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My Job Interview Tips

When I entered the financial services industry at the ripe old age of 17 (as an intern), I had no clue what the “do and don’t” etiquette was for an interview.  In my opinion, that is the single most important reason I was able to interview well and break into this industry when most of my friends were trying to secure fake IDs.  I didn’t know any “cliché” questions or “cookie cutter” answers…and I decided to just be myself and let the chips fall where they may. 

Since that time, I have had the chance to sit on both sides of the interview table, and I have formed my own opinions on the interview process.  Here is my take:

BE YOURSELFIf you are outgoing and energetic, then show it.  However, if you are introverted and shy, be that way.  You never know what type of person the organization is looking for and if you act a certain way and get overlooked, you will never forgive yourself. 

BE HONESTI believe in brutal honesty.  When asked “what is your biggest weakness,” please do not give an answer that would make Tony Robbins proud.  Say what is on your mind.  When a person is brutally honest, it disarms the person asking the questions and lightens the adversarial situation.

RELAX!  Non-verbal communication is a topic that has fascinated me for years.  Most studies estimate that 75-80% of your communication is contained in your actions…NOT your words.  Look the interviewer in the eyes, shake hands firmly, but do not give them the “death grip,” and try to control your leg from bouncing uncontrollably. 

One phrase that always helps me relax is “if it is meant to be, it will be…if it is not, I don’t want it anyway.”  If you like my phrase, then learn it and use it…if not, create your own.  Whatever you have to do, you must R E L A X.

LISTENFeel free to insert whichever cliché you like here, but I will use the “God gave us 2 ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk” version.  When the interviewer asks you a question, wait until they completely finish speaking and then count to three in your head before answering.  This gives them comfort that (1) you listened, (2) you are not excitable, and (3) you think before you speak. 

Also, be diligent about NOT interrupting or talking over the other person.  Slow everything down and listen…this will help you relax and you will perform better. 

BE READY FOR ANYTHINGI do not believe in reading any “sample interview questions,” but rather, prepare yourself by deciding to tell the truth about WHATEVER is asked.  Some of the dirty tricks I have been exposed to include making the applicant wait for 20 minutes before the interview and then having the receptionist ask the person to apologize to the interviewer for getting the time wrong on their schedule. 

Interview at 2 pm, you show up at 1:45 pm and are made to wait until 2:20 pm…then Jim the receptionist says “Bob…Mr. Bigshot is almost ready to see you, but he said you must have gotten the time wrong…would you mind apologizing when you walk in?” 

This is a test of backbone.  If you apologize, no job.  It is a dirty trick, but you must be ready for stuff like this.  I could provide 15 examples of stuff like this, but I do not want to offend my readers…just BE READY.

BE EARLY.  Notice that I did not say be on time, but to be early.  This doesn’t mean to be 45 minutes early because then you will look desperate (just got idea for next point), so you can find the right number.  For me, it is 10-15 minutes.  If my interview is scheduled for 9 am, I will be at the office at 8:45 am.

DON’T BE DESPERATE.  This is harder than ever due to a double digit unemployment environment.  I don’t care…act like you do not NEED the job, but rather WANT the job because you know that you were born to do it.  Remember, if it is meant to be, it will happen.  Do not beg, do not pander, and do not show desperation. 

ASK QUESTIONS.  I bet that “Job Interviews for Dummies” will tell you to ask questions, so this one is obvious.  However, I do not recommend softball questions like “how long has <company> been in business?” or “what will my average day be like?”  I like ones like these:

  • What is the worst thing about working for your company?

  • The person who previously had this job…how long did they work here and why did they leave?

  • Which of my answers was the weakest in your opinion?

  • Who is the final decision maker?  If it were 100% up to you, would you hire me?  Why/why not?

  • What is the biggest risk facing <company>?

  • In what area could I improve most with regards to my interview?

  • How many other people are being considered for this position?  What will be the deciding factor?

I will stop there, although I could go all day on this…come up with your own questions.  The more uncomfortable you can make the person interviewing you, the more confident you will look, and the more they will want to hire you. 

Either you have stones or you don’t, and I don’t have to tell you which one most companies prefer, right?

RESUME ADVICEBring your resume, but don’t get caught up on it.  We have to assume that the person interviewing you is a busy person, and the chances are good that they only skimmed your resume…they did not read it in detail.  If they did, then they have too much time on their hands and likely are not the final decision maker.  If they ask for your resume, please make sure you have a copy with you, and do not hand them a resume printed on copy paper.  Print it on vanilla colored “resume paper!”   

Rabbit Trail  Check your resume for grammatical mistakes.  Then, run the spell check function and make corrections.  Then, print it out and read over it.  Next, hand it to three other people (who can read and write preferably) and have them read it in detail.  Also, check it for alignment and consistency.  Be consistent…do not have your first GPA listed as 3.1 and your second one as 3 (make it 3.0).  Do not spell out a number like this (three) and then use the actual number on the next line (3).  If you are using roman numerals, then use periods after them or do not (either IV. or IV).  Lastly, make SURE the alignment is perfect.  Use a ruler and make sure that each line is in the correct spot.  If they do not line up, re-do the entire thing.  Rabbit Trail Over

The above excerpt contains some “deal breakers” for me.  I have never read an applicant’s resume completely, but I do check them for spelling, grammar, alignment, and consistency.  A lady actually answered one of my questions once by saying “it is on my resume.”  So, I smiled and decided to have some fun….

“I bet it is.  I did not read your resume.  Resumes are nothing more than a piece of paper that demonstrate a person’s spelling and grammatical talent.”  “How did I do,” she asked.  “Well, you wouldn’t be in my office if everything was not lined up and consistent.”

PRAY.  The purpose of my blog is not to preach to anyone, but those of you that know me know that I am a born-again Christian (not totally sanctified from sarcasm or overconfidence yet).  I am believer in God’s Will, and I want HIS will to be done.  Therefore, before any interview, I pray that I will be able to successfully do the things I have listed in this blog entry.  Again, I am not trying to preach to you, so if you have a different belief set, then pray to whomever that religion believes is in charge.

NOW that we have covered all of that, anybody out there want to work for me?

Creative Commons License photo credit: laverrue