Interview Prep

Preparing Yourself for a Job Interview- by Goodwill Industries of  Southern California

Once a prospective employer invites you for an interview, you want to stand out from the crowd. First, anticipate questions and spend time coming up with answers that show why you are the perfect person for the job. Do this by learning all you can about the organization. Interviewers appreciate it when you demonstrate that you know what their organization is all about. Also, think about the questions you might be asked and consider how you will respond. Check out these sample interview questions and ask a friend or relative to conduct a mock interview with you so you can practice your answers. Next, demonstrate that you are a great “fit” for the job through your professional demeanor. In particular, be courteous and respectful, and show that you take the opportunity seriously. Another part of making a good impression is personal appearance. Experts say that interviewers form an opinion within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. Plan and prepare your clothes ahead of time, and make sure they are clean, pressed and appropriate. Women should not wear open-toed shoes, sleeveless shirts or flashy accessories. Many employers will prefer that men are clean shaven. Other things to consider about your appearance:

  • If you have a facial piercing, take out the jewelry.
  • Check your hygiene.
  • Absolutely no gum chewing.
  • Bring a copy of your résumé or application, references and a pad of paper for note taking.

Don’t forget to send that all important thank you note after the interview. E-mail is good, but a letter is better.     PHONE INTERVIEW – – – – –Partaking in a phone interview seems like it would take some pressure off the entire interviewing process, however, it doesn’t. Phone interviews are perceived as being an informal means of securing a job, and unfortunately, job seekers make some of the most critical mistakes during this type of interview.

It’s important to recognize why phone interviews are becoming popular. Time is one of the biggest factors. As employees are taking on more responsibilities, they’re trying to find timesaving techniques. Fitting into busy schedules, the interviewer can discuss matters with a potential candidate prior to an official meeting; clarify discrepancies or concerns; conduct an informal introduction; discuss the position; and/or, ask for additional career information.

Although a phone interview caters to employers, it sometimes doesn’t have the same affect for interviewees. A phone interview can be impromptu, leaving an interview candidate breathless from trying to catch the phone or caught off guard for even the simplest of questions. Whether the interview was scheduled or not, you should have a “cheat sheet” by your phone to ensure preparedness regardless of which situation you find yourself in.

Without an outline or list of potential answers, these types of discussions (interviews) can get casual. A casual phone interview can provoke unrelated and untargeted answers.

Create an outline that might resemble this:

Specific Skills (broken down)

Management Sales Personnel

Unique Assets as an EmployeePANEL INTERVIEW – – – – –

Much like a phone interview, panel interviews are becoming popular because of the need to stretch time over multiple tasks. Interviewing procedures are being modified so that all those involved in the hiring decision can meet, question, and later discuss each candidate.

Of all interviews, a panel interview can be the most stressful because you find yourself trying to sway several decision makers rather than one or two. Unlike that old bit of advice — try to relate to the interviewer — it can be difficult, if impossible, in a panel interview.

Bring a Cheat Sheet
Doing your best is a great way to approach this type of situation. Much as you’d prepare for any interview, you should bring a list of highlights that you’d like to mention during the interview. Your interviewing “cheat sheet” should focus on key assets you’ll bring to the position. Remember, you’re not writing an essay but an outline of all the key elements that need mentioning.

Take Names and Use Them
Individuals like to hear his or her name during a conversation. It’s important to know who is interviewing you, so ask their names and write them down within your notes — in order of where each is seated. Don’t be afraid to use their names or ask questions throughout the process.

Another great technique to utilize within a panel interview, or within any other group setting, is to cross reference the latest question with a previous one. For example if you answered a question by Jane Doe, and you can incorporate that answer into another question asked by Frank Doe, you’ll start navigating the outcome of the interview. An answer might be:

“I understand why you are asking specific questions about my acquisition skills, Frank. As Jane mentioned a few minutes ago, acquisitions are a vital aspect to businesses your size and without a trained and seasoned acquisition clerk at the helm, it can cost your company money. To answer your question, and expand upon what Jane asked earlier, I …”

Do you see where I’m going with this? This answer is now tending to the concerns of two individuals on the panel, rather than one.

Take Notes
During the process, members of the panel will mention facets that will need remembering. Just as you jotted down the name of each panel member, you can also make small notations of each person’s concerns or specific questions. For example, the department manager may have focused his or her questions on specific administrative portions of the job. Adding important yet little tidbits into your thank-you letter will help set you apart from other candidates and reflect your attentiveness. The key, however, is to mark down items that are relevant to each interviewer. Although they are a team and have one common goal, each has differentiating concerns.

Make Eye Contact
It’s difficult to give enough eye contact to each individual without making your head and neck look like a lawn sprinkler. Try your best to look individuals in the eye and focus on speaking to each person equally, focusing heavily towards the one that asked the question.

Unfortunately, a panel interview can be stressful for jobseekers because they feel outnumbered. It’s important to remember that you are an asset to their business, and they obviously feel you’re a viable candidate, or they wouldn’t have scheduled the interview. Stay positive, remain calm, and answer each question thoroughly and effectively.

LUNCH INTERVIEW – – – – –Conducting an interview around a meal is rather “laid back,” however, not an unheard of process. This type of interview could be performed amongst friends and maybe previous colleagues, or possibly as a final test before selecting the winning candidate. Transplanting a smooth-talking pro into an informal setting, can place a skilled interview candidate into un-chartered waters.

Benefits. This lax setting can provide a forum for candidness. An interviewee can provide answers freely rather than regurgitating textbook versions of what the employer “wants to hear.” Used to discuss management obstacles, short- and long-term business goals, employee relations / confidentiality issues, and operations logistics, this type of meeting can be an informative meeting.

Confidence. Get nervous when someone watches you eat? Actually, a person’s confidence level can be determined by HOW poised one eats. A confident eater, who drops a little condiment upon his pants, grabs his napkin and without a fuss, wipes the mess clean. A nervous and diffident individual, wouldn’t be able to concentrate upon anything else, but the spot.

Handle food, and everything else. Handle your food tactfully; practice beforehand, if necessary. You will certainly make a bad impression if you can’t handle your own food. Simple rules to follow:

  • Break bread into small and manageable bites
  • Avoid anything that can spill
  • Don’t suggest or order alcoholic beverages (even if interviewer does)
  • Order something similar to your interviewer
  • Use your napkin to wipe mouth and disguise picking teeth (or visit the restroom)
  • Never use fingers unless the meal consists of a sandwich or finger food

To pay, or not to pay. Generally, the company pays for the meal; of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Ensure you attend the meeting with enough cash to cover your meal and the tip.Determining tip amounts: When the bill arrives, review for accuracy (of course) and make note of the sales tax amount. For example, New York State charges a 7% sales tax. If you wish to tip 15%, take the tax amount, double it, and round to the highest dollar.

Tax $2.33 x 2 = $4.66; round to highest dollar, so the tip would be $5.00

One final note. As with any interview, thank everyone present with a firm handshake. Approximately 70% of interviewees do not send a thank you letter after the meeting; so, set yourself apart from the rest … SEND A HAND-WRITTEN NOTE!


Exit Interview description. This type of interview is performed at the end of the employment term, or shortly thereafter; appropriately named the “exit” interview. Not all companies perform exit interviews on their former employees; however, companies who wish to restructure in-house policies and procedures are finding themselves polling individuals who are no longer on the payroll.

Timeframe. Typically performed within the last days of employment, an exit interview can be conducted up to two or three months after separation. Clearing up employer concerns or unanswered questions – “What made you decide to leave the company?” or “Do you have any advice for your successor?” – can be vital for ensuring healthy business development and strong employee relations. Hiring and human resources managers tend to vary on why they conduct exit interview when they do.

Short- and long-term comparison. For example, a newly departed person (or about to be) may be hesitant to say anything negative about the company for fear of receiving a bad reference. Whereas, an employee who has been separated for a couple of months and employed by another company, may be apt to divulge in-depth details relating to their departure.

Exit Interview CONS:
* Provide an arena for hostile or irrational employees
* Bring forth personal conflicts or gossip sessions
* Difficulty keeping or maintaining a positive or upbeat mood, if the employee was fired

Exit Interview PROS:
* Shed light on outdated policies and procedures
* Point out conflicts / complications between employees and management
* Address departmental competencies or inaptness
* Determine employee’s state of mind
* Forum to negotiate future reemployment or mediate difficulties

Interview results and analysis. Employees are the individuals who work in the “trenches,” day in and day out. If an exit interview was performed on every departing employee, just think of the information one could compile about in-house business logistics; conducting a holistic analysis before setting and implementing new goals. Unusual Interview Questions Table of Contents

§  If you were a car, what kind would you be and what color?

§  See this pen, you have 5 minutes to sell it to me.

§  Are you nervous?

§  If you were the interviewer, how would you interview me?

§  What’s the worst mistake you made at a previous employer?
If you were a car, what kind would you be and what color? This question is similar to the one about animals (if you were an animal, which one would you be?).  The interviewer is simply trying to relate your answer to your personality and perspective of yourself.  For example, a 23-year-old male might say that he is a black convertible whereas a 55-year-old female might answer this question differently by saying she’s probably a pink, 1985 Cadillac.  Answers like these could be perceived as: Black convertible = Fast, driven, ready to go
Pink Caddy = Classy, quality, persistent and consistent See this pen, you have 5 minutes to sell it to me. Asking you to sell something like a pen or briefcase is a common tactic amongst territorial and regional directors.  It’s one thing to tell the interviewer that you’re a great closer, but it’s an entirely different matter when put on the spot to sell something you’re unfamiliar with.  When selling anything, you should focus upon the features of the item and how they will benefit the buyer.  For example, a contoured pen can eliminate hand cramps while titanium locks on a briefcase can keep confidential documents safe. Are you nervous? I don’t feel asking this question has any hidden agenda.  Of course, it could relay your inexperience with interviewing — which really isn’t bad.  Being nervous can keep you on your toes, however, it can also make some of your answers scattered and choppy.  Practice interviewing so this question isn’t brought up. If you were the interviewer, how would you interview me? This question probably plays a critical role for someone that is being examined to conduct the company’s hiring practices.  As with any interview, your questions should focus on those approved by the company attorney (commonly seen in businesses that experience huge turnarounds like fast food restaurants) along with any that stay away from personal matters, such as race, religion, family status, and so on.

Sample Interview Questions

Hiring managers like to use a sampling of interview questions that provoke the jobseeker to ponder and think deeply about their careers. You have stock sample interview questions, such as “tell me about yourself” (been used for decades!) and then you have the newcomer interview questions, such as “what tactics or techniques do you utilize to conquer stress.” Interview questions are now shifting to the changing online world, too. Have you been asked about your online networking activities or new interviewing techniques? Be ready, as interviewing questions will continue to change to accommodate the ever-changing interview landscape.  HERES A LIST OF MORE QUESTIONS:

 (List represents only a morsel of potential questions.)

Tell me about yourself and your career.

What are some of your career strengths / weaknesses?

Are we the only company you are targeting for a new position?

What have your last three evaluations said about you?

In relation to dealing with customers, what has been your experience?  

Are you able to multi-task?  Give me some examples.

What areas of your abilities would you like to improve upon?

How would your colleagues would describe you?

What function of your job do you like / dislike most?

Tell me some examples of how you increase your client base?

Have you ever felt guilty once you closed the sale?

Tell me about your character.

Describe your most difficult negotiating hurdle.


Why do you want to work for XYZ Company?

Do you work well under pressure?  What was your greatest achievement while under pressure?

What type of rewards are you seeking regarding this position?

How do your managerial styles differ from others in your field?

Tell me about the procedures you intend to implement once in the position?

Where do you see yourself in five, ten, or fifteen years?

Are there any concerns you have about this position?

In 20 words or less, tell me why we should hire you. Why should this job interview transition into a job offer?

What opportunities do you expect to achieve within this position?

What makes you a leader rather than a follower?

What tactics or tools do you utilize to conquer stress?

What is your least favorite duty and why?

What is your favorite duty and why?

Explain your tactics for dealing with a personality conflict with a colleague.

Describe how your skill set will benefit XYZ Company.

Describe your greatest obstacle when dealing with a client and how you overcame it.

What are your short- and long-term goals?

What are your salary requirements?


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