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Your search is starting to pay off – you have an interview. So why are you getting nervous? This is what you have been working toward.
It is very normal to be nervous or excited about an interview. But nervousness is usually counterproductive. The trick is to channel this energy so it works for you instead of against you. Many people have a fear of an interview. It can be like an inquisition, especially if you let it. (Have you noticed that inquisition is spelled very much like interview?) Many people consider an interview to be an opportunity for the interviewer to grill the interviewee and that it will be a one-way ordeal.
But it should not be that way. As a matter of fact, if the interviewee just sits and answers questions the interviewer gets little or no opportunity to find out what kind of person the applicant really is.

Take some control of the interview.
The focus should be on the job instead of you. Treat the job as the subject of the meeting. It is the real focus, isn’t it? You would not have been invited to the meeting otherwise! So as much as possible, discuss the nature of the job and how your skills match the requirements for the job
The interview now becomes more of a meeting and the interviewer better sees the real you than if you had let it be an inquisition.
Let the interviewer see you as you really are. You would not want someone to hire you without knowing the real you would you? That would just be asking for trouble later on. Plus, the interviewer sees amore realistic version of you as information is traded and questions are fielded on both sides.
Handle the interview as you would any other meeting, this time to find out about a job opportunity. If you focus on the job, ask questions about it and show the interviewer how you match the qualifications of the job, if you in fact do, then it will go immensely better for you. The give and take of a meeting environment and the opportunity for both sides to analyze and process information will be a much better forum in which to display your ability. You will be more self confident – less nervous. Bottom line – you will do a much better job of presenting yourself.

The Meeting

Treat the interview as a meeting instead of an inquisition.
By making the job the focus of the meeting, you and the interviewer are simply making a decision about whether it makes sense for you to be in that job. It is another business decision. Treat the job as the subject of the meeting. It is the real focus. You would not have been invited to the meeting otherwise! Both sides have the same objective – determining if you and the job are a good match. It cannot be a good move for you and a bad move for the company. Rather, it has to be a good move for both sides or a bad move for both sides.
If you are a fit for the job, there is the issue of doing better than the other candidates so you get the offer instead of one of them. The strategy of treating the interview as a meeting works well. Since you will be focusing on the job you will be finding out about objectives, problems, etc. You can then concentrate on presenting your relevant qualifications.

Pace yourself – Keep making contacts

You have no assurances of getting an offer on any of the jobs you may be interviewing for. Or you may not want any of the jobs after you find out more about them. So, instead of slacking off when you have one or more interviews lined up, now is the time to strike harder while your confidence is at the highest level for possibly quite some time. As you continue your search you will notice several things happening. With greater success in arranging interviews comes greater success during interviews. Your level of self-confidence increases and you are able to present yourself more successfully. And you become more honest with yourself about what opportunities are right for you.
I have told many people when they schedule their first interview that “interviews come in threes.” They light up with anticipation that two more interviews are just around the corner until I add “… just like airplane accidents.”
First, it is very easy to get caught up in research and preparation for the interviews instead of continuing to make new contacts.
Second, there is a tendency to let the momentum of the search falter when interview opportunities appear and therefore have nothing else going on should the interviews turn to nothing.
In reality, most people slack off, get distracted by the interviews, and have nothing else going. If no new contacts are being made, no additional opportunities are likely to be uncovered. Therefore, if the current interviews die on the vine, you may find yourself dead in the water.

Salary – how to handle it

How should you handle the salary question? The best advice is to avoid answering the question. There are many problems that can be created by answering the question. If you mention salary early in the interview process the employer may think that your salary is too high for them and fail to pursue you. But if you can avoid answering and they eventually decide they want to make you an offer, they will be much more willing to make an offer that will be acceptable. The same thing goes for your opinion of the worthiness of the job. If you ask what the company expects to pay and they respond with a range that is much lower than where you were, then you may lose interest in the job before you have a chance to sell the company on your skills and worth to the company.
We will speak more about handling salary in the next section on negotiating an offer.
Three types of interviews
There are three types of interviews. All three types should be an exchange of information – a two way street.

Job interview

The first type is the job interview, the focus of this chapter. This type is the “real” interview, an interview for a job you want.
Networking meetings and informational interviews
Networking was the topic of the last chapter. In this type of interview you must present your background effectively so your networking contact can give you practical advice. But you have to make the presentation very quickly – preferably with your well-rehearsed one-minute commercial.
Informational interviews or exploratory interviews are meetings that you arrange to explore how you may fit in a function or industry that you do not know. There are often tremendous opportunities to take the experience you have gained and transfer the knowledge directly to another field or industry. Other opportunities can develop from these interviews. You may be considered for current or future openings you may have missed out on otherwise.

Practice interviews

The best practice interview is one for a real job but not one you really want. The opportunity develops when a company calls you to set up an interview that you may not have pursued or you pursue an opportunity you learn does not seem to be a good fit.
There are advantages to going on a practice interview:
The interview will give you practice so you will be better prepared when you go on a “real” interview. Gives you a chance to field live questions in a non-staged situation.
More importantly, the job may be better than you think. Or the employer may consider you for a better opening you didn’t know about, or will remember you when a better job opens.
There are other ways to practice for an interview. Perhaps a friend with good interviewing skills will take the time to do a mock interview with you. Be sure to give your friend a list of the very tough questions you want to practice. If you can arrange to videotape yourself during the practice, you can review it later for your own critique. Most people cringe at the thought of doing this but it is very effective. By the way, most people are pleased with what they see on the tape because they see that they interviewed better than they thought they did.

Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new style of interviewing. Behavioral interviewing asserts that “the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.” Currently, 40 percent of all organizations are using behavioral interviewing to some degree.
Traditional interviews, include such questions as:
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why are you interested in working for us?
Behavioral interviewing emphasizes past performance and behaviors. As a consequence, candidates unprepared for the rigors of behavioral interviewing have not fared well. Simply practicing the list of traditional interview questions no longer works.
Why should you prepare for behavioral interview?
Candidates who prepare for behavioral interviews are better prepared – even for traditional interviews.
Using behavioral answers works well with inexperienced interviewers.
Companies that invest the time and energy in developing behavioral interviews often attract top candidates. Top candidates make the company a more desirable place to work.
How do I prepare for a behavioral interview?
Companies that employ behavioral interviewing have predetermined the skill sets they require for a particular position. These skill sets could include: decision making and problem solving, leadership, motivation, communication, interpersonal skills, planning and organization, critical thinking skills, team building and the ability to influence others. The company determines the skill sets by doing a detailed analysis of the position they are seeking to fill. Job seekers also must go through this same process.
To conduct a job analysis the job seeker should ask questions such as:
What are the necessary skills to do this job?
What makes a successful candidate?
What would make an unsuccessful candidate?
Why have people left this position previously?
What is the most difficult part of this job?
Once you have landed the interview, keep in mind the following points.
Be detailed and specific. You should have developed three stories that illustrate your past performance. Remember that the interviewer will be operating under the premise that “past performance in a similar setting is the best predictor of future performance.”
The best way to accomplish this is to use the same three-step process used to create accomplishment statements in your resume:
State the situation you faced or the task to be accomplished
Outline the action you took
Present the result or outcome
For example, you might recount a time when communication within your work group had broken down (situation). To resolve the problem, you organized informal lunch meetings for people to discuss relevant issues (action). Morale then improved, as did the lines of communication (result). Using this three step process is a powerful way for you to frame your experiences and accomplishments for the interviewer.
Limit rambling and tangents. While you can’t control what is asked, you can control what you say.
Listen carefully to each question. If you are unsure, rephrase the question and ask for clarification. When you respond, be sure to recall your past accomplishments in detail.
Practice your behavioral stories using real-life examples. It is very difficult to make up behavioral stories, which is why behavioral interviewing is becoming more popular. By practicing, you will be able to recall with confidence your past accomplishments.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Decision Making and Problem Solving
Give me an example of a time when you had to keep from speaking or making a decision because you did not have enough information.
Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision.


What is the toughest group that you have had to get cooperation from?
Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?


Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
Describe a situation when you were able to have a positive influence on the action of others.


Tell me about a situation when you had to speak up (be assertive) in order to get a point across that was important to you.
Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your co-workers or group? How did you do it? Did they “buy” it?

Interpersonal Skills
What have you done in the past to contribute toward a teamwork environment?
Describe a recent unpopular decision you made and what the result was.

Planning and Organization

How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?
What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give an example.

Other Behavioral Questions

Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to with which you did not agree.
Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.

Preparing for an interview

Is there any such thing as preparing too much for an interview? Yes, if you get so wound up you do not present yourself well. But short of that, it is difficult to prepare too well. Here are a few suggestions:

Learn about the company

Learn about the department or division
Learn about the people who will interview you.
What kind of people does the company hire? What is the company culture?
What kind of personal characteristics do they value?
How do people dress at the level you are interviewing and at the next level up?
Most importantly, find out what the objectives and goals are for the job.

The Secret to beating the competition

Express interest in the job and the company.
The best way to this is to concentrate your questions on the job and the company. Eliminate questions about pay, benefits or anything else about compensation and benefits. In other words – ask questions about what is in it for them rather than what is in it for you.
There is one exception. You can ask about advancement, training and other long term career related aspects of working for the company. The reason for this exception is that these items also have to do with what is in it for the company.
Frequently an employer will judge one person to be superior to another for a job but will offer the job to the number two candidate simply because he or she expressed interest in the job during the interview and in a follow up letter or email.
Any question is fair game to consider asking in an interview if it relates to the interests of the company. A “what’s in it for them” question. Stay away from asking any questions related to what is in it for you until after you get an offer.
Show interest in the job by asking a lot of job related questions, telling the employer that you are interested and want to continue discussions sends a very positive signal which pays off in most cases.

Filling out an application

The application form takes on different roles in the hiring process in different situations. In a large well-structured company you are more likely to have to fill out an application form before the first interview, especially if you are applying for a relatively junior position and/or the company hires many people in this capacity. The smaller the company and the higher the position in the company, the less likely an application form will be required, sometimes being filled out after the person starts employment just so the company will have something in its files.
If you are presented with an application give it proper attention. If it requires information you do not have with you, ask if you can take it home and return it later. Provide the information requested rather than writing “see resume.” But do not fill in your salary or salary requirements. This has been mentioned earlier and will be covered again in the next chapter.

Picture yourself in the job

If you can picture yourself in the job and feel very comfortable about it, you can telegraph that message and attitude to the interviewer.
When it feels comfortable for you to do so, use the words “we” and “our” in your questions. For example, “How will we handle the current problem in production?” or “How is our new policy on company cars going to affect our recruiting new sales reps?”
Do not use this technique unless you are very comfortable for you. If you force it the results will be unfavorable. It has to come naturally but when it does it works very well.

Proper dress for an interview

Invest in your future. The return on the investment in clothes for the job search can more than pay for itself with a better job and more money. If an extra $2000 per year on your wardrobe will help you to land a job or get a promotion paying $5,000 to $10,000 per year more – you have made a good investment.
Dress one level above the best everyday dress for that level at that company. Everyone makes judgments about you based largely on your appearance. Even if someone who has been with one company for years starts dressing above or below normal, people will rapidly begin to treat him or her differently.
If you doubt if dress makes a difference I can prove to you that you too make judgments about people from their dress. Stand at the entrance to any large company in the morning and watch people go in. You will make judgments about the type job and level of each person by the way they dress.
Your best interview will be a lot like this
Picture your interview going well before the interview. Prepare and do your homework. If you are ready, if you have done everything you can to prepare, the interview will go well. Picture your interviews positively and make the picture a reality:
You have your best interviewing clothes on, your hair is very businesslike, your shoes are shined, you are well rested and the exercise you have been doing lately really shows – you are looking good. You had the opportunity to choose when you would be interviewed and you selected first or last so you would not get lost in the crowd. Things are going your way.
You have done your homework. You have read everything you could find about the organization. You have called your networking contacts that may know something about the company. You may have been able to meet with someone who is a current employee or a consultant to the company. You are ready.
You let the interviewer lead but you maintain some control and focus on the job instead of yourself. You are very businesslike yet personable. You are being yourself. Not too relaxed – just businesslike.
When asked to “Tell me about yourself” you very briefly describe yourself with the short “commercial” you have prepared so well. You mention your functional area of expertise, your demonstrated skills and the benefits you will bring to the company you join.
You are there to talk about the job. If you are not a fit for the job, you do not want it. If you are a fit, you will convince the interviewer very quickly that you are a very good candidate. You ask questions about the job. You ask about the organization and where it is headed. You follow the entire discussion so you can ask pertinent questions.
The questions you ask are on the mark. All your questions are driven by a concern for what the company needs. You ask no questions about what is in it for you.
When you are asked about salary you respond that you are only interested in being paid fairly for the job – if it the right job for you, the salary will be right.
The interviewer sees that you know what you are talking about, you can do the job and you are interested in the job. Showing your interest in the job is icing on the cake.
You seem to fit the job well and seem to be the type of person who fits well into the organization and its goals.
You leave the interview with a very comfortable feeling that things went well. You know they will call you back. You call within the hour to provide information on any references that you have been asked to provide. You send a well-written letter the next day and make a follow up phone call at just the right time.
The job is yours if you want it.

Job Search
CEN News

St. Gerard Majella

Career Development Series
The Benefits of Using a Recruiting Firm in Your Job Search
When: February 20, 7:15-8:30pm
Where: St Gerard Majella
Catholic Church Building 2005,
Parish Meeting Room 224
1971 Dougherty Ferry Rd
St.Louis, MO 63122
Please join us at our next Career Development Workshop, where Craig Lavelle will discuss the benefits of using a recruiting firm in your job search.  He will also provide key insights into:
  1. Job interview preparation
  2. How to avoid 7 interview mistakes
  3. Likeability factors and interest level in a job search
  4. Sample behavioral questions.
Craig is Vice President, Permanent Placement Services at Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International (RHI), the world's largest specialized staffing firm.  The specialized staffing divisions of RHI place professionals in accounting and finance; technology; office administration; law; and the creative, marketing and design fields. Craig has been with Robert Half for 15 years.  He is an experienced recruiter and business consultant whose primary focus is helping both candidates and clients achieve their respective career goals and organizational recruiting needs.  Prior to joining RHI, Craig received his Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Louis University and spent 20 years in various accounting roles, including the President and CEO of Gimbel Vision in Calgary Alberta Canada. We hope you will join us so we can continue to help and support each other!  If you have questions, please contact us at  There is never any cost for our service.

Holy Spirit

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