Are you ready for your interview?


Interview Goals

The ultimate goal of the interview process is for you to get an offer for a job that meets your needs.

How well you perform in an interview will determine if you make it to the next step (invited in for an on-site interview or extended an offer). Therefore, your main goal of the interview should be fairly obvious:

  1. You need to present your background and accomplishments in such a way that they will want to go to the next step with you. Discuss your experience around their needs. You must show assertiveness and enthusiasm. Interpersonal skills are just as important as technical skills.
  2. Your second goal is to gain information about the company and the position that will help you in making your decision on this career opportunity.

Remember, many times the person conducting the interview is focusing primarily on their needs, so it’s critical that you focus on the first goal – presenting your background and accomplishments.


Know the Company

You should do research on the company and the people you will meet.

You will have opportunities to share what you know about the company, and this will have an impact on them. It is important your information is accurate. Giving incorrect information will leave a bad impression. What do you know about the company overall and the specific location with which you are interviewing? (history of the company, recent major events, annual sales, major product lines, various locations, other divisions or subsidiaries of the company, number of employees, culture, etc.)

You will meet your potential boss and many times their boss in the interview process. While they are the final decision makers, everyone you meet will give their thoughts and opinions about you. The Receptionist and the person who has you complete the application can have an impact on the company’s decision to offer you the position.


Position Description and Company’s Needs

Be sure to get a thorough position description before your interview.

You should know the primary responsibilities of the position as well as the top few wants and needs of the company. This could be technical, interpersonal, educational, or other. Prepare to discuss your experience and accomplishments relating to those needs.

If the company has a need that you don’t have the experience to meet, you should communicate other experiences you’ve had that will make the company feel comfortable that you can overcome this. For example: The company wants someone who has managed Engineers. If you don’t have that, you could explain that you have an Engineering degree, have managed capital projects, and have managed a maintenance department of 25. You could explain that you have had to work with employees to improve their skills, and you have had to discipline and conduct performance reviews of those employees.


Common Interview Questions

We don’t know all of the questions that come up in an interview. However, the following are fairly predictable.

  1. Tell me about yourself/your background/your current job. You want to focus on their needs – focus on the “must haves” of the position. Start with your current position and then discuss earlier positions. Normally it’s necessary to review only the last 10 years of your work history, if you have more than that. Companies don’t want to know where you were born or where you grew up, unless it is where the company is located. Remember to include accomplishments in your answers wherever appropriate.
  1. Situational Questions. Many times you will be asked situational questions. These are questions that begin, “Tell me about a time when…”, or “Give me an example of…”, or “Have you been in a situation where…”. Interviewers are looking for detailed answers to these questions, not a simple “yes” or “no”. When a candidate answers with detail, it tells the interviewer that they really have had the experience and the candidate’s answer will tell how well they handled the situation.

We suggest you use the STAR method for answering these questions. This stands for Situation, Task, Actions, and Results. You will want to use these words as an outline for your response. Don’t use the words in the acronym STAR, just use it as a guideline. For example:

Question: “Have you ever had to discipline an employee?

Response: There was an instance a few months ago when an employee came to work late three days in one week. (This is the Situation)

It is my responsibility to make sure that this doesn’t continue to happen. (Task)

So I went to the employee one day after work and told him that I needed to talk to him about a few things. We set a time to talk the next day before work. When we met, the first thing I told him was that I was pleased with the quality of his work and with the way he interacted with the rest of the team – which was true. Then I told him that I knew he had been coming to work late and that it needed to stop. I told him there are others who are unable to do their work until he finishes his, and we can’t have that. I told him that the next step would be a written warning and the next step would be a day home without pay. I finished by telling him I hoped we wouldn’t have to go that far. (Actions)

Now the employee comes to work on time every day and he is truly one of my best employees. (Results – positive ending)

Many times you will be asked about projects you have worked on or teams that you are involved with. You can use this same type of response by first giving the Situation (or problem that caused the need for the project). Then give the Task. (If on a team, give the whole task and then give your specific responsibilities. This will show the interviewer that you were really working and not just sitting back and taking some of the credit.) Explain the Actions taken. Finally give the Results (Of both you and the entire team).

  1. Why are you leaving? You should never lie or mislead the company. You need to give enough information to let them know your reasons to leave are justified. However, you don’t want to talk negatively too much about your current employer, as it is a turnoff to many companies. Keep this answer short and to the point. If you were terminated, be prepared to explain the situation in detail and show the company why it makes sense to hire you.
  1. How much money do you make? Share with them your base salary, bonuses, other forms of compensation, and the date and expected amount of your next raise (if it is in the near future).

If your base salary is more than the company wants to pay, you should tell them (right after you share your current compensation information) you realize the salary they will offer is less than your current salary, and that is okay with you. Some companies don’t want to offer someone less than what the individual is currently making, and if the individual makes more than the position pays, the company will turn them down. If you truly are comfortable taking a lower salary, they need to hear you say it.

  1. How much money do you want? If you make more than the company can pay, answer it as discussed above. Otherwise, explain that you are more focused on finding the right company and position. Giving a number can be negative. If you give a number that his higher than they think they want to pay, they may turn you down. You wouldn’t get the opportunity to show them why you are worth that much. If the company insists on a figure, give them the lowest number you feel good about. This will minimize the possibility of them turning you down – and you still feel good about the number.


Show Interest

For a person to receive an offer, they must have shown interest in the company and the position. Asking questions is one way of showing interest. It is critical that you ask questions in your interview.

We highly recommend you have 10-12 questions in writing before the interview. They will answer half of them before you get a chance to ask, so you will still have some prepared. If you will be interviewing with multiple people you should prepare a list of appropriate questions for each one. In other words, you will want to ask your potential boss different questions than you would ask a potential subordinate. Examples of questions are:

  • Could you tell me about the history/present/future of the company?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges facing your company today?
  • Could you go into more detail concerning the responsibilities of the position?
  • What are the biggest challenges of this position?
  • What needs do you have that could be solved by this position?
  • What do you expect out of me in the first 6 months on the job?
  • Is there anything else I could answer to help you better understand my background?


You should not ask any questions that say, “What’s in it for me?” These would be questions around money, benefits, or advancement. Companies want to hear that you are interested in this position before you start talking about getting a promotion. Remember, companies won’t expect you to make a decision on an offer until all of your questions are answered. Some of these questions should be held until after you get the offer.

If you are on an on-site interview and meet more than one person, it’s okay to ask different people some of the same questions. This will help you to get the best overall understanding of the company and the position.


Final Thoughts

Possibly the most important suggestion we could give is to relax and be yourself. You are an expert at what you do. Just share your knowledge and experience. Good luck in your interview.

©2014 Corporate Search Consultants