The Howard Group


Candidate Advice


The modern trend in interviewing is behavior-based questioning. This style of interview requires you to provide concrete examples of past behaviors. The existence and extent of these behaviors will help the employer determine whether you possess the traits they consider necessary for the job. You'll recognize this type of interview through questions such as "Give me an example of…" or "Tell me about a time when.…" Contrast this with the more traditional and hypothetical "strengths and weaknesses" questions. Beyond that, do the following, recognizing that you don’t really know what questions will be asked.

  1. Know something about the company. Thoroughly review the company’s web site, paying particular attention to press releases, product descriptions, mission statements, and personnel bio info. Google and Yahoo the company for additional info. Get basic financials from Hoover’s. Review the job description.
  2. Know Yourself. Generate a list of your top 5 professional traits. Examples would include communication skills, persistence, leadership, flexibility, quick thinking, problem solving, goal setting, etc. Write them down (this is crucial!). Then come up with at least two anecdotes that specifically demonstrate these qualities. Write down facts and dates, your actions and the outcome. Be specific. These examples can also serve as your “strengths” if you draw an old school interviewer.
  3. Weaknesses. Think about a real weakness that you’ve recognized in yourself and corrected–not one that is ongoing. Be ready to explain how you’ve corrected it and give an example of how the “old” self and “new” self would handle the situation. Also identify a professional situation which went sour, but that you were later able to salvage through your own efforts and from which you learned a lesson. Never shoot from the hip on weaknesses. Never try to dress up a strength as a weakness (“sometimes I have trouble working with people who aren’t as motivated as me.”) This is the oldest trick in the book and it sounds rehearsed.
  4. Why Are You Interviewing? If you’re unemployed, this one is easy–you’re looking for a good opportunity. If you have a job, say you’re trying to determine if this would be a good career move (not just more money!). If you’re responding to an ad, say the ad intrigued you and you wanted to find out more. If you were “recruited” tell them you weren’t looking–you got a call and the job sounded interesting. Some employers may try to get you to say there’s something wrong with your present job–don’t fall into that trap. Rule #1 of interviewing–never disparage your present or former employer regardless of your true feelings.
  5. Ask Questions. Hires are 65% based on personal chemistry. If they like you, they’ll overlook some shortcomings. If you ask questions—it shows you took the process seriously. Ask past, present and future questions about the company's history, progress, and goals, as well as the specific job and its duties. It will demonstrate interest on your part, plus you may uncover information crucial to your decision. Ask the interviewer about their job and career. You’ll develop a more personal link that way, plus you’ll get a feel for your potential future boss.
  6. How Much Money Do You Need? Everyone knows not to bring up money in the first interview. You can raise it in later stages once it appears things are getting serious, but usually it’s better to let the employer raise it. If they ask you what you need, do not go state a figure or even a range based upon some "research" you did. Instead, tell them what you currently make (honestly), that you’d like to move forward, and that you’re sure they’ll extend a fair and competitive offer based upon your past accomplishments and what you bring to the table.
  7. Ask for Feedback. The employer may have a misconception about your background or a lingering doubt regarding your qualifications that could be easily put to rest. Why not find out so you can deal with it right there? Ask, “Do I fit what you’re looking for?” or “Do you have any concerns about my professional background?” If the employer points out a genuine problem, acknowledge it, don’t fight it. Then try to minimize the obstacle by stressing a compensating asset that you do possess. If you’ve asked the right questions (see above), you’ll know what assets you’ve got that they’re looking for and you can stress those. If it’s a misunderstanding, correct it then and there.
  8. Ask for the Next Step. If you are interested enough to proceed, ask to proceed, even if you’re not sure yet about wanting the job. Worry about that once an offer is imminent. Instead, keep yourself in the process until you’re certain you’re not interested.
  9. Weird Questions. At some point you’ll get a question which stumps you. Ask the interviewer, “That’s an interesting question–why do you ask that?” You’ll probably get a road map of what they’re looking for in response, plus an additional few seconds to formulate a response.
  10. Send a Thank You. Always send at least an email thank you (sometimes a written note will take too long to get to the interviewer), even if it is only a couple of lines. Thank you notes always get read at least once. If you’re looking for that extra edge, we suggest the following framework: In the first paragraph, thank the employer for their time and make any personal comments you feel are appropriate. Because you now have a much better feel for what the employer seeks, use the second paragraph to sell yourself again and address any objections expressed regarding your qualifications or any issues left hanging for lack of time in the interview. Express your desire to continue in the process in the third paragraph.