is no standard style of interview! Some interviews
might be brief, one-on-one question and answer
sessions meant to narrow down a list of potential
candidates, while others might be all-day group
interviews structured to evaluate one's interests,
strengths, weaknesses, and ability to work
successfully alongside colleagues and people from
other departments or countries.
of a company's interview style, it is useful for a
candidate to not be too surprised if the format is
different from what one is accustomed to. Particularly
if the interviewing company is rooted outside one's
own country, it is very possible that the firm is
simply doing what they normally do in their home
country. Just roll with it and keep an open mind!
might also require physical exams, psychological
consultations, online psychometric tests, or even some
unexpected diagnostics that might feel like they were
plucked right out of a dusty guide to 19th Century
parlor tricks, such as handwriting analysis. Some
companies might require at the time of the interview
or later some type of credit check, proof of current
claimed earnings or employment (pay stubs, etc.),
university transcripts, professional certifications,
proof of a legal right to work in the country, etc.
Most typically, the checks that a firm requires have
been time tested as useful, according to the standards
and assumptions that of that firm. Some tests, such as
psychometric tests, are used by some firms to get
another window on a candidate's strengths or
challenges for a particular role. In some case, a less
than ideal score could rule out a candidate from hire,
while in other cases an employer just might regard the
findings as just another opinion to consider in making
a final decision.
companies generally don't simply offer a job
immediately following an interview - even after a
great interview - because when a new person is offered
a job, often numerous hiring authorities are stating
that they believe that the candidate is a person who
is trustworthy and qualified enough to do the assigned
role properly. The testing and validation phase is
usually often referred to as "doing due
diligence," but often some checks are less
meaningful or scientific than others, and they might
seem more like a straightforward "CYA" strategy. Why
would company managers and officers feel a need to
have some form of plausible deniability regarding
their decision to sign off on a particular candidate?
Simple. Their careers might be at stake when
a person reporting to them is hired.
candidates going into an interview either feel that
they are obvious choices for the position or that they
are in a horse race with a thousand others, all aiming
to cross the finish line first. But an
interview process is not only about the candidate.
It is also about the hiring manager, and that
hiring manager's manager, and that person's manager.
To some extent, it is also about the company
itself, including its attractiveness to suitable
candidates, its image within its market, the
company's salary structure, and the company's
business model, management team, and track record.
was a "bad hire," the managers who thought to hire the
person are also at risk of being judged negatively by
their bosses. And everyone rushes to blame the HR
person! Nobody can predict the future, and good
candidates and good companies just might not mesh as
smoothly as expected. That's just the way life is, but
for corporations, a hire that did not work out well
could set back a key project for a company or, in
roles such as sales, directly affect the quotas of the
Sales Head. And a poorly performing VP Sales or Sales
Director could be given a negative review by a CEO. A
CEO who did not meet revenue goals due to one or more
"bad hires" might be dismissed by a Board of
general, the higher the rank of the position, the
higher the potential risk of that hire to those who
are the hiring managers for that person. Because of
this fact, often very senior management interview
processes take more time to come to a conclusion.
There are often many interviews, many more
presentations, more stops and starts, more questions,
and deeper checks.
not obligated to continue in any interview process if
you have objections to a company's policies, just as a
company is equally not obligated to employ everyone
who is interviewed for a job. If you are unsure about
a point, you might ask the HR department to explain
the test or requirement. If you still have objections,
then you might decide that that particular company is
not good for you. There are plenty of companies out
HUMAN RESOURCES INTERVIEW
In some companies, the preliminary evaluation of a
candidate by the Human Resources department
representative may be considered one opinion among
several others, while in other cases, the opinion of
the Human Resources representative can be so powerful
as to terminate a hiring process before the candidate
even has a chance to meet the hiring manager. In any
case, it is imperative that the candidate should
always be friendly, forthcoming and respectful to all
HR contacts. The HR department, even if it seems
bogged down in paperwork, could be a helpful
coordinator of your hiring process, and HR is the best
source for general company information, including
employee benefits, data on raises and bonuses,
vacation policies, and corporate financial reports.
Ask HR for any literature they could offer about the
company, and sort through it carefully when you get
home. HR's main function is generally not to evaluate
your technical qualifications for a job, but rather to
analyze your compatibility with the company's existing
personnel and corporate culture. An interview with a
firm's HR department can be every bit as critical to
your success as an interview with the hiring manager.
If you are given an application to fill out that might
seem time-consuming or repetitive, fill it out as
completely as possible. Even if your resume
answers many of the questions in the personnel
application, DO NOT write, "SEE RESUME." Many
times such actions, as reasonable as they might be,
are interpreted as signs of insubordination or as
disrespect for company employees or policies. That
often ends a candidate being further considered.
lie about your employment dates or degrees earned.
These details can and probably will be checked, and if
they are found to have been misstated deliberately,
there may be just cause for your dismissal. If you
have obtained any educational degree from a university
that is unaccredited or of questionable status, such
as a diploma mill, it is our suggestion to not include
bogus degrees in a resume or employment application. A
mail-order doctorate does not make you a Ph.D. in the
eyes of most employers, and attempts at presenting
such qualifications as real educational achievements
might cost you a job offer rather than impressing an
employer. Such easily obtained papers could have the
opposite effect on a serious employer who otherwise
might have found your true personal and career
achievements of great interest and value.
the key points that companies need in an employee is
trust. If you have given an employer an idea that you
are willing to dissemble, then you are telling that
employer that they might be taking a risk in trusting
you with a position at their company. So please, if
you are an honest, trustworthy person, please do not
misrepresent yourself or your qualifications. Just be
be proud of yourself and of what you have done in your
life. Taking shortcuts might lose you opportunities
that you could have obtained on your own merit.
***Important! Some personnel
applications include certain questions or requests for
releases of information that, if not processed
correctly, could theoretically affect your current
position. Most common is a question asking if your
current employer or supervisor may be contacted. If
your present position could in any way be harmed or
jeopardized by such requests, we suggest that you
write clearly: "NO! NOT WITHOUT MY PRIOR PERMISSION"
or perhaps "ONLY AFTER MY ACCEPTING AN OFFER OF
EMPLOYMENT." Then you should politely explain to the
HR representative your concerns. Likely it won't be a
problem, but it is wise to be safe.
Arrive early for your interview, perhaps by 15 to 30
minutes. Often when companies set an interview time
they do not allow enough time for the HR paperwork and
interview. You might even request that a company mail
you its application prior to your
interview. Rather than having to rush through
what are important documents or having to cut short a
crucial meeting with the hiring manager, you will
instead appear to be thoughtful and with a good mind
AND ACT YOUR BEST
Fundamentally, the interview with Human Resources and
a possible future boss should be no different. Be
polite. Look your interviewer in the eyes. Unless
there are overriding cultural differences to take into
account - rare nowadays- looking away or down is not
considered by most major employers today as a sign of
respect or deference, but rather that the person might
be hiding something. For management positions, it is
particularly important to seem confident and direct,
while being polite. Shake hands firmly but do not try
to crush the person's bones. Prior to your interview,
inquire with HR as to the company dress code, and
dress accordingly. And please do not help yourself to
the department snack and drink counter unless you are
invited to do so by the manager.
Make sure that you have slept well the night before
and have eaten a good meal prior to your interview.
Your energy level during the interview will be taken
into account. If the interview goes on for hours, and
you are to interview with several people who ask you
the same or similar questions, you will need a lot of
energy to sound enthusiastic when answering.
Interviews on Mondays, especially Monday mornings,
often are disastrous because the odds are that one,
several, or all parties involved in an interview are
cranky and tired. If it's a face-to-face interview,
try for any other day.
Do not schedule important job interviews between your
closely scheduled business meetings. You should not be
looking at the clock during an interview. Expect that
the interview might last longer than you had expected,
either because of unexpected lateness by your
interviewer, or because you are doing so well that the
company wants to get to know you better. Do not lose a
good opportunity because of scheduling issues.
Prospective employers like to see candidates who are
interested in them, and even if you are very busy, do
not make them feel as if you are just “fitting them
in” between meetings.
If your and their timing during that first interview
is going to be unavoidably tight, make sure that you
inform them when making the appointment that that week
is difficult for you, but that you would like to at
least speak with them. Sometimes phone or video calls
can be arranged in evenings or weekends, or sometimes
a few brief interviews can be scheduled, but this must
be a mutually acceptable matter. If you sense that the
employer would find it a problem to make alternate
plans, you might consider simply changing your other
appointments to fit this interview. Changing careers
is a serious business, and you should devote a proper
amount of time to get to know your future bosses.
THE HIRING MANAGER A LOT OF QUESTIONS
Just as with your interview with HR, your interview
with the hiring manager is two-sided. They need to get
to know you as much as you need to know them.
Most companies prefer candidates to ask them good
questions, so it may be helpful to have prepared some
at home and to have committed them to memory.
Please, do not ask questions from a list; this may
suggest that you are not able to think spontaneously.
Yes, your every slightest action may be easily
over-scrutinized or misinterpreted, and, by the way,
you might tend to do the same with those people you
meet at the company.
Always be aware that what you assume is
natural or “standard” business policy, is not
standard, but is just what you have experienced.
Employers might come into the relationship with
similar assumptions, so it is up to you to always try
to imagine how the other party might be evaluating you
(from their perspective). Your recruiter might be
particularly valuable to you in this matter, because
recruiters likely have seen hundreds or thousands of
different business models and hiring policies and
interview habits. If you are unsure about something,
consider asking your recruiter’s advice.
questions that you may wish to ask the employer are
note that all of them might not be possible or
practical to ask in a first meeting. If you find that
a company hedges their responses too much or does not
answer the way that you feel they should, you might
not want to take that job. If there are unusual pauses
or avoidances, maybe the person being asked is unsure
how to answer or worse. Ask your recruiter to try to
clarify these matters for you, if possible. Recruiters
can do so without it jeopardizing your candidacy.
Companies will not normally remove an important
candidate from consideration based on the questions of
recruiters, but many companies might misconstrue
certain blunt questioning by candidates as premature
or rude. This may not seem fair or make sense, but
nobody ever said human nature is logical.
· The company history. How long has
it been around?
· How long has this position been
· Why is the position open now?
· If there was someone who held the
position previously, why did that person leave?
· What did the previous employee do
on the job that was good? What was bad?
· What would you like to see in the
next person in the position?
· What are the relationships and
report structures between this position and other
department members and other company departments or
· What are the chances of
· If the position is supervisory, it
is important to know the backgrounds of the staff
members, and with what type of management philosophy
or style they are accustomed to, or need to adjust to.
· Budgetary and staffing issues
associated with the position. Will you have enough
money and resources to accomplish the mission that
they would hire you to do?
· Past company sales and sales
projections. What percent of the market does the
company hold and what percent could it realistically
hold? What new markets, products or plans are
envisioned? How could these goals be supported
with current resources?
· Are there any problems—financial,
corporate or personal—that an incoming employee should
know or needs to know in order to do an acceptable
job? Are there any forthcoming layoffs, mergers or
legal problems that could make this job harder?
· Ask the hiring manager his or her
background. How long has the hiring manager been with
the firm? What titles has the hiring manager
held? Where did the hiring manager work before
coming to the company? What was the hiring
manager's educational background? You want to see your
boss' skills, strengths and weaknesses and depth and
you need to learn how they will complement or conflict
We believe that honesty is the best policy,
for both the candidate and the employer.
companies will not want to discuss every confidential
matter to a stranger in the first interview, but we
suggest that before you take any new job, you should
at least attempt to ask hard questions of employers.
You also might want to consult other sources of inside
or public information. Do your homework on any company
that you are seriously thinking of working for.
What matters is that you and the company understand
each other well and respect each other’s value to the
other party. If there is suspicion or lack of respect
by one party for the other, in our opinion, these two
parties might wish to seriously reconsider working
together. A simple annoyance during an interview could
result in a major dispute during a full time period of
employment. If the job or boss or company does not
“feel right,” you probably do not want to take that
Whatever you do, whatever anyone has ever told
you to do, do not play "hard to get."
or appearing disinterested do not win friends or
allies. People just wonder why you are wasting their
time. They want you for their job at their company,
and they only are interested in speaking with people
who are serious about making a job change now. If you
are asked the standard question "So why do you want to
leave your present job?" do not say: "I don't want to
leave" or "I'm happy with my present job" or "I'm just
looking around to see what's out there." It is
fine and maybe even preferable to state that you enjoy
your work and your company treats you well, but it is
necessary to quickly add a statement showing that you
have some compelling reason to look beyond your
current employer. State what kind of challenge you are
looking for, or what type of management philosophy you
would like to work with.
say anything other than the immortal line: "The
recruiter told me to come here."
Never say bad things about your current employer or
boss, even if every bit is true. If necessary, let
your recruiter tell them. When a candidate speaks
derogatorily of his or her current employer, some
people might regard that candidate as a hot-head or
malcontent. Try to be as diplomatic as possible. If
your current employer or boss is doing things to make
your job harder, you may have to explain the details.
That is OK. But let the facts speak for themselves.
You do not have to editorialize about the boss’
character or incapacity. Let the facts speak for you,
and your interviewer will be able to read between the
lines, and hopefully, agree with you.
Strange or annoying interview styles might mean
nothing or everything. Some people pick up bad
interviewing habits and stick with them. Your
interviewer may be uncomfortable with interviewing
people, and may appear stodgy, or maybe even weirdly
inquisitional or formulaic, when perhaps this person
might be a great boss and a very nice person. Your
interviewer may be of the "trick question" school and
may seem very amateurish in trying to catch a
perspective employee off guard. Sometimes how people
are interviewed causes people to reject companies
needlessly, while other times, people who altogether
ignore how a prospective boss interacted with them
during an important interview, can later regret that
they did not take into account such interpersonal
The problem is that unlike things like Kaizen or
profit-loss analysis, business pays little attention
to developing standard training in human resources
issues. Every company is different, every manager's
interview style is different. You may even meet an
interviewer who is a natural sales person, a "master
of ceremonies" type who may make you feel at ease and
happy while in fact being a horrible manager. Make a
mental note of anything that seemed odd to you, and
see if there are changes or explanations during a
Do not be overly swayed or discouraged by what you see
in a first interview. Style alone may mislead
you; rather, look for substance: numbers, percentages,
records of success, comparison with competitors. Most
important, is that the people you are visiting are
people with whom you could spend forty or more hours a
Try to reach common ground with your
interviewer. Discuss how you may have solved
problems similar to theirs, for example, and move
beyond until your important questions are answered.
If you like them and they like you, but you have any
doubts left after the first interview, ask for a
second interview before considering a job offer.
single most important objective of an interview or a
group of interviews is for there to be a "meeting of
minds." Both the employer and the candidate should
have a reasonably good idea if they could work
together well or not.
QUESTION OF MONEY
A discussion of the issue of compensation can be
mishandled using any combination of style and phrasing
imaginable to the human mind. Some people will ask you
how much you are making now and how much you expect,
require, or desire from the next job, and you could
give them honest answers and they might give you what
you asked for - or not.
But the dynamics of the hiring process alter the
"honesty" of this answer, because what you might think
you required at the HR interview might become a
different figure—higher or lower—after you learn more
about the duties, risks, company prospects and career
opportunities. Some opportunities are worth taking pay
cuts for, while other jobs you would not want to do
for ten times your salary! Make sure that the
employer, either directly or through HR or your
recruiter, is made aware of any important changes that
you need to consider. This can be important if you and
another strong candidate are being seriously
considered. That other person might require a lower
salary, no relocation package, or no other unusual
costs, so that total cost of employment for that
person could put your negotiations at a disadvantage
if you initially overstated your requirements. At each
stage of your interview process, ask yourself what you
really require for the job, and ask how the job could
benefit your career. Your careful analysis of these
issues might bring you closer to the company’s limits,
and save you from losing a great opportunity due to a
Another problem that you may encounter is that since
your interview might involve numerous people, each of
whom asks you your salary requirement, if you change
your salary statement from one person to the next,
your final answer might not be clearly sorted out by
them. So when your offer is calculated, it may be all
based on your original statement during the HR
interview. Be aware of this "too many cooks in the
kitchen" phenomenon and make sure that you tell your
recruiter or HR your final requirements, so that
information could be properly transmitted to the
What matters most is that the new company clearly is
made to understand what salary you would need to
accept a position with them. They may ask what would
be your minimum salary or "compensation range."
Probably the most prudent response would be to give
either a fair range acceptable to you, with the caveat
that "it depends on the specifics of the position."
Your answer is not meant to be cagey, but to give
yourself enough leeway to negotiate. Explain to
your questioner that you have to take into account a
number of variables, such as company bonuses, raises
Comparing one compensation package to another might
seem like comparing apples and oranges, but companies
really are anxious to know what your bottom line
is—not to cheat you, but to see as early as possible
if your expectations are realistic and would fit into
their salary structures, particularly in comparison
with other candidates whom they are considering.
Remarkably, some companies can act very childishly if
a person states at the first interview one salary and
then after a second interview states a higher number.
They sometimes feel the candidate is "taking
advantage" of them or has been dishonest, when in fact
the candidate's understanding of the job duties and
responsibilities or risks may simply have been
revealed. Candidates also sometimes feel cheated or
taken advantage of ("low balled") if a company offers
them a salary at the low end of their stated range. In
actuality, the company might have offered the lower
number because they simply could not go higher, or
because another strong candidate provided them with
the comfort that they had an alternative if you reject
their offer. Their decision was simply business, not a
Regardless of how your salary negotiations are
handled, keep in mind that the company is usually at
least as nervous about this subject as are you. If
they like you, they do not want to lose you, but they
may have to lose you if your salary requirement or
overall cost is too high. If they are considering a
candidate who could do the job as well as you but who
requires a lower salary than you or if departmental
salary equity issues are at play, they might not be
able to offer you your ideal salary. They are not
saying that you are not worth what you are asking or
more: only that someone else can take less or that
their hands are tied and their budget can go no
Be careful with what you say. If you are bluffing,
they may just believe you, and instead of increasing
their original offer, they may not make you an offer.
Remember, that the ultimate decision is yours to
accept or reject an offer of employment, but some
companies offer their best and final offer once, and
they do not negotiate changes in the original offer.
It can be hard to predict if the company that you are
considering is such a company, so be prepared.
In the early interview stages, it is more important
for you to concentrate on the substance of the job
opportunity, while always making it clear that you may
make a move if the compensation is reasonable.
DATE AND REFERENCE CHECKS
Sometimes a great potential interview can be ruined
seconds after a candidate is asked a simple question:
how soon could you start? Most companies want to hear
the traditional two or perhaps three weeks (U.S. and
Canada), or one to two months (most other countries),
or three to six months (in some European countries),
but some people have been know to answer: "To be fair
to my employer, I really would need to give at least
six months' notice." Generally, companies
urgently need positions to be filled immediately. They
respect a person who gives the employer the customary
notice, but beyond that point, they become uneasy or
worse. They are usually open to individual issues,
especially if there is relocation involved, but if the
starting date is delayed excessively, they may give a
candidate no sign of their displeasure. They may
smile, tell you “that’s fine,” make a note, and then
they just may not make you an offer.
As far as reference checks, it would seem that only an
idiot would give bad references to an employer.
Actually, the fact is that sometimes people just
neglect to keep in touch with their old references,
and sometimes when employers call your references they
may not remember you very well, or they may confuse
you with someone else.
Here are some points to consider concerning
· Before interviewing, contact all
of your references. Make sure that you have their
correct phone numbers and email addresses. Write down
their schedules for the next few weeks. Ask their best
availability for calls. If they are in a different
time zone from the employer, make sure that you state
these times in both the employer's and the referee's
· If some of your best references
are at your present company, and you would prefer not
to speak to them about your desire to change jobs
until you are close to a job offer, that's OK. It may
be wise for you to alert as few of these people at
your company as possible about your desire to leave.
· Ask your references for their
permission to use them as references. You might ask
them if they remember your work record well enough
that they could give you a good reference. If they do
not remember you well or if they do not really feel
comfortable serving as a reference, that's OK. It is
better than having an employer speak to them and be
told, "He was so-so, not bad, not good, just OK."
· Get references who can speak
positively and as enthusiastically about your work
habits as possible. It is not enough for them to say
that you are a nice person. They have to be able to
speak pointedly and clearly about your ability to work
well with colleagues and to perform other job-related
activities. Employers like to know about a candidate's
problem-solving abilities and work ethic. When you
speak with your references, remind them of some of
your achievements or about experiences that they might
want to mention to the employer. You do not want to
"rehearse" your references, but you do want them to
remember your good points.
· An employer will likely ask your
references to recall your "bad points," so it is wise
to use as references people whom you know well and who
know what your strengths on the job were. It is OK if
they mention some of your mistakes, particularly if
you learned how to work better and they could say how
the mistake improved you, but if your references do
not like you or if they disliked your work, their
input could negatively affect your chances of
receiving an offer.
· Sometimes it is hard to produce
even one good reference. You could have been a great
employee, but your former supervisors who knew of your
good work may have moved to unknown companies, retired
or died. You may have spent the bulk of your career at
one company and all those supervisors whom you could
theoretically use as references are your present
bosses, and it may be dangerous to tell them that you
are looking for a better job outside of their company.
Tell your dilemma to your interviewers and ask if you
could give references who are other than former
supervisors. You might suggest colleagues who have
left your company or perhaps customers or vendors who
could speak highly of your work. Ask your recruiter
for advice or assistance on this important matter. A
headhunter is an expert at finding people, and your
headhunter might have suggestions on how to track down
a lost former boss or others who could speak well of
Companies strongly weigh the words of former
supervisors higher than those of colleagues or
personal references who may know little about your
on-the-job performance. The whole point of a reference
check is to minimize the risk of hiring the wrong
employee. Employers like to ask your former bosses how
well you worked. The strongest reference therefore is
someone who is your hiring manager’s parallel or
superior, not your parallel or someone who cannot say
much about your on the job style and performance.
Be yourself. If you present yourself as someone whom
you are not, then that might be the person whom they
would want and expect to have working for them, but
that's not you! It is not in your best long-term
interests to pretend to be what you think other people
want you to be. Let them see you for yourself. You
both are taking a chance on each other being what you
seem to be. Often a job turns into a bad job precisely
because one or both parties misrepresented themselves
to the other at the outset. Have fun. Enjoy the
learning experience of interviewing. These people want
you to do well in the interview!