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July 26, 2011 / mbolke

14 Ways to Nail Your Next Job Interview

Your resume has made it out of the void and into the right hands – you’ve been invited to interview. Ready to go from being just another candidate to the organization’s next new-hire? Here are 14 ways to do it:


1. Find out as much as you can about the role. If you already work for the company or know someone who does, this task is much easier. If not, do you know anyone in a similar role at another organization? Knowing the key success criteria will allow you to map examples of your past experience to those items during the interview.     

2. Research the company. Who are their competitors and what makes them better? What is the press saying about them? How has their stock performed? In what locations does the company have a presence? Who’s on their executive team?

3. Discover who’s on the interview team. Search LinkedIn to review their individual profiles, which will help you visualize being a part of the team and increase your comfort level during the interview. Don’t send out invitations to connect just yet, unless you personally know someoneYou don’t want to be viewed as a cyber stalker before you even walk through the door.

4. Review your resume thoroughly. In response to a question I once asked a candidate during an interview, he replied: “Oh, wow, is that on there? Can I see it?”  

5. Plan your travel. You don’t want to miss your turn on a one-way street during morning rush (it’s happened to me). If possible, travel during the same time that you plan to head to the interview. Count on delays due to traffic, public transportation, weather, or construction, especially in another city.

6. Practice. Your goal is to become reasonably confident answering questions in a conversational tone. Enlist the help of a friend or family member and practice giving them your responses. For sample questions, see Item #12.

7. Decide what to wear. Friday casual dress policies are intended for employees, not interview candidates. Your attire should be clean and pressed, with no wrinkles or loose threads. If you opt for a suit (which I recommend for professional roles), choose darker colors such as black, navy, charcoal grey, and chocolate. They are the easiest to coordinate with and the most flattering. If the role is creative in nature, consider adding a splash of color or texture with a well-chosen women’s top or men’s tie that reflects your personality. Avoid bold stripes, busy prints, and low-cut tops – they are all distracting and may leave the interviewer questioning your judgment.

Guidelines for Women:

  • Clothes — shop for suits at Nordstrom or Ann Taylor. Both carry separates, giving you several options. Nordstrom offers fabulous customer service, personal shopping, a wide range of sizes, and in-store alterations. They sell suits seasonally, so call ahead. Ann Taylor offers suits year-round.
  • Shoes — wear closed-toe shoes and sheer hosiery. Footwear should match skirt or pant color, except when wearing navy or grey, in which case you can opt for black shoes.
  • Accessories — choose tasteful pieces that are simple in design. Avoid jewelry that makes noise or moves a lot – it’s distracting. Your hair should be out of your face.

Guidelines for Men:

  • Clothes — shop at Nordstrom for great suits, shirts, and ties, top-notch staff, and fast, in-store alterations.
  • Shoes — stick to black or brown shoes, a coordinating belt, and socks that match pant color.
  • Accessories — limit jewelry to no more than the following items: wedding ring, class ring, wristwatch.

If budget is a concern, visit Steinmart or Nordstrom Rack. The items these stores carry will be last season’s and you may have to dig for your size, but they are quality name-brands that will cost you less than shopping at Nordstrom or Ann Taylor.


8. Skip your morning coffee. Your adrenaline will kick in and you don’t need the jittery effect produced when combined with caffeine. Try replacing your coffee with caffeine-free hot tea, which will lubricate your throat. Vocalists stay hydrated before a performance by drinking room temperature water (not cold), which prevents a dry, pasty mouth.

9. Ditch the fragrance. Do wear deodorant, but avoid cologne, perfume, or body spray. What smells delicious to you may be repulsive to someone else and is magnified in the confined space of an interview room.

10. Bring these items with you. I once had a candidate during an interview say to me: “Oh man, I’m so thirsty. Can I have a sip of your water?” You may want to bring a small bottle of water that you can stash in your purse, computer bag, or briefcase. You should also have several copies of your resume, business cards if you have them, a nice pen, and a professional notepad or journal to take notes with.

11. Arrive early. Some interviewers are annoyed by candidates who arrive too early, so wait to let the receptionist know you are there until approximately 10-15 minutes before the scheduled interview. Use this time to steady your nerves by reviewing your notes, reading a magazine or book, or listening to music.


12. Questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • Why do you want to leave your current employer?

Your answer should be more about what you’re aspiring to do rather than what you’re desiring to leave behind. Discuss not only what is appealing to you about the new position, but also how you envision making an immediate contribution to the organization.

  • What did you do to prepare for this interview?
  • What do you know about the position/the company/the technology, etc?

Here’s where your research and preparation will pay off. If you are asked about a term that you are not familiar with or has varying meanings, it is acceptable to say: “Tell me what that means in your organization.”

  • Give me an example of a time that you had to….

This approach is called behavior-based interviewing. You will also see it referred to as experiential or competency-based interviewing. With each question, the interviewer is interested in hearing an example of a time that you performed a specific task or behavior, what the result was, and what your role was in achieving it. If you don’t have an example for a specific question, say so.

  • What are your salary expectations?

Compensation questions are awkward. You don’t want to value yourself too low or price yourself out of consideration. Consider responding by asking what the salary range is for the position and let them know if it is in line with what you were expecting. You could also say something like: “Let’s both decide if this is a good fit before we discuss numbers, okay?”.

13. Questions you should ask:

  • What are the immediate top priorities for the person selected for this role? 
  • How would you describe the culture of the organization?  
  • What has been the most rewarding for you personally in being a part of this team?
  • How do you see the work I’d be doing connected to your current priorities?
  • What is your timeline for filling this role? 
  • If the position is newly created, ask what the demand is that’s driving the need for it.
  • Ask about additional plans for expansion if they’ve experienced rapid growth, which may give you a sense of possible future roles you can play.
  • Don’t ask: Is there anything that would prevent me from being hired based on our interview?

This type of question puts the interviewer on the spot. Depending on their personality type, they may be tempted to come up with a reason right then!

  • Do let them know you want the job by expressing your interest in contributing to the success of their team.
  • Don’t ask about benefits or time off, which makes it seem like you are interested in “just a paycheck.”

Remember that the members of the interviewing team already work there – you want  to. If you have a “what’s in it for me” attitude, you will sour your chances of being chosen for the role. Both you and the interviewing team should be focused on whether or not you think there is a good fit. Once they express interest in bringing you on the team, then it’s time to clearly understand what benefits you’d receive. This conversation is best had with the hiring manager and/or HR recruiter.


14. Follow-up. Send a thank-you email at minimum, reinforcing how you see yourself fitting in and making an immediate contribution. If there was a specific top priority that came up during the interview, reference that and something you can do about it.

Time seems to pass slowly when you are waiting for a potential job offer. It is reasonable to check in after a week if you haven’t heard anything. The recruiters may be over-worked, or other priorities may have surfaced for them. Do not hound the recruiter or the members of the interview team. Simply let them know that you are still very interested in the role and that you are looking forward to next steps while you keep pursuing other opportunities.


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  3. Michael Kors Bags / Apr 8 2013 3:50 am

    I am very happy to read this. This is the type of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc

  4. Stancey Curry / Jul 28 2011 10:48 pm

    Shared this with a friend just in time for her interview. GREAT advice!!!

    • mbolke / Jul 29 2011 8:12 am

      So glad to hear, Stancey. I hope your friend gets the job!


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