Tag Archives: interview preparation

An email to remember

As the Steelers were marching on their way to the Super Bowl a while ago, I had a candidate from Pittsburgh with the email address of “steelman”. The manager in charge chuckled after the final interview and asked me, “Did you see his email address? I’m pretty sure who he wants to win the game.” That email address made the candidate memorable in a good way.

Hands Writting, Invitation, Typography, Calligraphy

If your email address is anything but your name, make sure it is memorable in a good way. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. The success of the person you hire will be directly linked to you and your career as a manager. There are three strong candidates and you can’t decide which one to hire. Your eyes stray to the email addresses. One is “ironwillsmith”, next is “bryandilts” and the third is “womanhaterjones”. I guarantee “womanhaterjones” will be eliminated. The other two will have a positive or neutral effect.

Be careful how your email address looks. It is hard to believe, but people actually try to find a job with obscene and hateful email addresses. If you have any doubt about the appropriateness of your address, sign up at gmail or yahoo for an address to use only for the job search. 

Vanilla is fine. Positively memorable is fine. An Offensive email name may keep you from getting hired. 

Something to do today

It is probably not your problem, just check your email address anyway.

Ask these questions to stand out in an interview

Salespeople who earn over $100,000 per year know how to ask questions. Then they ask another related question. Top salespeople get smart people to say, “He’s right, I need his help.” They do it without telling how smart they are. They do it by asking the right questions.

Your job interview is a sales meeting. You need the interviewers to “buy” you. Getting a job at McDonalds is just like getting a CEO’s job. You have to convince the interviewers that you can do the job and that you are the best person available. 

Everyone says, “I’m the best.” You will be expected to list your accomplishments. You will proclaim yourself a team player. “I’ll do whatever it takes,” will be a key phrase you will utter, just like everyone else. I’m still waiting for the candidate that says, “I hate people. I refuse to work hard. If possible, I will drive this company into the ground.”

So, be different. Ask great questions. Here is the first one:

“How will I be measured in 12 months time if I take this job?”

Or use a related comment and question:

“Everyone is hired to fill an immediate need. So, what problems do I get to resolve in my first two months?”

Are you getting the idea? Tomorrow I’ll give you a list of some more questions I have gleaned over the years.

Something to do today

Make a list of at least 3 questions or topics you should ask about in every interview. 

Now think about the exact wording. Can you make the questions show your keen interest in doing a great job and helping your team? 

Dress right for each situation

Anna Nicole was a stripper-turned-actress. She used clothes as a weapon. To win a Texas millionaire husband she dressed provocatively. Then her husband died and she was fighting to get her inheritance in court. She showed up at the US Supreme Court dressed conservatively in black. Anna Nicole effectively used clothes in both cases.

Are you as smart as she is?

First off, if you won’t be happy at work unless you have pink hair with cheek, nose and tongue rings, and a t-shirt with a provocative theme, wear them all to the job interview. You may as well find out quickly if you fit in.

If you don’t really care what you wear, dress conservatively. Guys, remove all earrings (not gauges — those look awkward when they’re missing). Girls, one pair will do, maybe two conservative pairs. Ask someone who is a manager in a similar company to help you choose what to wear. Tell them to be brutally honest. Then follow their advice.

Make sure that your clothes all fit. Guys, if you need bigger pants, get them. Using hydraulic equipment to tighten up your belt looks terrible. Girls, make sure your bra fits and is not a distraction because of bulges around the edges. Both of you, if your shirt buttons are strained at all then the shirt is too small. 

You need to find out if you should wear a suit or business casual. If you have any doubts, ask. Your recruiter or the HR person who sets up the interview will tell you.

Are you smart enough to dress yourself? Then dress yourself to get the job. 

Something to do today

Find your clothing advisor. Make it someone at the level of your interviewers if you can.

Each stage of the interview is important

One recruiter had a candidate going for a final interview. It was a nice executive job. He was ushered in to talk to the board of directors. They shied away from him during the introductions and after barely 15 minutes he was dismissed. He did not get the job.

The recruiter was baffled. He called the CEO and asked, “What happened?”

The CEO replied, “You’ve seen that our building has mirrored windows all around. It looks like a silver cube. We were in the first floor conference room finishing a little business when your candidate drove up. He got out of his car and walked right up to the windows of our room. He took a quick look at himself in the glass. He saw something he didn’t like so he spat on his fingers and rubbed down an errant lock of hair. He liked that better, but he was still uncomfortable. He undid his belt, reached into his pants to adjust himself then buckled back up. Do I need to tell you more about why we declined to hire him?”

The second you drive onto the company property, you are on stage. Many managers ask the receptionist what you were like in the waiting room. That is particularly true of sales candidates (they want someone who tried to get information from the receptionist). The HR (Human Resources) interview may be as important as the interview with the CEO. Every phone call is important. You may be competing against 10 or 20 other candidates. 

Be yourself. Be your best self at all times.

Something to do today

Think of your last three interviews or job hunting phone calls. How did you do? Did you treat each contact with professionalism?

Negotiating salary and perks at a new job

Negotiating is the art of getting what you want while giving away what you want less. 

A good recruiter can help you negotiate. He can find out all the details before the offer is given to you and get important problems fixed. He can give away the things you care less about. He can negotiate for you before the final offer is put on the table. A good recruiter can put pressure on a company that you will never see. If you have a recruiter, be blunt and honest with him. Don’t lie and say I need $80,000 when you are hoping for $60,000. Tell the recruiter the truth. Then accept or reject an offer based on its merits, not on your greed for more.

Shaking Hands, Handshake, Skyline, City, Hands, Welcome

If you don’t have a recruiter, you have to do exactly the same thing, only directly with someone at the company. 

  • Find out all the details 
  • Talk about details before a final offer is on the table
  • Give away the things you care about less for the things you want the most
  • Pressure. Let them know your priorities and what will make you walk away
  • Be blunt and honest
  • Tell them what you really want
  • Accept or reject an offer on its merits, not greed

Every one of those points is about communication. Negotiating a salary is about communicating. Go at it with the desire to understand and inform and you will come out ahead. If you go in with a desire to pillage, you will lose.

Something to do today
Get the book, How To Win Friends And Influence People. It may be the best practical book on communicating that was ever written. If you’re feeling a bit short on time, get it as an audiobook to listen to on your commute.

Negotiating a salary at a new job – first interview

“Will you work for minimum wage?”

Not a winning question when negotiating salary with an engineer.

“Give me all your money!”

Probably not a wise gambit for any job interview.

At some point in your job exploration the question of money has to come up.  Asking a recruiter what the job pays is fine.  Asking what your pay will be in a phone or first interview is a mistake.  They may have been given strict instructions to only mention $50,000, but have been told that they can go to $60,000 for the right candidate.  That happens all the time.

Timing is critical. Don’t negotiate salary, vacation or perks until they love you and are sure they want to hire you. You have no leverage for negotiations until you are the final candidate.

Money, Profit, Finance, Business, Return, Yield

When THEY ask you how much you must make to switch jobs, THEY are nervous.  So are you.  Here is an answer that works.  It doesn’t get you eliminated for asking for too much.  You won’t get paid too little for being too meek.  It leaves room for negotiating.  It gives them the information they need to make you a good offer.

The answer has 3 steps:

  1. the compliment
  2. the money
  3. the rules.

First the compliment.  This job and your company interest me.  I’d like to go to work for you.

Now the money.  Last year I earned a total of $70,000 and just had a raise to $73,000.

Finally the rules.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.  I would like to be able to entertain your best offer.

This works for minimum wage jobs and CEO salaries.  If they ask a second time, tell them the same thing.  Let them know that you feel it is the company’s job to make an offer, not yours.  You just tell them the facts about what you are earning.  That’s all.  You can negotiate AFTER they have decided to make you an offer.  Then you will have some leverage.

How to think about salary – do this.

Write down three numbers.

First, what are you earning now?  Obviously you would take your current job for that much money.  You did.

Second, what do you really think you would be paid in a good but realistic situation if you switched jobs next month?  It should be a raise.

Third, if the ideal job came along, with you doing, learning and being exactly what you really want, with a great company and future, what is the least you would take to go there?  Is it a drop in pay?

You now have three different numbers you would work for.  So why should you demand to know what a job will pay before you find out which of the three possibilities it is?

How to find the technical interview questions you will be asked

Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer. (Charles C. Colton)

Passing technical interviews used to be the bane of my company’s existence.  I would send very qualified individuals for programming jobs.  They would come back from their technical interview bleak and hopeless.  They had failed.  They knew it.

Then I bought 3 copies of the book, Ace The Technical Interview.  I lent the book out before the interview.  All of a sudden I had more people getting jobs.

Get an unfair advantage

You don’t need to buy that book.  I have something better.  You can get great questions for review.  You may also be able to get the exact questions you will be asked.

Go to your favorite internet search engine and look up “interview questions forklift”. You will find a list of typical technical questions for forklift operators.  Now replace “forklift” with the technical part of your job you get questions about.  An accountant can put in “audit”.  A programmer can insert “Java” or “J2EE”.

Even if you aren’t technical

Are you in Sales?  Check out “interview questions sales”. Try this technique out in your field.

The final query

Make sure you check out the name of the company you are interviewing with.  Some people have made a habit of collecting interview questions from various companies.  They have put them on the web.  You may be surprised when your interviewer asks you the exact questions you have prepared for.  You’ll love it.


Something To Do Today

Google: “interview questions programmer Microsoft”. Then try some that apply to you.


Later:             Resume blasting

Certifications – gold and lead

Recruiter motivation

The technical interview secret they never tell you

I did great in my first interview for my first job as a programmer temp. Then they started asking questions about exactly how a database control statement was written.  I had written the crazy things, but I couldn’t remember exactly how it had to go.  I was forced to admit I just couldn’t remember.

That was the answer they were looking for.

A lot of interviewers start asking picky technical questions, not just to see what you know, but to see if you will admit you don’t know everything.  The most common technique is “drilling down”.  They start on a subject you know, and then they drill down to a level of detail you don’t know.

Any job can have a technical interview: accounting, computers, sales, management, assembly line, or forklift operator.  You need to prepare for the interview by going over some likely technical questions.  You also need to admit at some point that you do not know everything.


Later:             Technical questions

Resume blasting

Certifications – gold and lead

Recruiter motivation

One Hour Interview Prep

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.  (Seneca)

 Daryl comes out of another tense project meeting at work.  He’s late leaving for his job interview.  He guiltily leaves his jacket hanging in his cubicle so no one will suspect he is gone and sneaks out to his car.  He turns on talk radio where politicians are being called the biggest thieves and liars on earth. That gets him thinking about his hate for his current job.   He’s two minutes late.  No one will notice, but Daryl is still stressed.  The interview seems to go well, but it only lasts half an hour.  The next day a secretary calls and informs him that “He is not a fit.” He doesn’t understand why.

This is how Daryl blew it

You have to prepare for your interview emotionally and mentally.  Daryl did neither.  He really did everything he could to assure he interviewed poorly.

Here are 10 things to do on your way to an interview:

  1. Get mentally out of your office an hour early.  Shut your office door or leave the building. At the very least, prepare the evening before.
  2. Reread the descriptions you have of the job you are applying for.
  3. Jot down a quick list of how you have triumphed in the kinds of projects that you would see on that job. Writing the list cements it in your mind.
  4. Describe those triumphs out loud while you watch a clock.  Keep each description under 2 minutes.
  5. Answer aloud a few test questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Why do you want this job?”  Time your answers. Keep them under 2 minutes.
  6. Leave early enough to arrive 10 or 15 minutes before the interview starts.
  7. Listen to soothing music or a motivational tape as you drive.
  8. Use your drive time to think about what you have accomplished in previous jobs. Talk out loud about each accomplishment while you watch the clock.  Keep each description under 2 minutes.
  9. After you stop in the parking lot, read the job descriptions one more time.  You need to keep in mind what the company says it is looking for.
  10. Time to shine.  Remember to smile as you walk in the door and greet each person.  Have fun.  Remember, they invited you in.  They want to see you.

If you have a bad interview, you won’t get the job.  If you have a great interview, you not only get the job, you may get more money.  

Interview preparation is not difficult.  It requires time and concentration. Give it the time and the effort it deserves.  You’ll see the difference.

One thing I mentioned that people forget

Collect job descriptions of every job you are going to interview for.  That’s often the key missing link in preparation.  If you rely only on your memory, you may forget a few essential points that you should emphasize in your interview.