Preparing for a formal job interview can be a simpler experience than you may expect. Over the years, and looking back on the thousands of successful hires that have been made by our staff, identifiable constants have been found during the interview process. Of those we have discovered that typically there are four key items a Job Seeker should prepare for when interviewing:
1) How you present yourself,
2) How you start the interview,
3) How you handle money questions, and
4) How you “close” the interview.
Not unlike a simple business plan, applying for credit, or that of a successful sales process, a Job Seeker must be prepared before engaging within the formality of an Interview. For example; when applying for a loan of any sort, as part of the qualifying process, a bank requires sufficient information regarding the applicant’s credit worthy-ness. How have you managed your credit in the past, is an indication of how you will handle credit in the future. They look at historic, existing and the likely-hood of ongoing earnings potential to justify a capacity to repay a loan… any of this sound familiar?
A prospective client has the same level of factoring in mind during a “Sales” process prior to any sale. The Product / Service type, its respective presence in the market, how has the Product / Service performed with other firms? Will this Product / Service satisfy the client organization’s specific needs? Is the cost of the Product / Service within the client’s budgetary needs? A pattern seems to be establishing itself here, doesn’t it?
An Employer has similar intent of discovery as it relates to historic and relevant employment history of potential Job Seekers. How long has the Job Seeker worked in my industry? At what capacity has the Job Seeker performed in my industry? The Job Seekers current employment status, which should include earnings capacity (we will cover the proper way to handle money issues later in our 4 Step Interview Preparation Process in more detail). Does the Job Seeker have the skill set, experience, interest and personality requirements to satisfy the needs of the hiring firm? Yes, I believe we have a pattern.
One last, very important statement before we begin our recommended 4 Step Interview Preparation Process… There are only 2 (two) reasons any organization will ever hire any Job Seeker and keep them on staff:
- The Job Seeker will make the hiring organization money, or
- The Job Seeker will save the hiring organization money
The very best of all Job Seekers (employees) will have an impact on both earnings and savings.
In keeping with the flow of business it should be the intent of the Job Seeker to leave any interview with a “win” or to get the Job, as closing a “Sale” suggests a win in the Sales process, we will follow “Sales” analogy as our guide to follow in describing our 4 Step Interview Preparation Process. Those Job Seekers who are not, within a Sales type role, remember the example of applying for Credit as a guide. The principles are the same.
How does a “Sale” occur? How does a “Hire” occur? There must be a beginning to get to finality in either case. In the beginning there is Marketing.
The basics of Marketing, as it relates to the interview process, consists of:
- Branding (The product / services’ commonly known look or function. Your current company’s name or logo(s) are examples of branding, as is your current professional “Title”. These items are the first impression anyone may have when considering a “need” as a solution when considering a Job Seeker for a hire),
- Strategic Concepts (planning, research / discovery and any other market intelligence that is gathered, as information that is helpful in determining a direction to take in pursuit of a potential interview. Company’s web site, stock performance, industry peer group level and vendor referrals, etc…)
- Positioning (Be ready when the hiring firm you have, an interest in joining, is ready for you.)
Each of these three basic functions represents very important initial concepts related to a successful hire. Their relative applicability, if understood and approached correctly, will aid you, the Job Seeker greatly, resulting in a successful interview. A successful interview does not necessarily mean a hire. Within the “Positioning” function, a successful interview, could lead a hire at a different level, or location, than originally intended. Following these steps properly will lead to your personal professional “Brand” being perfectly “Positioned”. As a reminder, this process covers the formality of an interview…
This is where the 4 Step Interview Preparation Process begins.
How you present yourself – Let’s look at Branding first. How are you, the Job Seeker presenting yourself? Your look. This begins with your Resume, which is the first item a hiring manager wants to take a look at. A properly written resume is a must. We can address a proper way to write a Resume on an as needed basis, but for the purposes of the Interview process, let’s assume the Hiring Manager has already received, reviewed and concluded that based on your Resume, you will receive an interview, and have agreed to where and when the interview will take place.
What are you going to wear? Best answer is that you need to dress for the part. Is this an Executive level position? Better get out the Pin Stripe suit and get it dry-cleaned. Dressing the part has to do with the proper attire best suited for the title you are interviewing for. Commonly, technician level positions do not require a suit to be worn at an interview. However, a Technician that arrives to an interview in torn blue jeans and a t-shirt with oil or ketchup stains is NOT a good idea.
It should be expected that the hiring Manager will be measuring your appearance, based on how you would represent them, or their firm, in front of their respective client base.
A key question to ask: “How can I help my potential boss look their best as their representative?”
Below is a suggested protocol to follow, by title when interviewing:
- Executive Level – Suit and Tie
- Senior Management Level – Suit and Tie
- Mid Management Level – Suit and Tie
- Sales – Suit and Tie
- Line Manager – Business Professional slacks with sport coat. Tie optional
- Project Manager – Business professional slacks with sport coat. Tie optional.
- Engineer / Design – Business professional slacks with sport coat. Tie optional
- Field Personnel – Business professional slacks with sport coat.
From time to time, an interview may be scheduled during your existing position’s daily work related activities. In those cases, acknowledging this fact ahead of time through your Recruiting Partner, to the Hiring Manager will eliminate any surprises, should you be required to arrive to interview in attire not best suited to interview. However, the Hiring Manger will be able to see, how you present yourself to your existing firm’s client base… in these scenarios, you should do your best to ensure to present as professional appearance as possible. This includes: wrinkle free clothes, clean shoes, neat or fresh hairstyle. Colognes and jewelry should be kept muted. The key is to present a “Fresh and Professional Appearance”.
Branding continues with every document you deliver, either prior to, during or following your initial interview, that has your name attached to it. Consider these items “Marketing Collateral”. We recommend that you bring an original, up to date copy of your Resume with you to the interview. Your Resume should be written in such a way so as to “match” the position you are interviewing for. Additional examples of “Marketing Collateral” could be: a most recent pay stub, professional references, industry related certifications, or accomplishments.
Items often overlooked and commonly not included on a Resume are: a true objective, proven industry related accomplishments – (for example: You successfully managed the re-design of the Golden Gate Bridge and managed the project with a slip rate of less that 2%, allowing for a cost savings of $10 Million). Remember, organizations hire or retain employees who either make them money, or save them money (preferably both), Where do you rank amongst your peers, true earnings, culture and/or environmental preferences.
Presenting yourself continues within the Strategic Concepts phase of “How you Present Yourself”. Research where you are in your career versus those in the same demographic. Use accomplishments, education, certifications and market comparable compensation as guides as a measurement, along with your current or most recent employer and where they are versus where you may be interviewing. With the new firm, do research on where they are in their market, where they’ve been and where they are going. Can they get you to your next step and the step after that (Positioning) in your career in the most efficient manner? Many items today regarding your research are available through online discovery. Ask your Recruiting partner for guidance as needed to ensure you are able to receive the most information possible, enabling you to be properly prepared for your interview.
The Strategic Concepts phase, if thoroughly addressed, will reward you greatly during the talking points stage of your interview. The fact that you are aware of “facts” and / or statistical data about you, your industry and the Hiring Manager’s firm will be well received by the Hiring Manager, indeed!
Positioning is the final phase of the How you present yourself step. Simply put, be at the right place at the right time. Not just by showing up to your interview on time, and on the date of your interview, take those actions (additional education, certification, work tasks, etc… and become “Positioned” throughout your career to take advantage of that next great step).
Timing is everything, be able to make the move when it presents itself. Be “Positioned” to interview. Be “Positioned” to make a decision as to the applicability and benefit of the opportunity to you and your family’s best interest.
As it relates to the day and time of your interview, and as step 1 in our 4 Step Interview Preparation Process begins to transition to step 2, we suggest you follow “Lombardi Time”! Ten minutes early is on time. Nine minutes early is one minute late. These 10 minutes (six hundred seconds) will present you with great benefits. Of these are; catching your breath, absorbing your surroundings (sights, sounds, smells) and becoming comfortable within them so you are properly “Positioned” to focus on the task at hand… The Interview.
How you start the meeting is where there is finally direct interaction between you, the Job Seeker and the Hiring Manager, and is the second step of our 4 Step Interview Preparation Process. As a reminder, “Lombardi Time” is that transition from Step 1 to Step 2. Be on time (ten minutes early). Also, the level of enthusiasm you display for being a part of their team will work toward your elevated perceived value, so being mentally prepared and confident works to your favor.
If this is your first face to face meeting with the Hiring Manager, you will begin with a cordial greeting. During this time frame, you should: Stand and greet the Hiring Manager with a professional handshake and smile, remembering to maintain eye contact. The hiring Manager more than likely will begin this cordial greeting stage with a short introductory statement, unrelated to the Interview itself. A Greetings Statement. Respond in kind, being sure to thank the Hiring Manager for the time and opportunity to meet with you for the respective position you are interviewing for. At this time you have the opportunity to avoid the “Miss America” statement. We highly recommend that you do all you can to avoid this statement. The “Miss America” statement is a statement by the hiring Manager that goes something like this: “So, tell me about yourself…” This is typically stated early in the Interview stage and works against the Job Seekers best interest at that time.
You avoid the “Miss America” statement by continuing to speak at the initial Greetings Statement phase. Your Greetings Statement should go something like this: “Nice to meet you… thanks again for taking the time to meet with me, and for considering me for this position. My Recruiter shared with me the general information about this opportunity, and I’ve researched it a bit further as well as your firm, and came away quite impressed with what I have learned. Can you tell me more specifically about this opportunity and your expectations of me in the role?”
You obviously want to personalize this according to your specific circumstances, but that question, tied directly into the conclusion of your Greetings Statement, will get the Hiring Manger to begin the Interview by addressing your question, allowing you to continue to catch your breath, and take in your surroundings.
You are the visitor in someone else’s environment. There will be nervous energy regardless as to who you are or what type of personality you have. This approach will enable you to relax at the beginning of the interview.
If handled correctly, the hiring manager will go over the position and the firm in more detail, allowing you, the Job Seeker to become more familiar with the environment. It also allows the Job Seeker to confirm the position’s requirements and to get to know the Hiring Manger’s approach and to a certain degree personality. As the Job Seeker, you should at this point, sit back, and pay attention to the Hiring Manager’s conversational pattern.
Quite a bit of detail can come out of the Hiring Manager’s conversation pattern. What type of words do they use? How fast is their speech pattern? What is the volume of their speech pattern? When available use “matching/mirroring” techniques. Matching or Mirroring Techniques are tools you can utilize to ensure the Hiring Manger perceives that you are in line with them.
Once the hiring manger has completed the explanation of the position, the Job Seeker should at that point, match their Resume / qualifications to the hiring manager’s just completed explanation and expectation in the course of general conversation. Remember, if you, the Job Seeker, make it to a face to face interview stage, it means that you meet the requirements sought and are qualified for the position, based on your previously submitted Resume or background data.
At this point, you should follow the standard flow of the Interview and can rest easy in that you made past two significant hurdles: Presenting yourself properly and starting the Interview.
How you handle money questions, step 3 of the 4 Step Interview Preparation Process, can be either the easiest or most difficult aspect of any hire. To create the former, both parties (Job Seeker and Hiring Manger), must take a professional, fair and equitable approach to this step. More than likely you will not discuss compensation over the phone, with the Hiring Manager. However, if is discussed it should be uniform as is if at a face to face interview.
The Job Seeker should never initiate discussions regarding compensation. When the topic of compensation is brought up, it should be done so by the Hiring Manager. When it is addressed by the Hiring Manager, it is considered a “buying sign”, meaning there is a high level of interest in the Job Seeker and a step closer to the Offer Stage.
*IMPORTANT NOTE* If you are reading this, you have already accepted the fact that you are a Job Seeker. Discussing compensation during the interview process should NOT be compared to the buying or selling of a house, nor are you a professional athlete. Compensation negotiations do not typically exist in this process. Serious damage to either the reputation of the Hiring Manager(s), Hiring Firm(s), or the Job Seeker, if this process is not addressed respectfully.
The Hiring Manager, should already have an understanding (even if generally), as to the Job Seeker’s current earnings capacity, at the time of Interview. If this information cannot be obtained by the Recruiter partner, from the Job Seeker during the qualifications discovery stage, this could represent potentially negative consequences for the Job Seekers ability to properly present themself during the Interview stage.
Job Seeker and Hiring Manager alike, be advised, the market to which you work within has a compensation standard that is fully understood and accepted by all parties within any given industry. Others before either of you have Interviewed, or have been Interviewed, for this position in the past, and others will continue to do so into the future. If either party attempts to get around what the market bears, in either direction of the compensation scale, the hire will not happen and potentially detrimental experiences will follow. This should not be your intent.
The key to remember in How you handle money questions, is that there are only two ways money questions can be asked at an Interview: 1 – What do you currently earn, or 2 – what are your compensation requirements (What do you need to make, what do you expect to make)?
When it is brought up, the Job Seeker should pay attention to how the money question is asked.
- If they ask “How much you currently earn?”, tell the truth! We highly encourage Job Seekers to present documented proof, in the form of a most recent pay stub, or end of year tax document provided by your current employer (IRS form W-2).This “proof” of earnings display will generate tremendous credibility to your personal “word”. It also eliminates the need a Hiring Manager will naturally have to seek validation to your statement of earnings. Bringing a most recent pay stub will go a long way to assist the Job Seeker in properly positioning them as one of high integrity and trustworthiness.
Conversely, if a Job Seeker misrepresents their current earnings, and it is later discovered, it could lead to grounds for termination for falsifying an application for employment, if hired under the misrepresented information. This could be compounded by a diminished perceived integrity or your trustworthiness, going forward, by potentially detrimental reference needed later from your most recent employer and so on… So tell the truth, and do your best to back it up!
- If they ask “What are your compensation requirements (What do you need to make, what do you expect to make, and so on)? Don’t be alarmed. This is actually your preference, and is an open ended attempt to discover a base salary (number) that may be below that to which may available within the organizations budget. DO NOT respond with a numeric answer. Most of the time, this question is not intended to commit you into a financial position; however, it can if you are not careful.Again, examples of how this is asked are: “What will it take…?”, “How much will you need…? Or “What are your salary requirements?” Remember this is a positive “buying sign”. You should respond positively, and in kind. Simply state, in your own words: “I know that in your position you have a budget for this role. I am not familiar yet with how your budget will address this position as it relates to compensation. I can tell you that my current base is ____, I w-2′d _____, I’m sure if I’m the right person for this position, you’ll give me a fair offer“.
This type of reply is intended to keep the talks going and not tie you, the Job Seeker, into a fixed number. A stated Salary requirement at this point will be difficult to get away from later. The Job Seeker must fully weigh all aspects of an organization, before accepting a role with them. Compensation is a part of the overall measurement needed. More needs to be learned about the culture, environment, job responsibilities, etc…
The Hiring Manager should have a sense of comfort in discussing the obvious. That being the compensation range of the position. If this topic is not discussed at your face to face Interview, be patient. These terms will follow in direct dialogue with the Hiring Manager, in the days following your Interview.
Similar to the Greeting Stage at the beginning of an Interview, a sense of cordial discussion will begin to take place nearing the conclusion of your interview. As you the discussion turns to the Hiring Manger saying “Thank you for coming in…, etc…) be sure to ask the Hiring Manager what next steps can be expected. Determine dates, and / or times an expected follow up, or next meeting should likely to take place. Make a note of any next step action items that the Hiring Manager may require, such as: References, if any, additional meetings with other key players within the Hiring Manager’s organization, etc…
At the very end of the Interview, the Job Seeker should make a point to pause, and say: “I appreciate the time that you have spent with me, and I hope you have learned that I am quite impressed with your organization, I do have one final question… Do you see any reason why I would not be a great fit with your firm?”
We call this “The Columbo”. The Columbo is intended to discover any objections the Hiring Manager may have as to the applicability of your professional background, education, skill set, accomplishments or personality for the position you are Interviewing for. Respectfully, the Hiring Manager should be in a position to identify any item, question or concern about you to you or your background, if any, and share them with you. If this happens to be he case, at least you are fully aware of any particular item, and you are in a position to address them, if any immediately.
If the Hiring Manager answers that in fact they are impressed and feel you are a great fit, then it is your responsibility to “close” them towards the next steps in the process of the Interview, which is to seek an Offer of Employment. For example, as the Job Seeker, you should state something to effect of: “Excellent! When do I start?” (Or “When do you suggest we meet again to finalize this process?” Or “how would you suggest we go forward?”).
The difference between those who Interview and those who get an Offer of Employment is – asking for the job.