Interview Advice

Interview Advice

You can have the training, the experience, and the ability to do the job well. But in the final analysis, it is "chemistry," how you relate to the people involved and how you handle the interview, that usually determines whether you're offered the position. That's the conclusion of a major research project by the Bureau of National Affairs.

People often waste their interview time explaining "why I want this job" when they should be concentrating on "what I can do for the company." Yet most interviewers' questions do give you the opportunity to look good if you understand what the questions really mean!

The entire process of employment (application forms, resumes, interviews, references, etc.) is a lot like a sporting contest. Unfortunately, unlike football or basketball, the rules involving the "game of hiring" are unwritten. You learn them only through experience. As you know, experience can be a painful teacher. Some of the rules of hiring are subject to judgment and interpretation depending upon the situation. Others are not. Those concerning compensation fall into the latter category and should be adhered to.

Assuming the potential employer is aware of your current salary, the unwritten rule regarding compensation is "Never discuss money until the end of the interview. " Before a single word is said about it, you and your potential employer should come to an agreement that: 1) the organization can effectively profit from your services and; 2) you will find an opportunity for personal challenge and development within the organization.

If both of these conditions exist, money usually will take care of itself, frequently as an afterthought. Discussing salary requirements prematurely may create an obstacle to this objective and terminate the interview before you and the employer realize the mutual benefit of an association. What may be a reasonable salary expectation on your part may seem unrealistic to an organization until you are able to explain your experience and capabilities. You may never get this chance if you discuss compensation too early in the interview. For this reason, almost always indicate "Open" when an application requests "Salary Desired" or "Least Acceptable Compensation. "

After the interview you should send a thank-you note to keep from being forgotten and to distinguish yourself from other good candidates who may not be so thoughtful. It should be mailed within 24 hours. In it mention the facts you learned about the job and say that the interview confirmed your initial interest in the position. Now is your chance to use the inside information you gained during your interview. What did they tell you were some of the company's and/or department's problem areas, growth plans, needs? Use that information to briefly restate your assets in a way that shows how you can contribute to those specific company goals. 

A former head of several branches of a large national executive search organization has found that, for white-collar positions, the thank-you note after an interview is a very important factor when it comes to deciding who gets the job.

I strongly advise against accepting a counter offer from your current employer for a number of reasons. In most cases, a person who seeks new employment does so for a variety of reasons (greater exposure, new challenges, better working conditions, more potential, etc.) aside from, or in addition to, making more money.

Even though your existing employer is willing to match your new dollar offer, nothing has changed that will affect the other fundamental reason(s) for your seeking new employment. In addition, you are at a definite psychological disadvantage in terms of future promotion and/or salary increase.

The very fact that you have sought new employment indicates a disloyalty to your present organization. The company may also feel that it can delay your next raise indefinitely since it now knows that all it has to do to retain your service is to match your next outside offer.

Finally, your present company may be playing a waiting game. Since it knows you are basically unhappy, the willingness to match your offer could be motivated by a desire to buy time in order to seek your replacement.

Good luck to you, and let's hope that the "Chemistry" is right!