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Interview Preparation

Interview Prep
Physical Prep
Attitude Prep
What to Know About Employer
The Interview
Intervie Questions to Expect

Interview Preparation:

To prepare yourself for a forthcoming interview, we have prepared the following guidelines for successful interviewing plus a sampling of questions to ask your interviewer and another list of questions you should be prepared to answer.  Please take time to review this material before your interview.  Remember, a successful interview begins with preparation and practice.

Recent Grads:  

Just as you studied for exams, this interview is possibly your most important final exam - one that means getting the job and having a career or failing to receive an offer.  This is an exam where only one person passes and everyone else that takes the test, fails.  Do your research and study!

Mid-Level Experience:  

Just as you have prepared for presentations and meetings, keep in mind that "winging it" almost never works and can torpedo your chances for the job.  At best it will undermine your credibility and tarnish years of hard earned experience.


Seasoned Professional:  

Although you may feel confident in you background and abilities, remember preparation always was and still is the key to success.


Employers are continually amazed at the lack of an applicant's preparation regarding the company and the position for which they are interviewing.  Remember that the amount of preparation that you have done is the first key to showing a sincere interest in the position.  Gain the competitive edge in the first interview so that you can increase the probability of getting the job that you want.


The following are the necessary ingredients for a successful interview.


Physical Preparation:

It is important to plan the image you wish to present to the potential employer.   Dress conservatively and in a professional manner regardless of what attire may be appropriate for the position you seek.  Your own personal taste may not be the best guide.  You are selling yourself to the interviewer.  He will buy (hire) what he likes - not what you may like.


Attitude Preparation:

Simply, the objective of the interview is to leave a favorable impression.  So that all possibilities remain open to you, always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing.  Your goal in an interview is to learn all that you can about the company and the opportunity but more importantly, to present yourself in the best possible manner.  To get to the position of having to make a decision at the end of the discussion to accept an offer to join that organization, the proper, positive attitude needs to have been conveyed throughout the interview.


What to Know About an Employer:

In a few short hours of interviewing, you will get your only chance to single yourself out above all of the others that are seeking the position.  It is essential that you prepare yourself by...

  1. Having done your "homework."  In this way, you will have demonstrated a genuine interest in the opening and in their company.  And,

  2. You can use the interview to satisfactorily answer your own questions so that you can make the right decision.


The applicant should know the answers to the following questions prior to the first meeting with the potential employer:

  1. What products or services does the company offer?

  2. When was the company established?

  3. What is the approximate sales volume?

  4. What has been their growth in volume and market share?

  5. What is their marketplace?  Who is their competition?  Who are their customers?  

  6. Is the company a centralized or decentralized organization?


There are a variety of informative publications from which you can compile information to answer the above questions.  Those of most benefit are:

  • Dun & Bradstreet

  • Directory of Corporate Affiliates

  • The Corporation's Annual Report

  • Thomas Register of American Manufacturers

  • Standard & Poor's Corporate Records

  • Monty's Manuals

  • Fitch Corporation Manual

  • McGrae's Blue Book

  • Poor's Register of Directors & Executives

  • Forbes Magazine

  • Fortune Magazine

  • Wall Street Journal

  • Standard Industrial Classification Manual (SIC Codes)


If it is a small company and you have difficulty obtaining this information, call the company's controller or sales manager and ask them if they will provide some of this information, explaining that this will help you to prepare for your interview.  Then ask them the list of questions.  You should also request Product Bulletins, Annual Reports, etc., or anything else that will help you know the company.

Don't forget to visit their web site.  It usually contains a wealth of information - some not available elsewhere.


The Interview:

You have two main goals during your interview:

  1. Convince the employer that you can make a positive contribution to their organization; and

  2. Convince the employer that you will be a compatible member of their team.  Keep in mind that both you and the employer are selling and evaluating each other.


Listed below are general guidelines for your conduct in an interview:

  1. If time allows, confirm the date, time and place of the interview in writing to the person responsible.  A short note expressing your delight in being selected as a possible candidate is never impolite and will immediately set you apart from the crowd.

  2. Arrive a few minutes early.  Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable.  (Learn the route and the time it will take to travel to the interview beforehand.  Allow for unexpected traffic or delays.) Upon arrival, use the extra time to review your resume and interview objectives, and to absorb the office's surroundings and environment (i.e., look at any plaques and awards, company materials, etc.).

  3. If presented with an application, fill it out neatly and completely even if you have the same information on your resume.  Do not indicate "See resume."  Doing so shows your unwillingness to cooperate with their request to fill out the required paperwork.

  4. Relax.  Remember that positive thinking is the key.  Shake hands firmly, but don't squeeze.  Smile.  Make and maintain eye contact, and greet the interviewer with his or her surname.

  5. It is your responsibility to establish an immediate level of rapport so that you may communicate comfortably.  Your goal is to get the interviewer to identify with you.  (Remember, people like people who are like themselves.) Uncover the real needs of the interviewer.

  6. Establish a personal bond with the interviewer before moving to common goals.

  7. Avoid assuming a subordinate role.  If the interviewer calls you by your first name, then ask him/her if it is okay for you to do the same.

  8. If possible, compliment the interviewer on something in his/her office; i.e., company award or plaque, but don't talk about family or clothing.

  9. Listen for "buzz words."  Every company has them.  Present these buzz words back to your interviewer.  (This gives the impression of a working knowledge of the company's system.)

  10. Direct the interviewer to detail the duties of the position in the interview so that you can later relate your background and skills to their needs.  State, for example, "I can give you a lot of details, but I'm sure it would be more focused if you first tell me specifically what you are looking for."

  11. Make sure that your positive traits are communicated to the interviewer in a factual and sincere manner.  Use action verbs, words, and success phrases as part of your interview.  They make you shine.

  12. Emphasize your strong points and minimize your liabilities.  Stay calm and positive when challenged.

  13. Respond to each question thoughtfully, truthfully, concisely, and completely.  Get the interviewer to do most of the talking.

  14. Don't answers more than a few questions with questions.  This indicates a lack of preparedness on your part.

  15. Be aware of your posture and body language - they communicate attitude and impressions.

  16. Never close the door on an opportunity.  Always conduct yourself as if you were determined to get the position you are discussing.

  17. Manage the interview but do not take charge.  Instead, establish an equal status - neither subordinate nor dominant.

  18. Always present a positive statement about your last employer.  Don't convey negative feelings.  Accentuate the positive; it makes you look like a winner.

  19. Admire the achievements of the new employer, and where possible, tie in your background to the company's.

During the interview, your comments and actions should convey the following attributes:


  • Enthusiasm  

  • Dependability  

  • Confidence

  • Loyalty  

  • Energy  

  • Honesty


Interview Questions to Expect:

  1. Why do you want to change jobs or why did you leave your last job?  What have you been doing since your job was eliminated?  (The interviewer is looking for motives for changing jobs.)

  2. What do you identify as your most significant accomplishment in your last job?  (He/She is looking for your strengths.)

  3. How many hours do you normally work per week?  (He/She wants to know what type of worker you are.)

  4. What did you like and dislike about your last job?  (He/She is looking for negatives, give positives.  There is never a right time to be critical of your former employer.)

  5. How did you get along with your superiors and subordinates?  (He/She is looking for your ability to fit in.)

  6. How would you evaluate the company you were with last?  (He/she wants to know your ability to judge fairly and be objective.)

  7. What were its competitive strengths and weaknesses?  (Again, he/she wants to know your ability to judge fairly.)

  8. What would you like to tell me about yourself?  ("What would you like to know?")

  9. What best qualifies you for the available position?  (Directly apply your qualifications to match what he/she is seeking in an applicant.)

  10. How long will it take you to start making a significant contribution?  (Be realistic, but positive.)

  11. How do you feel about our company - its size, industry, and competitive position?  (Be positive.)

  12. What interests you most about the available position?  (Talk about responsibilities and career growth.  Do not mention money.)

  13. How would you structure this job or organize your department?  ("Obviously, I would need to know more about how your company functions and operates, but my initial thoughts are: __________________." [shows your industry knowledge and homework].)

  14. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?  (Be positive.)

  15. What is the potential of the job you are in now?  (Be realistic, but positive.)

  16. What are your career goals?

  17. Do you want to own your own business?  (Depending on the situation.  "Right now I want to work for your company.")

  18. How long will you stay with us?  Are you willing to relocate?  (Questioning loyalty.)

  19. Have you kept up in your field?  (Dedication to education.)

  20. What do you do in your spare time?  (Motivation.)

  21. Do you participate in civic affairs?  (Community involvement.)

  22. What professional organizations do you belong to?  (Usually a plus.)

  23. What is your credit standing? (It's none of their business but be prepared for the question.  Don't lie.  If your credit rating is in the dumper, they have ways of checking.)

  24. How aggressive are you?  (Not overly, but competitively.)

  25. What motivates you to work?  (The sense of accomplishment and reward of getting the job done.)

  26. Is money a strong incentive for you?  ("Certainly, but other factors are also important.")

  27. Would you rather work alone or on a team?  (Keep in mind what he/she is looking for.)

  28. What do you look for when hiring people?  (Attributes he/she is looking for.)

  29. Have you ever fired anyone?  (Answer honestly, but if not, let him/her know that if necessary you could do it.)

  30. What do you think of the current economic and political situation?  (Lets him/her know you care about current events and how they effect the company.)

  31. Will you sign a "non-compete" agreement or employment contract?  (Is it a requirement?  Will they offer a contract?)

  32. What salary do you expect to receive?  ("I'm sure we can come to something agreeable.  What did you have in mind?")  Never be first to offer a real dollar figure.  The first one to do so almost always loses.  Let them state a number and then "flinch" when they do.  Don't over-act but even a small flinch can be worth a lot of money over the years that you are there.

  33. What was the salary of your last job?  (Be honest)

  34. Why should we hire you?  (List your strengths as they apply to the company's needs.)

  35. Do you want the job?  (Answer honestly and positively either way.  "It is an excellent opportunity." OR "I really want the job." AND/OR ADD "However, I don't believe that my career objective is a good match for your opportunity.")


Interview Questions to Ask:

  1. What are you looking for in the person who will fill this job?  (Are you that person?)

  2. What is the first issue that needs the attention of the person you hire?

  3. What other situations need attention now?

  4. How has the job been performed in the past?

  5. Is the opportunity available due to promotion?

  6. What are the major responsibilities of this position?

  7. What are this company's/division's/branch's five-year sales projections?

  8. What needs to be done to reach these projections?

  9. What are the company's major strengths and weaknesses in their product line?

  10. Whom would you identify as your major competitors?  What is your market share?

  11. How do you view the future for your industry and product line?

  12. Do you have any plans for new products, services, or acquisitions?

  13. What can you tell me about the individual to whom I would report?

  14. What can you tell me about my co-workers?

  15. How would you define your management philosophy?

  16. Tell me about your career with the company.

  17. Describe the training and orientation program.

  18. Before the interview concludes, ask the interviewer if he/she feels that he/she has any more questions.



  1. Do not smoke or chew gum.

  2. Avoid answering questions with a simple yes or no.  Relate back to your own accomplishments whenever possible.  Avoid close-ended questions.

  3. Never lie.  Remember, you are building a long-term relationship based on mutual respect and trust.

  4. Never make derogatory statements about your present or former employers.  The interviewer may question what you might say about him/her at a later date or worse yet, he/she may know the company or even the individual.

  5. Make sure that the employer realizes that your interest is based on a positive opportunity that they have, and not a reaction to a negative situation in which you may be currently involved.

  6. Initially, do not inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement, or any other benefits.  After the employer has broached the issue, you may open yourself to discussion.  After the employer initiates the subject of salary (never tell a potential employer the exact figure you are looking for in salary), indicate that your interest will be based upon the company itself, your associates, the position, and the opportunity.  If those aspects are positive to both you and the employer, express your belief that terms can be reached fairly and amicably.

  7. Never be overbearing, overly aggressive, conceited, or leave the opinion that "you know it all."

  8. Do not make excuses or be evasive for unfavorable factors in your background.  Simply try to put them in a positive light.  Remember, honesty is the best policy.  

  9. Do not display the attitude of "What can you do for me?" even though you are also "interviewing" your potential employer and the company, allow the employer to feel that he/she is conducting the interview.


Closing the Interview:

Depending upon the rapport established during the interview, this can often be an awkward time.  Some candidates sigh with relief that the trauma is over, while others tend to linger because they don't want it to end.  Others simply don't know what to do and awkwardly show embarrassment and lack of maturity.  Remember that the employer has a scheduled amount of time.  Thus, when he/she moves to close the interview, follow his/her lead and conclude your presentation.

The cardinal rule is: Respectfully thank the interviewer for his/her time; let him/her know that you enjoyed learning more about the company and position; and finally, that you will look forward to hearing from the interviewer.

If you are interested in the position, you must make a definitive, qualified statement that:

  1. I can do the job.

  2. Here is why I can do the job.

  3. Say something such as:

    • "This looks like a long-term situation."

    • "We appear to have a match here."

    • "This looks like the kind of opportunity I have been seeking."

  4. Try to set a specific date when these matters can be discussed further.  When the interview is coming to a close, keep in mind that there are two questions uppermost in the employer's mind:

    • Why are you interested in the company?

    • What can you offer that company?

  5. Confirm with the interviewer that you have answered both of these questions to his/her satisfaction and thank him/her for the interview, time, and consideration.

  6. Avoid making general statements that do not commit your feelings such as:

  7. It looks very interesting.

  8. Very nice people.

  9. I think I can do it.

  10. I might be able to solve you problems.


Sample Letter of Resignation:


Dear ______:

Please accept this as notice of my resignation effective _____.

My experience at _____ has been both enjoyable and rewarding.  However, I have chosen to accept a position elsewhere.  I feel that this new opportunity is the most logical next step in my career.

It has been a pleasure working with you and for you for the past _____.  I have learned a great deal and attained a work ethic that will remain a part of me for my entire career.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this organization.  Good luck to you in the future.



Intervie Questions to Ask
Closing the Interview
Sample Letter of Resignation
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