Monday, October 26, 2009

The 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 4 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 and in Part 3, we discussed the actual interview; the 3rd P: Performance.

The interview is not over yet. In Part 4 – Post Interview we cover what needs to be done next. A list of interviewing tips (with do’s and don’ts) and resources for further reading on the topic of interviewing are also provided. At the end you will be given the chance to receive a checklist used to rate candidates.

Thank you. The moment you leave the interview, go back and write an electronic (e-mail) thank you. Thank each interviewer individually for his / her time and reiterate your interest in the position.

Thank you again. Do not stop with an electronic thank you though. Write a handwritten thank you note and get it out in the mail that same day. When I wrote a handwritten thank you note for one company, the managers were so impressed they ran down the hall to ask the others if they too received a note. It made me stand out as a candidate. Another company was so impressed upon receiving my note they asked HR to add the note to my personnel file.

When I write my handwritten thank you notes, I compose them on a computer first so I can develop the phrasing I want to use as well as to spell and grammar check the notes. Learn from a mistake I once made. At the company where the managers compared notes, I had not varied the message in the notes other than the names. Instead, personalize each one with something that he / she said that discovered common ground / rapport between you and / or affirms you as a great fit for the position.

Follow-up. Follow-up is the job seeker’s responsibility no matter what was said or who committed to doing it. (Note: This is also true when following up after networking.) By asking at the end of the actual interview, you know the next steps and approximate timelines for each. There are ways you can follow-up without sounding desperate or nagging. You can contact the hiring manager with a follow-up or clarifying question. Make it a good question though or she will immediately see through your ruse. Another contact can be made to just check in and see if they had any further questions.

There are other ways to stay in the minds of the decision makers. One approach is to send a copy of an article you think they would be interested in reading. Here is another approach I used. During one interview I had, the hiring manger wrote on the whiteboard while explaining information about the company and their products. I noticed that the dust created when she wiped the board off was bothering her eyes and nose. Looking closer I noticed she was using a regular whiteboard eraser. Being a gadget person (I love gadgets) I knew there was a type of eraser with peel-able strips so the dust residue can be tossed out. I immediately went out and purchased one of the new fangled erasers and mailed it with a note to her administrative assistant, whom I had not yet met. I mailed it to the admin instead of the hiring manager so the admin could be the hero by giving it to the manager; if she mentioned that I sent it, great. I stood out because I was providing a solution for a problem even before joining the company and building rapport at the same time.

Continue your job search. No matter how well the interview went and no matter what the hiring manager says about you getting the job, until you have a final offer in writing, continue your job search. Things happen sometimes. Since your next job will not be your last, you will want to continue some aspects even after you start your new job (see the articles on this blog "Job Seekers: Action Items Once You are Employed" 8/4/09 and "The Truth You Need to Know but May Not Want to Hear" 7/29/09).

While you wait to hear. While you wait to hear back, continue to pray for open and closed doors. If this is not the job for you, the one that will prosper you, and not harm you, the one that will give you a hope and a future, then you don’t really want it. Pray that the door closes on that one.

Now let’s look at the list of tips and do’s and don’ts of the interview.

Tips / Do’s and Don’ts

Cell Phones & other electronic devices. Do NOT leave your cell phone on, even on vibrate. The constant NNNN, NNNN, NNNN is just as annoying as a ring. You should turn it off before you walk into the company’s building so you do not forget. If you have a watch with an alert, turn off the alert or leave the watch in the car.

Be careful with your humor. Humor is good; just do not cross over a line that you don’t want to cross. It is better to be conservative with your humor until you know the other person better.

Know yourself. Only have things on your resume (especially technical skills) that you are familiar with enough to hold a conversation about it. I had two candidates back to back who could not explain a technical concept that was on their resumes.

Know your accomplishments and know why the company should hire you for the job. Prepare your answers ahead of time to all of the tough questions you may be asked.

Practice your handshake. Men and women should have the same handshake. If you are not used to shaking hands, you should practice and get feedback from a valued person. Even if you are used to shaking hands, you should confirm you are doing it right. I shook hands with a female salesperson once and I was shocked that she used the handshake I call the Queen Elizabeth handshake. Queen Elizabeth can use this handshake because people bow and give her hand an air kiss. No one is going to kiss your hand so do not close your hand over the fingers of the other person.

If you tend to have sweaty hands, consider running cool water over them before going into the interview. Another approach is to slyly wipe your right hand on the side of your outfit as you raise your hand up. One last suggestion is one I saw recently in response to sweaty feet and it may work for sweaty hands as well. The suggestion is to soak your hands in lukewarm tea. The tannin in the tea closes the sweat glands. Of course you will want to do this earlier in the day while you are preparing for the interview.

If you have a cold, you can excuse yourself from shaking other people’s hands by apologizing and saying you are getting over a cold and don’t want to give it to them. It will be appreciated.

Body Language. 85% of all communication is non-verbal. Body language is the most spontaneous and honest form of communication. I demonstrate this when I’m speaking to groups by saying something positive (“I’m thrilled to be here”) while using negative body language (slouchy posture, left hip out with hand on it, rolled eyes, and head tilted.) People trust what my body is saying over the words I’m using. The same goes for you. Read up on body language so you are aware of yours and so you can read the body language of others. This is a handy tool during networking as well.

Do not talk too much or too little. Many job seekers blow the interview by talking too much. This is usually not intentional; it is normally done out of nervousness but has the same results regardless. Practicing will give you a feel for where the fine line is between answering the question and giving a “brain dump”. In a recent practice interview one candidate talked so much I started counting the conjunctions (ex. “and”, “or”). She completely ignored my body language (looking at the clock, flipping my papers) and verbal queues (“okay then”) that I was ready to move on to the next question.

You don’t want to go too far the other way either. If you speak too little the interviewer may think you are hiding something.

Pay close attention to grooming. From head to toe, be sure you are giving your best impression. Some jobs are lost before the job seeker has uttered the first word. Again, a practice interview is a great place to get honest feedback about the image you are projecting.

Be sure your eyeglasses and accessories (ties, jewelry) don’t date you. Even if you are young in age, out of date accessories or eyeglasses may give the misimpression that you also let your skills get out of date.

If you do not have the right clothes for an interview and truly can’t afford them, there are organizations out there that will provide an outfit at a greatly reduced price or even for free. Don’t let an outfit stand in the way of your success.

Phone Interview tips. If you are on a phone interview, be sure to be in a quiet area without background noise. I was interviewing a candidate once who was obviously hand washing dishes while we talked. No need to say, she didn’t get the job.

Stand up while you talk so your diaphragm can expand to breathe. Standing in front of a mirror will echo your body language and you will remember to smile.

If you receive an unexpected call for a phone screening, regardless of what you are doing at the time, express your interest in talking with them, propose a couple of other times, and ask which time works for them. No company expects you to put your life on hold waiting for a call. You will not blow your chance at the job. Use the time to get your materials organized before talking; review the description of the position, the research you did on the company, take one more opportunity to review your accomplishments, and get to a quiet area.

Do not ask about salary or benefits. There is a common belief that the first person to talk about salary is at a disadvantage. There are tactics you can use to defer the salary discussion if you are asked what salary you were earning or want. The discussion about benefits should be saved for the final stages, closer to the job offer.

Do NOT lie on your resume or application. If the lessons learned by famous people are not enough to keep you from making this unforgiveable move, let me share an example from my business life. We interviewed several candidates and decided one had the experience we wanted. We extended an offer contingent on the background check and then we began the background check. All elements of the check came back except the one from the college she attended. We started to get the feeling something was wrong so we called her to see what she had to say; she said she had nothing to add and knew nothing that would explain the delay. When we finally heard back from the college we found out she had never even registered at that school. Had she told us anywhere along the line that she didn’t have a degree she would still have gotten the job; we were more impressed by her experience than her education. She didn’t get the job, though; we retracted the offer, because she lied.

Lunch interviews. Eating is not your main goal for the lunch interview. Know what not to order during a lunch interview. Use the rule of thumb that you should only order food that is easy to get on your fork and to your mouth and chew quickly. Forget spaghetti, corn on the cob, ribs, and fried chicken. Save those for your celebration dinner.

Do not talk negatively about a former company, boss, or co-worker. When you have a bad experience at a company, it is easy to talk negatively about it. Save that venting for a close friend. Talking negatively during an interview reflects negatively on you. Take this time to develop ways to word and practice talking about your bad experiences. Be sure to include what you have learned from that experience and put into place to not repeat it.

Tip to organize your information. When you go to an in-person interview, the company usually has you complete an employment application. Have your information organized by going on-line and downloading a typical employment application form. Fill it out and bring it with you, not to give them, but to use to fill out their form. Your information is all in one place and will make completing their application easier and quicker.

Resources for Further Study

101 Dynamite questions to Ask at Your Job Interview by Richard Fein

Interview Magic by Susan Britton Whitcomb

The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan & Barbara Pease

For a copy of the RightChanges interview checklist, send an e-mail to with the phrase Interview Checklist in the subject line.

If you are not making the progress you’d like in your job search, do what others did to get unstuck; they contacted and are now employed. You could be next. Make that next step to success now.


  1. Great post Judi! You really know your stuff.

    Vonei LLC

  2. Judi. I always wished to post my experience on interviews. But reading your post is so enriching.
    Would like to add your link to my blog and read the earlier posts. Thank you.

  3. Judi, It really helps us in preparing for interviews. Thanks for your blog

    -Gopal Goshike

  4. Judi, its really excellent one, it helps us in preparing for interviews. Thanks for you post

    -Gopal Goshike

  5. Thanks so much Judi, very relevant pointers