INTERVIEWING TIPS - Paragon Group International
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In today’s job market, it’s crucially important to understand the psychology behind the interviewing process.  Candidates are eager to hear about what a company can do for them – what the benefits package looks like, how well they will be compensated, and how quickly they can ascend the corporate ladder.  However, companies are primarily interested in hearing about what candidates can do for them – increase sales, cut costs, generate new products and markets, etc.

This article covers the two main types of interviews, telephone and face-to-face.  The Telephone Tips section will guide candidates through the three parts of a phone interview:  the opening, body and close.  The Face-to-Face Facts section will assist candidates in being better prepared and presented for their one-on-one meeting.  There is also a section covering some of the reasons that candidates get rejected from the interview process.

The materials covered here are meant to be a broad overview; candidates working with Search Consultants of Paragon Group International will receive advantageous, specific coaching and preparation prior to all stages of the interview process.  Contact your professional Search Consultant with PGI for more information on taking your interviewing skills to the new heights.


Telephone Interview

Just as a letter has an opening, body and closing, so do most telephone interviews (TI).  For the interviewer, the main purpose of the TI is to determine if the candidate is “worthy” of a face-to-face (FF) interview.  For the candidate, however, the main purpose of a TI is to get a FF interview! To achieve this, a candidate should treat a TI as a sales call, where the product being sold is him/herself.  Below are a few tips on how to stand out from other candidates during different portions of a TI.

The Opening

  • Before the interview, research the organization – the corporate culture, its market standings, and, of course, the role itself.
  • When responding to “tell me a little bit about yourself,” be brief!  Give 30-60 seconds of career highlights only.
  • In the interview’s opening, ask the interviewer to describe the role from his or her perspective.  Listening carefully will allow a candidate to tailor his/her responses to the needs of the company throughout the remainder of the interview.

The Body

  • Avoid compensation and benefits discussions at this step in the process.  If the interviewer asks what a candidate expects in compensation, s/he should respond with“Compensation is not unimportant; however, I am more concerned about my career growth, the company’s future and the available opportunity.  I’m sure that the company would make me a competitive and best offer if there is interest in hiring me.”
  • When responding to questions or describing accomplishments, answer with measurable data whenever possible (i.e. – you brought in $1 million in new sales your first 18 months on the job; you came in 5% under budget for the last project you lead; you renewed all 33 of your accounts for the upcoming year). 
  • Always address specific job requirements in regards to experience.  Don’t ramble about an MBA received five years ago; instead, address the job description, and the interviewer will be a captive audience. 

The Closing

  • Have a couple of good questions to ask the interviewer.  Ask “how” and “why” questions that require elaboration, as opposed to “yes” or “no” questions.  In any case, don’t tell the interviewer that you have no questions.  This conveys disinterest in the role and/or the organization.
  • A candidate should be sure to look for hidden objections from the interviewer by asking “What other questions do you have for me?” A candidate may also ask “Have I answered all of your questions?”
  • Express enthusiasm toward the opportunity.  A candidate’s chances of moving on to a FF interview increase dramatically when s/he conveys excitement over the phone.  However, a candidate should be genuine in his/her enthusiasm.  If the position doesn’t seem like a good fit, it is the candidate’s responsibility to say so! The candidate should aim for a FF interview by asking “How do we proceed from here?”

Once the TI is successfully finished, candidates should prepare for a FF interview.


Face-to-Face Interview

As the goal of a TI is to get to the next step (a FF interview), the goal of a FF interview is to move forward in the process (being offered the position).  This section will briefly discuss FF interview formalities, questions posed by the interviewer, questions for candidates to ask, and how to conclude the interview successfully.  Candidates working with Search Consultants from PGI will be briefed and prepared both before and after their FF interviews to ensure smooth navigation throughout the recruiting process.

FF Formalities

Interview formalities include such things as appearance, etiquette and what to bring.  Though these things have remained relatively unchanged over the years, their importance cannot be underestimated; therefore, they bear repeating.

  • Appearance – Both men and women should have short, clean fingernails.  Hair should be clean, well-groomed and conservatively styled.  Jewelry should be kept to a minimum.  Deodorant should be used, and perfumes or colognes should be avoided.  Shoes should be conservative in appearance, in good condition, and polished.
    • For men – Comb hair with your suit jacket off to avoid dandruff flakes and stray hairs.  Navy blue or dark grey suits are best, and dress shirts should be white, freshly laundered and well-pressed.  Choose a quiet tie with a subtle design.  Socks should be black or blue, and worn over the calf.
    • For women – Choose neutral tones for nail polish, such as light pink or natural-looking beige.  Wear a suit or well-tailored dress in navy blue or grey.  Blouses should be tailored and color-coordinated.  Makeup should be applied lightly, and appear natural.  Choose closed-toe shoes; avoid overly high heels and sling-back shoes.
  • What to Bring – Names and contact information for three professional references; three copies of your resume; samples of your work, if possible (but never if they are proprietary property!); a folder and pen to take notes, directions to the location and the name of the person with whom you are interviewing, as well as his or her phone number, in case you are running late.
  • What Not to Bring to Your Interview – Cell phones or other noisy electronic devices; beverages or food.
  • Arrival to the Interview – Arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before the scheduled time.  Consider driving to the location in advance of your appointment to ensure that you are familiar with directions, parking, etc.  If asked to fill out an application, fill it out completely.  Do not write “see resume” in any blanks.  List your professional recruiter’s name under any questions that ask by whom you were referred.
  • Handshakes – Give a firm handshake to anyone with whom you are interviewing.  Do not give a limp, or lukewarm handshake.  This can give off the wrong impression regarding your level of expertise, confidence and authority.


Interviewer Questions


Though each interview will have different types of questions asked, there are standard questions for which candidates will want to be prepared.  Below are just a few examples of such questions:

  • Motive Questions – answer these questions honestly, and genuinely.  Following are two examples of Motive questions, and the framework for a possible response:
    • Why should we hire you for this position?
      • Explain your qualifications and how they fit with what the company is looking for.  Address your interest in the job and the field, and why this is work that you enjoy.  Emphasize your ability to successfully perform the required duties.
    • Why do you want to work for our firm?
      • Make a compliment about what the company does, its location or its people.  Other positive remarks might be about the company’s product or service, content of the position or possibilities for growth or advancement.  Research about the company will serve you well here.
  • Job Satisfaction Questions – similarly to the Motive questions, answer these questions with honesty and sincerity, but do NOT speak poorly of a past supervisor or company.  Following are two examples of Job Satisfaction questions, and the framework for a possible response:
    • Why did you leave your previous employer?
      • NEVER speak poorly about a previous employer.  Be pleasant, be honest and be positive.  Your response will most likely be verified.  Mention your desire to work for a more progressive company that offers more growth opportunities and recognition.
    • Why are you looking for another job?
      • Again, be positive.  “I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed my time at (Company’s Name).  There are a lot of good people over there, but I am looking for a more progressive organization with greater opportunities for growth and recognition.  I am looking for a team to join where I can make real contributions and advance my career.”

Candidate Questions

Asking questions during an interview allows a candidate to demonstrate his/her expertise in the field, and establish a relaxed conversation between interviewer and candidate.  Here are a few examples of questions that candidates may pose to interviewers:

  • Why isn’t this position being filled internally?
    • You may discover that nobody in this organization would accept it, or that your future employees are a weak lot!
  • How did you get started in the company?
    • This question is a good way to get to know the interviewer better, and to gain insight into the promotional path that the company follows.
  • What are examples of the best results produced by people in this job?
    • Here you may discover that you are over-qualified, or in a position to ask for considerably more money.
  • The individuals who held this job in the last five years – were they promoted, or did they leave the company?
    • If the turnover has been high, you have a right to suspect that the job may leave something to be desired; or, it could mean that you might expect to be promoted quickly.
  • Why do you want someone for this job?
    • Force the interviewer to explain why this job can’t be done by one of his current employees.  The answer may give you a valuable job description.

Remember that, in a FF interview, a candidate is not just there for the interviewer to interrogate.  By asking the right questions and listening carefully to the responses given, a candidate can establish if the job is right for him or her.

In Closing…

  • Ask for the job! – Make a positive statement about the position.  Emphasize that this is exactly the type of opportunity that you have been looking for, and that you would like to be offered the position.  There is no higher compliment to pay a company than saying you want to be part of their team.  
  • Ask the interviewer when you should expect information about next steps.
  • Compose a Thank You Letter – This should be sent to each person with whom you interviewed.  It is traditional to send one via mail, but e-mail is becoming a more popular method.  Reiterate your interest in the company and position, as well as your ability to do the job.  Regardless of the delivery method, send your thank you out the same day, or the day after your interview. 
  • Call Your Recruiter! – Professional Recruiters at PGI provide an interview de-briefing with candidates once their interview has concluded.  Call him or her so that the appropriate actions may be taken as soon as possible. 



Five Reasons for Candidate Rejection During the Interview Process

Candidates can be rejected from the interview process for a number of reasons.  Below are five such reasons.  Be sure to evaluate yourself for any of these behaviors before interviewing with a prospective employer; if you’d like an objective perspective, call your Professional Recruiter with PGI.  He or she would be happy to work with you in assessing for these unwanted traits.

Reasons for Candidate Rejection

  1. They Have a Bad Attitude. Many candidates come across as arrogant.  While employers can afford to be self-centered, candidates cannot.  Present yourself with a good balance of humility and pride in your accomplishments whether your interview is over the phone, or in person.
  2. They Have a Sloppy or Inappropriate Appearance. Many candidates do not consider their appearance as much as they should.  First impressions are quickly made in the first three to five minutes.  Review the appearance guidelines presented earlier in this article, and stick to them!
  3. They Haven’t Done Any Research. It’s obvious when candidates haven’t learned about the job, company or industry prior to speaking with their interviewer.  Visit the library or use the Internet to research the company, and then talk with friends, peers and other professionals before each meeting.  Have a good understanding of the company’s product, service and mission statement, and apply these things to your interview answers.
  4. They Have No Questions to Ask. Asking questions shows a candidate’s interest in the company and the position.  Candidates should always prepare a list of intelligent questions in advance, and listen carefully to the answers given by the interviewer.
  5. They Don’t Have Answers Prepared for Interviewers’ Questions. Anticipate and rehearse answers to tough questions about your background, such as a recent termination or employment gap.  Practice giving these answers with a spouse or friend; this will help you in framing intelligent responses.