Posts Tagged ‘Interview Coaching’

Interview Basics – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.

October 16, 2009 4 comments

It astonishes me how many job seekers in today’s day and age are held back because they lack the information and skills necessary to interview well. I have developed a simple list of basic interview skills every job seeker should posses before stepping foot in the door of an interview. You may be amazed by what you don’t know.Interview_1(1)

Prepare a resume that sells. Is your resume a timeline, historical document, or a sophisticated marketing and sales piece? Sell the employer on your best attributes and what you can bring to them. Quantify when possible!


This may sound like a no brainer but practice makes perfect. Actually practice answering interview questions. When I’m getting ready for a big job interview I think about all the questions I could possibly be asked during the interview and I already have my answers formulated in my mind. This way there are no long, uncomfortable pauses and I’m not scrambling to put something together on the spot.


Be prepared. Boy Scout motto or instrumental piece in landing a great career? Take a notepad to the interview with you. I usually jot down 3-5 accomplishments I am most proud of, my three biggest strengths, and my one weakness. Because you know they’re going to ask so you might as well be prepared. In addition to having your notes handy when they ask you those big questions you can also jot down notes during the interview. This is great because it makes the interviewer feel that you are really interested and are paying attention to what they are saying.


Be early. I recommend showing up 10-15 minutes early. Sure you will have to wait but what happens when the interviewer walks out to the waiting room and you’re not there yet? If you are going to be late because of an earth shattering emergency call ahead. But don’t be late! That pretty much assures the job is not yours. The common belief here is if you can’t make an interview on time you won’t make it to work on time. I would say that is a fair assessment.


Make sure you show up alone. When I was a recruiter for a staffing agency I don’t even want to go into how many people showed up for the interview and brought their family or kids along. This is a big no-no!


Bring extra copies of your resume. You never know when an extra person may sit in on the interview. I always bring one copy for everyone, a copy for myself and a few extras. Just in case there is someone extra.


I know you are nervous but do not fidget, play with your clothes, hair, jewelry, shoes, etc. It is just bad form.


When introduced make sure you smile, shake their hand firmly (but don’t break it) and wait to be seated until they sit down first. Common courtesy and professional etiquette – it’s the details that matter, believe me.


Answer their questions professionally and when applicable use an example from your previous experience. This confirms to your employer that you really do have experience in the area they are questioning you.


If they ask “Have you ever done…” something before and you have not; do not just say no. Say something like: “I have not actually had experience with that but I am confident that if someone showed me how I could do it.” Or “No, I have not done that before however, I am a fast learner and I am confident that I could learn quickly and provide the results you expect.” This communicates your willingness to learn new tasks, your ability to adapt easily and your confidence in your abilities. Being flexible and open is always a great quality!


When they ask if you have any questions do not say no! This is one of the biggest mistakes I see candidates make. If you say no it appears as though you have no interest. Even if they have answered all your questions surely there are some you can think to ask. I always have 2-3 questions jotted down on my notepad before I come in. They usually consist of ‘how the position/person is managed’, ‘what the management style is of the person who will be managing me’, and ‘what the next step will be in the hiring process’. The last question is always important; you want to know where it is going once you’re done interviewing.


It is not okay to ask the interviewer “How did I do?” That is BAD FORM! And puts the interviewer on the spot and they will most likely not tell the truth because if your interview was awful they’re not going to come out and say you did horrible you’re not getting the job. Plus, the majority of interviewers will discuss the interview with other team members before they come to a conclusion about your performance and the next step for you.


When you leave make sure you thank them for their time and let them know you look forward to hearing from them soon. This conveys your interest and is a professional way to exit.


Follow up with a thank you note. Yes, you MUST send a thank you note. Do you have any idea how many people don’t send thank you notes? Do you know how many people that do send thank you notes actually get the job?! Every interview I’ve been on that I’ve mailed a thank you note to I’ve received an offer (minus one). In addition, the majority of hiring managers I know will give someone a second look if they thought enough to send a thank you note. It lets the interviewer know you are still interested in the position, you are excited about it, and you are thoughtful, organized, and professional enough to send a thank you note.  Don’t question it – just do it and see what happens.


Do not call the interviewer every day asking about the status. This is so annoying and YES people really do this. Please do not be one of these people; it will get your name scratched off the list so quick you won’t even see it coming. Calling a week after you mail your thank you letter to check the status is acceptable, anything after that I think becomes a nuisance. Chances are if the job was yours within two weeks of your interview you would have heard something.


Last but not least do not put your eggs all in one basket. I knew someone that every time he had an interview he immediately stopped his job search. I never understood this; he stopped sending out resumes, stopped applying on line, and stopped mailing out letters. He put all his eggs in this one basket and sadly when it didn’t work out he had lost two weeks in his job search, had to start all over again and was more discouraged then ever.  Getting a ‘no’ is inevitable you are not going to ace every interview and be the perfect fit every time.


 If you stay consistent, focused, and look at finding a job like it is your full time job then eventually you will succeed and it will all be worth it. Keep these interview tips tucked away and refer back to them before each interview.

Jessica Holbrook is a former Executive Hiring Manager for Fortune 500 companies and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates powerful, customized, and targeted resumes that are guaranteed to get her clients interviews. For a free resume analysis visit, email your resume to or for a free phone consultation call 1.877.875.7706.


Interview Killers – A Top Ten List of What Not To Do

October 16, 2009 21 comments

top-ten-blueOver the years I have interviewed hundreds of candidates. I have seen and heard things that would shock you and that you would never expect during an interview. So I have compiled a list of the top ten things not to do during an interview.

10. Do not bring your boyfriend, best friend or children to an interview. This is horrible interview behavior. I once had a candidate bring her entire family – there were seven very rowdy people in our lobby. You can imagine what we were thinking.

9. Do not curse or use profane language during an interview. Absolutely someone has done this before and they were promptly removed from the running. Using profanity during an interview is unprofessional.

8. Do not chew gum or smoke during an interview. Again this goes back to professionalism and smacking gum during an interview = not professional.

7. Do not argue with the employer. Even if you know you are right beyond a shadow of a doubt about something it is just bad manners.

6. Do not put your briefcase, purse, pocketbook, handbag, etc. on the employer’s desk. This is more subjective then the rest but it goes along with their personal space and professional etiquette. You would not go to a stranger’s house and prop your feet on their dining room table… same theory here.

5. Do not gossip or tell jokes. Jokes have no place in an interview even if it is related to the job and gossip certainly doesn’t either.

4. Refrain from bad mouthing your previous employer. This is like an epidemic. I think people get trapped because the employer wants to know why you left your last position. Even if you left because so and so was a horrible manager, they were misappropriating funds, Sheila was sleeping around, or Joe was sexually harassing you. It does not matter your employer does not want to hear it. If you speak negatively about a prior employer your potential employer will assume that you will bad mouth them as well. Zip your lip my friend and instead use one of these: “I am looking for growth opportunities, advancement or a better opportunity”, “We had new management and they restructured the organization”, or “The Company went through a layoff.” Only use what is truthful. If something bad happened and you left because of it, then obviously you are in search of a better opportunity.

3. Do not accept refreshments. Drinks spill and food makes a mess. Enough said.

2. Do not say ANYTHING negative about yourself, colleagues, previous employers, competitive organizations and do not tell them about your personal or financial troubles. Most importantly do not express your NEED for the job. We are all human and as humans, desperation is a turn off. You know this… remember dating during your high school years?

1. During the first interview do not discuss wages, benefits, vacations, perks, etc. This is a tricky one because what do you do if the employer brings it up? Here is a general rule of thumb; do not bring up salary, benefits, vacation, perks etc. If the employer brings it up there are two ways to respond. If they bring it up at the beginning of the interview and they would like to know your salary requirements you could say something like: I would really like to hear more about the opportunity before I could say what my salary requirement would be. OR you can give them a range. I typically do not like to commit to a number. I like to share a range. For example, if you were interviewing and they asked you what are your salary requirements you could say mid-to-high $50’s. This gives them AND you some wiggle room. Often times you find that during an interview they will share with you what the budgeted salary is for the position. If it is within your range and they ask you about it you can share with them that it is within your range. It is perfectly OK to negotiate salary – but NOT during the initial interview. In fact, most experts will advise you to shy away from talking about it during the initial interview and instead leave it for when the employer brings it up during future meetings. Also, when they are asking you at the end of the interview if you have any questions do not ask them about benefits, vacation or PTO policies. These questions make you seem only interested in the perks and not in the position.

This is simply a basic list for your next interview. I assure you there are many more points to consider however, these are the most common mistakes I have seen. Review this list frequently and make sure you are not making the same mistakes at your next interview. Best wishes in your job search!

Jessica Holbrook is a former Executive Hiring Manager for Fortune 500 companies and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates powerful, customized, and targeted resumes that are guaranteed to get her clients interviews. For a free resume analysis visit, email your resume to or for a free phone consultation call 1.877.875.7706.

Ever Been Asked Have You Done (fill in the blank)? What to say when you haven’t.

business professional 2Countless interviews that I’ve conducted or participated in have all had tragic endings because of the inability of the interviewee to answer the tough questions the right way. One of the most important questions you’ll be asked in an interview is “Have you ever done …?” What we’re looking for is real-world experience. We don’t ask you have you ever done something not directly related to the position or critical to its success. That would be a waste of an interviewer’s time. So you can bet if they’re asking you if you have ever done it, it’s because you need the experience to function correctly in the role. But don’t lose hope – if you haven’t done whatever it is they need that doesn’t exclude you from getting the offer. Use the answers below to coast through this uncomfortable question and sail right through to the offer.

Recently, I was providing my sister in law with some interview coaching tips and tricks for her first interview since she had been home with her children for almost 3 years. She was interviewing for a position that was slightly above her level and battling with the fact that she had been unemployed and a stay-at-home Mom for almost 3 years. On top of all that she had little in the way of real world experience. A couple months here and a couple months there, nothing substantial.

Her experience was mostly in customer service and retail and she was trying to go for a career change and move into a human resources administrator role so that all important question came up: What do I say when they ask me about something I have never done before?

After a brief pause I said you be honest and you say “I haven’t done that before but I am confident that I could do it” or “I haven’t done that before but I’m confident that if someone showed me how I could.” or “I haven’t done that before but I am a very fast-learner and I am confident that I could pick it up very quickly”.

Well the interviewers asked her about 3 or 4 different critical skills related to the position that she would need in order to successfully work in the role and she gave them those answers. She hadn’t done those things before but she knew she could. The interviewers loved her answers and told her they weren’t even going to interview anyone else. She had all the right answers. She was their first and last interview.

I can’t stress how important it is to give the interviewers the *right* answers to the questions. She was prepared and on her first interview landed the offer with no experience in the field, no work history for the last three years, and being a job hopper.

In my next article I’m going to discuss how to answer the job hopping question when someone asks you “Why have you had so many jobs”

Stay tuned there’s more to come.