview and beyond can occur when an extremely large amount of people applied, or the employer just wants to be extra sure about whom they hire. Usually with the third interview, they’ve narrowed down the applicant pool to less than a handful of possible candidates. By now you should be more than confident about the position, and at this phase the employer will be discussing very specific details about the job to see how your knowledge and skills can apply.

  1. Don’t forget the Thank You letter

Just as with the first interview, make sure you follow up with a thank you letter. The same rules apply: send or e-mail it out within the first 48 hours (the sooner the better). Mention specifics about the second interview and send it to any individual you met with. One page should always suffice and specifics from the interview should be mentioned.

Do not get discouraged if you are not offered the position after the second interview. You’ve stood out; they’ve seen your resume and talked with you. This company will remember you if other positions are available. They may contact you as soon as the position is posted, before any one else applies. Interviews are a way of networking, and you should have the name(s) of any one who interview you as a connection for the future.

In the years before the job market seemed to crash, second interviews were usually a great sign. They combined an interview with an orientation of the job, having the job seeker fill out necessary employment paperwork as well as negotiating salary. Now that the amount of job seekers has increased significantly, second interviews are ways of narrowing down the pool even further. Just remember that you have stood out, and elaborate on that fact. The employer will ask, in their own way, how you stand out from the other candidates. Ensure you are able to answer this as the most qualified and best person to work for their company, and your second interview will end in success.

Expect the Unexpected: Seven things to know when you get called by the #Employer

By George Bernocco, CPRW

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Besides residing in a digital age, the house phone is slowly becoming obsolete. Most resumes nowadays contain one number and it is a cell phone. As most of us know, there are pros and cons to having a mobile device that you carry with you. First and foremost, you can be reached at any time and it is only at your discretion if you choose to answer the phone or not. Employers are also joining in on the digital age, and more often they contact candidates over e-mail. Phone conversations are not obsolete yet, so be prepared for that employer to give you a ring.

After completing an application and after an interview, it is important to be on high alert when it comes to expecting the call. Your phone should already be set up to be as professional as possible:

  • No “ringback tones”.

  • Voicemail recording with your full name.

When you do get the call, there are seven things that you should be aware of:

  1. Number Recognition

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A call to your cell phone from an unknown number can mean numerous things. After you’ve applied to several jobs recently, it is easy to assume that it can be an employer. If you’ve done your company research (or even called the employer before), you may recognize the number immediately. If you try to find the number before they attempt to call you, it will be less stressful on your behalf and also less of a mystery.

  1. Availability to Talk

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Recognizing that you may not be able to talk at the time of the call is important. If you are in the middle of a crowded supermarket or entertaining guests at your house, you have a decision to make. Should you try to get some place quieter to talk, or should you let it go to voicemail? Be aware that I have heard stories from jobseekers who attempt to call the employer back after a voice message and have been notified that they are no longer scheduling interviews. Most employers understand and are human, and know that you may not be able to pick up the phone that instant. Just call them back at your earliest convenience.

  1. Preparation

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When you answer the phone and decide you want to conduct the conversation then and there, you should at least grab a writing utensil and paper, or open up a blank document on your computer to take notes. You want to grab what you’ll need for the conversation (resume, cover letter, reference numbers, etc). Usually the employer will ask for what they need and it is ok to let them know that it will take you a moment to pull that information up. It does not look good on your behalf if they hear you constantly fumbling around for information. If you cannot pull up what they require, ask them if you can submit it to them at a later date.

  1. Accidental Answer

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You may get caught off guard by an employer call and suddenly be trapped. You answered the phone without looking at the caller ID assuming it was someone else, or you “unlocked” your phone just as they were calling. It is important to know to keep calm. Depending on why they are calling you, they may ask you if this is a good time to talk. A decision has to be made on your part if it truly is a good time to hold a conversation. If you are out and about, no where nearly quiet to talk, or about to parachute from an airplane, you should let the employer know that you cannot talk this very instant and you would like to reschedule. If you do reschedule a talk, make sure you mark it down and are available. Rescheduling again is not an option.

  1. Phone Interview

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A phone interview is a time consuming process. Employers can schedule this in advance (usually in place of an in-person interview). However, every once in a while an employer may call and interview you on the spot. This is highly stressful, and can be viewed by the employer as a “stress test” to see how you respond. Usually they may ask you questions such as “why did you apply for our company” or “tell me about yourself”. It’s important to be aware and prepared for questions like this once you apply for the job. Make sure you get the person’s name, title and contact information for a follow up thank you letter or e-mail. Ask them for their information at the beginning and/or end of the interview.

  1. Job Offer

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When you get the call and it’s a job offer, you will need to instantly be prepared for dialogue with the employer representative. This includes questions about accepting the position, salary negotiations and a start date. Make sure you are in a place to write this information down so you do not forget.

  1. Thank You

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As the conversation ends, ensure you are grateful for the time that was given on your behalf. Always try to get the person’s name whom you spoke with and have it placed somewhere for you to save for the future, especially if it was a phone interview. If you somehow forgot to say thank you, send an e-mail as soon as you get off the phone ensuring that you appreciated the time they took to speak with you.

An offer you can’t refuse: Negotiating your salary

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By George Bernocco, CPRW

You got the interview, nailed it and now you’re awaiting a decision from the company. Most likely the call you’re waiting for is from Human Resources offering you the position. The job you applied for may have listed the salary in the posting itself, or it was discussed by the company to you in the interview, or you have no clue what they are going to put on the table. Regardless, you want to show the employer that you are worth more but don’t want to frighten them away. Here are some ideas to help you with this difficult process:

 Interview

It is considered bad practice for you to bring up salary. The employer can bring it up and discuss it with you during the actual interview, but they must have initiated the conversation. This may catch you off guard, because if you have not done your research, you may not have an answer for them so soon. Be prepared that the employer might bring up salary, and have an answer if they do.

 Research

Do you know the average salary in the United States for your career field? How about the median salary in your state? Or even district? Labor departments, federal and state, keep records of this information. Here are a few websites that can help you:

When you have numbers to work with, you can do the math and produce a salary number that isn’t too high or too low. Just remember that average salaries factor in outliers, people who were paid abnormally high and low. Median salaries are what most people in your career field are being paid.

Another way to research how much a company pays its employees is by knowing someone who works for them. Asking an employee can prevent you and the employer from wasting each other’s time if the job isn’t financially beneficial to you. You can also get an idea of the atmosphere of the company, and see if it’s a place you would like to work.

Discussion

When you’re discussing your salary with the potential employer, you should remember the job posting. I would go as far as to say that you create a points system on the posting. Break down the posting by its requirements and preferred knowledge. Add +1 for everything in the posting you have exceeded. Put a 0 next to anything you have met the requirements or preferred knowledge. And then if it comes to it, -1 next to anything which you have not met. Just note this is for your general knowledge as to how much you should be asking for, this is not something you’d want to share in detail with the employer. You would want to highlight anything you’ve added a +1 next to. You should not necessarily discuss with the employer any -1 items as they serve as a reminder to not ask for too much since you haven’t met or exceeded all the requirements. Chances are the employer knows what your “-1’s” are and they used them to adjust your salary.

Prioritize your list with the most important towards the top. Here is an example:

Job Posting                               I Have                                    Points

5 years experience                           10 years experience                                +1

Bachelors in Science                        Masters in Science                                  +1

Basic computer skills                      Basic computer skills                               0

Expertise with MS Excel                  Basic knowledge of MS Excel                  -1

Ask the person who you are negotiating with what the salary is based on. Whatever they mention, you should be prepared to have an answer. If your education (and/or experience) exceeds the minimum requirements, and the employer states that is what the salary is based on, be prepared to remind them how you exceeded the minimum.

Knowledge

When you are armed with knowledge, you can successfully negotiate your salary without disqualifying yourself. Employers do expect new employees to negotiate, and it’s important to feel comfortable in the process. Be realistic as you should only apply for jobs that you know can earn you a profit. There may be times where the employer and you do not reach an agreement. If you cannot reach a mutual agreement with the employer, it may be for the best as you do have financial responsibilities.