Ask Your Own Questions

Okay, you have made it to the end of your interview and the interviewer says it is now
your turn.  They want to know if you have any questions for them.  And most likely you
do:  “How did I do” and “Are you going to hire me” – unfortunately you can’t ask either
one.  But there are questions that you can ask to glean some information on how you
performed and to determine if the company is a right fit for you.

Although it is not acceptable to ask how you did in an interview, it is okay and
encouraged to ask what the next steps are and the timeline for them.  Depending on how
this is answered, you may be able to figure out their reaction to you.  But this is not full-
proof and is not a guarantee.  If they take the time to explain all the checks they need to
go through, how many people they have left to interview and so on, they are probably
interested and want you to understand that there is still steps left in the process.  If they
only tell you that you will hear from them within a certain period of time via letter, well it
isn’t as promising.

Look at the opportunity to ask your own questions as your chance to interview the
company.  Of course you have done your research prior to attending and have made up a
list that you wrote down before attending.  Show your preparedness and pull out the list
to ask your questions.  Things like company direction and expansion show an interest in
the business.  Feel free to take notes; it can earn you brownie points.  Ask questions that
are important to you as well, if vacation time and benefits are a deal breaker for you, find
out now what the company has to offer.

Be Confident in a Job Interview

Who isn’t nervous during a job interview?  Even the most self-assured candidate is going
to have a moment or two of self-doubt.  But the trick is to keep this to yourself and
portray an image of confidence.  This is what a potential employer wants to see if you are
not confident in your own abilities why should they be.  Here are a few ways to exude

Make eye contact, nothing is more of a dead give away of poor self-confidence than a
person that will not look someone in the eye.  Walk up to your interviewer, extend your
hand and look in them in the eye when you greet them and express your pleasure of
meeting them.  And don’t beat around the bush when you are talking.  Saying thinks like,
“Well, I kind of helped with a project but I didn’t run it myself,” screams I do not think I
am worthy of this position.  Instead, say this, “I assisted in a very successful project and
played a key role in bringing it to completion.”  Your role in the project may not have
changed the perception the interviewer has of you has.

If you haven’t been on very many interviews or it has been some time since you last
attended one, it is understandable to be nervous.  The more interviews you complete, the
more confidence you will gain in your abilities to sell yourself.  And you have to
remember that if you were not qualified you would not have gotten the interview in the
first place.  Use that knowledge to your advantage and instill confidence in yourself.  As
a back-up measure, get some friends or family members to remind you of all of your
great traits and what makes you special – an ego boost before an interview can certainly
boost your confidence level.

Be Honest in Job Interviews

There is a difference between telling a story highlighting the positive to make you sound
better and lying to the interviewer.  It is rare for a company to not conduct reference
check these days so don’t say anything that can not be verified by your boss or other
references that you provide.

There are many ways to get into trouble during an interview and lying is the most severe. 
Common fibs that are told include educational degrees that you do not hold, saying that
you are a manager when really you are a team lead and taking credit for a project that was
completed by a coworker.  All of these things can make you sound good at the time of the
interview, but what if the interviewer talks to your boss about the stellar project you ran
for the company when it really wasn’t you.  Your boss is not going to lie for you and if
you were in the running for the job, you won’t be anymore.

The best way to handle these scenarios is to tell the truth but put you in the best light. 
Maybe you were a part of the project, instead tell the interviewer the part you played and
share the success of the project as a whole.  An employee that can recognize and share in
the success in others is preferable to one who doesn’t tell the truth or wants all of the
credit for themselves.

This does not mean that you have to share all anything that doesn’t put you in a positive
position though.  The key is to be honest and only bring up examples that are going to
highlight your talents and work history in the best possible way.  Don’t claim or state
anything that cannot be backed up by your references.

Be Specific when Answering Questions

Sometimes – or more like every time – you go for an interview, your nerves make it hard
to concentrate and answer questions to the best of your ability.  The important thing to
remember is to really listen to the questions being asked.  If the interviewer tells you they
want a specific example, don’t answer with a general how you would do something – it is
a surefire way to ruin your chances for the job. 

These types of questions are known as situational questions.  If an interviewer were to
say to you, “Tell us about your favorite vacation.”  You wouldn’t respond by telling them
about all the places you would like to go or make a generalization:

“My favorite vacation is to go someplace hot with my family and sit on the beach.”

Instead, you should answer as specifically as possible including all the pertinent details:

“My favorite vacation was two years ago when I went to California with my family.  We
spent a lot of time on the beach.  It was very relaxing.”

The second answer adds credibility.  It is obvious that you are providing information
from something that actually happened as opposed to making something up just to
answer the question.

Potential employers are trying to gauge how you react or perform in specific situations. 
Common questions that are asked include:

“Tell me about a time you led a team project.”  Include what the project was, how many
people, and any challenges including how you overcame them.

“Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker.”  Only pick situations that had a
positive outcome.

Employers today want to know how you are going to perform on the job before they even
hire you.  By answering situational questions specifically you can assure the interviewer
you have the skills and thought processes that they are looking for.

Be Thorough but to the Point

If you love to talk and when you are nervous can go on and on, or if you are the opposite
and clam up when you are in a stressful situation – you need to be conscious of this and
not do either in an interview.  When asked a question, an interview wants enough
information that will help them understand what you are talking about, but not extraneous
irrelevant information.

If you are answering a question using an example from your previous or current job and
there is a lot of jargon or acronyms – try to use more common place term that more
people are familiar with or explain what you mean in the beginning.  If you are asked to
describe a time when you lead a project – explain what the project was about, how many
people you managed and any key points that demonstrate what a great job you did.  What
you don’t want to do is get side-tracked and give details that aren’t relevant to the
question.  The interviewer is not going to be interested in a play by play of the entire
project – they want to know your role in it. 

Keep on topic; take a moment before answering a question to organize the details in your
mind.  You don’t want to start answering, get sidetracked and forget the point you were
trying to make.  If you stay on topic and know what you are going to say, you are going
to be able to keep the interviewer’s attention.

If you are a person of few words, practice with a friend or family member before your
interview.  Learn how to expand your answers so you give thorough information without
living the interviewer wanting more.  But if you are in doubt, less is better – an
interviewer will ask follow-up questions if necessary.

Bring Doubles of Everything to an Interview

In addition to a list of questions you want to ask and a pen and notepad you should also
bring duplicate copies of anything else that you may need to provide to the interviewer. 
When booking the interview, ask if there is anything specific you should bring with you
(normally references is the only requirement).  But if you are applying for a driving job, a
driver’s abstract may be required or if you are applying as a writer you may be asked to
bring in a sample of your work.

Make sure to write down the requested items to bring and make duplicates.  If more than
one person is going to interview you, bring one for each of them and then one more.  This
show forethought and preparedness.  You also don’t want to make your interviewer look
bad by not being prepared if they forgot or lost your resume.  Let them know that you
brought an extra copy for them and hand it over.

Chances are this won’t happen, but won’t you be happy if it does and you are prepared? 
By brining more copies than are required, you can provide your extra copy to the other
interviewers so they are not all huddled around the one copy of your writing portfolio or

Even if you are not asked to bring references to the interview, take the time to type out
and print copies anyway.  If the interview went well you are sure to be asked for them
and this again, shows that you think ahead and make the necessary preparations.  Do not
show up without any special documents that were specifically requested of you, if you do
not think you can obtain them in the timeframe given be sure to let the person know
before you arrive for the interview.

Don’t be Late for an Interview

This may seem obvious, but it happens way too often.  No matter the reason, there is no
excuse for it (besides an injury or family emergency and then kudos for you for showing
up).  Getting lost, bad traffic, or losing track of time doesn’t matter to an interviewer. 
They are taking time away from their primary duties to sit down with you to try and give
you a job.  It is rude and disrespectful to not show up on time.

Here are a few tips to ensure this doesn’t happen:

*    Do a dry run.  If you are going to a city or a part of the city you are not familiar
with drive there a few days before.  Ideally you will do it during a week day at a
similar time to your interview time to gauge the amount of time it takes to get
*    Leave early.  Not just 15 minutes early, you can plan to arrive 30-60 minutes
before your interview time.  Don’t go into the building though.  Get into the area,
find a coffee shop and relax while reading the paper or reviewing your resume. 
Not only will this ensure that you are on time it also gives you time to relax and
calm yourself before walking into the building.
*    Pay for parking.  Don’t circle the block 12 times looking for cheap parking on the
street.  Pay the money to park in a parking garage.  You do not want to waste
valuable time looking for parking and start to stress yourself at the same time.

If you are running late (but really, you shouldn’t be), make sure you call.  The
interviewer may not have time to complete the interview if you are running late and you
will save both of you the time if you let them know.  You can try and salvage the faux
pas by trying to book another appointment right away.  And if you are lucky enough to
get a second chance, follow the tips above to arrive not only on time, but early.

Don’t Make Assumptions

This is a good piece of advice to follow in life, but it also has a special place in an
interview setting.  You want to be viewed as someone who understands what is necessary
and can deliver the expected results – more than just in the interview room – and making
assumptions will not guarantee you will be viewed like this.

The easiest and best way to avoid assumptions is to ask for clarification.  If a question is
asked that is ambiguous or you really aren’t sure what they mean, ask them to explain it
to you.  Sometimes, without meaning to, an interviewer will use company jargon or
acronyms in a question or in conversation.  You can respond by saying, “I’m sorry, I’m
not familiar with that term, could you explain it to me please?”  Not only will this show
that you are paying attention but it will also demonstrate that you have an interest in the
company and what they are about.

When you are answering a question and you need to include company specific
terminology, be sure to explain what you mean.  In addition, you cannot assume that your
interviewer will know what you are talking about either.  Take a moment to either set up
your answer with the required information to understand what you are talking about or
pause and explain certain phrases or words.  Better yet, if you can use common terms in
the place of company specific ones, it is the preferable way to go.

Lastly, don’t assume that the job is in the bag.  No matter how confident you are that you
are the most qualified person for the position – it isn’t yours until you have received a job
offer.  Make the best impression you have and keep the mindset that you are still
competing for the job and sell yourself accordingly.

Enthusiasm in a Job Interview

Are you excited at the prospect of getting a new job and are thrilled that you were called
in for an interview?  Well, then show it when you are being interviewed!  Bring an
energy and attitude to the interview that will make the company take notice.  The process
of interviewing is usual a long and boring one for those on the other side of the table.  Do
your part to make it easier for them to choose you as the best candidate.

Just think of all the people before and after you that are also going to be interviewed for
the same position.  If all other things were equal – qualifications and the answers to the
interview questions – what is going to set you apart from the rest?  You can be
enthusiastic and smile when answering (when appropriate) and still maintain an aura of
professionalism.  You want to exude charisma and keep the interviewer’s attention.  They
have heard a lot of the answers already, but you can get the message across with more
than words.

Someone who is excited to get a job and lets that excitement be known is going to have a
better chance than someone who talks in a monotone and with little to no emotion.  Don’t
be afraid to smile and use phrases as “that’s great” or “wonderful” when you are told
about the company.  Be the type of person that the company wants to represent them and
you will increase the chances of a job offer. 

A few words of caution: don’t go overboard.  Be genuine in your enthusiasm and be
yourself.  Sincerity is key or your enthusiasm could work against you instead of for you. 
If you are naturally bubbly by nature, tone it down a bit for the interview so you do not
overwhelm your hosts.

Etiquette Rules during Job Interviews

During an interview you need to mind your manners and follow an unspoken code of
etiquette.  This is more than your mom’s “keep your elbows off the table.”  Business
manners are going to be key, an interview is so much more than what you have to say – it
is how you present (or sell) yourself.  If part of the job you are applying for is dealing
with clients or executives from other companies, you can be guaranteed how you act is
part of the decision making process.

Eye contact, you have to be able to maintain eye contact without being uncomfortable. 
There are some acceptable ways to do this.  If you are answering a question, it is okay to
glance away when gathering your thoughts but if you are listening to someone keep your
attention focused on them (even if their eyes are wandering).  This shows good manners
and that you care about what they have to say.

Do not under any circumstances have gum or a mint in your mouth during the interview. 
If you want to be sure that you have fresh breath, chew gum or suck on the mint before
arriving at your destination but discard or finish them before you enter the building.  It is
distracting and rude to have them in your mouth when answering questions.

Use your interviewer’s name, ideally you found out who you would be interviewed by
when the meeting was arranged.  If it isn’t provided to you, be sure to ask who you will
be meeting with and their position.  When you arrive, shake hands and greet the person
by name.  If you are just learning their name, repeat it and remember it.  You want to be
sure to get it right and thank them for their time when you are leaving.

Explaining Gaps in Employment

When you get to the interview, be prepared to discuss your resume.  In addition to
explaining why you left previous companies and chit chat about the position, if you have
any gaps in employment be prepared to explain them.  Many people are scared that an
interviewer is going to discover that they were without a job for a period of time.  It is not
necessarily a bad thing, but you do have to be able to tell the interviewer why in the best
possible light.

You should always be honest when explaining any absence from working, but you do
have license to spin what you did do in the best possible light.  For instance, if you were
laid of your job and had a hard time finding a replacement but spent a lot of time with
your children you could say, “I took an opportunity to spend a few months with my
children in between jobs.”  If you took any courses or classes that adds value to your
skills as an employee be sure to mention that as well.  You may find it beneficial to add a
brief explanation on the resume itself or in a cover letter.  Most times it is hard to get to
an interview if there is a lengthy and unexplained employment gap.

If you are unsure what possible questions could be generated from your resume, have
another person look at it.  It is best to be prepared for certain questions and scenarios that
will likely come up in an interview.  You do not want to be caught unaware or
floundering for an answer.  Give yourself time to figure out the best explanation for times
of unemployment so an interviewer sees it as reasonable or even beneficial to them in the
case of additional education and classes.

How Not to Obsess after a Job Interview

The interview is over and you can’t help but sigh with relief.  You made it through and it
wasn’t as bad as you thought it would (or maybe it was, but hey it was a good
experience).  Now, you might think you are in the clear and all you have to do is wait. 
While it is true that waiting is the next step, it is not that easy.  Some even find it more
difficult between the time the interview has been completed to the time they hear back
from the company on whether or not they received the position.

Unless you discover that you have given the interviewer misinformation, don’t continue
to go over your answers again and again.  If you look for flaws you will find them.  It is
unnecessary torture.  Keep yourself busy and if you are on a serious job hunt, continue
with your search and put the interview on the back burner until you hear back.  If you did
provide wrong information that would be crucial to a decision you may want to consider
following up to correct the wrong depending on what it was.  If it was for a driving job
and they asked if you have had any speeding tickets in the past three years and you said
yes but later discovered it happened four years ago – definitely call.  If on the other hand,
you were quoting sales results and underestimated the number of sales you made; it
would probably be best left as it was.

Keep yourself busy as you wait for an answer from your interview.  And if it happens that
you didn’t get the job use it as a learning experience.  If there were questions you wished
you would have answered differently at least you know that now for the next interview
you attend.

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