The Rochester NY Employment Network sponsored The InnerView Coach – Suzette Smith’s presentation: How to Ace Your Employment Interview this month. The focus of her presentation is how do you master the soft skilled questions you face in an employment interview. Those interview questions are often the ones that trip you up.

How to Ace your Employment Interview with Suzette Smith

Carol Larson introduces Suzette Smith

To warm up the group, Suzette put them to work right away in a mixer exercise. Everyone was to pair up with someone they did not know. Here are the questions that she had each person practice with from her Ace Your Employment Interview model:

  1. What do you admire most in others? Why?
  2. Do you feel you’ve made a success of life to date? Give an example.
  3. Have you ever felt like giving up? Tell me about that.
  4. How do you deal with continually changing situations?
  5. Where do you want to be next year? In three years?
  6. What is the most useful criticism you have received? From whom?

The group found some interview questions to be challenging to answer. The reason companies ask probing questions is to decide if you are a good fit for their culture and value system – which should also be important to you!

There are some questions you should be asking right up front according to Suzette and those include:

  • What is the job description?
  • Who will you meet with?
  • Will you meet the hiring manager or their direct reports?
  • What is the dress code?
  • What is the phone number of the person you are interviewing with? (Just in case you are delayed because a good reason.)
  • What is the address? Some companies have multiple locations – make sure where your meeting is being held.

Employment Interview Preparation

Prepare at least three success stories or achievement stories for your interview. Highlight your big accomplishments whether they are work, school or life related. You want to show hard to measure qualities such as what is your value system. Be sure that in the process you are interviewing the employer to learn that their value system is a match with yours!

At some point the question of salary will come up. Be ready to discuss the question by not answering the question directly. It is acceptable to respond with:

You expect a salary commensurate to your experience and the job demands.

If they ask you what you are making, you can respond with:

You are confident the range will be fair given that you are looking a position in the same field.

If you are pushed to state a salary, ask the employer to state a salary amount or figure to you. If the salary is in your range, say so, if it is out of your range, ask them about the other benefits they provide and evaluate if those benefits close the gap.

What to Bring to the Interview

Don’t assume that the interviewer has a copy of your resume – bring several copies for when the employer decides to add people to your interview schedule. Have a list of references handy because if the employer is interested, they may ask for them. Your references can be a mix of earlier bosses, colleagues, co-workers and one personal reference. Bring samples of your work that demonstrates your skills and capabilities.

Know you resume inside and out. Suzette shares stories of people who did not know when they worked for an employer or what they did….a clear sign that your resume may not be conveying the truth.

Plan on being at the interview 10-15 minutes early and warmly greet the receptionist. Hint: Your interview stats the moment you enter the building and talk with the receptionist.

During the Interview

Your future employer is evaluating you on many aspects, so pay close attention to each of them and find the areas where you need to adjust to make a better impression.

Pay close attention to your personal and physical appearance. Suzette recommends men wear a dark suit, light shirt and red tie. Women should be professionally dressed with a skirt or pant suit. If you wear a beard – trim it and by all means – leave the gum home.

Your voice and speech is important – are you clear and easy to understand? Do you have any annoying or bothersome habits? If you are not sure, ask your friends and family – they will be sure to tell you!

Do not overlook your body language and that includes:

Is your educational level and background a good fit for the job? You’ll find that some companies are sticklers for meeting minimum educational requirements even though your experience and technical abilities may be strong. Some employers embrace certifications, so keeping them current or obtaining them while you are looking for work is prudent. When you know the employer’s philosophy going into the interview, there are fewer surprises.

Employers will be assessing how ambitious you are when they ask what your future goals are. When they ask this question, they are determining how you plan (your career) and if you are realistic in your goals. It’s safe to share your three to five-year goals with them.

Intelligence ranks high on the list of capabilities that employers want to attract. During the interview, are you grasping the concepts easily or do you struggle to make sense of the discussion? If you find yourself lost, take a few notes and spend some research time afterwards – it will help you prepare for later interviews. Finally, are you asking thoughtful questions?

In Part 2 of “Acing Your Employment Interview” we’ll take a look at how being confident and being ready will help you get the job of your dreams.