Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 3 of 4)

You found the job lead, you secured an interview; you do not want to blow it now. It is important to thoroughly understand the interview process to be successful.

In Part 1, we reviewed the steps that must be completed before you are ready for an interview. We also reviewed the 1st P: Purpose and that in fact there are two distinct purposes for the interview – the employer’s purpose and yours.

In Part 2, we covered the second P: Preparation.

In Part 3, we will discuss the actual interview; the 3rd P: Performance.

Pray: Praying for peace and wisdom is a great way to begin the day of the interview.

Arrival: You want to arrive at the reception area 5-10 minutes ahead of the appointed time. Do not arrive more than 10 minutes ahead though. When I go on an interview I plan to arrive in the area at least 30 minutes ahead of time to allow extra time in the event something unexpected happens on the drive. Because I familiarized myself with the area ahead of time, I already picked out a location to wait until it is time to drive to the company’s property and head into the reception area.

If you left for the destination with plenty of extra time and something catastrophic happens (an interstate is shut down due to an accident), call the interviewer at that moment (which should be well ahead of the appointed time) and explain the situation. Offer to contact him when more information about your status is known or to go ahead and reschedule at his convenience.

Be courteous to everyone you meet. Your interview begins before you set foot on the company property. The person who cuts you off in traffic may be the hiring manager rushing to get to the office before your appointment. Keep in mind that receptionists are valuable sources of information for the hiring manger. The hiring manger does not even have to specifically solicit their opinions. After the hiring manager walks the candidate out the front door, receptionists sometimes make a simple statement such as “she was so nice” or “he was so rude” and that could easily impact your chances. Even what you do while waiting in the reception area may be factored into the hiring decision.

Smile! Breathe! There are two things that many nervous interviewers forget to do: smile and breathe. If you are likely to forget to relax and smile and breathe, you may want to write yourself a note that you periodically see during the interview to remind you.

Meet their need. The company has a need that will be met by hiring the right person. Their need is not to give you a job. You want to determine what that need is and address your points to how you can help meet their needs.

Use your STARs. In the answers to the interview questions, you want to add weight to your answers (anchor them) by using your STAR statements. You could easily say “I have done that before and I can do it again” but really anyone can say that. It is not enough to state at which company you had that experience. You want to share the situation or task you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved to make your answer real for the interviewer.

Listen! Too many job seekers feel this is their only chance to share their skills and do what I refer to as a brain dump, sharing everything that is in their head. Using the cliché “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason” we should do twice as much listening as talking. The best conversationalist is one who does most of the listening. During the interview, many hiring managers will share valuable information in their side comments that could be missed if the job seeker is not listening intently. By listening you can understand what they are looking for and address what you say to those points.

Ask questions! Asking questions shows your interest in the interviewer and in what the interviewer is saying; it is one approach to active listening. You do not have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions either. Throughout the interview, as needed, ask clarifying questions based on what the interviewer said. Ask the interviewer how long she has been with the company, what she likes best, what she thinks is the biggest challenge for the company, where she worked before joining the company, and what she feels are the traits in a successful candidate. Be sure to ask questions to determine if this is a good company and good position for you. Do not ask any questions that could easily be answered by searching on-line. You also do not want to ask something the interviewer already addressed so listen closely. One last question you can ask is what concerns they have about your ability to perform the job that you can address.

What to do before you leave. There are several steps you want to take before you leave the interviewer.

You want to thank them for their time.

You want to express your sincere interest in the position (if you are interested).

You want to ask her the next steps in the interview process and timeframes. If she answers with the next steps but not with the timeframe (or vice versa) you can repeat what they said (active listening) and ask the other question again. The hiring manager or company recruiter may not have exact timeframes but she should have an estimated timeframe for the hiring process.

Get the business card of every interviewer. If some of the interviewers don’t have business cards, get the spelling of their names and their e-mail addresses. Do not assume the spelling of their name (ex. my name is Judy but I spell it with an “i”). If you didn’t see their names on their name plates outside of their offices and you left without getting this information, you can call back to the person on the switchboard who can give you the correct spelling as long as you have the name.

You understood the dual purpose for the interview, you prepared, and you performed well because you practiced. The interview is not over yet. In the next installment of the 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 4 – Post Interview) we will cover what needs to be done next. We will also list tips, resources for further reading on the topic of interviewing, and a way to receive a checklist interviewers use to review candidates.


  1. I like your thorough and logical presentation on all three articles. I can't wait for the fourth. I have found the subject of the questions the interviewee should ask is much overlooked. Thanks for covering it.

  2. Very concise and clear article. Well written and an informative read.

    Thanks again!

    Jyotsana Baurai