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Successful Job Interviewing

Updated on July 22, 2009

It is no secret that the economy is tough right now and that jobs are harder and harder to come by. Finding work is a job in itself, in many ways the toughest one I have had in my experience. I was talking with my husband about what he looks for when he hires new employees right now, as he helped hire 4 people out of 70 applicants for his current job as a hiring manager. He gave some good insight and, combined with my own, I'd like to present some keys to success for having a successful job interview.


Step 1: Do your homework on the company.

Before an interview you should have a fairly good concept on the current happenings of the company you are applying to, and what your interest in a career is with that company specifically. Does the company have a mission statement? Has it won any awards in the past few years? Have you interacted with any other people who currently work for them? What questions you can't find an answer to, write them down and use those for potential ones to ask.

Step 2: Write down what you think you may get asked.

Chances are that you will not get asked many of the questions you devise, however, this is good practice for sorting your thoughts and answers. When thinking of questions, look at the qualifications asked of the position, and how your work history can relate.

Here are some common questions that you should be prepared for:

1. What is your greatest strength and greatest weakness?

2. Tell me about a time you achieved a specific goal.

3. What is your greatest accomplishment?

4. Give me an example of a time you lead your peers.

5. Why do you want to work here?

Step 3: Write out your answers

All of your answers should be drafted in the following format: Philosophy, Behavior, Outcome (PBO).
Philosophy: This should state your perspective on how you would handle a certain situation. For example, "I believe customers feel most valued when listened to."
Behavior:This gives a specific example of a time you practiced this philosophy. For example, "When I worked in customer service at my last company, I had a very upset customer who was about to leave without buying. I apologized and took time to listen to what she really wanted."
Outcome:This demonstrates a self awareness and good observations about the example you shared. Following the examples above: "The customer calmed down, appreciated my patience and listening and ended up buying a shopping cart full of stuff and has been a valued customer ever since".

If you follow this format in drafting all your answers, this will keep your thoughts cohesive, complete and focused.

Step 4: Practice

It is one thing to be able to write out your answers, but quite another when you have to convey them verbally and to another person. Just like public speaking, a successful interview contains clear confident communication. I recommend practicing out loud and in a mirror if possible. Keep an eye on your non-verbal expressions like a furrowed brow, brushing hair away from your face, or a twitch of the eye. These all comprise your "vibe" that often speaks much louder than the content you share.

In addition to self practice, I also recommend doing a mock interview with a friend, or a friend's associate who is a non-biased party. Having a non-biased party will allow you to get good feedback about your clarity of your answers, and the type of impression you are making.

Setting the right First Impression

Dress For success: Ninety percent of a person's impression of you occurs within the first ten seconds. Much of that is visual. When applying for a job, wearing appropriate clothing can prevent giving off a poor impression. Even if this means over dressing in some cases, it will make you memorable and most importantly it shows you put in effort a head of time and that you are taking this job application seriously. Make sure your hair is groomed, you're shaved in all appropriate places, your nails are filed and cleaned and your shoes don't look like you've been schlepping all over town. At the same time it is important that you dress in a way that gives you the most confidence and you can look at yourself and say, "dang I look good". This confidence will come across in your interview.

Be on time, but not too early: It is common sense to be on time for an interview, but you would be surprised at how many people do not come in a timely manner. The bottom line, your tardiness is wasting your potential employer's valuable time. On the same token, if you show up to an interview 1 hr early, it can also seem too desperate or put the employer in a position where they feel like you are the one who is creating the time of the interview. Show up about 10 minutes early, if you want to get close before then and take a walk around or grab a coffee to review your notes, then do so.

During the Interview

Take Notes:Ask if it is ok if you take notes. This will allow you to write down your thoughtsand jot down any questions that you may think of.

Breathe and Smile: Relax, if you remind yourself to breathe while in the interview it will help you to seem more at ease and not talk too fast. Genuine smiling is also critical so that you portray a positive personality and someone who will bring a good morale contribution to a company.

Make eye contact: This shows that you are engaged and listening. If you are uncomfortable with eye contact, look just above the eye at the eye brow.

Don't rush in answering questions:If you cannot think of an answer to a question right away, ask if you can have a second to think. Take the time you need to think of a good answer in the PBO form, instead of rushing into the question with an undeveloped answer. This can make or break your being hired.

Ask good questions at the end: Ask questions that you brought in with you, normally 2 to 3 is appropriate. This shows that you are interested in what they think, and is a critical part of interviewing that many people overlook. I also recommend you ask a question based off of some of the information shared in the interview, as this shows your ability to listen. A good example of this would be, "You mentioned earlier that this is a good company for employee development, can you share more about this?"

After the Inteview

The follow up thank you: It is always good to call or write the specific employees who conducted your interview and thank them for their time. It is totally appropriate mention again how much you admire the company and would like to work for them if you're comfortable doing so. You can also bring up something you forgot to mention during the interview. Do not push for an answer, not matter how hard it is. This is one of the first things that will turn an employer off.

Handwritten thank yous are always a nice touch (if you have decent and legible handwriting), but if they're making a decision that day an email is ok.

Regardless of if they hired you or not, ask for feedback if they are willing to give it so that you can continue to develop your skills for future interviews. Take your own notes on how you can continue to improve, and this will make future interviews that much easier.

Things to avoid

Do not ask about pay during the interview: If they bring it up, then you can have a conversation around it, but otherwise leave that for the time of if an offer comes.

Do not interrupt your interviewers: This seems like common sense, but it is something that many people need to practice, especially when they are excited to share an answer or are nervous.

Do not give canned answers: Experienced interviewers quickly sniff out someone who is not prepared for an interview and someone who is in authentic by the use of generic answers. These include phrases like:
"I work well with people"
"I accomplish my goals"
"I lead by example"
These phrases do not have "bad content" but they are so commonly used, that it is important you learn how to say the same thing in a different way, and support it with the PBO format.

Do not act like this is a place you want to work till you find something better: This makes an employer feel used. If you really want to go back to school, and say that this job is just to pay the bills, then you may as well leave the interview because your chances of getting hired just evaporated.


An interview is your 5 to 30 minute window to show someone who you are and why you are right for a job. Being prepared for an interview takes a lot of work, but the effort definitely comes through to an employer who has only minutes to figure out if you are worth their investment. It shows that you care, that you will work hard and that you can communicate with others well. These are all valuable assets that any employer desires out of its employees.

Be genuine, prepared, confident, and remember to breathe. Most importantly, regardless of the outcome, always learn from your experiences as it will only make you stronger and make you a valuable asset to the employers who need the best people they can find right now.

What Do you Consider the Most Important Aspect of an Interview?

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great advice.. so well that i can now relax.

    • gyangroup profile image


      8 years ago

      Great work Solyra - Vital information for critical times.

    • Theo Selles profile image

      Theo Selles 

      9 years ago

      Excellent article. From a hiring perspective I think you've covered all the important angles. Good work.



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