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Process of the Actual Interview

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The order of events varies with each interview and interviewer. Remember, though, that most interviewers are predisposed in your favor. They want to hire someone-and most of the time, they'd as soon it were you. Most people conducting interviews are not professional interviewers. Interviewing is just a part of their job-and a part they're usually not very good at.

You'll generally see one of three types of interviewers: (1) Self-made individualists pride themselves on their ability to size people up. They're sure of themselves and conduct their interviews accordingly; (2) Inexperienced interviewers and the kind of interviewers you see far too often in the not-for-profit sector are unsure of themselves and how to begin. These are the most nervous interviewers and may spend too much time on small talk before leading up to ask any of the nitty-gritty questions they feel are essential; (3) Professional human resources department interviewers know their business. They may be nondirective and low key, but they will be relevant. They'll also maintain reins on the direction and pace of the interview.
Some general tips for the interview:


Use a strong, firm, "normal" handshake. Slide your hand into the other person's hand to avoid hitting or crunching rings.
If the interviewer offers his or her hand when you meet at the beginning, take it. Otherwise, don't offer to shake hands yourself.
These days, both business men and business women routinely shake hands when the interviewer offers.
After the interview is over and rapport is established, you can initiate the handshake.

Eye contact

D Look your interviewer straight in the eyes and avoid shifting your eyes away or down. In a group interview situation, begin by looking at the questioner, then slowly look around to include everyone in the group in your answer. Wear glasses if you normally do so. That way, you can see properly.

Body language

  • Sit comfortably in the chair.

  • Don't fold your arms over your chest. This is a blocking move, and says something like "show me." For a similar reason, don't put your hands behind your head. That's perceived as an aggressive move.

  • If you cross your legs, do it toward the interviewer. Keep the contact open. Then, periodically, recross your legs (across the calves or ankles) to avoid having them go to sleep.

  • Keep your hands away from your mouth and face. This is read as a nervous gesture, indicating you're unsure of yourself. In fact, keep your hands down, preferably in your lap.

  • Try to avoid making any kind of too quick, nervous movement.

  • Lean slightly towards the interviewer, if you can. This denotes alertness and paying attention.
  • Watch their position with regard to you. Are they sitting higher than you, or do they keep you standing for what seems a little too long? Both of these are power plays. D Have they placed you in a confrontational position, directly across the desk from them, or have they seated you at a more friendly right angle position?

  • What about their arms and legs? Have they crossed their arms across their chest or put their arms behind their heads (both blocking or aggressive moves). Are their legs crossed so that the top leg points away from you (they're keeping you out) or crossed toward you (they're interested and open to what you are saying).

  • What about the position of their hands? Salespeople say that they know they're not making their sell when customers cover their mouths with their hands. On the other hand, if their hands are under their chins, they are seriously considering the points that you are making.

  • Don't put anything on your interviewer's desk. If you happen to interview with a High S (and human resources departments are full of High S's), remember that they are very possessive-and you would be encroaching on their territory.

  • Don't chew gum-or anything else.

  • Don't lose your sense of humor in an interview. If the interviewer says something that is obviously intended to be funny, laugh-or at least smile. However, be very careful using humor yourself. Your interviewer may have a hidden agenda and take great offense at something you think is innocuous and inoffensive.

Don't go to a first-name basis unless the interviewer requests that you do so. The interviewer may consider it disrespectful. Age can play a part here. Especially when your first interview is in the human resources department, you may be interviewed by someone who is young enough to be your son or daughter. The temptation is very strong to go directly to a first-name basis just because you're older and have a lifetime of receiving deference from younger people. Resist the temptation.
  • Avoid using a first name at all if you haven't been given permission.

  • Use the last name of the interviewer with Dr., Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms.

  • But be careful with Ms.-some women don't like the term. If you'll be speaking with a woman and don't know her marital status, either ask the receptionist or secretary ahead of time, or ask the interviewer directly, "Is it Miss or Mrs.    ?"

  • When the interviewer has a difficult name, write the name correctly with phonetic respelling so you won't make a mistake.

  • Identify the interviewer's communication style. Are you faced with a High D, a High I, a High S or a High C? Make your judgment early in the interview and modify your responses accordingly.

  • Don't appear to control the interview. Listen carefully, then answer questions thoughtfully. Chemistry is important in an interview. But even if rapport isn't there, don't blow the interview.

  • The chemistry may be wrong because one or both of you takes an instant dislike to the other. D The interviewer may remind you of someone you don't like.

  • Don't smoke

  • Even if the interviewer smokes, don't do it yourself. Smoking is now a deselector in many companies. They're consciously looking for nonsmokers. Research on smoking employees indicates that they are off sick more days from work, have more costly illnesses, and may cost a company several thousand dollars a year more than do nonsmoking employees.

  • Smoking may interfere with your ability to handle the interview, even though it does give you something to do with your hands.

  • Even if the other person suggests that you smoke if you'd like, you'd be wise to avoid it. Nonsmoking has become a major health and personal preference issue, so you might be playing into the interviewer's personal prejudices.

  • Absolutely no cigars or pipes. Many managers and employers have a whole set of stero types which they falsely apply to cigar and pipe smokers.

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