Employment Interviewing: The Winning Strategy

by John Groth

employment interview

Be assured of the winning job interview through preparation, practice and persistence.

"People create their own success by learning what they need to learn and then by practicing it until they become proficient at it." - Brian Tracy

You've spent a great deal of time drafting and developing your resume and cover letter. You've written enough information so you can tailor your resume and cover letter submissions to closely match the employer's requirements in the job announcement. What's next?

The Tale of Two Interviews

Normally the employer will receive 50, 100 or more resumes for a job opening. The resumes are reviewed and those that closely match the job requirements are set aside for a pre-screening telephone interview. The phone interview will be short, ten minutes or so, and maybe 20-25 people will be called. The employer's goal is the cut the list down to 5 to 8 of the most qualified for one or more face-to-face interviews.

So to win the job interview you have to prepare for two interviews. Win the telephone interview and you move to the next and final step in the hiring process. First, here are some tips to prepare for and win the telephone interview.

The Phone Interview

When called, if not convenient to talk, set a mutually convenient time.

It's an open book test so have the following handy: paper and pen; a folder with your research on the company and the industry; a copy of your resume and cover letter (since you tailor each job submission, you've saved each package on your computer, so now we print them out); your 3x5 cards with a list of tough questions on one side and your answers on the other side; and a short list of your relevant skills and achievements and how they match the job requirements.

Be concise; keep your voice positive and energetic. (If concerned about this, have a friend call you with a list of possible questions and tape the conversation. Be critical of your responses.) Do it again and again until you're satisfied you come across as positive and easy to understand.

Thank the caller and immediately write out the answers to the questions you were asked and the answers to the questions you asked the caller. Send the caller a thank you note and amplify any answers that need improvement.

The Face-to-Face Interview

You've made the cut and are now asked to come in for a face-to-face interview. In the preparation for the telephone interview, we've introduced you to important items of research to get you to stand out from your competition. Here are the steps required:

Build a list of 50, 70 or more tough questions you may be asked. Using 3x5 cards, write the question on one side and your answer on the other side. You are to prepare your answers but not to the point of memorizing them. If you have a problem building your "good question" list, there are numerous books at the library that you can pull the questions from. Keep your answers positive, concise and show yourself in the best light.

Practice answering the questions with a friend. You might also videotape the mock interview. Change what needs changing until you're comfortable with your performance.

Research the company and the industry. Again, go to the library or the internet and research any news of the company in the past year, their financials and, if possible, annual reports if a public company. This research also holds true for other types of organizations such as hospitals, non-profits and public employers.

Read and study your research and pay particular attention to activity that would impact the job you are being considered for. Write out 3-5 questions that are important to the job and you. For example, the company expanded into a new market, how does the expansion impact the jobs at the location where you are being hired?

Now make sure you don't get tripped up with the procedural parts of the interview. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview location. It's a real confidence builder to be in the parking lot 20 minutes early so you can have another run through your 3x5 cards.

Be as professionally dressed and turned out as possible. Make the best first impression. If necessary, practice your handshake and introduction skills. Get the names of everyone you meet. At the conclusion of the interview, when you get back to your car, write out your notes of the interview. When you get home, send everyone you just met a thank you note. Use the thank you note to expand on anything not clearly brought out in the interview.

If the interview ended with the company promising to call you, for example, in one week, be sure to follow up with them after the week has passed.

You now have the road map for a winning interview. Your preparation and hard work will place you ahead of the others competing for the job. With this road map and your preparation, a great job offer is just over the next hill.


If you want to read more on this topic, here are additional resources on how to prepare for a phone interview:

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