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Strategies for Successful Interviewing

Robert Half Legal

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The job interview is a brief, but crucial, component of the employment process.  If you are thinking of re-entering the working world after a hiatus or starting to look for a new opportunity after a long tenure with your current firm, it's wise to brush up on what to expect during an interview.

Especially if the position you're interviewing for involves managing a large office and juggling numerous administrative responsibilities, the ability to present yourself well and inspire confidence is critical. By taking note of these key interview strategies, you can make the best possible impression and land the position you seek.

Understand the importance of the first minutes. When it comes to interviewing, the first minutes are often the most decisive, according to a survey by our company. Hiring managers polled said it takes them just 10 minutes to form an opinion of job seekers, despite meeting with staff-level applicants for 55 minutes and management-level candidates for 86 minutes, on average.

This finding underscores the importance of getting the interview off to a good start. From the moment you meet your interviewer, project enthusiasm, professionalism and confidence, both in your appearance and demeanor. Be prepared to extend a firm handshake, make eye contact and -- though it's admittedly difficult -- interact in an engaged but relaxed manner. Because the opening minutes are so influential in hiring decisions, be especially aware of your initial comments and actions. Although you want to come across as enthusiastic, don't be overly effusive. One job seeker, for instance, came across as insincere -- and even a little desperate -- by gushing excessively over personal photos in the hiring manager's office.

Ace the predictable questions. Carefully plan what you're going to say – or not going to say – to likely questions, which usually come at the start of the interview. Your goal should be to satisfy the interviewer's curiosity with your answers without raising any concerns. Following are some frequently asked questions and tips for responding:


  1. Tell me about yourself. Concisely discuss your professional achievements and qualifications as they relate to the job opportunity.

  2. What do you know about our firm? Research the firm beforehand and be prepared to describe how your skills and experience will help you contribute to its success.

  3. Why do you want to work here? Whether it's the organization's values, reputation for integrity or history of success, cite the specific reasons why you want to work for the employer.

  4. Why are you looking to leave your current position? Be ready with a diplomatic response that doesn't disparage other employers. Then, turn the focus back to what appeals to you about the position for which you're interviewing.

  5. What is your most significant professional accomplishment? Cite an achievement that highlights your abilities and shows you value results.


Demonstrate a beyond-the-basics knowledge of your employer. Develop a broad understanding of the prospective employer by looking beyond its website and other standard marketing materials for information. Conduct an online search for articles and other public mentions of the firm. Industry publications, professional associations and your networking contacts may also be able to provide details about its culture, history, competitors and any recent challenges or controversies.

Your research will enable you to ask more insightful questions. And if your interviewer can tell you've acquired more than a superficial knowledge of the company, he or she will be more likely to respond with candor and depth.

Help the employer understand the value you bring. You can stand out from other candidates by giving answers that explicitly outline why you have the right qualifications for the job.

For example, if you know from your research that the firm plans to open additional offices, describe how you've been involved in managing expansion plans in your current position. Or, if the interviewer is looking for someone to review and re-negotiate vendor contracts, play up your experience in this area.

Be yourself. This is easier said than done, since an interview is not an entirely natural situation. Although you should never let your guard down and risk coming across as unprofessional, take care not to seem overly programmed. Remember that an interview is really a two-way conversation and should allow for some spontaneity.

Let your personality come through in your responses by conveying a sense of humor when appropriate, as well as your individual strengths and interests as they relate to your work. Interviewers want to get a sense of how you would fit into the office culture.

Regardless of your experience level or how many times you've been interviewed in your career, a successful interview always depends on thorough preparation. By observing these strategies, you should be able to remain calm and confident while persuading the hiring manager that you're the right candidate for the job.



Last Updated: 18/07/2008 - 12:04 PM


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