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Help and Advice for Candidates

Interview Tips For Candidates

Most people in business regard interviewing as a necessary evil rather than the pleasurable experience it should be. In many ways, an interview is similar to an introduction of two people with common interests. It is an opportunity to acquire knowledge, expand your business perspective and develop new friendships. Careful preparation and organization will result in a successful interview.

Preparation begins with obtaining an accurate description of the position for which you will interview. Make certain that you fit (at least loosely) this description; square pegs do not fit in round holes. Do your best to determine a compensation fit before the interview. You should always maintain flexibility (within limits) on this issue. One or two thousand dollars is not enough to influence a career decision.

Next, obtain as much information as possible about the hiring company. This may consist of an annual report, the 10K, the 10Q, a product brochure, a stock offering prospectus, a corporate backgrounder, stock analyst reports, shareholder reports and any other information you can find. The Internet is today's best source for this type of information. Read and commit to memory as much as possible of this information. In short, know the company.

When you arrive for the interview, slightly before the appointed time and carrying a copy of your resume, make certain that you are perfectly groomed and wearing your business best. While many companies now have casual dress codes, we strongly recommend formal business attire for all interviews, especially the first round. First appearances should never be underestimated. Offer a warm smile and a firm handshake to your interviewer, as well as a friendly greeting.

When you are seated for your meeting, wait for an opening from the interviewer, and maintain eye contact as much as possible. You should appear comfortable, confident and attentive, but not too relaxed. Allow the interviewer to take the lead in the initial period of questions and answers, and respond to all questions with crisp and concise answers. Never give vague or mushy replies. If you don't know the answer to a question, admit your lack of knowledge. A lie or an evasive answer will soon be detected and lead to your downfall. Bear in mind that this is a critical time for the hiring manager to gather information about you, so expect some inane questions and answer patiently and cheerfully.

To maintain a positive and enthusiastic attitude throughout the interview is critical. Demonstrate your knowledge of the company by incorporating facts and details in your answers. Determine what problems your interviewer is trying to solve by hiring for this job, and demonstrate your willingness and ability to solve those problems by discussing examples of how you have addressed similar problems.

At some point in the interview, you must take over the lead and ask your prepared questions, being careful not to sound cocky or overbearing. Ask questions about future growth, competition, market share, market potential, hiring plans, management style, new products, etc. Be creative. If in doubt about the appropriateness of a question, discard it. Ask your interviewer questions about his/her own experience and career path, future plans and style of managing. Share some of yourself----family, kids, hobbies, recreational activities, etc., but don't get carried away.

To initiate compensation questions in a first interview is inappropriate. Do not ask about: hours, benefits, sick days, vacations, etc. Most companies provide professional and competitive packages. You want your future employer to focus on how hard you will work, and not on how early you want to leave each day.

Remember, your job is to sell yourself to the interviewer, and the interviewer's job is to sell the company to you. Never give the impression that you are skeptical about the company, the interviewer or the job. Maintain your stance of selling yourself throughout the interview, even though you may have determined that the job in question is not for you. Other positions in the company may be available that are a better fit, but if you allow your enthusiasm to falter, you will never hear about them.

The perfect time to conduct an informal survey of friends and associates is after the first interview, when you have already formulated some of your own opinions. Ask questions about the company's reputation for employee career development and management style. Bear in mind that the reputation of a rapidly growing company can change as quickly as the revenue numbers.

When you are invited back for more interviews with others in the company, follow all of the rules that led you to a successful first interview. Success with each interview in the process is absolutely essential. Never regard any meeting as a "rubber stamp", even though you may have been told in advance that certain people are more important than others.

A follow-up thank you letter or email to each person you interview is generally appropriate. Be certain to send each letter or email on the same day as the interview since interview cycles can progress very rapidly. Review your work carefully; a spelling, punctuation or grammatical error at this stage could cost you the job.

Most offers contain numerous components, so weigh the entire package. Career enhancement, environment and opportunity are far more important than a few dollars of income. Much deliberation will have taken place before an offer is extended and most are not negotiable. Be prepared to accept your offer within one to three days. Asking for a week or more to deliberate is seldom warranted and never appreciated.

Good luck!

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Probus Executive Search
is a permanent placement firm serving the financial and IT executive search needs of the Silicon Valley Area.