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Tips on What to Do During an Interview

During a job interview, don't just sit and respond passively to questions. Do some strategic thinking during the interview to help you move on to the next step of the hiring process. For example, figuring out the type of interview you're on will determine the type of answers you give.

These tips can guide you into some active thinking during your interview:

  • Distinguish screening interviews from selection interviews: As hiring action is concentrated increasingly in smaller companies, the separation between screening and selection interviews fades, and the same person may do both types.

    Here's how the types differ:

    • Screening interviews: In large organizations, interviewing is usually a two-stage process. A human resource specialist screens out all applicants except the best qualified. When you’re being interviewed by a screener, be pleasant and neutral. Volunteer no strong opinions. Raise no topics, except to reinforce your qualifications.

    • Selection interviews: By the time you’re passed on to a hiring manager or panel who makes the selection, you’re assumed to be qualified or you wouldn’t have made it that far along the channels of employment. At a selection interview, move from neutral into high gear if the person doing the interview will be your boss or colleague.

  • Verify early what they want and then show how you deliver: Ask the interviewer to describe the scope of the position and the qualifications of the ideal person for that position. Use this question to confirm your research on the company. If you’re wrong, you must know immediately that you need to shift direction.

    Confirming your research or gaining this information on the spot is the key to the entire interview. This technique enables you to focus on the factors upon which the hiring decision is made — without taking verbal detours that don’t advance your candidacy.

  • Allow the interviewer to direct the improv: Some job search advisers seem to suggest that you take charge of the interview, directing the discussion in your favor. However, wrestling the interviewer for control can easily backfire when you appear to be usurping the interviewer’s prerogative.

  • Show sensitivity for the hiring manager’s dislike of interviewing: Hiring managers tend to see interviews as encroachments on their already impossibly busy schedules. Suggest follow-up interviews be done on weekends or during the evenings to take the pressure off the interviewer’s prime business hours.

  • Try not to talk money until you know they want you: When the salary question comes up at the beginning of an interview, say that money isn’t your most important consideration — nor should it be at this point. You should be holding out for the market value of the new job, not settling for an inadequate figure of your present or previous employment.

    Only when you know the scope of the position and its market value — and that the company wants to hire you — are the stars in alignment to bargain in your best interest.

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