What To Do During An Interview

The Big Day Has Arrived.

You’ve confirmed your appointment, you’ve done all your homework, and you’re fully prepared…but you’re still nervous. A little nervousness will keep you on your toes. Remind yourself you’ve done your homework and you’re a qualified candidate for the job.

Organize the night before. Make sure you bring an expensive pen, notepad, several original copies of your resume, notes on what makes you the right candidate, good questions to ask and answers to some of the tough questions they may ask of you. Include copies of any correspondence with the employer in the past, relevant employer articles, your references, letters of recommendation, outstanding performance reviews, honors and awards, press clippings on yourself or your work, articles you have authored & work samples. Keep everything neatly in a leather folder inside a rich looking brief case.

Many people say the first five minutes is when the interviewer makes his or her impression of you. Some feel it is during the first 60 seconds. Therefore make it a point to put your best foot forward when interviewing. Smile often, be friendly, positive and enthusiastic.

Punctuality is imperative. If you are late then you can expect to be out of the running. So, look to be 15 minutes early to visit the rest room and make any last minute check ups. Sip some water, check yourself for hair, makeup, clean teeth and fresh breath. Wash your hands to remove any oils or sweat. Don’t smoke or chew gum immediately prior to or during the interview- employers can often tell. If you have been perspiring during the day it might be best to take a quick shower or wash before your interview. Bring an extra cleanly pressed shirt to work just in case the one you have on gets soiled.

Upon entering the office of the employer, make an ally of the receptionist. Ask for a copy of the company newsletter or any info she may have on the firm or the interviewer while you wait. If you are able to develop rapport with her, she may tell you the inside story on the firm, the hiring status, and the interviewer. He or she can also help get you through to your contact in the future when you call in. Get his or her name and write it down. If you are provided with an application, fill it out neatly and completely. Applications are often used to screen candidates and are usually scrutinized.

When the employer is 15 minutes late check with the receptionist on the schedule. At 30 minutes late you should consider leaving a positive note with the receptionist stating, “I’ve assumed you’ve been unexpectedly and unavoidably detained. Perhaps we’d better reschedule our interview. I can be reached at (your phone number). I’ll check in with you this afternoon or tomorrow.”

When You First Meet

When the interviewer does arrive, make eye contact and smile. Stand and wait for him or her to offer you a handshake. Return the offer with a hearty handshake that should last a few fractions of a second longer than you feel comfortable doing, and start talking before you let go. Open the conversation by repeating the interviewer’s name, making a sincere compliment, and asking a question that establishes a friendly tone. Remarks like the following are effective when coupled with a smile, a vibrant tone, and friendly body language.

Example 1:

“Hello Bob. It’s a pleasure meeting you, especially after hearing such good reports of you at our local association. Winning that Henderson Shopping Mall project really gave you and the firm a reputation as market leaders. What I’d like to know is, where do you go from here after being awarded the largest shopping mall project in the Tri-States?

Example 2:

“Good morning, Carole. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I enjoyed our conversation last Tuesday, and I appreciate the help that you gave me in preparing for today.”

Upon entering the interview room, do not touch anything on the interviewer’s desk, and do not sit until asked. Begin establishing rapport by making comments on pictures or other items you see in the room of mutual interest. Once seated, allow him or her lead, even with the opening conversation. A few moments of silence can be to your advantage. It shows your are pensive and not verbose. Be careful with all you do. You will be under the microscope in the way you dress, your body language, facial expressions, posture, and what you say.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask the employer during the initial conversations of the interview if it’s OK for you to take notes. Note taking communicates organization and by taking notes from your folder you also have convenient access to your prewritten notes, questions, and other materials. In taking notes, outline the interview’s key points to help you when giving your answers to questions, and in summarizing your closing interview comments. You want the employer to believe you have heard and understood his or her interests and comments.

Managing the Interview

Try not to focus on whether you look good, sound good, or act good. Try to focus on the employer’s needs, concerns and wants. Your answers as well should reflect the employer’s needs and solving the employer’s problems. Keep your eyes focused on the interviewer- not glaring but with friendly anticipation. Use the interviewer’s name (never use the first name unless you are old friends.) Throughout the interview make lots of eye contact to communicate honesty and confidence. You will gain respect by being well mannered, self-assured, relaxed and articulate. Nod your head and verbally agree with the interviewer to communicate rapport.

Be flexible with your communication style and try to suit your style to the interviewer. Do not interrupt while being asked a question or given an answer- take notes if you have an escaping thought. Let the interviewer finish and even pause a second or two before you answer. Answer all questions briefly, clearly, and confidently. Never over explain or ramble. Do not lie, and do not contradict the interviewer. Answer sincerely as though you were speaking with a friend. Avoid controversial topics or comments. Stay positive with everything you say. Remember also it’s fine to have a moment of silence to think about your answers. Taking time to think can make you look intelligent and measured in your response.

Avoid the body language signs of nervousness such as leg swinging, foot and finger tapping, hair twisting, lip biting, excessive hand movements, or the other habits you may have (ask your family and friends to tell you what signs to be aware of). Study the interviewer’s body language since you need to see if he or she is comfortable with you. Adjust yourself accordingly.

If the employer gives you objections, see them as opportunities to help the employer better understand why he or she should hire you. If your background is criticized, do not become defensive and make excuses. Take it gracefully and admit where you may be lacking.

If the subject of money comes up, try to avoid giving an answer. You might want to ask them if they are offering you the job? Or state that you are flexible for the right opportunity and that you feel now is not the right time for you to be discussing money since you are still evaluating the opportunity.

Remember to try and enjoy the interviewer and build rapport. Concentrate on getting the interviewer to feel you are like he or she in philosophy and agreeable in nature. People want to hire other people who understand them, support them and are sensitive to their needs.

Additional Interviewing Tips

  • There is nothing wrong with rescheduling your interview if are not prepared. Avoid late afternoon interviews when your energy level is at its lowest.
  • If you are sick or cannot perform your best for any reason, it is always better to reschedule the interview.
  • Confirm the interview with the employer the day before the interview to make sure everyone is still on schedule.
  • Don’t swear or use slang, sarcasm or pretentious vocabulary.
  • Don’t joke around or tell jokes.
  • Scope out the turf if you can by driving to the interview location the day before.
  • Don’t show up too early since it makes the employer uncomfortable leaving you waiting and indicates you may be bad with scheduling. Visualize yourself getting the job.
  • Use the pronoun we, us or our instead of I, me or my.
  • Listen. Don’t just sell yourself. You want to listen and ask questions if you don’t understand.
  • Learn the route for your interview before the interview.
  • Don’t answer with a simple yes or no. Explain answers whenever possible but be brief.
  • If you have a meal interview, make sure to eat items that are neat to eat, easily cut and placed in your mouth so there are no spills or awkward chewing. Ask the interviewer what she or he recommends, or order what they get.
  • Learn a few news items on current events, industry trends or events, and something on the employer.
  • Be honest 100% of the time. Exaggeration and inaccurate information can cause immediate dismissal from consideration.
  • Try to schedule your interview in the mid-week to avoid Monday blues or Friday impatience. Avoid the potential etiquette problems and distractions of lunch.
  • Bring several copies of your resume.
  • Bring only quality items. No throw away pens or cheap folders/briefcases.
  • Do not accept any job offers on the spot. Give yourself at least 24 hours to think things through.


Closing the Interview

In the closing, ask the interviewer what he or she perceives your shortcomings to be, and be prepared to address them. Once you feel your best qualities are clear to the interviewer, don’t oversell.

Make sure to summarize what the interviewer is looking for by giving them a rundown of your understanding. Let them know that the position sounds right for you, and ask about what the next step will be for you.

The goal of an interview is to get a fair offer, but if this is not possible the next best goal in closing the interview is to obtain an invitation to a second interview.

Example 1:

“John, what we’ve discussed today only confirms what I believed before our meeting. If I understand the position, you’re looking for someone with a background in computer estimating on commercial and residential projects, someone who can put the full bid package together and manage a staff of five estimators is that correct? With my lectures at Tampa Tech Institute on computer estimating, and that fact that I’ve implemented the estimating program with my present firm, provides me expertise in computer estimating on commercial and residential projects. I’ve also led the bid team on three successful bids just this quarter, which should indicate my ability to handle full responsibility as your chief estimator. I’m more than enthusiastic about your opportunity, John, and after having met you. I believe that this position is for me. What’s our next step?”

Example 2:

“John, it’s been a pleasure meeting you and I think you have an excellent opportunity here. Do you see any gaps between my qualifications and the requirements for the job? Based on our discussions, do you have any concerns about my ability to do well in this job?”

Example 3:

“I appreciate you spending this time with me. You have a good opportunity, and I can see how this position fits well with my goals. What is the next step in the hiring process, and when do you expect to make a decision? Should we try to schedule something for next week? When should I expect to hear from you? May I call you if I have any further questions?”


The article above was written by construction recruiter Frederick Hornberger, CPC, president of Hornberger Management Company in Wilmington, Delaware (www.hmc.com), a construction recruiter specializing in senior level, executive search.