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Effective Interviewing

The Interview: Types and Styles

There are many types of job interviews you can expect to come across during your career. What I have learned though is that each company has their own separate and unique interview process and that process changes depending on the job level being interviewed.


Every now and then a person is hired after only one interview; but this is usually on the lower end of the responsibility ladder and is becoming more the exception to the rule. In my experience, I have seen many potential candidates return to a company four or more times after an initial in-person interview and before a final-hire decision is made.

Screening Interviews

Usually conducted by phone; and in most cases, with an outside recruiter. There are two types of primary outside recruiters: Contingency Search Firms and Retained Search Firms.

  • Contingency Search Firms - only get paid if you get hired. Seeking candidates with preferred salary ranges $50K to $80K and generally charging 15%-30% of the starting salary to the hiring organization. Candidates tend to be specialists in specific career fields, i.e.: Information Technology or Logistics. The job opening is released to a number of outside recruiters all at the same time (which is why you may get multiple calls from different recruiters) as they all compete to find the right candidate to fill the position as quickly as possible.

  • There is a high likelihood that you will never hear from a Retained Search Firm because they are contracted by the company exclusively to find the “right” prestigious candidate. Preferred salary range covers $70K and up and charges 30%-35% fee to hiring employer (although flat fees are becoming more common). A retained search firm is not in business to find you a job. “Headhunters” rarely recruit from the ranks of the unemployed. In rare instances I have seen, it has always been on the senior executive level (and the person had a strong ongoing business relationship spanning their career).

  • Inside Company Recruiters - This in-house group of employees is usually housed within human resources. Their recruiting function usually centers on filling lower level positions traditionally released to outside recruiters.

  • In smaller or start-up companies, the screening interview is usually conducted by a company’s human resource representative or even more so by the hiring manager.


Skype/Telephone Interviews

Usually Skype screening interviews are conducted by companies for positions that are out of the candidate’s town saving hundreds of dollars in travel and lodging. In most cases, the candidate will travel to the company only after he or she has made it to the semi-final list for potential hirers.


An automated telephone interview may be used when a company hires many people, such as customer service representatives. Questions are presented and you are require to choose from a list of responses (yes/no, multiple choice) and punch the number corresponding to your choice of response on a telephone keypad.

GOAL: To Get That First Interview


Regardless of how you obtained your screening interview, the only goal of your first interview is to get a second interview that way you can be more at ease as you interview and concentrate on building rapport. Remember - to demonstrate how your abilities meet the requirements of position you are interviewing for; and communicate how you are part of the solution to the company’s needs.


Second Interviews

This interview can be conducted by Human Resources along with the hiring manager. Questions focus on your ability to do the job and ability to work with the hiring manager and his or her team. Questions would center on:

  • The position, company, industry

  • Capability, knowledge, and skill to do the job

  • Experience and accomplishments

  • Ability to “hit the ground running” (being productive with little or no training)

  • Adaptability and readiness to blend into the manager’s team

  • Determining if there are any outside influences that may affect your availability

It is also possible that cultural questions may be asked to see if you would generally “fit” into the company’s culture. Intangibles being probed for include:

  • Personal Likeability

  • Chemistry

  • Communication Skills

  • Personal Values

  • Work ethic and energy level


Technical Interviews

If you are interviewing for a technical position, expect also to be interviewed by a technical or subject expert. This interview may come before your second interview with a hiring manager. Questions will address your knowledge base as listed on your resume. Prepare to defend your technical talent and explain in detail key accomplishments and abilities. Your advance research should help you determine what type of data system the company uses. Know current industry issues surrounding the type of data system the company currently has and knowledge of emerging trends (like moving company data to the “cloud”).

Approval Interviews

Conducted by the hiring manager’s manager this type of interview focuses questions surrounding learning potential, handling the physical aspects of the job, and as in the first interview-your interest in the position, company, industry, work ethic, ability to do the job, skills, knowledge; and, your experience and accomplishments. However, once you get to this point in the interview process, you pretty much know they are interested in you.


The “Fit” Interview

In this type of interview, you will meet with potential team members (your peers). If you are interviewing for a management position, you may also meet with workers who would report to you. During this type of interview, establishing rapport is critical regardless of the level of people you may be interviewing with. They will provide critical feedback (an evaluation) about you once you have left the company. You can’t fake these types of interviews - relax and be yourself.


Psychological Interviews

Many times you will be required to take a personality test. Examples include Myers-Briggs, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, Strong Interest Inventory, and many more. Depending on the company, you may find an outside psychologist will be called in to analyze your personality test and determine degree of fit (with company culture) and motivation. (See: Chapter 8 – Personality Testing)

Bottom Line: Be Yourself. Answer the questions with the first thought that comes to mind. Don’t try to “play” the questions on the test or asked by the psychologist.

Source: The Balance


The “Blessing” Interview

 This usually is a final interview to offer you the position and is conducted by the highest person within the manager’s reporting structure. Depending on the level of the position, the manager could be at the highest level. If the position is senior manager or above, a director, general manager, regional manager, CEO, or President may be involved. This interviewing matrix may change based on the size of the company and the level of the position.


Every interview is different, but there are a number of interview styles you should know about and be prepared to handle. These include:

One-On-One Interviews

This, at one time, was the most common format of interviewing. It was you and the interviewer. Members of Professionals in Transition are now telling me they are encountering less one-on-one interviews and more panel interviews.

Person-to-Person Interviews

This “Round Robin” approach involves a series of rotating interviews where you move from person-to-person. In many cases, each interviewer will rate you after their interview and then get together with the panel of interviewers to share evaluations and results. This approach takes into consideration different perspectives and interpretations.


Panel Interviews

Often the panel will consist of a broad range of managers and directors from various departments that interact with the position. This process can be very intimidating. Before interview questions begin, give each panel member your business card with the expectation of receiving one of theirs. That way you will be able to address them by name and also send thank you notes after the interview. The best way to handle a panel interview is:

  • When responding, look at the person who asked the question.

  • If someone is unfriendly or discourteous to you, treat him or her with special respect. Ask questions to prompt him or her to relate with you.

  • Monitor the panel with care and diplomacy. If the interview is with a panel of superiors and things begin to go downhill, don’t try taking control of the interview process even if needed.

Stress Interviews

Sometimes an interviewer wants to see how you would react under pressure; how you would respond to a stressful situation; and how quick and responsive you think on your feet. Interviewers may pretend to be furious, cynical (of your abilities), provocative, and/or challenging. Your challenge is to not react to the situation by losing your cool. Instead:

  • Stay composed, breathe deeply and slowly, and maintain eye contact.

  • Recognize the artificially created scenario for what it is; don’t take it personally.

  • Remain calm at all times; Step into the process and role play.

  • Remain on the positive side of the issues presented; Don’t get hostile or angry.


Situational Interviews

Questions asked can be about real or hypothetical situations - how would you react or deal with them? Situational Interviews are based on questions involving problem solving and the management of harsh problems that may occur in the workplace. The best way to respond is to provide tangible and measurable examples of how you managed a similar situation on the job. That way, you're providing the interviewer with concrete information on how you reacted and handled the situation. Look for questions like:

  • What problems have you encountered at work? Describe how you dealt with them.

  • Describe a challenge or problem you faced. How did you handle it?

  • Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it.

  • If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something, how would you handle it?

  • Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.

Source: The Balance.


Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral questions will focus on specific examples from past performance as indicators to your future performance. An interviewer often will take many notes. You will find behavioral questions will be more focused than traditional interview questions and so you will \ need to respond with specific examples of how you handled situations in the workplace. The “Problem-Action-Result” (P.A.R.) response works really well for these kinds of questions. The P.A.R. format is one of the best interview strategies for providing quality information to hiring decision makers. Anticipate questions like:

  • Give an example of a goal you didn't meet and how you handled it.

  • Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.

  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.

  • How do you handle a challenge?

  • Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?

  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.

  • Did you every make a risky decision? Why? How did you handle

Source: The Balance.

Directed Interviews

In some cases you will find the interviewer using what appears to be a script. The interviewer maintains strict control of the interview process; limiting the time allotted for each question with specified questions to be asked/answered. As hard as this can be (in terms of building rapport), strict control of the questions maintains a high degree of consistency in the content and format of each interview. Questions could include:

  • What are your long range and short range goals and objectives?

  • Describe your strengths and weaknesses.

  • What qualifications do you have that are relevant to this position?

  • In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our organization?

  • How has your education prepared you for your career in XYZ?

Non-Directed Interviews

Perhaps the most frustrating interview to encounter is the “fly by the seat of your pants” or “go-with-the-flow” style of an inexperienced interviewer. This is not an effective interview style, but some people do use it. In some cases this interview style can be a deliberate strategy where the interviewer asks broad and general questions and allows you to control the interview. The most common, non-directive question is: "Tell me about yourself?" When answering, keep in mind that an employer is interested in knowing how your background, education, skills, and personality qualify you for the position (not your personal history). In your answer, make sure you acknowledge these areas: your education, relevant experience, valuable skills and abilities, and personal characteristics. Practice your answers before you go to an interview. It is vital that you sell yourself and your qualifications.



What happens if I don’t really like the position?

Even if the position is something you’re not very interested in, never turn down an opportunity for a job interview. Here’s why: It may have been many years since you’ve had a job interview or depending on your circumstances, may never had to do a job interview – Practice makes Perfect….

If you are like most people, you will find that job interviews are far and few between, during your job search; however, if you have been doing Informational Interviews throughout your job search, the time between job interviews won’t feel so long. Most people don’t know how to network or do very little networking once they are unemployed. This means the only chance they have to building the critical skill of building rapport is during their job search and while job interviewing. Each time you are given a chance to interview, you’ll get a chance to practice and build rapport. Every time you interview, the process will get a little easier. Remember, you are always in control of the process. Even if a job offer is made, you don’t necessarily have to accept it.

Informational Interviews

Your #1 Task = Building Rapport

Encarta Dictionary describes rapport as “… (a) mutual liking, trust, and a sense that both parties understand and share each other’s concerns.” You should establish rapport the minute you walk into a room. Your strong handshake; the way you carry yourself, sitting straight and posed; the direct eye contact you make throughout an interview – all elements of compelling confidence. Your courteous, warm, and friendly manner along with your smile demonstrate a willingness to listen and respond effectively to questions asked. Combine this physical certainty with your positive, proactive non-verbal communications and you create a convincing impression and establish a presence of strong rapport.

Informational Interviews

Rapport is a learned habit developed long before a job interview and enhanced by traveling the many pathways of networking. While 87% of Americans are by nature shy, most do not know how to network or how to build rapport. A European version of networking developed by Daniel Porot (as referenced in What Color is Your Parachute? Richard Nelson Bolles, August 16, 2011, 40th Edition), creates rapport through his P.I.E. methodology:

  P – warm-up interview (practice - sharing of common interests; pleasures; leisure)

  I – Informational Interview (sharing knowledge; support; referrals)

  E – Employment Interview


A tried and true way to building rapport is by conducting “Informational Interviews”. In a brief informational interview (usually 15-20 minutes), you are seeking information that is of common interest to you; information about something you enjoy doing or find relaxing. By talking with someone about a common interest, you are creating a “warm up” conversation while networking with someone (an “expert”) about a topic you both have in common – this simple conversation builds rapport or a connection. A couple of warm-up “igniter” questions you might consider asking in your conversation are:

  1. How did you get involved in this (activity)?

  2. What do you like most about it? What do you like least?

  3. Whom else would you suggest I talk with that share our interest? (This now provides referrals or leads into an area of interest you may consider pursuing.)

  4. Can I use your name? May I tell (referral) I met with you and you recommended me talking with them?

  5. Would you be willing to call (the referral) and let them know I will be contacting them?


You will know by the number of referrals you receive when you ask for them how successful you were at building a rapport with an individual. Remember - you promised to stay only 15-20 minutes. You should begin to close the interview at the 15 minute mark regardless of where you are in the interview (unless, of course, your expert wants to continue talking about the subject).

            Small business owners utilize this method of information gathering to develop their business contacts and support services. A common interest is shared and by word of mouth, ideas are developed, networking contacts are exchanged, and connections are made.

            A recent member of Professionals in Transition remarked how similar the PIE networking methodology was to the 10 Steps of Salesmanship. He pointed out:

  • How having a common interest (product) and being able to talk about it (promoting information) gives you the confidence and passion of being a salesman. (What is salesmanship other than someone who has the personality and skill of conversation?)

  • How conversation builds rapport; rapport builds trust and respect; and ultimately, customers will not do business with someone they don’t like. (In an informational interview, you approach someone whom you believe to be expert in your interest.)

  • How talking with an expert in a desired field or activity offers so much insight of likes, dislikes, expands your knowledge and concept of that field or activity, and possibly triggers thoughts of new avenues to consider and develop. (Conversation gives you the opportunity to ask questions relative to your interest.)

  • Through conversation, you are developing “a mutual understanding and interest.” (Informational conversation should be non-stressful and relaxed. You are comfortable asking for referrals (others who share your common interest; and thus your networking tree adds another contact or two!).

Informational Interview Benefits

  • Provides exposure to meeting new people.

  • Builds confidence in talking with people about common interests. (Developing interviewing skills)

  • Provides additional contacts relative to your common interest and builds rapport with contacts. (Building a network contact list)

Your developing Networking Contact List could very well provide the next opportunity to re-employment (courtesy of informational interviewing).

The Screening Interview

The selection process makes people the most anxious. In most cases, the screening interview will be your first human interaction with an employee of the company or with a “recruiter”. (SEE: Chapter 18 – The Interview: Types and Styles for specifics on recruiters) A screening interview is designed to filter out candidates based on abilities and key words as profiled against the position requirements. The notification that you have an interview means the employer is interested in you. Congratulations!


This means you have also survived the scrutiny of the company’s applicant software system designed to highlight any hole in your resume including:

  • Gaps in your employment history

  • Information that seems suspicious

  • Identifying candidates that may potentially demand too high a salary for the company


For the employer, the screening interview process also enables the company to check your qualifications, how you communicate, and if you are in their price range. The person conducting the screening interviewer is looking to determine:

  • If you meet basic qualifications for the position

  • Have the experience needed to do the job

  • Appear to match the company’s workplace environment

  • Are within the salary range of the position


A screening interview can be conducted over the telephone or in-person. Remember, the telephone screening interview is designed to save company time and eliminate questionable candidates as quickly as possible. In today’s “employer market”, most selection screens interviews are with a Human Resource recruiter or an outside resource company hired to sieve through the massive incoming resumes. The recruiter knows you are qualified to do the job, your resume has indicated that. But while you may have the skills to perform the tasks required by the job, the question remains as to whether or not you are able to interact well with management and/or co-workers without causing a potential disruption in the functionality of the department. An unlikely “fit” could ultimately be costly and could affect the company's bottom line. Many experts feel this “smooth continuity” can be determined within the first several minutes of an interview.


The screener’s goal is to find a reason to eliminate you. Telephone screeners call when it is convenient for them, not you; however if the phone rings and you are caught off guard, politely ask if you can reschedule the call so you have an opportunity to prepare. This is not the time to shoot from the hip. Even if you can only delay the call for an hour, you will have time to collect your notes and be better prepared. If the screener insists on going forward, gather your notes (resume/cover letter, pencil) while heading for a quiet place and follow these simple strategies:

  • Stand during the interview. Your tone will sound more proactive and confident.

  • Make sure you know the first and last name, and title, of the person so that you will be able to send a thank you note.

  • Focus on the positives: your accomplishments and credentials

  • Answer questions directly and candidly


During a screening interview, your aim is to provide accurate information about your qualifications. Be friendly, listen actively, and don’t be afraid to ask for the next appropriate steps. You can show off your enthusiasm and personality in later interviews with the person making the hiring decisions. When asked - do not mention a specific income requirement. Instead, provide a range ofin come that would satisfy your needs. Deflect income inquires with responses that show flexibility; such as, “I am confident that I will be able to fit within the salary range for this position.”


Your only goal from a screening interview is to get a second interview. Knowing you do not have to make the sale on the first interview can be a huge relief. Instead, concentrate on building rapport. Remember this: “If they like you, they may hire you; if they don’t, they won’t.” It is a simple way to remember to always keep rapport building in the forefront of interviewing.


Preparedness is always key. The organization you keep when responding to an application is critical to having relevant information at your fingertips. You should always have your notes easily accessible, including:

  • Your T-Square Cover Letter.  Be prepared to explain, in detail, the abilities you listed as they applied to the requirements of the position.

  • Your Resume.  Be ready to defend your entire resume. Remember: the screener is trying to figure out how you think in a brief phone conversation. Frame your answers using the following sentence: The PROBLEM was _____________, the ACTION that I took was_____________, and the RESULT was____________.

  • Original company research - highlighting important points usually found in the About Us section of the company’s website.

  • Any recent developments (since your application)? Read the Media Section, Newsroom and Investor Areas of the website


If you are able to prepare for a telephone interview or know ahead of time when the screening interview will be, allow yourself plenty of time to setup and be ready….


Position all your notes/documents on a separate table near your desk. To save space, it can be a folding table used only for phone interviews. Consider increasing the size of the font for these documents for easy reading during a telephone interview. You may have to do a little bit of reformatting, but larger type calls attention to important points that you may want to make during the interview. Consider keeping an extra pair of glasses close to your notes so you don’t struggle with your notes (your voice will reflect it).


When the phone rings, stand up and answer: “Hello, this is FIRST NAME, LAST NAME.” All business phone calls should be answered this way because:

  • It is appropriate business protocol.

  • Sounds professional

  • Avoids confusion

  • Identifies you immediately


Answering the phone in this skilled manner (even with Caller I.D.) starts the conversation in an even-measured business tone. Remember to stand up through the entire interview. You do this because the tone of your voice is different. When you sit, the tone of your voice sounds more casual and relaxed. When you stand, the tone of your voice becomes more proactive and assertive. You might want to hang a picture of a person at eye level above your desk. Be sure to look at it and pretend it’s the person you are talking too.


Be prepared to answer questions similar to the following:

  • Questions that will determine your general level of experience. (Question: How many years of retail management experience do you have?)

  • Specific questions to compare your over-all abilities with the specific needs of the company (Question: What is it like to manage sales of over $15 million a year?)

  • Questions that will assess specific areas of your experience as it applies to the needs of the company (Question: Tell me about your experience with point-of-purchase inventory re-order systems.)

  • Questions to determine your level of education (Question: Describe your educational background and experience as it applies to this position.)

  • Salary Questions BE CAREFUL! Do not reveal your salary requirements. Once you reveal your salary requirements you lose all negotiation power. (Question: Not to limit you or commit you to a certain dollar figure, but what’s the minimum salary you’d consider right now to accept another position?) You might say something like: “I would rather postpone salary discussion until we are further along in the process. I am confident that my salary expectations will fall within the positions salary range. What is that range?)

  • You will be asked permission for standard background checking. (Question: Are you willing to agree to have a drug test, a criminal background check, references checks, educational background checks, and others as appropriate for this position?)


Once you get to this point in the screening interview, the call will either be terminated (the screener eliminates you) or you move into phase two of the screening interview process. Additional, more probing questions are then asked, and could include:

  • What was the size of your company in terms of yearly sales?

  • Walk me through your typical day.

  • How many employees worked for your company?

  • What are the company’s primary products and markets?

  • How many people reported to you directly?

  • What were their titles and responsibilities?

  • Why and when (if you no longer work for the company) did you leave your latest job?


After Business Hours - Screening Calls On the Rise

If the screener is the decision-maker, there’s a high likelihood that she will call you after hours. This is because (before they can call you), they have their regular day job to accomplish before screening applicants. Remember: Even though finding a job is your #1 priority, to the person screening applicants - filling an open position is just one of many things on their to-do list. Keep your cell phone on and your resume/notes handy until at least 8:00 PM each working day in case an after-hours screening call is made.


Recently a student of mine received a screening call from a recruiter at 9:00 PM. Linda was particularly shocked because this was for a position she had applied for over eight months ago and had had ABSOLUTELY no response from. She had just sent a final follow up email which prompted the call. The late night screening interview went very well; and Linda was informed a follow-up interview would occur the next week.


Another late night call was soon to follow…Three months earlier Linda had applied for a position; this time as a high level church liaison. No response. She mentioned this in my class and another member of the class recognized the decision maker’s name. Jeff agreed to fire off an email to him sharing Linda’s talents and interest. As a result of Jeff’s email, Linda received a telephone screening interview at 8:00 PM which resulted in a face-to-face interview.


The bottom line…As the work day continues to increase (in terms of hours), screening interview calls will continue to be made long after the traditional work day ends. This is because screening interviews (in many cases) fall to the bottom of the list of decision makers or recruiters pursuing more urgent issues. It is something we all have to live with. Sadly recruiters, hiring managers, and others may perceive the unemployed as “on call” and available at all times. When it comes to screening interviews, it is what it is…


As you move into the in-person phase of the interview process, you will discover a number of additional aspects that will be discussed in the next chapter, including:

  • Eight Cardinal Rules of Interviewing

  • Reinforcing how you are the answer to the employer’s needs

  • 10 Commonly Asked Questions and Answers

  • How to Handle Illegal Questions

  • References

  • Dressing for Success

  • Body Language Communications

The Interview: Concerns and Questions

Congratulations, you have survived the telephone screening interview! Enjoy your triumph…but now you’ve got to get ready to walk the uneven road leading to the possibly of getting hired by this company. There are many steps ahead. You’ve got to take the time and prepare the best sales promotion you can – selling yourself in person. This is your chance to demonstrate how your unique differential advantages/abilities:

  1. Fit the requirements of the position

  2. Fit with the type of boss who will be supervising the position

  3. Fit within the overall culture of the company.

Three KEY Concerns

While there are hundreds of questions you could be asked during a series of job interviews (and you will be asked many of them), the entire interview process boils down to three major concerns:

  • Are you qualified for this position? (skills, knowledge, experiences, learning potential)

  • If we hire you, will you do the job? (work ethics, energy level, willingness, availability)

  • Will you fit in our company’s culture? (chemistry, values, work style, appearance)


Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilders, references a leadership survey conducted between Nov 9-Dec 5, 2011 regarding the interviewing process and comments, “Employers aren’t hiring a list of skills and accomplishments. They are hiring the whole person; their personality; their resume; their critical thinking; and their creative ability. The impression made during an interview will always be the determining factor in landing a new job.”


Effective interviewing involves remembering these concerns. If you remember nothing else from this chapter, remember the following two statements:

  1. “BE THE ANSWER” - Be the answer to the employer’s needs. Reinforce how your skills match the requirements of the position. Set yourself apart from other candidates by illustrating how your unique qualifications and willingness to do the job will enable you to be “the fit” for the job. Establish how your prior experience complements the job that currently exists in their organization. Be positive and know yourself; know your qualifications. Caution – As much as you may want the job, you are not “Superman”. You cannot be “all things to all people.” You are a polished professional qualified to fill the position, continue to “sell yourself” up till the last minute and then afterwards in your thank you note.

  2. “IF I LIKE YOU I **MAY** HIRE YOU; IF I DON’T, I WON’T” - You can be brilliant, but if you have a poor work record, a bad reputation, or are known for being a troublemaker in your former job (after some investigative checking around), most companies won’t hire you.


Answering Interview Questions – Eight Cardinal Rules

  1. Keep it brief; Don’t talk too much

  2. Listen carefully; Show you are interested

  3. Don’t be modest, but don’t exaggerate

  4. Don’t be arrogant

  5. Talk in concrete terms

  6. Never defend or argue a view during an interview; Never interrupt

  7. Make connections for the interviewer; Build rapport


Red Flag QUESTIONS -- Frequently Asked By an Interviewer

1) Tell me about yourself

The question “tell me about yourself,” is not only a request for information, but is also a

signal to start the interview. In employer terms – tell me about yourself translates to “Why are you here and What do you want?” This first question will (in many cases) determine the tone and course of the interview. At this point you don’t know the interviewer’s expectations, problems, or needs. Proceed with caution.


Pause, smile and ask; “What part of my background would you like me to talk about?”

Most interviewers will be relieved (knowing that a long autobiography is not forthcoming) and

welcome the opportunity to help you make your responses relevant. If you are given the choice,

begin with your 30 second commercial. Sound natural and convey your intelligence, enthusiasm, and confidence. Pause and then ask: “Would you like me to go into more detail?” or “Is there anything in particular you would like me to talk more in-depth about?” Let the interviewer take the lead.

Leave out any weaknesses or failures until specifically asked; and then only as they relate to your professional image. Expressing weaknesses or failures is not an opportunity to sound desperate for a job, time to tell of personal or family problems, or anything else that may be of a private nature. This is a business interview – keep it that way. Disclosing private matters can sabotage your interview and may create a negative, unspoken response from the interviewer.


2) Name three of your strengths

Link your strengths to real accomplishments or life incidents. Reinforce your strengths through credible examples of tangible, measurable benefits. Highlight skills and strengths directly related to the job you are seeking. Speak confidently about your experiences and demonstrate how you are the answer to the employer’s needs. Now is not the time to be modest; yet don’t imply arrogance.


3) Name three of your weaknesses

Careful…Probing questions are not asked to gather data. Instead difficult questions are a request for reassurance. Consider addressing hidden questions most interviewers have, but may not ask: “Do you work well with others?” “Will you fit our corporate culture?” “Will you do the job?” “Can you accept leadership?” “Can you provide leadership?” Your ability to respond to difficult and probing questions is a reflection of your attitude. If the interviewer continues to probe, illustrate examples of strengths instead of weaknesses.


Responding to a weakness or failure question with “I’m a perfectionist at heart” is an automatic deal breaker and has just ended the interviewer’s interest in you. Why?? Because no one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes regardless of the severity.

4) What did you like most and least about your last job?

Respond by saying something like: “I have learned many things. It was an important part of my career… (choose a few key highlights from your resume)”

5) How would your boss describe you?

Reinforce your career summary and reflect your key areas of strength through your supervisor’s eyes. In my case, I would repeat the last sentence of my career summary and say: “My boss would tell you I have excellent organizational development and business partnering skills gained in day-to-day participation directed at achieving bottom line results.” Never criticize or complain about your boss or co-workers.


6) Why did you leave your last job?

Be honest, professional, and positive in your response. If you were downsized, it is perfectly appropriate to say so. Avoid statements that may sound negative


7) If you had to live the last ten years of your life over again, what would you do differently?  Start by saying: “I feel good about the decisions I've made during the past ten years and would not change much.” Then reinforce your strengths and say: “And I feel particularly proud about the following key decisions…..”


8) What is the biggest mistake you ever made?

Everyone in life makes mistakes. Consider responding by saying: “I usually do not have a problem recognizing, resolving, and then learning from mistakes I have made (big or small).” Share one example of a task where personal initiative and responsibility did not work. Highlight what was learned and what you would do differently in the future. Conclude by saying: “My employers have always been supportive of my efforts.” Remember – no one is perfect!


9) Assuming we hire you, where do you want to be in three years?

An effective response to this question is: “I would first do the job offered to the best of my

ability. Eventually I would hope to earn a chance for advancement by significantly increasing my contributions to your company.”


10) What are your salary requirements?

Be prepared! Know your salary range before the interview begins. A great resource for salary ranges and other related research is at or, which features a salary calculator. Until you have clarified that the interviewer is satisfied with your ability to do the job and offers you a job, try to postpone responding to this question. If an employer is genuinely interested in hiring you, they will not be put off by your firmness. You can politely skirt the salary issue and shift the dynamics of the interview by stating: “I would like to postpone any salary discussion until I have a better understanding of the job we are talking about. Please tell me more.” or “Once you have decided I’m right for the job, I will be delighted to talk about salary. I am sure your income structure is a fair one, and I will have no trouble fitting in.” Discussed in detail in Chapter 23 – Salary Negotiation is a more defined process of developing discussions for building your salary base.


Additional Questions Most Likely to be Asked

11) What do you know about our company? This is where your research comes in. Are you familiar with the company’s major products or services? Do you know their mission and internal culture? Do you know the industry’s trends? All this information lends to credibility.


12) Why do you want to work for us? Pause and think about what you want to say. Then direct your answer directly to the needs of the company. A definite mistake to this question is centering the answer around “You” – what you can do for the company or how the company will benefit from you being an employee.


13) What accomplishment gave you the greatest satisfaction? Is this a strength you should elaborate on; an interest you work at outside of work; or a skill you have developed to the point of consistently being called upon to perform? This is the opportunity to toot your horn (in moderation).

If the same questions arise as you conduct informational interviews, there is an excellent chance the same questions will be asked during an actual job interview. Learn to recognize “red flag questions” and develop a strategy to address them comfortably. Know the questions and PRACTICE the answers so you sound smooth and confident. Lack of self-confidence is a turnoff for employers.

Sensitive Questions

In a perfect world, interview questions should be related to the position and your willingness and ability to do the job. Occasionally, an interviewer asks questions that solicit information about you that could potentially be used in a discriminatory way. Questions regarding the following items are also items that should never be included on your resume. I had a recruiter tell me she is legally required to discard resumes with volunteered affirmative action information because of potential legal problems.

  • Age; Gender

  • Race; Ethnicity

  • Marital Status; Family/Children

  • Physical Attributes (this does not include any handicaps or disabilities)

  • Inclusion of a Picture

  • Religion or Political Affiliation

Practicing how you would handle these kinds of questions will help you respond professionally if questions are asked in an interview situation (or even on an application).


  • Many interviewers are not trained in interviewing. They may not know which questions to avoid or which questions are illegal.

  • Inappropriate questions are often unintentional. Often questions are based on perceived relevance rather than legality, with no malice intended.

  • Use your common sense and react objectively, not defensively.

If you are presented with potentially discriminatory questions:

  • Maintain eye contact. Remain cool, calm and professional.

  • Be aware of your body language. Consciously manage your non-verbal reactions to remain as neutral as possible.

  • Ask for clarification on how the question might relate to the responsibilities of the job.

  • Evaluate what the interviewer is really seeking, i.e. questions about children may relate to potential absenteeism or questions regarding working with minorities may relate to customer base, work group, or how you evaluate people.

  • Answer in a neutral, positive way.

  • Express concrete facts and ideas. Avoid feelings.


Sample Questions to Ask An Interviewer

  • How many people have held this position in the past few years? How have they advanced?

  • What skills and characteristics are you looking for in the person you hire?

  • Is the department team-oriented? Are employees independent or is the work force highly structured?

  • How would you describe your management style?

  • How does the company handle professional development?

  • Where do you see the future of the company? Of the department? Of this position?

  • Do you encourage new ideas?

  • Is there a regular review process? How are the employees judged?

  • What stage of the hiring process are you in? What is the next step? What is your time line?

  • Describe a typical day for someone in this position.

  • What is the most urgent short term issue that needs to be addressed?

  • What are your department’s long term goals?



Sooner or later you will be asked to provide references. DO NOT offer references until asked. Reference checks are made to:

  • Assure that you told the truth about yourself.

  • Get a feeling for how you work with others.

  • Pick up otherwise undisclosed information, either positive or negative.


Today, many employers are very careful about sharing information due to the chance of a lawsuit. Often a company will only provide a job title and dates of employment.

Select Appropriate References

Choose people who know you in a work setting – managers, peers, and subordinates. They are your best references. Customers or vendors are also good choices along with well-known political, community, or business leaders, educators, or professional trade association experts. Do not use neighbors, relatives, and doctors. All references should know you well enough to speak objectively and in some detail about your skills, strengths, and personal characteristics.


Prepare Your References to Help You

Typically you are asked for three references. You will need to have several more references just in case. Prepare a reference list to give a prospective employer using the following format:

Reference List

• Your name at the top of the page

• Names of each of your references

• Their phone number

• Their current & former titles

• Their address

• Their relationship to you (former manager, subordinate, co-worker, etc.)

• Their current company

Help Your References Help You

1. Ask first.

  • Always ask a person to act as a reference before you provide his or her name to an


2. Prepare your reference.

  • Provide a copy of your resume to the person.

  • Develop a one-page summary including your career objective, reason for leaving,

      strengths, weaknesses, and work and management style, and then review it with him or her.

3. Call your reference when you give his or her name to an employer.

  • Provide details about the prospective position and what you have to offer.

  • Share your excitement and enthusiasm.

4. Ask for feedback after your reference has been contacted.

  • What types of questions were asked?

  • What topics were covered?

  • What concerns were raised?

  • Thank your reference!

Now that you have made it through the screening interview; and the face-to-face interview, it is worth your time to write a short thank you note or letter, via email for expediency or by postal for a lasting impression of manners. This may very well be the factor that seals the job selection in your favor. SEE: Exhibit 16-4 Thank You-Networking; Exhibit 21-1 Thank You-Interview. It is important your thank you note or letter be written within 24 hours of your interview so the interviewer will remember to connect your face and presence with your thank you note.

Additional Interview Strategies

Dress for Success

We have all been guilty of judging a book by its cover, but it is often that critical first impression that makes the difference. People who create that “first impression” of success are considered more intelligent, competent, and often earn more money.


Regardless of the ongoing trend in America of companies adopting a “business casual” work environment, when it comes to job interviewing you want to look your very best. According to Kim Zoller at Image Dynamics, 55% of another person's perception of you is based on how you look.

You will want to dress well and dress conservatively. Women or men cannot go wrong with a classic, tailored, high quality suit in traditional solid colors such as navy, grey or any other neutral color appropriate. You can complement the suit with conservative jewelry and accessories.

It is far better to be over-dressed (looking like a penguin at a formal ball), than wearing a tee

shirt and flip flops or tennis shoes. If you are overdressed, you can easily relax your interview

attire by taking off your tie and suit jacket. If, on the other hand, you go into the interview wearing

flip flops and tennis shoes (and to your surprise, find everyone in $600 penguin suits), there is no

hope of recovering.

People often ask me how to dress for an interview; and without hesitation I always suggest they dress as if they were going to church or a wedding. Business “formal” assures you will pass the image test in the milliseconds before the interview even begins. Your grooming must be impeccable, and your hairstyle clean, neat, and up-to-date.

It is imperative not to use heavily scented perfume or aftershave/cologne. Fragrance is a personal preference and can be offensive to some or trigger allergies in others. Better not to smell like “Flower, the skunk” - instead smell fresh and recently showered. You don’t want to leave a negative impression because of the way you smelt.

Take the time to drive to the location of the interview the day before scheduled and park your car near enough to observe people as they come in and out of the building. Are they smiling? Or are they hunched over? Are they all wearing $600 suits or jeans and tennis shoes? Find out as much as you can about the style of the people or company who will be interviewing you so you convey the impression that you are a good fit for their culture.

During your job search, you should look professional at all times. You never know whom you may meet and where. Looking professional does not mean you have to look like everyone else. It is critical, however, to dress for your audience. Every style sends a message, and that message should be addressing the industry you are targeting as well as reflecting your personal taste.

A seasoned interviewer will begin to make judgments about you in the nanoseconds of first sight even before you shake hands and formally meet. Interviewers size you up, from head to toe. Nanosecond observations include:

  • Style of your hair

  • Quality, color, and coordination of your apparel

  • Type of watch or jewelry worn

  • Brand of shoes; and if they are polished

  • Nanosecond observations are converted into first impression conclusions almost like an intuitive sixth sense.


Presenting a Professional Image

For Men

  • For most industries, opt for a conservatively tailored, well-made suit.

  • Quality is the key — the suit should fit you perfectly.

  • Shirt color preferences are white or light blue. Pink or pin-striped shirts are generally not good selections for a first interview, although in more casual or fashion-conscious industries, they would be acceptable choices. A man’s tie is the most important part of his outfit. It is his only chance to add contrast and his own sense of style. A good quality tie can totally enhance a man’s suit, so it is well worth the investment. Ideally, your tie should contrast with your suit. Avoid wearing a solid tie with a solid color suit.

  • Accessories are an important part of your total look. Shoes and belts should be good quality leather and should match in color. Black, cordovan, or brown are the best color choices. Either laced shoes or slip-ons are appropriate. Socks should be worn high enough so that your legs don’t show when you sit or cross them. Interviewers react negatively to flashy buckles and ornaments on shoes so these should be kept as simple as possible. Follow the same rule with belts. Briefcases and portfolios should be leather.

  • Jewelry should be kept simple and limited to either a wedding or signet ring. Although tie clips and cufflinks may be appropriate after you have the job, they are sometimes found to be inappropriate, as are pocket handkerchiefs. Watches should also be simple — just a dial face and leather band. Heavy watches with a lot of functions should be left at home.

  • Your grooming must be flawless. There is no question that the clean-shaven look is safest for a businessman. It makes most men look younger, cleaner, and more efficient. In addition, many people have negative reactions to mustaches and full beards. There are always exceptions, of course. A neat, well-trimmed mustache may make a man look more mature and in control. A full beard still falls into the high-risk area in corporate America. In more creative professions, such as college teaching, architecture, psychology and advertising, beards are acceptable.

  • Your hairstyle should be kept neat and up-to-date. A good stylist is key to giving you a cut that is easy to care for as well as flattering to your facial features.


For Women

  • The best choice of dress for a woman is a good-quality suit (whether skirt and jacket; or tailored pantsuit)... Wear a stylish but conservative suit in a style that is complimentary to your figure. Neutral solid colors, such as taupe, navy, gray or black, are safe. Other appropriate colors are acceptable; however, stay away from bright colors.

  • Blouses can be worn in almost any color that is flattering to your skin tone. Silk, cotton and silk look-alikes are good fabric choices. Choose collars that compliment your jacket lapel and face shape. For example, if you have a long, thin face, avoid a neckline that repeats the shape of your face. Try to express your own sense of style in blouses.

  • Accessories are very important and can easily upgrade an outfit. Choose leather pumps in classic styles for interviewing. Heel heights vary with fashion, but a moderate heel height is always a good bet. Flats may be too informal and an excessively high heel is not businesslike. Belts should generally match your shoes and, again, should be conservative in style. Belts are good finishing pieces and serve to tie your outfit together, although scarves used as belts can be too informal.

  • Handbags and briefcases are items people always notice. Quality is imperative, so pay attention to craftsmanship and materials. One word of caution — don’t carry both a handbag and a briefcase to an interview. It looks clumsy and requires too much juggling. Make sure whatever you are carrying closes easily and is not overly full. Better yet, save the briefcase until you have the job.

  • Jewelry should be kept simple. Fine jewelry is always acceptable, but good quality costume jewelry can also add versatility to your wardrobe. Appropriate jewelry might include simple earrings (no dangles), a string of pearls, a chain or conservative necklace, a watch, and no more than two rings. Any bracelet or necklace that tends to jangle is distracting and should be avoided.

Arrive Early - Look in the Mirror

You only have one chance to make a good impression. Be sure to arrive early and use the visitors’ restroom before you announce your presence. Now is the time to readjust your tie, brush your hair, pull up your pantyhose or whatever else is needed for finishing touches to prepare and compose yourself for the interview.


Of equal importance and a matter of visual impression is chewing gum. Definitely not!!! An interviewer watching gum roll around in your mouth as you talk or listen does not leave a good impression. Get rid of it…use a breath mint that dissolves quickly.

While much has to do with the way you look during this split-second process, never underestimate the power of your body language. The old adage, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it," still holds true even if you're not talking. You need to successfully connect, both verbally and nonverbally, with the person or panel you are being interviewed by.

The Approach

When you are ready, make your presence known at the front desk no earlier than 10 minutes before your scheduled interview. Most likely, you’ll be escorted to the interview location or asked to wait in a receiving area. Don’t become impatient if you feel “parked”. Last-minute crisis happen…delays occur…meetings run over...schedules change unannounced. Use this time to review your notes about the company and re-examine some of the interview questions you believe have a high likelihood of being asked during the interview.


Remember - nanosecond observations and first impression conclusions have already been made in the first 30 seconds of visual sight and before the interviewer extend his or her hand to introduce them to you. Immediately establish eye contact, smile, and shake the person’s hand firmly. Be careful…Don’t squeeze their hand. Hurting an interviewer with painful arthritis with a linebacker’s handshake is the last thing you want to do. Of 2000 bosses interviewed by Patrick Ritter, Info-Graphic Overview: What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview, 26% viewed a weak handshake as a common nonverbal mistake at a job interview. See: Exhibit 18-1

Eye Contact

Maintain eye contact. It is important in our culture to look at the person to whom you are speaking approximately 80% of the time. Americans place a high value on eye contact and generally interpret it as a gesture of trust and confidence. During an interview, make eye contact when you are talking — particularly when making an important point — as well as when you are listening. Nodding is another gesture of support and agreement. It is complementary to eye contact.


Again, Patrick Ritter references 67% of 2000 bosses who viewed failure to make eye contact as a critical nonverbal mistake made during a job interview. See: Exhibit 18-1


Be Sensitive to Your Own Body Temperature

If your hands tend to sweat, they may create a damp, slimy feel so be sure to wipe them off with a handkerchief, tissue, or paper towel before you shake another person’s hand. If you are cold-blooded, (prior to the interview) run warm water onto a towel and hold it in your hands to bring up the warmth in the palm of your hand.

Nonverbal Body Language - Do’s

  • Demonstrate from the start that you are in-synch with the interviewer by following their body language. Sit up straight; establish eye contact, smile, and lean a little forward in your chair. Carefully observe how the interviewer sits, and then subtly match their body angle. This will demonstrate your interest and project confidence and willingness to be the answer to the employer’s needs.

  • Listen actively and take notes. (Ask permission first to take notes before actually doing so.) Reinforce your interest throughout the interview by making positive gestures. Keeping eye contact, tilting head, smiling, and nodding are positive gestures of a good listener, all critical attributes to display confidence during an interview.

  • When you are in a panel interview, make sure you establish immediate eye contact with the person that asks the question. Then establish eye contact, one-by-one, with each panel member for a moment and return eye contact to the questioner. Address the person by name and then answer the question. Briefly pan the room to see if you can pick up on the nonverbal reactions of both the questioner and panel members.

  • Be flexible. Even while an interview is being conducted, things can happen that require the interviewer’s immediate attention. Show your understanding by indicating your willingness to step outside the office while the incident is being handled. Your tact and ability to respond effectively when a business crisis happens will be remembered and will go a long way in establishing rapport.

Nonverbal Body Language - Don’ts

  • Don't speak too quickly - Match the other person's speech rate. A person's speed of speaking reveals the rate at which their brain can consciously analyze information. Speak at the same rate or slightly slower than the other person and mirror their inflection and intonation. Studies show that others describe feeling 'pressured' when someone speaks faster than they do.

  • If you are rocking back in your chair, shaking your foot, fidgeting too much or scratching your...anything, you will be perceived to be the type of person who can’t stay focused, if even for a few minutes. It's not a game of charades, it's a job interview.

  • The #3 deal breaker for those 2000 bosses, at 72%, is someone who drums or steeples their fingers. Implies arrogance and impatience. See: Exhibit 18-1. Source: Patrick Ritter.

  • Don't touch your face - Studies show when someone is concealing information or lying, their face touching frequency increases dramatically due to an increase in blood pressure in the face especially inside the nose. If you have an itchy nose, people who don't know this are likely to think you're lying. So keep your hands away from your face.

  • Don't let your arms drop inside the arms of the chair - Keep your elbows out. Sitting with your elbows on the armrest of a chair is perceived as a position of power and conveys a strong, upright image. Humble, defeated individuals let their arms drop inside the arms of the chair; keeping their elbows close to the body to protect themselves. They are perceived as fearful or negative, so avoid sitting like this.

  • Don’t clench your fists or your jaw. You may just be nervous and clenching your fists or jaw may be your way to attempt to control the natural anxiety you may feel when interviewing. This, however, may be viewed by the interviewer as being hostile or uncooperative.

  • Don’t cross your arms at your chest – You are telling the interviewer you are upset or defensive. #2 deal breaker for those 2000 bosses, at 21%. See: Exhibit 18-1. Source: Patrick Ritter, Info-Graphic Overview: What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview

  • Can you guess what the #1 deal breaker was: Lack of Smile at 38%....makes sense. See: Exhibit 18-1

Source: Patrick Ritter, Info-Graphic Overview: What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview


Above all, remember your positive attitude is key and that positive nonverbal behavior naturally results from positive attitude. As the major percentage of your credibility is communication (55%), your body language can convey a stronger message than your words. Proper body language is critical in business situations. Your entrance, handshake and eye contact all make a first impression.




Applicant’s Body Language Typical Interpretation:

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Evasive, indifferent, insecure, passive, nervous

  • Scratching the head

  • Bewildered

  • Biting the lip

  • Nervous, fearful, anxious

  • Tapping feet

  • Nervous

  • Folding arms

  • Angry, disagreeing, defensive, disapproving

  • Raising eyebrows

  • Disbelieving, surprised

  • Narrowing eyes

  • Resentful, angry

  • Flaring nostrils

  • Frustrated

  • Wringing hands

  • Anxious, nervous

  • Shifting in seat

  • Restless, bored, apprehensive

The Salary Negotiation Process

Understanding the “Flow”


Most job searching books you read approach salary negotiation from a defensive position. The opposite is true. It is your proactive ability to establish and maintain rapport through the entire hiring process that becomes so critical to maintain. If the hiring and subsequent salary negotiation process does not “flow” with both parties feeling good along the way, there is little chance you will get hired.


After your first several interviews, your goal is to help the process flow forward toward the job offer phase. But until you actually get a job offer only talk about what you can bring and do for the company. Continue to reinforce how your abilities match the employer’s needs. Understanding this process or “flow” can be interrupted by business circumstances, become fragmented, or chaotic. Bridge this time in between by sending short emails to the people you interviewed with. You can also make contact by mailing newspaper or magazine articles on topics of interest to the individuals you have been meeting with.


Salary Goals

When it comes to hiring a candidate, the job of Human Resources is to hire you for the lowest possible price within the competitive salary range for your area of expertise. Your job is to negotiate the highest salary possible.

Why NOT Sharing Your Salary is SO Important

The minute you disclose your salary, all significant salary negotiation ends. Even worse, revealing your salary creates a maximum salary ceiling in the eyes of the employer. Hiring decision makers will make a mental note and offer you a much lower amount at the start of the formal negotiations because you have already shared your maximum salary level. In my experience, I have found little to no way to negotiate around this figure.

Keep in mind that revealing your wages too early could also inadvertently create any of the following scenarios with a salary decision maker:

  • The salary you provide is too low. The employer may begin to question your ability to do the job. Your stated wages are far below what the company was prepared to pay for the position. This has created doubt in the employer’s mind that did not exist before.

  • Your compensation expectations are too high and the salary decision maker(s) become hesitant. This is because you’ve not yet had the chance to demonstrate your added value to the organization, and they don’t understand why you might be worth it.

  • The requested wages are within the companies range. However, your bargaining position has become awkward. This is because the company knows your salary request falls in their range, but you don’t.

Hiring is Emotional

Decisions surrounding the hiring of a new employee are highly charged with emotion. Establishing whether that job candidate will “fit” into a company and if the potential employee “is right” is a combination of sensitivity and intuition. Experts have confirmed that hiring decisions based on emotions are often very successful after equating “fit,” qualifications, and willingness to do the job follow. Building rapport and salary negotiation go hand in hand together to create the next step of the process which is effective salary negotiation.


When to Discuss Salary

It does not matter how many job interviews you have had with a company. The only way you will know when to address salary concerns is if you are comfortable enough to ask the direct question - “Do you agree I am the right person for the job?” If the employer’s answer is vague or the subject is quickly changed, you will then know it is too early in the process to discuss salary. Fall back and reinforce how your unique abilities meet the needs of the organization and demonstrate how your skillset matches the requirements of the position.


Until you receive agreement from your potential employer that you are the right person for the job, DO NOT reveal your salary history. If you revealed your salary earlier in the process, you have pretty much eliminated any bargaining power you may have had.


Sounds Great…But How Do You Do It? How Do You DO It?


During the course of the interview process, you will be asked about salary. It is the way you answer the question that counts. It is important for the tone of your voice to remain conversational and your manner courteous, enthusiastic, and interested. Here are a few key phrases to memorize to prevent revealing salary:

  • “If you don’t mind, I would like to delay salary discussion until I get a better understanding of the position we are discussing.”

  • “I am sure you have a salary range for this position. What is that range?”

  •  “Money is not my top priority and I can be quite flexible if I need to be. However, I feel I have many things that I can bring to your company. I would like to my salary to be based on my value to you.”

  • “You are a fair person and I am a fair person. I am confident I will fit within your salary structure. How much did you have in mind?”


Mid-career professionals often think they have to accept a lower salary because their industry or job experience isn't a perfect fit. "You have to get out of the mindset that you're starting over," says Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Associates, a career-management firm. "However, you will need to convince potential employers why you deserve a salary closer to mid or senior level than entry level."


“This means considering what your years of work experience will add to the organization and what you can do that will bring in more money today. Because functional skills are easy to pick up but problem-solving ability and business acumen is best honed over time, employers often prefer more seasoned candidates.”



The Worst Style of Negotiation

Recently I talked to a Human Resources manager who worked in a mid-size manufacturing plant about his style of salary negotiation. He told me if a candidate had passed all of the hiring qualifications he would be offered an hourly amount on the modest end of what was appropriate for the geographic area they were in. But if the candidate tried to negotiate, he would close the candidate’s folder saying the interview was over and thank the person for their time. If the applicant asked for next appropriate steps, most times the HR Manager would respond - “None.”


I was shocked at how severe and one-sided this style of negotiation appeared to me. When I asked why his style of negotiation was so unforgiving and brutal, the HR manager said “it’s because I have another 100 people waiting in line who are just as qualified and would be happy to take our hourly rate.”


In this one-sided style of negotiation, I can only surmise both the company and their HR manager had bought into the concept that people who are out of work are surplus, damaged, and devalued inventory. Therefore (when it comes to salary negotiation), supposedly “devalued human inventory” should recognize the lowest possible competitive hourly amount as the available pay for this position. Like a computer server, telephone system, office equipment, some companies see people as “human capital”. “Capital is capital - you spend something now, in hopes of getting a return on your investment later.” Source:


Here’s the bottom line…

  • There are companies who will present you with a “take it or leave it” offer. Be very careful about an offer like this. Do not be pressured to make a decision on the spot; be sure to ask for the offer in writing.

  • Give yourself a minimum of at least 48 hours before you setup another meeting to review your counter proposal. Make sure you have checked the financials of this company; fully understand what you’re getting yourself into; and be sure you can live with the offer if you counter propose.

  • Companies will offer you a lowball salary and blame economy. I know of many people who have gotten back into their fields and are working at half of their old salary. This is where the art of negotiation begins. Always negotiate - Always.


Receiving a Job Offer

When you receive a job offer, it's important to take the time to carefully evaluate the offer so you are making an educated decision to accept, or to reject, the offer. The last thing you want to do is to make a hasty decision you will regret later on.


Consider the entire compensation package - salary, benefits, perks, work environment - not just your paycheck. Weigh the pros and cons and take some time to mull over the offer. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the employer for some time to think it over.


Money Matters

Money isn't the only consideration, but, it is a critical one. Is the offer what you expected? If not, is it a salary you can accept without feeling insulted? Will you be able to pay your bills? If your answer is no, then don't accept the offer - at least right away. Make sure you are getting paid what you're worth and you are happy with the compensation. Nobody wants to be in a position where they realize their salary isn't enough - after they have already accepted the job offer. If the compensation package isn't what you expected, consider negotiating a salary base with your future employer.


Benefits and Perks

In addition to salary, review the benefits and perks offered. Sometimes the benefit package can be as important as what you get in your paycheck. If you're not sure about the benefits being offered, ask for additional information or clarification. Find out details on health and life insurance coverage, vacation, sick time, disability, and other benefit programs. Inquire about how much of the benefits costs are provided by the company (in full) and how much you are expected to contribute. If there are a variety of options available, request copies of the plans’ descriptions so you can compare benefit packages.

Hours and Travel

Before accepting a job, be sure you are clear on the hours and schedule you will be required to work. Confirm what, if any, travel is involved. If the position requires 45 or 50 hours of work a week and you're used to working 35 hours, consider whether you will have difficulty committing to the schedule. If the nature of the job requires you to be on the road three days a week, be sure you can make that commitment. Also, remember to consider travel time to and from work. Is the commute going to take extra time (one way/round trip) or will there be parking fees to cover you are not use paying?


Flexibility and Company Culture

Many of us, with small children or elderly parents (or other personal considerations), need flexibility in our schedules. Is the ability to work a schedule which isn't a typical forty hour week in an office important? It is very important to feel comfortable in the environment you will be working in. One candidate for a customer service job realized she could not accept the position when she was told she had to ask permission to use the restroom (despite a decent salary being offered). Ask if you can spend some time in the office - talk to potential co-workers and supervisors if you're not sure if the work environment and culture are a good fit.


Your Personal Circumstances

The bottom line in accepting a job offer is that there really isn't a bottom line. Everyone has different circumstances. What might be the perfect job for you could be an awful job for someone else. Take the time to review the pros and cons. Making a list is always helpful. Listen to your gut - if it's telling you not to take the job, there just might be something there. Keep in mind that if this isn't the right job for you, it's not the end of the world. The next offer might just be perfect match.


It's much easier to turn down an offer than it is to leave a job you have already started. The employer would prefer you decline rather than start over the hiring process a couple of weeks down the road if you don't work out. So, take the time to thoroughly evaluate the offer. Ask questions if you have them. Take the time you need to make an educated, informed decision so you feel you, and the company, have made an excellent match.


Salary Negotiation

You are practically there sealing the deal for a new job…you’ve successfully interviewed and even touched on salary (past history of what you were worth). Now comes the difficult, and often uncomfortable, task of asking for a salary base you truly deserve. LinkedIn research indicates 42 percent of professionals in the United States, compared to their international counterparts, are not comfortable with negotiating; and 25 percent of the American workforce has never negotiated their salaries. Why then are American workers intimidated when it comes to negotiating salary and compensation packages? When buying a new car, do you accept sticker price? Or purchase a new home; do you accept the sell price without negotiating for a lower price? Both are markets to the highest bidder, so is the employment market (only the employer seems to have the advantage). Negotiating is a necessary life skill you need to develop.


Selena Revzani, author of PUSHBACK: How Smart Women Ask-and Stand Up-For What They Want, links the intimidation to inflating the other side’s power and limiting or minimizing the job seeker’s value. Too many workers are satisfied to accept what is offered to them (based on the employer’s philosophy – hire the best for the least) instead of setting their sights high, standing behind their value / request, and firmly (yet respectfully) negotiating optimum compensation and benefits. On average, most companies leave some wiggle room to negotiate when hiring.


Consider these recommendations when building your negotiating skills:

1)  Know what you can live with. Know the answers to these questions

  • What is going to make you love your job?

  • What will keep you at this company?

  • What do you hope to earn? What is the least you could accept?

Know your list of needs versus “want-to-haves” and don’t accept less than what you are worth; otherwise your setbacks may become significant and you may never be able to catch up.


2) Know the company. Of course if you have insider information, it can be easier to weight the value of the available position to the need of filling it. Following the company on LinkedIn is an excellent source for knowing movements within targeted companies.

  • How difficult has it been to find qualified applicants?

  • How long has the position been available?

If it has been difficult to find someone with specialized skills, you may have more leverage to negotiating your terms.


3) Know your market value – Research It is impressive to cite facts and figures – it shows you have done your homework.

  • What are workers with your skills earning?


Research positions comparable to yours and find the high/median/low scales for specific jobs. Then when negotiating a salary base, offer a figure between the high / median scales. Consider offering a range rather than a firm number – this might prove more advantageous.


Providing a potential employer with a written proposal of your salary request gives you the opportunity to showcase your market value as well as your quantifiable contributions you are able to offer the company. Plus it eliminates the employer from having to take notes.

4) Be resourceful or creative. Don’t initiate any salary discussions; wait for the employer to take that lead. But once salary discussions progress, you might be able to determine if the actual salary figures are negotiable. If not, being flexible and thinking outside the box may offer favorable alternatives concerning other important features of the compensation package, i.e.:

  • Education reimbursements

  • Vacation time; Work schedule flexibility; Travel

  • Overtime; Days off

  • Expense accounts; Stipends; Commuting Costs; Bonuses; Commissions

Remember, anything a company can offer can also be used as a negotiating factor (with a twist).

5) Don’t Give In. When a negotiator hears “No” or encounters resistance, he doesn’t shut down instead this is an indicator to “start the negotiations”. Be prepared with an alternate game plan. Understand the elements of the compensation package and be the first to ask clarifying questions, i.e.: about future raises or ways to tie pay to performance.

6) Things to Remember in a Stubborn Job Market

  • Always be respectful and leave a good impression. Never interrupt, ever.

  • Be patient, yet persistent. Give your potential employer time to think. They may have to consult upper management or do more research themselves. Assure them they don’t have to respond to your counteroffer right away.

  • Look for common details and use them to negotiate.

  • Never burn bridges – communicate in an open and thorough manner. End your conversation on a light, friendly note. Thank you and small talk may lighten a heavy negotiating session.

  • Don’t present challenges or ultimatums.



  • Always begin by being very positive.

  • Do not enter into negotiations if you do not really want the job.

  • Most offers are negotiable. Few are not.

  • Negotiate only after a job has been offered.

  • Research and organize your game plan fully before negotiating.

  • Know your bottom line before negotiating.

  • Never say “yes” or “no” until you are ready to do so.

  • Always express appreciation over the job offer first, before you begin to negotiate.

  • Start negotiating after you have had time to do your arithmetic and homework.

  • Conduct negotiations face-to-face whenever possible.

  • If you have another job offer pending, you may want to ask for additional time to assess and compare the offers. SEE: Exhibit 23-1

  • Contact the other company or organization and indicate you have received an offer from another company. It is only reasonable to give them the opportunity to make a better offer of their own. (But, be careful not to convey to either company the impression that compensation is your only real concern and you’re just selling yourself to the highest bidder.)

  • If necessary, you may wish to tell the offering company of the pending offer and ask for more time: “I want to be sure this is the right decision for everyone.”


Acceptance / Rejection Letters

Whether you are accepting or rejecting a job offer, it's a good idea to let the company know your decision in writing. In both cases, be polite, brief and to the point. Here are sample letters to preview. SEE: Exhibits: 23-2A (Acceptance); 23-2B (Rejection)


With regards to rejecting a job offer, you will want to stay in good favor with this company. You don't want to create any ill-will so don't get into specifics. You want to be able to build on your contacts for future networking and this employer may have a better offer for you somewhere down the road.

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