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Interview Dos and Don'ts

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Cliche, yes. Untrue, no. Review these interview etiquette points before your interview. They may seem obvious, but don’t underestimate their importance.

Research the company and the position
There are a number of ways to do this. Talk to people you know at the company, go online, scan newspapers and try to get a copy of their annual report. Basic information you should know: annual sales, number of employees, geographic locations and latest industry trends.

Prepare three to five questions for the interviewer

It demonstrates your interest in him/her, the company and the available position.

Understand and anticipate behavioral interview questions
The latest trend in interviewing, behavioral questions bank on the theory that past behavior will predict future behavior.

Try to get detailed directions and contact information
The more the better! Ask for your contact’s work and cell phone numbers, the receptionist’s phone number, the address of the building, parking information and helpful landmarks.

Dress for success
Before the interview, ask your interviewer or the receptionist if the environment is business dress or business casual. If you feel uncomfortable asking or are uncertain about the dress code, it’s always best to slightly overdress.

Arrive 15 to 30 minutes early
Leave nothing to chance. Plan for traffic delays, accidents or poor directions. Leave yourself enough time to relax and prepare in the parking lot.

Make eye contact with the interviewer
Your posture, body language and eye contact can say a lot about your self confidence and your interest in the position.

Adapt to the interviewer’s level of knowledge and style
If you’re speaking with a human resources representative, he/she may not be familiar with your specialty or lingo. Your answers may need to be more general. Go technical when talking with someone who knows your area well, i.e. department heads or supervisors. Personality can also come into play. If the interviewer likes to lead the conversation, follow his/her lead. If it’s conversational or formal, adopt that style. If expressive or analytical, take notes and respond in his/her “language”.

Never speak negatively about your current employer
It leaves the wrong impression and may help you burn bridges.

Closing an Interview

You’ve given a medal-worthy performance. You’ve asked all the right questions. You’ve had all the right answers. Here are a few points to help you conclude the interview like a professional.

  • Reiterate your interest in the position and the company by asking about the “next step”

  • Summarize your competencies and strengths, in relation to the job requirements

  • Don’t show discouragement if no commitment is made to a second interview. The interviewer may need to see other candidates and confer with colleagues before making any commitments

  • Thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration. Be sure to smile and give a firm handshake

  • Send a thank you letter within 24 hours of your interview

  • Send a follow-up letter so it arrives right before the hiring decision is to be made. This will remind the interviewer to take a second look at your qualifications

Send a thank-you letter

It shows professionalism, keeps your name in front of the interviewer, and differentiates you from the competition. This is more than a simple “thanks for your time”. It’s an opportunity to review the conversation, extend the communication process with the interviewer, reiterate your qualifications and keep you top-of-mind. You can include much of the same information you might include in a cover letter.

Keep the following points in mind:

  • Mail your letter within 24 to 48 hours of the meeting

  • Address your contact by name and title

  • Express appreciation for his/her time

  • Review the important points of your conversation (this shows you were listening and reminds the recruiter/interviewer of your conversation)

  • Summarize your skills/show how you can add value to their organization

  • Express enthusiasm for the project and/or company

  • Ask for the job (if you want it)

  • Include a copy of your resume


Salary Negotiation

Salary negotiation is always a touchy subject. Here are a few things to keep in mind before heading into an interview where salary may be discussed.

Salaries for entry-level positions are usually set, and leave very little room for negotiation. Positions that are mid-level usually allow a 10% to 20% window for negotiating. Executive positions usually allow the most negotiating room.

When approached with a salary range, show no emotion. Play the poker face, whether you’re excited or disappointed.

If the salary range is lower than you expected – say $49,000 to $55,000 – verbally review the job requirements, and explain that given those responsibilities, you might feel more comfortable with a range of $55,000 to $69,000. By including the interviewer’s maximum recommended salary at the bottom of your suggested range, they may feel more comfortable with negotiation.

But before you suggest a salary range, make sure it concurs with the research you’ve done on salaries for similar positions in your region. Some helpful salary research sites include: SalaryExpert , Salary.com , WAGEWEB and the Bureau of Labor Statistics .

If the interviewer isn’t willing to negotiate on salary, he/she may be willing to consider other forms of compensation, such as benefits, relocation costs, spousal relocation costs, lifestyle perks like club memberships, a larger office, reserved parking or a company car, severance provisions, extra vacation time and more.