Interviewing involves preparation, time and patience, but the investment is worthwhile.

Interviewing involves preparation, time and patience, but the investment is worthwhile.

Interview tips for technical consulting & direct-hire positions

Now that you’ve landed an interview, make the most of it by practicing these tried-and-true tips. There is no substitute for preparation, especially if you haven’t interviewed in a while. The following pages present details on these six key points of interviewing:

1. Be prepared.
2. Practice the “art” of interviewing.
3. Know how to respond to questions.
4. Practice answering typical questions.
5. Know what to do as the interview is ending.
6. Follow up after the interview.

For additional information about interviewing for a position presented by a Glickman Consulting recruiter, contact your recruiter directly.

1. Be prepared.

Learn as much as you can about the position for which you are interviewing. Your recruiter will provide you with as much information as possible about the job, the work culture, the people, and the total compensation package, including compensation, bonus, relocation and/or travel and career path. If you are provided with the name of the company, visit the Web site to learn about the company and culture. Feel free to ask questions of your recruiter so you are as prepared as possible for the interview.

Remember that your resume was the “advertisement” that got you in the door because it appears that you have the requisite experience and skills to do the job. The purpose of the interview is to:
1) confirm that you have the skills to the job,
2) find out if you want the position, and
3) determine if they would like to work with you.

In other words, they are looking to see if you will be a good “fit” for their company and their needs. Likewise, you should determine if the role is a good fit for you in terms of skills, culture and arrangements such as benefits, working environment and transportation.

To prepare, review the job description carefully and learn about the company by visiting the organization’s Web site. If you know the name of the interviewers, it will make you more comfortable if you know something about them. Review the interviewers’ profiles on the company’s site, LinkedIn and|or possibly Facebook. By the way, many interviewers may look at your profiles as well, so be mindful of what you’re presenting online.  Do you have the skill sets they are seeking on your LinkedIn profile?

Handling the phone interview

Smile even though they can’t “see” you.

For phone interviews:
Demonstrate the same enthusiasm as if you were face-to-face. The interviewer will pick up on your energy. Even though the interviewer can’t see you, smile. It will be “heard” on the other side of the phone.

Never use a speaker phone on a phone interview. It can be terribly annoying to the interviewer. Pick up the phone.

Speak succinctly. If English is not your first language, be sure to speak at a pace and clarity that your listener can understand.  Interviewers are looking for people who can communicate well. One clue that you are either talking too rapidly or not clearly enough is if the interviewer asks you to repeat something you’ve said. It’s natural to be nervous at an interview — which may affect your speech — so this is all the more reason to remember to speak with clarity.

For in-person interviews:
Dress neatly and professionally. Wear business attire. When in doubt about the dress code, err on the side of being conservative. It’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Bring clean copies of your resume. Have your professional references ready. It is also helpful to have letters of recommendation and positive performance reviews on hand. Arrive a few minutes early for your scheduled interview. This is a must!

Make sure your cell phone if off. Do not take any calls or even look at your phone. Calls can wait.  Give your interviewers your complete attention.

Employers want to hire individuals who are excited about the position and fit in with the team. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity. Make eye contact with each person with whom you are interviewing.  Be polite. Smile. And most of all, relax. Remember, the interview is not only about your skills. It’s also about creating a relationship between you and the people you are meeting with.

For online interviewing:

All of the above advice applies, plus  1-make sure that you test the connection in advance if at all possible and 2- Make sure the background is free of distracting elements.

2. Practice the “art” of interviewing.

Listen carefully. Observe the social manners of others. Respond in the same manner.

Listening is key.

Use good listening skills.

  • In a face-to-face interview, if you wish to take notes or write down a complicated question, ask first before doing so. Say, “May I jot down a few notes?”
  • Stay on track. Be concise with your answers. Stick to responding to the question posed. Don’t go off on tangents.
  • Don’t rely on your resume to do the selling for you. A busy interviewer may miss information on your resume, so be sure to point out relevant experience.
  • If you don’t understand a question or need a moment to think, just say so.
  • Be honest when answering questions. Don’t exaggerate your experience or qualifications. No one knows everything. Skills can always be learned but honesty is a quality you can’t fake!
  • Never pretend to know something or someone you don’t know. It is highly likely that it will eventually catch up with you!
  • It’s best to tell the truth right from the beginning. A false statement, or an incomplete statement, is something that can also create serious issues for you later.  We know from experience, for example, that a credit check is one of the worst possible times to discover a discrepancy in your background — and it can end up being the reason you don’t get hired. An “untruth” can also be a reason to terminate you even if hired. If there is something you need to explain and are not sure how to handle it, ask your recruiter for advice.
  • Be positive. You should never make negative comments about past employers. If you do, they will wonder what you might later say about them.
  • Rarely, if ever, answer a question with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, “Are you available for work occasionally on nights and weekends as needed? It is better to say something such as, “I always make sure the job gets done” or “Absolutely” rather than just saying yes. If you say no, it is likely that you will not get the position but again, you need to be truthful.
  • Relate your answers to the interviewer, the company and the position for which you are applying. Focus on highlighting your past achievements relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.
  • Focus on the job for which you are interviewing; don’t talk about other positions at the company unless the interviewers bring it up. It may automatically disqualify you for all jobs at the company!

 

3. Know how to respond to questions.

Woman in Group Interview

Have answers ready for questions you anticipate may be difficult to answer.

Both consultants and direct-hire candidates may be asked some of the following questions.

  • Tell me about yourself.
    Keep the answer job- or skill-related. Briefly outline your relevant education and past work experiences that qualify you for the job.

Tell me about your hands-on, technical and functional skills.
Answer succinctly and honestly. If you are not sure of how to do something, say so. If you can, let them know how you could find the answer quickly. Be confident.

What is your current situation? Why are you looking?
While you can add a little personal information, your answer should be focused, linear and job- related. For instance, “My current contracting position is coming to an end in three weeks.”

What do you know about our company? Why would you like to work here?
Share what you’ve learned from the research you completed ahead of time. If you have visited the company’s Web site, it’s good to mention it. Looking at the company’s website shows initiative and interest.

Why should we hire you?
Make a positive statement such as, “I will be sure that projects are delivered on time with no surprises,” “I have the right experience, skill sets and the desire to make us both successful.”  “This job is right up my alley and I know I can do a great job for you!” or “This appears to be a good match for both of us.”

Two people working together

Stay focused on each question during the interview. Answer the questions directly and succinctly.

Walk me through your resume.
Try to focus on specific items which relate to the position for which you are being interviewed. It’s best to go in sequential order. Try to be brief and to the point. It is a good idea to ask if the interviewer would like you to expound on any particular part of your experience.

Why did you leave your last job?
Always answer with a positive statement. Avoid phrases such as, “I was fired,” “I quit,” “I didn’t have a babysitter,” or “I didn’t get along with my coworkers or supervisor.” All of these are red flags to the interviewer. Instead, make a reasonable positive statement such as: “The contract ended,” “It was a short-term consulting position,” “It was a career change,” “I returned to school,” “I shifted focus to raise a family and now my children are on their own,” or “The company was relocated.”

Be open and honest; don't exaggerate about your achievements or skill set.

The interview is about the relationship between you and the potential employer. Be true to yourself.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Respond with where you might envision yourself in that particular company in five years. Never say you plan to take the boss’s job unless, of course, you are being interviewed or will be groomed for that role.

What were your most significant accomplishments in your last assignment?
Relate your answer to qualities the hiring manager is looking for in the position you’re pursuing. If you’re applying to be a project manager, talk about successful projects you’ve managed.

What are your strengths?
Describe your skills in a way that highlights why you would be a desirable employee for the company and that position.

What are your weaknesses?
Always provide a positive answer. For example, “I like to make sure everything is perfect, and that can be a challenge sometimes. Sometimes it keeps me at work very late, knowing that our customers will be unhappy if something doesn’t work right, or that I’ll let my team down. I know I’ll hear about it at home, but I feel I need to do things right.  That said, my perseverence makes for very successful IT implementations.”

What would your references say about you?
The best thing you can do it to relate the positive things supervisors have said about you in past performance reviews or in a letter of recommendation. Showing that documentation is the best way to make your point, if you have brought it along. Use mostly recent references; presenting only old references can be a “red flag.”

If you mention an area needing improvement, relate it in terms of a learning experience where you were able to master the skills. In other words, if you talk about a challenging area for you, state how you have positively resolved the item so it is no longer an issue of concern.

A special kind of question – the “behavioral” question

Preparing for the Behavioral Question

You must be prepared for the “behavioral” type of question. Use a three-part response explaining the SITUATION, the ACTION you took, and the RESULT you achieved.


“Behavioral” or “situational” questions help the interviewer understand how you handled past situations. It is generally believed that your past behavior is considered to be the best predictor of your future behavior in the workplace.

A behavioral question will generally start like this: “Tell me about a time when….or….how did you handle a project that was not going well, and what did you do about it.”

To respond to a behavioral question, draw from a single successful example of past work or educational experience. Use a three-part “SAR” format, providing one or two sentences at most for each part:

S – Situation: Lay a foundation about the project and the challenges.
A – Action: Briefly explain what you did to make a difference.
R – Result: Describe the outcome as a result of your efforts and/or teamwork.

Here’s a sample behavioral question:
Tell me about a time when you worked on a full life-cycle implementation project that was in trouble? A typical, succint question and response:

Situation — “When I joined XYZ Company, ABC module was not on track for delivery by the established milestone. Action – I joined the team as lead, quickly evaluating the current system and workflow. I determined what needed to be done, and what changes we needed, such as “example,” to achieve the milestone. Result – As a result of my leadership, ideas and our teamwork, we delivered on time and with cost savings — actually getting  acknowledgement and thanks from the CEO.”

 

4. Practice answering typical questions.

Employees need to work effectively together.

Employees need to learn how to work effectively together.

Skilled interviewees often practice responding to typical behavioral questions to make sure their responses will be clear and succinct. Remember to use the SAR technique described previously, briefly outlining the situation, your action and the result. Sometimes it is helpful to have someone listen and provide feedback.

By practicing, you will reduce your nervousness before an interview. Below are some common questions you might encounter.

How do you work under deadlines or pressure?  Describe a time at work when you were successful or under a tight deadline, and relate how you managed it.

Tell me about a time when you disagreed with the rest of your team and what you all ended up doing.

Tell me about a time when you asked for feedback on your client service skills from your manager or co-worker and then used that response to improve your own performance.

Give me an example of how you have used “out-of-the box” thinking to successfully satisfy a client’s request.

Tell me about a time when you had trouble working with a difficult or demanding client. How did you handle this? What was the end result?

Tell me about a client account you managed from beginning to end.

Describe a problem you faced with a client account and how you resolved it.

Tell me about a time when you foresaw that your client might not get what he/she needed on time. How did you handle it?

Describe a time when you had to say no to the client because what they wanted was against organizational policy. How did you handle the situation?

Give me an example from your experience in which you have used your ability to think quickly to solve a problem.

Candidate researching company to prepare for interview.

Always be prepared so you can enjoy a relaxing interview and be at your best.

Describe a time when you had to listen to a client express his/her dissatisfaction with your organization’s service. What did you do?

Give me an example of a team problem, or issue, you helped resolve.

Provide an example of how you ensure that your follow-up is timely and accurate.

Describe a process that you improved so clients would be better served.

Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. Be positive, optimistic and demonstrate a can-do attitude.  Be succint, and remember to use the SAR technique.  Also, keep in mind that your resume gets them interested, but a positive interaction among the people you meet will place you in the running to be hired.

 

5. Know what to do as the interview is ending.

Usually, after an interviewer has gone through his or her list of questions, you will be asked if you have any questions. This is your cue that your interview is wrapping up.

At the end of the interview, thank the interviewers for their interest.

When you shake hands, make sure you make eye contact with the person.

Be prepared with a few questions, as this shows both interest and involvement. Expect that all of your questions will not get answered, so ask your most important questions first.

What would you like to have me accomplish in the first six months?
This question demonstrates you are interested in addressing the company’s needs. It also helps you to understand what they are looking for and what is a priority to the employer.

What is the biggest challenge I might encounter in this position?
This question enables you to explain how you might handle this challenge.

Always ask the following question at the end of the interview as your very last question:
What are the next steps in the hiring process?
By asking this question, you demonstrate your interest in pursuing the position. Sometimes, the interviewer will beat you to the punch and explain the next steps in the process. You will learn what the timeline is for interviewing and when a decision is likely to be made.

Thank the interviewer for the opportunity to interview with the company and for the time they have spent with you.

Thank the interviewer for the opportunity to interview with the company and for the time they have spent with you.

And finally, if you are interested in the position, express it. Say something such as, “I really would like to work on this project. I think I could contribute a great deal to its success,” or “After hearing more about this role, I am very interested in pursuing this position. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Thank the interviewer sincerely for the opportunity to interview with the company and for the time they have spent with you.

If you are in an in-person interview, request a business card so you can send a thank-you note via e-mail shortly after the interview. While you can always call the front desk to get a person’s name later, it is far better to get this information before you leave. This applies to all individuals with whom you have interviewed.

Shake the person’s hand when leaving. Thank them again and then leave.

 

6. Follow up after the interview.

If the interview has been set up by Glickman Consulting, call your recruiter immediately after the interview to let them know how it went. Provide feedback as to your interest in the position. Your recruiter can also answer any additional questions you may have.

For in-person interviews, be sure to send a thank-you e-mail to each person with whom you have interviewed as soon as possible.  Make sure the skills you mention are of interest to the person to whom the note is addressed. This is very important because your note gives you one more chance to remind each interviewer about the applicable skills you will bring to the team, and how you will support them in their work.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when crafting a thank-you e-mail:

The employer appreciates a thoughtful thank-you note from a candidate,

The employer appreciates a thoughtful thank-you note from a candidate.

    • Address the note to the interviewer. Take care to spell the person’s name correctly. Keep your note brief. Make sure that your grammar, spelling and sentences are correct.
    • In general, this format works well:

First paragraph: Thank the employer for the interview. Indicate your interest in the position.

Second paragraph: Briefly summarize your relevant skills and experience without repeating the information on your resume word-for-word.

Third paragraph: Let them know you are interested in the position at the company, and let them know you are therefore interested in pursuing the next steps in the hiring process.

Closing: Sign the note with your first and last name.

Proofread your note. Then proofread it again before you hit send. (You’ll be glad you did!)  And for goodness sake, make sure you spell the name of the company and each person to whom you’ve spoken correctly.

For other questions about interviewing for a position presented by a Glickman Consulting recruiter, contact your recruiter directly.