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What Employers Want to Hear at a Job Interview - Tips for Successful Job Interviews

by Mohamed Nabil Ali - 24/05/2010

What Employers Want to Hear at a Job Interview - Tips for Successful Job Interviews

"For most employers the most important objective of an interview is to verify that you are who you say you are in your resume. After all, if they invited you for an interview – this means they like your resume. "

Going through a job interview is usually the most stressful part of a job search process. It may help to prepare for an interview if you understand how employers look at job candidates and their way of thinking. To help us with that we’ve asked seasoned hiring managers and professionals in the industry to describe how they rate job candidates and list some of the things they pay attention to when interviewing. Here is what they’ve shared with us:

1.        For most employers the most important objective of an interview is to verify that you are who you say you are in your resume. After all, if they invited you for an interview – this means they like your resume. Now it is your turn to show that you are the worker described in the resume – the qualities, the experience, and accomplishments must all match the face the employer sees. As Marjorie Kavanagh, president of Panoramic Resumes has described: “I've had candidates whose faces have gone blank when asked a question about something on their resume. When I reference the information from their resumes, their responses have been, "Oh, my girlfriend (insert anyone else here) wrote my resume." Most employers don’t really care who wrote the resume but if your name is on it and you can’t back it up – this may be it for you.
2.        Interview is all about presentation and you are on the spot. Interviewers will look at how you are dressed, your manners, how confident your handshake is, eye contact, etc. Their job is to evaluate you from a professional standpoint but also understand that the personal impression has a huge influence. If they don’t like something about you personally, chances are they will not like you professionally either.
3.        Many employers look for signs and qualities during the interview that cannot be put in a resume. They will analyze your critical thinking ability, thought process, ability to handle difficult situations, communications skills, work ethic, etc. Keep that in mind throughout the interview.
4.        There are also things that could negatively influence employer’s decision right way. If they catch you lying – you are out. Some things may work against you in the longer run when compared to other candidates: poor listener, inability to convey understanding of the job, unfamiliar with the company culture, had not questions about the job, does not fully understand the responsibilities, etc.
5.        If an interviewer has specific concerns they will most likely focus on that issue. Chances are if they like the answer, they will move on but if they don’t they will “dig deeper”. Repetitive questions may mean that they haven’t received the answer they wanted to hear and this should be a red flag that you haven’t given the “right” answer.
6.        Don’t be nervous. It is easier said than done but it is very important. If you are nervous, some interviewers will look for a reason to why and their conclusions may be unfavorable to you. If you are nervous and you are having a hard time, it is best to admit to it and explain why you are nervous. Many professional interviewers will relate to that and will try to help you by adjusting the atmosphere to more casual and relaxed. Turning an interview into a conversation (rather than question-answer session) always help. Regardless of how nervous you are, always try to be your best professional, well mannered, polite and communicative.
7.        Always come prepared. Make sure you understand the job and the company to the best of your ability. Do research on the Internet. Read things like corporate mission statements and messages from the CEO/President. This will help you understand the company culture better. Also, come prepared with questions about the job and responsibilities. Finally, prepare a list of things that you want the employer to know about you and gently weave them into the conversation.
8.        For most employers it comes down to two questions: A) do you have the skills/experience required for job? B) Will you fit into the existing team/structure? During your interview they must have a solid “Yes” answer for both of these questions. It is your job to convince them of that. You should actually bring this up if the employer doesn’t explicitly cover it. Employers will listen carefully to you explaining why you think you have the skills for the job or how you would fit in. These are two questions that ALL interviewers are guaranteed to have on their mind.
9.        Don’t expect all interviews to be the same. Keep in mind that each job has different requirements, each company’s culture is different and finally, interviewers are different people, too. It is impossible to foresee all possible questions but the best way to prepare is always by researching the position. “What are the requirements? Do you have the technical, transferable, and adaptive skills required? Research the company. Is it a company for which you'd like to work? Are you motivated to do the job? And know yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses?” –Having answers in mind to these questions, as recommended by Bob McIntosh - an experienced innovative career trainer, is the best way to prepare.
10.        Listen carefully to questions asked and respond accordingly. Many employers rate job candidates on their ability to listen. “Too many candidates have their own agendas. They barely listen to what's being said, don't answer the question, then go back to their own agenda - what they want from the position. Individuals who have a sense of entitlement, either to the job or perks, don't go far. I'm interested in what the candidate can bring to the position.” Says Darlene Zambruski, Managing Editor at ResumeEdge.com.

We would like to extend our thanks to the LinkedIn community with the help in putting together this article, and especially to Marjorie Kavanagh, Bob McIntosh, Darlene Zambruski, Paul Mullan, Eugene Fridman, Abdul Rahim Hasan, and others.
Cartoon by David Farley

Top 10 Job Interview Mistakes Every Job Seeker Should Avoid
A big part of a successful interview is avoiding simple mistakes. Mistakes are deadly to the job seeker and easy to avoid if you are prepared.

Here are ten of the most common mistakes people make during job interviews:

Arriving Late. One of the worst job interview mistakes is to not be on time for the interview. Collect all the necessary details beforehand to ensure that you arrive on time. Get directions from the interviewer or a map. Leave home early. If you cannot make it on time, call the interviewer, and arrange to reschedule.

Not Being Prepared. There is no excuse with today’s technology to go into an interview without doing basic research on the company interviewing you, their executives, products, customers, and competitors.

What Do You Need to Know about a Company before Your Job Interview

You also should prepare answers on the most common interview questions such as, “What are you strengths and weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in ten years? What can you bring to the company that nobody else can? What brought you to this part of your career?” You will be more than likely asked these questions.

Dressing Inappropriately. When hiring managers were asked to name the most common and damaging interview mistakes a candidate can make, 51% listed dressing inappropriately. You make your greatest impact on the interviewer in the first 10-17 seconds, an impression you want to make powerfully positive. It’s therefore important to carefully consider what you should wear to impress your interviewer.

Job Interview Dressing for Success

Talking too much and saying too little. There is a misconception that the length of your response to an interview question is as important as the quality of your answer. The interviewer really doesn’t need to know your whole life story. Answering to a simple question with a fifteen-minute reply can be avoided if you practiced what you want to communicate. Good answers are succinct, to the point and focused when demonstrating your knowledge, expertise, and value. The best way to do this is to prepare and practice your interview answers beforehand.

Being too modest. Don’t be afraid to talk up everything that you’ve accomplished, whether in school or in previous companies. This is your time to shine. It’s really hard to communicate with someone who answers a question with a word or two.

Speaking Negatively About Previous Employers. Your previous boss was an idiot? Everyone in the company was a jerk? You hated your job and couldn’t wait to leave? Even if it’s completely true, you don’t want to be labeled a troublemaker or someone who isn’t a team player and you do not want to look like a complainer. You also don’t want the interviewer to think that you might speak that way about his or her company if you leave on terms that aren’t the best. Complaining about former employers and colleagues creates a negative impression. Focus on the positive - that you are looking for opportunities to grow professionally and be a part of an organization where you can make a difference.

Failing to Ask Questions. Interviewers are unimpressed when they ask the candidate if they have any questions and the candidate does not! Prepare at least 3 or 4 questions in advance to ask the interviewer. Interviews are an exchange of information, and having no questions indicates that you are not sufficiently interested and have not thought much about the position.

The Best Questions to Ask in the Job Interview and What Message They Give to the Interviewer

Not Displaying a Positive Attitude. This is your first and sometimes only chance to showcase your personality. Managers want to hire people who are enthusiastic. Put a positive spin on the situation and your job search. This is particularly important for people who have been in the job hunt for a long time or who left their past employers under strained circumstances. Show your enthusiasm for both the job and the opportunity to interview for it. And don’t forget to thank the person at the end of the interview!

Positive attitude may help you find a job quicker

Asking about Salary too early. Don’t ask about salary at a job interview. Wait for the interviewer to bring up these issues. The interviewer will inevitably tell you what salary and benefits come with the job. There are so many people looking for jobs, so if the company sees you as someone who just wants the money and does not necessarily care about the job, it will work against you in the long run.

Allowing Distractions. While you will probably be nervous prior to and during your job interview, try not to fidget. Think about what you are doing with your hands to keep them under control. Fiddling with your clothing, your notebook, your hair, tapping your pen, etc are all distracting and irritating. No employer wants a fidgety co-worker in the building.

Non-Verbal Communication: Using Body Language during Job Interview
Sending the right message in your job interview is extremely important for your success. Using effective non-verbal communication techniques is essential for you to get your dream job. Over 90% of the message you are sending during your job interview is non-verbal. The importance of body language is often mentioned, but doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. You need to effectively communicate your professionalism both verbally and nonverbally.

Here are a few interview body language tips:

•        In the beginning of a job interview give the interviewer a strong and firm handshake. A weak, limp handshake gives an impression of a disinterested and a cold person. It also signifies lack of enthusiasm.
•        Control your hands by being aware of what you are doing with them. When you are at a job interview touching your face, hair or neck it is look very unprofessional and it sends the message that you are anxious and uncertain. Interview body language experts confirm that touching the nose or lips can show that the candidate is not being completely honest.
•        Don’t cross your arms. Folding your arms across your chest conveys a nervous, negative and even aggressive attitude.
•        Don’t wave your hands and arms around. Interview body language experts agree that the less you move your arms and hands about the more confident and in control you are.
Eye Contact
•        Maintain eye contact with the interviewer or interviewers when answering questions but don’t stare at them constantly. You need to hold eye contact for periods of up to 10 seconds before looking away briefly and then re-establishing eye contact.
•        It is also essential to have eye to eye contact while your interviewer is speaking to you. This will ensure that you are listening and understanding him.
•        Don’t keep turning your attention to the floor or the ceiling. It appears as if you’re evading a question.
•        Don’t forget to smile. Occasionally smiling helps to show enthusiasm and interest.
•        If you’re interviewed by a group of people, talk directly to the person that’s asking you the question. After you have fully answered the question to that individual, then look at the other interviewers.
•        When you are entering an interview room it is always better to walk with your head up to show your confidence and warmness.
•        Sit up straight with your hands relaxing completely and lean slightly forward in your chair. This indicates that you are comfortable and feeling confident.
•        Don’t sit on the edge of your chair. It shows that you a little tense and might give the impression that you feel uncomfortable and nervous.
•        Your legs should be crossed at the ankles or both feet flat on the floor. You will look professionally and show confidence during the job interview.
•        Don’t move your legs a lot. It’s distracting and shows how uncomfortable you are.
•        Resting one leg or ankle on top of your other knee makes you look too casual or even arrogant.
Finish the interview with energy and confidence. At the end of an interview stand up and shake hands while you thank the interviewer for the opportunity. It increases your level of alertness and allows you to become more engaged in the conversation.

Besides your body language, you should know how to dress for an interview to be successful. Also read Top 10 Job Interview Mistakes Every Job Seeker Should Avoid and The Best Questions to Ask in the Job Interview.

Job Interview Dressing for Success
Perfect grooming is your first assignment when you interview for a job, whether you want to be a top manager or an entry-level factory worker. Clothes may not say everything about you but they sure are a big part of making a first impression.

There is a large group of people who believe in the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” lie but, let’s face it, we all judge each other by our outer appearances. When you’re applying for a job, it’s smart to bear in mind that you may only get to make a first impression, and that most people hiring you will not spend enough time with you to see past your appearance. Studies show that many interviewers make up their minds about you after the first 10 seconds. It’s therefore important to carefully consider what you should wear to impress your interviewer.

When you are dressing up for a job interview, don’t wear anything too distracting. Don’t dress too casually or wear flashy clothes. And, most important, be neat and clean. Wearing ill-fitting or unpressed clothes sends the message that you are slovenly and don’t pay attention to detail - not what most employers want.

Appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed. Even if you are aware that employees of an organization dress casually on the job, dress up for the interview unless you are specifically told otherwise by the employer. You also need to think about your face, hair, the amount of jewelry you have on, the strength of your perfume or aftershave, the bag you carry and so on.

There are a few main rules to keep in mind when dressing for a job interview:
•        Shoes should be clean and conservative. Scuffed shoes are an indication of lack of attention to detail. Dirty shoes are one of the most detrimental dress mistakes.
•        Hair should be neat and clean. If it needs cut, get it cut several days before the job interview so you are comfortable with it. Avoid a hair style that requires you to constantly brush or flick your hair back during the job interview. Sunglasses pushed up in your hair look messy.
•        Smell nice, but don’t knock out the interviewer. Cologne or perfume should be minimal.
•        Fingernails should be cleaned and trimmed. You’ll shake hands several times and your hands are in full view on your lap during your job interview, so make sure they are clean.
•        Have fresh breath. You may be closer to the interviewer than you think if it’s a small room.
•        Jewelry should be kept to a minimum. Big, dangling earrings and jangling bracelets are particularly distracting as they bounce about as you talk and move your hands. Iron your clothes for interview. You want the interviewer to concentrate on your face and what you have to say.
•        Before your job interview cover up tattoos as much as possible and take out body piercings including earrings if you are a man until you know whether they are acceptable at that particular workplace.
•        No missing buttons, no lint; and don’t forget to remove external tags and tacking stitches from new clothes.
•        Don’t bring gum, candy, cool drinks or sodas into the interview. All these send the message that you are not taking the interview process seriously.
What Should Women Wear to a Job Interview
•        The classic two-piece matched business suit is a good option for your interview attire. Navy, dark gray, brown and black are safe colors. It always looks professional.
•        The suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably. A skirt that ends at the knee when you’re standing looks chic and professional. Longer skirts are professional too. A shorter skirt often results in having to tug it down during the interview!
•        Tailored pants suits are appropriate for women. If you wear pants, they should be creased and tailored, not tight or flowing.
•        Underneath the suit jacket, wear a tailored basic white blouse or a colored blouse if you prefer that coordinates nicely with your suit.
•        Limited jewelry. Wear a conservative watch and simple jewelry. Whatever jewelry you select, remember it should be understated and not distracting for the interviewer. So avoid big, dangling necklaces that make clanking sounds every time you move!
•        Light make-up and perfume. Keep makeup conservative. A little is usually better than none for a polished look.
•        Conservative shoes. Regardless of what is in style, avoid extremes. Make certain you can walk comfortably in your shoes.
•        Hosiery should be plainly styled (no patterns), sheer (not opaque), and in neutral colors complementing your suit. Avoid high contrast between your suit and hosiery color.
What Should Men Wear to a Job Interview
•        The safe standard interview dress for men is the classic dark business suit. Navy and gray have evolved since they look good with the hair, eye, and skin tones of most men, and dark clothing is slimming. Traditionally black suits have been acceptable only for social events such as funerals, and evening (after 6 pm) functions. They were not deemed appropriate for business because they were “too” powerful.
•        Long sleeve shirt. Short-sleeved shirts are never as professional as long-sleeved shirts. A white color is a good choice; a white shirt gives the impression of authority. If you prefer a colored shirt rather choose a light color that co-ordinates with the suit and is not overpowering.
•        Tie. Your tie should coordinate with the colors you are wearing and be relatively conservative. The primary color of a patterned tie should complement your suit and the secondary color should pick up the color of your shirt.
•        Belt. Always wear a belt in trousers with loops.
•        Dark socks, mid-calf length so no skin is visible when you sit down. Socks should match the color of your trousers. They can be slightly darker. This gives an uninterrupted visual line from your waist to your shoes.
•        Conservative leather business shoes.
One area where job interview clothes are different is in the creative field. If you showed up in a creative, individualistic workplace like a fashion designer, you would want to look like someone who belonged in that environment instead of in an investment bank. If you are in any doubt about what to wear, do some research. Either ask someone setting you up for the interview, or spend a little time learning what you can about the target company to get a sense of what people expect in the workplace.

Are You Ready for Your Job Interview via Skype?
All companies try to save time and money especially with today’s economy. Now some of them know how they can save on job interviews.

These days many companies use Skype program to conduct job interviews. It is an Internet-based program that allows real-time international communication. Voice and video calls are free Skype-to-Skype no matter where you’re located. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection.

For companies it saves a lot of money on travel expenses and provides the employer with a much quicker and easier way to find the perfect person for the position without the time consuming face-to-face interview process.

For candidates for employment, it’s easy to interview right from home and, if you prepare in advance, video interviewing can be much less stressful than interviewing in person.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for a Skype interview:

1. It is an interview. You should be prepared as you go for a regular interview. Research the company, know your resume very well, read the job description, prepare answers to most common interview questions. Do not forget to prepare questions for an interviewer. Here you can read more interview preparation tips.

2. Clean up your room. You don’t want an interviewer to see all the mess you have in your home or office. It may create the wrong impression about you.

3. Fix yourself up. You should look professional. Wear a nice suit the same you would wear on an in-person interview. Learn how to dress for success.

4. Check your computer. Allow plenty of time before the interview to test all the equipment. Turn on your computer, check your Internet connection, the Skype program, web camera, speakers, and microphone.

5. Keep the noise down. All the noises will disturb your conversation. Make sure you turned off your cell phone, TV and radio, closed windows, put your dog in a different room, etc. Tell your family to not enter the room until you finish with the interview.

What to Do After Job Interview - Effective Ways of Improving Your Chances
So you’ve just had a job interview? Congratulations!

You must be wondering: Did I get the job? Will they call me? What do I do now?

Well, there are actually several things you can do to get extra points and hopefully improve your chances of getting hired. Following up after the interview will help you stand out and may demonstrate that you are a strong candidate for the position.

In fact, if you don’t follow a simple post-interview etiquette, you may actually harm your chances of getting the job. According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 15% of hiring managers wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t send a “Thank you” note, and 32% would think less of them.

Here is what you should do:

Write a Thank You letter

Writing a “thank you” letter after a job interview is a must! As a rule, send a Thank You letter to everybody you had an interview with. Make sure to send it no latter than 24 hours after the interview. You can send an e-mail or just a card. For more information on how to write an effective Thank You letter please refer to our articles:

Increase Your Chances of Getting Hired: Writing a Thank You Letter After Job Interview

Thank You Letter: Do I Need to Write One?

Write an Influence Letter

Haven’t heard of it before? Don’t be surprised – this is the latest trend that some recruiters say could be much more effective that a simple “Thank You” note.

Instead of a Thank You note, you can write a letter designed to influence the hiring manager to decide in your favor. How do you do this?

First, start by thanking them for the interview and for the opportunity (i.e. a simple Thank You!). Then tackle any specific doubts about your candidacy that you think they may have (you should have gotten a feeling for any at the job interview). For example, if you sense they are wondering if you are a good fit, explain how you can meet their needs and back it up by showing how you’ve performed at your previous jobs. Highlight your relevant skills.

Use this opportunity to mention anything you wished you had said during the interview but didn’t. This may be your last opportunity to do so.

Make sure to reiterate your interest in the job and in the company and keep it short.