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The Three Rs of Interviewing

Making a solid impression with a prospective employer boils down to a handful of basic, common-sense tips.

How many times have you walked out of an interview and thought to yourself, “Why did I say that?” Interviewing is one of those skills that everyone can afford to improve on, particularly in this crowded market, but few people do. It is critical now that you find ways to stand apart from the candidate before and after you. As with anything, the more you practice the more you will improve. But, mistakes can be extremely costly in this game.

With unemployment at a nine-year high of close to 6.5 percent, the salary scales are becoming more competitive on a daily basis. All of this makes for a longer waiting period. Your old interviewing skills might not be appropriate anymore. Here’s a quick refresher course.

• Research the company you are interviewing with. This never goes out of style. Thanks to the information technology explosion, information about your potential employer is abundant. Learn about their mission, financials, recent news headlines, general trends and other relevant industry information. Think strategically while researching. This step shows the interviewer that you are motivated, and prepares you for further discussions later. Think beyond the current technology–that will certainly change.
Who are you meeting with? Find out what their roles are if possible and their motivation in this. If you know someone that works at this company, find out discreetly, what you can about the interviewers.
Many of my candidates drive to the interviewing site several days in advance in order to feel more comfortable locating the right building, etc. This eliminates a potential problem ahead of time.

• Rehearse. This may seem silly, but you must prepare and rehearse your answers. To do this, you must anticipate the questions. We all know the basic job-interview questions, and we certainly should be able to find guidance online to assist us with the appropriate answers. I always advise candidates to look online at the many articles and virtual tests available. If this is not possible, there are many books written specifically on this topic.
Most of us can always afford to improve our interviewing techniques, even if you interview every single day. The reason is simple: You will always be interviewing with a different audience. You will not always know how to appease them nor will you know their perspective on the position in question.
When rehearsing, sound natural and be honest. But do not become sentimental or overly critical. Employers want to hire smart, confident, decisive people. Professional interviewers are testing you to see if you qualify as a viable candidate.
Know the position requirements ahead of time. What are the qualifications as defined in the description that you have? Based on that, prepare your own questions on the qualifications. Are some of the skills really required, or are they part of the screening process? You will never know this if you do not fully understand the position and how it relates to the business. Understand how to ask questions and listen. Be consultative. There’s most likely information about the position that hasn’t been published– maybe they’re moving to a new platform but haven’t announced it yet, or maybe the person doing the screening interview has a perspective on the job that’s different from that of hiring manager. Each interviewer will most certainly have his own agenda and opinions. Your job is to find out what these particular nuances are. Not only will this step help you land the job, but it will also give you early insight into the workings of the company

• Respond. A prospective employer wants to see that you’re excited about the opportunity that’s being made available. There are ways you can make this clear to the interviewer. Dress well. Arrive a few minutes early. If you have never been to the company’s location, leave extra time.
Introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Look your interviewer in the eye. Do not be afraid to be excited; enthusiasm is not a bad attribute. Refer to the research you have done. Have your questions ready and show them. If you do not know something, admit it but try to work in a relevant case where you are knowledgeable. Watch your interviewer and be in tune to their expressions. Is she bored? Content?
The most important skill is your enthusiasm. Remember that as you sit across from your interviewer, major decisions are being made about you. At the end, don’t be afraid to verbally express your interest in the position and explain why. Ask when a decision will be made and how the information will get to you if necessary.
Remember the old adage that says most people spend more time planning a vacation than they spend planning their careers? This probably also applies to interviewing techniques. In this tight economy, strong interviewing skills are more critical than ever.

Carolyn Dougherty is the president/owner of IntelliSource Inc., a executive information technology search firm based in the Philadelphia area.

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