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7 Timeless Tricks for Mastering the Job Interview

by Shawanda Greene

No Hand KissingWhether applying for a job at a local, home-based business or a global, multi-billion dollar corporation, there are certain rules you need to follow during the interviewing process.

Even if new technologies helped you get a seat in front of the interviewer, the ways you’re going to wow him are downright old-fashioned.

No one cares about your fictitious online persona that instills jealousy in the hearts of friends and ex-lovers. Whether you receive the job offer boils down to how you come across in-person.

Let’s get ready for some good ol’ face-to-face, human interaction.

Do Your Homework

Alcohol and preparation are the only known cures for nervousness.

For obvious reasons, we’ll focus on the latter.

When asked, “What do you know about the company?” your reaction shouldn’t include a quick shoulder shrug coupled with “Uuuuh, I dunno.”

Familiarize yourself with the basics.

What products does your future employer sell?

What markets do they serve?

What challenges do they face?

Finding information on public or large companies is relatively easy. It shouldn’t be your only stop, but Google is a good starting point.

For small, privately owned organizations, you may need to dig a bit deeper for information.

You just need to know where to look.

Use the tools available through your library. Many great resources are paid for by your tax dollars. For instance, my library provides 24/7 access to premium websites such as ReferenceUSA, Business and Company Resource Center and Proquest.

If you need help, talk to a research librarian.

Prepare to Shine

Get ready to answer common interview questions. 

If you “um” and “uh” through your responses, the interviewer will think you’re incompetent or full of shit.

I highly recommend reading 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions by Vicky Oliver.

You don’t need to memorize your responses.

You do need to practice your delivery.

Say your answers out loud while standing in front of the mirror. It feels a little weird at first, but no one has to know. Think about how you handled deadlines, difficult coworkers, and other job related stressors in the past.

Study the job description of the position you’re applying for. How are you qualified to fill the company’s need? And if you’re lacking some skills, what will you do to make yourself the best person for the job? Are you taking online, non-credit classes? What books, magazines or email newsletters do you read regularly?

You gotta be ready to talk about every objective, responsibility and accomplishment that’s on your resume…in detail.

Stay Calm

For the love of all pork fried in bacon fat, please dress appropriately for the interview. Err on the conservative side. If necessary, ask your Human Resource contact if proper attire is business or business casual.

Arrive to your interview about 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. If you’re unfamiliar with the location, do a quick drive-by the day before. The morning of your interview is the worst time to learn your GPS device will have you driving in circles.

For city folks, splurge on garage parking. Your meeting may last longer than you expect. You want your mind focused on the interview not on how much you’re racking up in parking tickets because the meter expired.

Silence your cell phone. Don’t put it on vibrate. Silence that sucker or turn it off. Schedule a reminder in your calendar if need be.

Side Note: There should be a smartphone app or feature that automatically silences your cell phone at a set time. If there isn’t, someone should get on that pronto. And to whomever that person is, lemme say, “You’re welcome.”

Introduce yourself to the interviewer with a polite smile, a warm greeting, and a firm handshake.

Let’s stop here and talk about the art of a good handshake.

The interviewer is not a chilvarous gentleman and you’re not a virginal damsel, so don’t give him your fuckin’ fingertips when he extends his hand. Make your handshake full. Make it firm. Two pumps is all ya need.

Remember to thank the interviewer for carving time out of his schedule to meet you.

Oh, and uh, ruh, I should probably mention…no cussing during the interview.

Sell It

Go ahead, and brag a little.

Show that you’re sure of your abilities.

The trick is to strike a balance between convincing the interviewer that you’re frickin’ awesome without simultaneously looking like a asshole.

Got it?

Answer questions briefly, accurately, and honestly. Then, shut up. Rambling will only lead to you repeating yourself. You’re awkward enough as is.

Be careful divulging personal information. You want to be relatable, but you don’t know how the interviewer will judge you.

When asked why I was relocating to Washington, D.C. from Orlando, Florida, I told potential employers that I wanted to live in a more cultured metropolis. That’s true. But it is also true that I would’ve moved to New York City if my then boyfriend hadn’t accepted a job with the federal government.

Try to see yourself from the employer’s standpoint. It’s not about you. In the event you’re hired, the company will pay you for your service. How will you serve them?

Avoid criticizing your current or past colleagues and supervisors. Praise the companies you’ve worked for. If asked why you’re leaving or why you left your previous employer, keep the attention on you.

Ask Thoughtful Questions

Presumably, you’ve droned on and on about your qualifications during the entire interview.

People reeeally like to talk about themselves. So, try to word your questions in a way that focuses on the interviewer. For instance, “Fortune magazine says XYZ, Inc. was one of the top 100 companies to work for in 2011. Based on your experience, why do you think the firm received such recognition?”

Demonstrate you’ve done your research by asking the interviewer specific questions related to the company.

Shut it Down

Until you receive a job offer, avoid discussing salary and benefits. The interview is not the proper time to address such matters.

Conclude your meeting by reiterating what strengths and contributions you’ll bring to the organization.

Verbally express your interest in the company and the position.

If you didn’t receive a business card from the interviewer upon your first encounter, get one before leaving.

Again, thank the interviewer for his time.

Follow Up

If you think you’ve thanked the interviewer enough, you’re wrong. You’re gonna thank him again. Within 24 hours of your meeting, send the interviewer a genuine thank-you email that includes specific issues covered during your conversation. You don’t want to sound generic.

What tricks do you use to impress interviewers?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

addvodka May 11, 2012 at 10:13 AM

OMG. The handshake thing goes for so many instances – yesterday I met my replacement for my student position who I was going to a meeting with because she needed to sit in and absorb what we were talking about with my old project. Anyway, when I went to go shake my hand she gave me her fingers. I know she's a student and everything but I wanted to reach over and shake her.

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Shawanda May 14, 2012 at 7:33 AM

I knoooow! If people bothered to do minimal research, they'd know the fingertip handshake is unacceptable. I actually find it offensive. What's sad is I still run into seasoned adults who don't know any better. I'm particularly disgusted when a man does it.

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Well Heeled Blog May 11, 2012 at 11:39 AM

One question I like to ask at the end of interviews is something along the lines of: "I think I would add a great deal to the team. Are there any concerns that you have about my ability to do this job well? I want to have the opportunity to address your concerns." This impresses the interviewers because it shows that I am not afraid to get their feedback, and it helps me because it gives me another chance to reiterate why I am the right person and overcome their concerns.
My recent post Fess Up Friday: Spending Under Kate Middleton’s Influence

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shopping2saving May 11, 2012 at 3:38 PM

YES! I loved this post. All of these tips are guaranteed to make you a shining star in an interview. I went to over 15 interviews when I was job hunting…ranging from receptionist positions to managerial positions, and sometimes the people that are hiring/interviewing are looking for something specific. My advice to people would be to keep your head up, even if you weren't selected for the job. You may have kicked ass during the interview, but sometimes people are looking for something specific. That was the hardest acceptance for me but in the end it all worked out.

The best part of this post is PRACTICE. Every time I practiced answering questions (with my BF asking me), it made a difference.
My recent post Financial Lessons and Other Stuff I Learned From My Mom

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Shawanda May 14, 2012 at 7:46 AM

Back when my mom forced me to play the piano, to motivate me, she'd always say "Practice makes perfect." Even if you never reach perfect, you can get to pretty damn great. This concept helped get me through college and on to becoming a CPA. The more you do something, the better you'll get.

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Tie the Money Knot May 13, 2012 at 12:28 AM

Good tips here. I agree that people need to be prepared in terms of knowing the company/market/stategies, as well as answers to questions you should be able to foresee them asking you. Also, be confident and someone who they can foresee as a street smart go-getter and person who overdelivers. Think about what you would want if you were in their shoes! Also remember that your top competitor for the job is bringing his/her "A" game to the interview, so you need to do that too.
My recent post Be a Bridesmaid and Go Broke?

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Shawanda May 14, 2012 at 7:49 AM

"Over deliver" is such a great phrase. Like you as a customer, employers want to know they're getting a good deal. They're certainly not interested in buying a crappy product. You've got to convince them they're getting a bargain.

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Andrew May 13, 2012 at 1:03 PM

"no cussing during the interview."

Basic advice, right? I've heard more than a few PG-13 utterances during an interview, and regrettably enough, for some these words tipped the scales the wrong way.
My recent post Occupy the Garden (plus some links)

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Shawanda May 14, 2012 at 7:52 AM

It really shouldn't have to be said. A friend of mine told me she appended "and shit" to the end of a question asked by an interviewer. I was floored. Fortunately, she realized her mistake as soon as the words came out of her mouth.

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Marissa May 13, 2012 at 2:53 PM

This post is awesome and soooo timely for me. Doing your research does a lot, and shows so much confidence. My other pet peeve is when candidates bash their previous employers. RED FLAG.

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Shawanda May 14, 2012 at 7:55 AM

Yeah. Putting down others doesn't make you look good. You just come across as salty. And who wants to work with a salty grouch?

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Marissa May 13, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Also, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions is a great book.
My recent post GIft ideas that my mom would actually like.

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Shawanda May 14, 2012 at 7:36 AM

Excellent idea! If the interviewer is forthcoming with his concerns, you could learn what skills are in demand and what additional training you may need.

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YFS May 14, 2012 at 7:41 AM

My trick is to know my resume in and out.. if you do not know what's on that paper and can articulate it you're done. My most important trick is to interview them.. hey, we both are feeling each other out. If you can't answer my questions correctly, I don't want to be there.

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Shawanda May 14, 2012 at 11:58 PM

It really grinds my gears when I ask someone a question related to their resume and they respond with a vague answer. I'm thinking, "Are you making this stuff up?"

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MyMoneyDesign.com May 14, 2012 at 9:36 PM

Good advice! It really helps to think of an interview as a meeting with a client. If you can sell to the interviewer, they will be convinced that you can make them some money someday!
My recent post Six Easy Steps to Figuring Out Your Retirement

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Shawanda May 15, 2012 at 12:00 AM

That's really all an employer is – a client. If you don't benefit the client, then what good are you?

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ryan@personal loans May 15, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Thank you a lot for such an interesting topic, I had my doubt about some things and they have been clarified, also i seemed very helpful the "301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions" by Vicky Oliver. Although some tricks were left behind,some of them are like, the way you sit & smell, instills a lot in an job interview, don’t sit like you’re at home watching a ball game & seriously don’t overdo the lotion.
My recent post The Worst Financial Disasters in History

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