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The Compass – Navigating the Interview

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 1, 2011 in Interviewing Skills

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Successfully navigating an interview is like trying to find your way through a jungle: You prepare for the expected and bring the tools to cut through unexpected obstacles. Feeling your way from one question to the next can seem like swinging from tree to tree, tentatively landing on each branch and narrowly escaping a fall or a trap. Knowing what to expect can help you make your way through the thicket a little easier. Preparing answers to some common interview questions — What are your weaknesses? How do you handle stress? — is a good place to start, but you should also be prepared to answer that most common final question: “Do you have any questions for us?” Not having questions prepared can leave your interviewer with a lasting negative impression. Here are some reasons why you should always have thoughtful questions prepared, as well as some tips on what kinds of questions to ask:

Questions Show Off Your Knowledge

If you have properly researched the company and the people who are interviewing you, it will show in the types of questions you ask. Begin your questions with phrases like “I read an article about your company…” or “After I read over your sales reports from last year…” You will let the interviewer know that you have taken the time to learn more about the company and to reflect on how you can contribute to the present and future goals of the company.

Questions Demonstrate Your Commitment

Asking thoughtful questions that reflect additional research or critical thinking demonstrate your commitment to the company and enthusiasm for the job. Asking questions shows that you are serious about learning more about the company and the role you can play. If you ask throwaway questions that could have been answered by looking at the company Web site or other literature, you display a sense of apathy or, worse, a lack of effort.

Ask Conversational Questions

Don’t ever ask your interviewer questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” You will waste an opportunity to open up a discussion that can help the interview learn more about you. Instead of asking questions like “Is your company worried about the economic climate?” or “Have you had any layoffs in the last year?” ask open-ended questions like “How has your company adapted to the current economic climate?” and “What has your company done to avoid layoffs that have been seen at other companies?” You will learn more information about the company, and your responses will tell the interviewer more about you.

Ask “Opportunity” Questions

If the interviewer has not asked you the questions that you would have liked to answer during the interviewer — questions whose answers could have explained more about your skills and experience, for example — find ways to create opportunities for these conversations with your own questions. For example, ask questions like “Why is the position vacant?” or “How do you define success for the person hired to fill this role?” After the interviewer answers, you can explain how you would be the successful candidate for the job.

Ask “Future” Questions

When you ask your interviewer questions that look toward the future, you are expressing interest in a long-term relationship that will benefit both you and the company. Ask questions about the company’s goals and future projects, as well as questions about opportunities for advancement within the company or how the interviewer sees the evolution of the position for which you are interviewing.

There are many more types of questions you should not ask during your interview — most of them concerning salary, benefits, vacation times, and other specifics that should only be discussed once you are offered the job. Think carefully about the types of questions you ask, and remember that what you ask says as much about you as what you answer.

Let your questions be your guide and led you through the interview to a successful job!

This guest post is contributed by Erinn Stam, the Managing Editor for a website offering the best nursing careers. She attends Wake Technical Community College and is learning about online flight nursing programs. She lives in Durham, NC with her lovely 4-year-old daughter and exuberant husband.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Koala – Clinging to Success After A Bad Interview!

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 23, 2009 in Interviewing Skills, Job Search, Lessons Learned, Self Improvement, Thinking Positive

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Have you ever left an interview thinking that you could have done better? Or maybe it was the interviewer who prevented you from showing what you are worth? It seems that bad interviews happen more than good ones and we shouldn’t cling to the negative aspects. Companies interview more than one person for every available position; and it usually takes more than one interview to finally obtain the job. It is understandable that you can’t ace them every time. 

“BAD INTERVIEWS” can fall into a couple of categories:

 1 – An interview where you feel you performed poorly or

 2 – An interview where the interviewer was not prepared or ill-equipped to perform the interview

1.     There’s nothing worse than getting in the car, cab, or subway after an interview and remembering something you wish you would have said better.  It’s the old “shoulda woulda coulda” game and it happens to everyone at some point. Knowing how to let go of the bad and cling to the good is how the Koala stays in the tree. Keeping a journal or jotting down your thoughts helps you to avoid the same mistakes twice and recognize and avoid the “weak branches”.  If you are keeping a well organized job search folder, you can refer back to your previous notes as reminders before the next interview. 

Then there’s the time where you realize you said something you shouldn’t have.  Again, making notes of what went well or poorly will help you avoid repeating mistakes. Do your best to avoid negative topics like, what your boss does wrong, what you don’t like or (worse yet) who you don’t like. Even if you’re feeling comfortable with someone, don’t let them drag you into the gossip mill. Find something positive to say about all those people instead of the easy to point out flaws. The more positive or stronger the topics or branches, the higher you will climb in the interviewer’s regard. For example, working for a boss that is never available could be re-worded to something like “my boss was very active in many parts of the company which required me to make special effort to get on their calendar to get my questions answered which, ultimately, made me a better time manager.”

2.     It is possible a bad interview stems from the interviewer themselves being not adequately prepared or in the proper frame of mind to focus on you at the appointed time. The interviewer seems distracted reading their emails, taking phone calls, or someone pops in. In today’s hectic business climate, interruptions are expected. Don’t take them personally!  Arriving well prepared with a list of questions about the job, the company, and specific projects that have been going on the past six months or so help you to bring these frequently distracted interviewers’ focus on you, the job, and why you are the fittest for the climb.

There’s also the interview where you just don’t hit it off with the person with whom you are interviewing.  There are certain techniques you can use to establish rapport quickly to ensure you navigate the sparse branches and make the best first impression every time. For instance, people like to talk about themselves, so attempt to draw them out!

Remember, interviewing is a subjective exercise. There’s no way you can predict the outcome so the best way to win is to listen carefully to the questions being asked, thinking about “what’s in it for them (the company)” not “what’s in it for you”.  Focus on the company’s needs as they state them and offer specific examples of how you have performed those duties in the past or could contribute directly. 

Be like the Koala and steer clear of the weak branches of conversation, look out for opportunities to climb high on positive topics, and be prepared to wade through a sparse tree and help the interviewer focus.

A few quick tips to keep in mind: Show good manners. Say please and thank you to everyone you meet, not just the decision maker. Dress professionally, even if it’s a casual environment Sit up straight, be engaged in the conversation, and DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Research the company so you know what they do and who their major competitors are so you can ask thoughtful questions. Show them you’re into them…and always send a thank you note!

For a webinar on this topic, please visit

Carolyn Thompson

Author of TEN EASY STEPS TO A PERFECT RESUME…available on!

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