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How to Conduct an Effective Job Interview

By Jeff Wuorio
Orginally published November 05, 2012
Business on Main


Don’t bore yourself and candidates with a generic interview. Learn how to ask thoughtful questions that help you hire the best possible employees for your business.

Everyone looking for work prepares extensively for a job interview.

As a small-business owner looking to hire a new employee, your homework should be every bit as thorough and thoughtful — particularly with regard to the interview questions you ask.

The cost of a poor hire is both emotional and financial. Not only do you have the unpleasant task of letting someone go, there’s the expense of recruiting, advertising and other costs.

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How to negotiate salary

I wanted to let you know that I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about negotiating salary.

This topic alone is very big and there is no one right way to negotiate.

But the questions I’m getting are more specifically centered around counter-offering and should you do it.

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Some people feel that if they counter offer, they might run the risk of the employer withdrawing their offer. It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Usually, if an employer is unwilling to negotiate, they will simply say reject your counter offer.

But there is nothing wrong with counter offering, and in most cases you should. But you want to make sure that you know exactly what you’re seeking in a counter offer and how you’ll respond if they counter too.

If they are offering you a fair annual salary for your position, then you might insult them with a counter.

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But as a general rule, if you are countering within 10% of the offer, you should be in good shape.

If they offer you $87k, then countering with $96k is reasonable. But if you ask for $96k and they counter with $92k, are what are you going to do? Do you accept or do you counter again?

Well, that depends on many factors. If $92k is acceptable to you, then accept it. If you need more then counter again. Notice I said need, and not want.

But if the original offer is above average for this position, then you might not want to counter at all. Or if you do, consider counter within 5% of their offer.

In short, you need to map all out all possible outcomes and plan your responses so you are fully prepared to negotiate on all levels.

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Smart Job Seekers Do This…

How to Get Hired for Any Job

Let’s face it — Getting hired for a job is not easy.

Some people seem to be better at it than others. So what are some of the key characteristics that make up the elite group of successful job candidates?

What are they doing that makes employers want to hire them?

1. They show relevance
They clearly demonstrate to interviewers how their background and career goals are consistent with the requirements for the job. When your background and experience matches the job description, that makes it all the easier for employers to want to hire you.

Make it easy for them — connect the dots and show them why you are the right person for the job.

2. They show consistency
All of their recent work experience is consistent with the requirements for the job. Their resume is consistent with the job description. When employers talk to them, their conversation is consistent with their resume.

The Resume Masterpiece shows you exactly how to write your resume so it’s consistent with the job description.

When employers search them out on LinkedIn, their profile is consistent with their resume. In short, their whole career profile, both off-line and on-line is consistent and comes around full-circle and your resume is a very crucial element in this circle.

There are no dead ends — they know exactly what they want, and thus are more likely to get what they want.

3. They practice how they’ll answer interview questions
You can’t walk into an interview cold. You have to practice how you’ll answer common interview questions, like: why do you want to work here, tell me about yourself, how does your background fit in with our department, etc.

4. They are always planning their next move
Successful candidates are always thinking ahead. They are planning out what they will say and do based on how their interview goes. If the employer says, “we’ll get back to you,” they’ll say, “when can I expect to hear from you?” or “do you mind if I follow-up with you in two weeks?”

It doesn’t end there – they know exactly how to drill-down into employers to poke and prod them for useful information that will aid them in navigating their candidacy towards a job offer.

This is a complicated strategy, no doubt about it, and having a strategic job coach guide you through this maze can make all the difference in developing a sound strategy that is certain to close the gap on landing your dream job.

Following-up – never take silence as a sign of disinterest

One of my coaching students just asked me about following-up after his interview.

He said he had an interview last week with a two person panel and followed up with a separate thank you email to both of them.

Several days go by and he doesn’t receive a response from either person, but during the interview, they mentioned holding second interviews later in the week.

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He was concerned that by not hearing back, that this was their way of saying they had no interest in him.

My response to him: “Never take silence as a sign an employer is not interested in you.”

When you don’t hear back from an employer, pick up the phone and call them. Email is easier, but it’s both cheap and easy.

Picking up the phone and calling takes more effort and conveys your intentions on a completely different level.

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Anyone can send email, but calling says that you really want to work there and you are very interested.

So my advice to you is to NOT sit and wait, but to be proactive and reach out to them when they appear silent to you.

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How to use one job offer to get two offers

One of my coaching students just received two job offers!

But the offer he really wanted didn’t come in yet.

My student doesn’t want to pass on the two active job offers because he’d rather have a job, than no job at all.

But he really wants to work for the other company.

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This sort of scenario happens all the time. And in cases like this, you can use your active job offers as leverage to try and force the other company to give you an offer.

The technique works well, but you still need to play it with caution so you don’t anger or insult the people at the company where you really want to be.

Here’s what I told my student:

“Play it wisely. If you really have another offer on the table and you want to use that as leverage to make the other employer move faster, then call them up and explain your dilemma.

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Tell them you have another offer on the table, but you would rather work for them because….[blank]. You need to fill in the blank with your reasons for why you want to work there verses somewhere else.

Here are three possible responses you could get from them:

1. Okay, thank you for letting us know and we’ll consider that.
2. We’re very pleased with what we have seen from you and we’d like to extend an offer to you.
3. We’re not ready to move yet, so you might want to consider the other offer.
If the latter, now you are in a tricky spot. If you really have another offer then take it, but if not, now you have nothing and you can’t move forward with the job you want when they are ready to make a hiring decision.”

This technique is a great way to get employers to budge who are slow to make you an offer. Just consider all angles before you do anything because one wrong move could cost you a job opportunity.

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When to write a thank you letter

By now, you already know that you should be sending out a thank you letter after your job interviews, right?

But have you considered writing your thank you letter ahead of time?

…like before your interview?

Usually, you can get most of your letter written before your interview.

Then after your interview is over, you simply make a few tweaks to your letter so it’s relevant to your interview and then it’s ready to be sent.

This strategy works best if you are emailing your letter.

Best interview follow-up tactics

One of the most common questions I get asked is about following up… and this one just came in yesterday from Andrew.

He asked…

“How do I send a thank you letter when I don’t have the interviewers contact information?”

Well the truth of the matter is, you can’t. You need their email address.

But let’s backup a bit.

The best time to ask for this information is at the close of your first interview, whether that be a phone interview or face to face.

You always want to close your interview by asking them, “Do you mind if I follow-up with you in (x) amount of days?

They will certainly tell you “YES” and then at that point, ask them for their email address.

Now you have their permission to follow-up, in fact they will be expecting your follow-up.

Then when you get home from the interview, you can send them a thank you letter without searching all over the Internet for their email address.

Make sense?

You can also ask for this information when they first contact you for an interview, that way you’ll have it ahead of time.

Now all you have to do is craft a nifty thank you letter that shows them how much you care about this job and how you are looking forward to hearing from them real soon.

I have over a hundred different thank you letters in my latest book called Perfect Thank You Letters.

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1.) Quantify your results when speaking of accomplishments: By quantifying your results and saying exactly what you will do when they give you the job, you are clearly separating yourself from your competition and connecting with prospective employers by telling them exactly what they want to hear.

For example, if a candidate said: “If I’m chosen for this position, my goal will be to meet and exceed the position requirements; and if that leads to more opportunities down the road, I think that would be great for all of us!”

But that is a weak statement.

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Instead you want to say what you will to and how you will do it and use numbers to quantify your results

Best of all, your forward thinking shows you have a plan for this job.

2.) “Never take silence as a sign an employer is not interested in you.”

When you don’t hear back from an employer, pick up the phone and call them. Email is easier, but it’s both cheap and easy.

Picking up the phone and calling takes more effort and conveys your intensions on a completely different level.

Anyone can send email, but calling says that you really want to work there and you are very interested.

So my advice to you is to NOT sit and wait, but to be proactive and reach out to them when they appear silent to you.

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3.) Enthusiasm:

If you’ve taken the time to demonstrate your worth and to do homework on the company, you’re probably in good shape.

So how do you demonstrate enthusiasm?

It’s hard to teach enthusiasm and you can’t fake it. It’s your own level of interest in the company, how excited you are to be there, the expressions on your face, the tone of your voice, your attentiveness – it’s all those things and more all rolled into one.

But I think the root of enthusiasm is the confidence you have in yourself. When you are confident in yourself and what you are doing, enthusiasm shines through.

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The ultimate test of your presentation skills

How to do a whiteboard job interview if you are an IT professional.

A white board is most likely going to be twofold:

1.) a test of your presentation skills and

2.) a test of technical knowledge.

This whiteboard session will give them an in-depth look at your thought process. It will also be a demonstration of how you teach. (very important) even if you are weaker on technical skills, but strong on presentation, you will score lots of style points because technical skills can be taught, but teaching presentation skills is tougher.

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A couple of things to keep in mind. While you are at the whiteboard, make sure whenever you speak, that you don’t look at the whiteboard, but turn around and face your audience and this will demonstrate your presentation skills. Plus, they will not hear you otherwise.

Since this is a measure of your thought process, make sure you walk them through and verbalize everything you are doing while speaking clearly, confidently and looking directly at them. Pretend you are teaching them, like a school teacher. Forget that they know anything. Teach them like you would if you were mentoring junior network administrators.

All of the above will demonstrate your presentations skills.

Next, focus on technical your knowledge.  They might ask you to diagram a simple network on a class C network, or they might ask how you would diagram a network that has 500 users and how would you provide ip addresses to all of them.

They might want to see how you would design a server backbone on a switched network with network load balancing. There are just too many technical scenarios to cover, so I think you would do best to allow your presentation skills to pull you through any technical scenario. Hopefully, they will give you a few minutes to collect your thoughts and then ask you to present them on a whiteboard.

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Don’t get frustrated. A whiteboard is a place to make mistakes, so it’s okay to erase and redraw. The way I like to create networks is to first create the large picture. A framework so to speak, then I go in and fill in all the details. It’s much easier that way.

Talk about everything you did to ensure a successful migration and let them know you followed Microsoft Exchange best practices and state what those were.

But don’t forget your presentation skills are a big part of this test and how well you explain things.

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How to stand-out in a job interview

What can you do for us that no one else can?
This is a pretty open ended question and may or may not get asked directly, but some variation of it may come up. There is no right or wrong answer. The interviewer wants to see what you believe are your best strengths and that you can differentiate yourself from everyone else. If you trip up on this question, it does not mean the end of the interview, but if you trip up on a few of these types of questions, you can probably expect that you won’t go any further in the interview process.

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This is a time to talk about your job skills, training, and project experiences that make you better than everyone else. Describe your role and how you have contributed to the company and projects on past jobs.

Don’t give a straight out answer, but now is a good time to brag about yourself and your abilities. Make sure you mention that you have the skills, training, and experience that are required for the job and describe how they will benefit the company by having you instead of anyone else. Differentiate yourself.

Best answer:

1. “I am a well rounded individual with a very unique blend of skills. Past training and job experiences have allowed me to take on and complete projects and assignments of high importance and increasing difficulty while on time and under budget. And now, I want to be part of your team and solving problems for you.”

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2. “I believe that my unique blend of experience, problem solving skills and people skills differentiates me from most other candidates. I am motivated, disciplined and focused and am willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

3. “I have a great deal of experience in working with database products. In my past jobs, I have rebuilt databases to make them faster and more efficient, and as a result of my efforts, our sales department was able to run their daily and weekly reports 52% faster than they were before thus saving them a great deal of time that could be better utilized making more sales than waiting for reports to run.”

4. “In my last job, I helped increase third quarter sales by 30% and this increase was a direct result of my ability to work with our customers to find out what they need that we as a company were not providing to them.”

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