Modern Interview techniques and how to excel at them


With our busy lives and the ubiquity of technology, an in-person interview as the primary way of selecting an employee is wasteful and inefficient A combination of email and phone interviews are a norm. Here we do email, phone, and in-person (did I mention our $500 hiring bonus for referring a qualified applicant we hire?) Besides being more efficient, phone and email interviews also keeps us and other employees free of any bias situation. While I may be able to guess your gender by your name and voice, other biases based on nuances such as physical appearance and ethnicity can be minimized. Humans make assumptions about people and naturally “like” people similar to us. Email and voice interviews focus on the skills of the applicant.

For email interviews, don’t treat it like you would an informal email to family and friends. This is a formal process and you’ll be judged on multiple criteria. The time of the email reply can speak volumes about you. What time did you send it? Did you send it during the work day of your current job (bad sign!) or did you send it at some off hour like 2am (what were you doing up at 2am?) Most important is how quickly you replied. That shows how much thought you gave the questions and how eager you were. Reply too soon and it shows you didn’t think out your answers well. Wait days and it shows lack of interest as well as general unprofessionalism. One business day would be an acceptable time frame and replying before or after work if you are currently employed is best.

In the body of the email don’t use abbreviations, shortcuts or informal language such as “LOL” and “FWIW” even if your interviewer used such informalities. Try to send from a professional email account. doesn’t send the right image. Email addresses are free, so set one up that communicates professionalism. Also, if you send via your phone or tablet, remove the signature at the bottom that promotes the device. This should advertise you, not the devices you own. Moreover, simply don’t use those devices to reply to the email. The risk of “autocorrect” fail is simply too high. The only time this may be acceptable is to send a message like “I’m very interested in responding however I’ve got a family emergency and won’t be back until late tomorrow”. If you can’t reply within that 24 hour time frame, reply letting the employer know when to expect a reply and a reason why you are delayed. “Family emergency”, “school deadlines” or “personal reasons” is fully acceptable. Not responding is not acceptable.

Similar to an email interview, phone interviews should be treated as a formal occasion and done professionally. Don’t do it at a coffeeshop or standing outside your current employer during break on your mobile phone. Whenever possible do it on a landline. Mobile phones simply can’t be counted on like they should. A low battery, a dropped call, or a text coming in makes the difference between getting the job and the employer getting annoyed they can’t hear you or keep calling back. If you must use your mobile, put it on vibrate so text messages and other notifications aren’t heard during the interview.

Pick a quiet spot that is noise and distraction free. In front of your computer is fine, but be sure to mute it. Again an employer might get annoyed with your chat ding or your email alert during the interview. I recommend during the interview to keep careful notes either via the computer or by hand. Know what you talked about and what the employer was interested in. That helps you in the next stage. Whenever possible, repeat the question of the interviewer either directly: “Why am I interested in working for you…” or “I’m interested in working for you because….” With phones especially you may not always hear the question correctly so letting the interviewer know what you are responding to makes sure they get the answer they desire.

I won’t talk hear about in-person interview techniques because there are so many tips regarding these already out there, but I’ll share things I’ve seen over the years that make applicants stand out:

1) Professional appearance that’s one step above

If you’ve done your research you know the attire of the workplace. I often see applicants try to match the style of the workplace. That isn’t always a good idea. As an employer, I want your best foot forward and that means dressing one level above current staff. Rarely can you be overdressed, but you can frequently be underdressed. Probably a tuxedo is a bit much, but a classic suit works in most occasions. A tip: try it on every few weeks in your job search. Our bodies fluctuate and without working, our eating habits change. You either decided to use the extra time to exercise or maybe sit on the couch. Either way your clothes may not fit the same. The morning of the interview is not the time to find this out. If for some reason you have a wardrobe malfunction, acknowledge it and apologize (“I’m sorry I’m not dressed more appropriately but the cleaners lost my suit”).

2) Bring multiple printed copies of the resume

Your resume – when submitted either electronically or via paper (or both as I suggest earlier), is often copied and is on flimsy paper. Bring a copy on quality paper and present it to each interviewer. That make you literally stand out from that stack on their desk

3) Have a business card

Even if you are unemployed, business cards are still the way business is done. Include your name and how they may reach you. Best ones I’ve seen include a QR code or URL to your LinkedIn profile or other resume service. Giving your business card also encourages them to give you theirs. That’s gold because it’s a way of thanking them and following up

4) Remember you are being watched

Your interview starts at 11:00am, so you get there a few minutes early. How you treat the receptionist and other staff may be observed. Don’t just think of the interviewer as the decision maker. That person sitting at the reception desk will report positive or negative impressions. That person in the bathroom could be the CEO. Be “on” the moment you approach the building. How you park, for whom you open the door, and whom you bump into leaves an impression. Even across the street when you get lunch afterwards, you don’t know who is sitting at the table next to you. If you dressed the same way you did during the interview and you are nearby, assume it’s still part of it. True story: when I was on an interview team for a large company we all went out to eat afterwards. Applicant was at the next table over make a big stink about his meal being served cold. The way he treated the waitstaff told us he wasn’t a good fit in a customer service position.

5) Always thank the interviewers

When someone takes the time to interview, they are showing an interest in you. It’s polite to thank them for that valuable gift. Hopefully you got their business card in step 2. An email “thanks” is fine without a sales pitch. If you think you made a mistake in the interview or answered a question wrong, now might be a good time to try to make a save. Something like “During the interview you asked me about X and upon reflection I realized I should have mentioned…” Keep it short and sweet because your primary goal is to thank them. If you really want the job, send them the letter overnight with signature required. That will help insure it gets to them and it’s a way of saying “I’m really serious about working here.” The $15 it costs is a small investment in your career. Obviously do it for only jobs you really want as it can get expensive to do this each time.

I’m almost done writing about getting a job, especially from the “hidden” job market. Next post will be the top mistakes I see applicants make

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