7 Successful Interview Tips

Posted by Southwest Beverages on 4/28/2015

Ask most people and they will tell you that going on an interview is more stressful than buying a new car, going to the dentist or applying for a mortgage. Statistics have shown that looking for a job is more stressful than divorce, terminal illness and second behind the loss of a child. To help you relieve some of this stress, and to prepare for your job interview, I have put together 7 interviewing tips, based on my 40 years of senior level management experience both as an interviewer and interviewee. 

1.  Adequately Prepare for the Interview.
     a. Research the company, the interviewer and the job responsibilities. 

Today, with the availability of the internet, there is absolutely no reason, whatsoever, for you to not have thoroughly researched the company and the interviewer of your potential employer. In addition, with the posting of virtually every job known on Craigslist and the major website job posting search companies (Indeed, Monster, Career Builder, Simply Hired, etc.) you should be able to review the specifics job responsibilities of any job. Review these sites to get a comprehensive understanding of what responsibilities and qualifications employers are requiring. 

     b. Dress the Part. 

Needless-to-say, always where your best clothes for your interview, regardless of the position. While I expect every candidate to look presentable, I look for the small things in life that define a person and give me a deeper insight into their value system. Accordingly, I look to see if the candidates shoes are freshly shined; did they recently get a haircut; when a man stands up does he button his jacket; does the candidate give a firm hand shake, etc. 

     c. Be Punctual. 

Always arrive at your interview 10 minutes early. Use this time to relax and freshen up. If, however, you realize you will be late, always call the interviewer at least 20 minutes before your scheduled interview time (almost all interviewers understand delays caused by traffic, poor directions, family issues, etc). What interviewers will not tolerate is the candidate that shows up 20-30 minutes late without prior notice.

2.   Prepare Answers to Likely Questions. 

One of the most critical things you can do as soon after you decide to look for a new position is to prepare answers to obvious questions an interviewer might ask you during the interview. I suggest you write down some of these obviously questions, and write answers to each. I suggest you then refine these answers getting your answer to 30-60 seconds (never let your answer run more than 30-60 seconds). Once you have completed this process memorize the answers, but not to the point that it becomes clear that you memorized an answer but rather to the point that your answer becomes natural. Practice these answers with a friend, family member or in front of the mirror. While this process is rather time consuming, it most likely will shorten the number of interviews you go on-because you will be prepared to impress the first few interviewers with your thought out, comprehensive answers, which will enable you to “land” the job. 

I’m not going to list the obvious questions an interviewer might ask, but to help you prepare set forth below are a few of the questions I ask all candidates. 

a. Tell me about the accomplishment you are most proud. 
b. If I hire you, what specific value will you add to the company?
c. If I call your past employer what will they tell me about you?
d. If I call a few of your subordinates, what would they tell me about you?
e. Tell me about your hobbies and interests? (Once I was asked by a friend to interview his son, who while extremely qualified, was unable to obtain employment. During the course of my interview I asked about his hobbies and interests. Among others, he told me, between the ages of 16 and 20 he sailed with his Dad twice across the Atlantic in a 50 foot boat. I immediately expanded the conversation on this topic and became very impressed with this young man’s leadership and risk/rewards values. I instructed him to incorporate his trans-Atlantic sailing adventures into all future interviews. End result-within 45 days he was working as a marketing manager in a world known company. 

3. Have a dialog with the Interviewer. 

If there is nothing that I dislike more during the interview it is to have a candidate who simply answers only the question they were asked. They do not ask the obvious follow-up question nor do they engage in a dialog. Some of the most successful interviews I have had were when I actively engaged the interviewer in a dialog about the issues/problems/strategic direction of their company. I recall one interview in particular where I successfully used this strategy. It was for the Chief Finance Officer position with Carvel Ice Cream. The interview began about 3 PM with the VP of HR. After I shook his hand, I asked, “I read about Carvel changing their strategic direction this morning, to that of repositioning the brand to that of ice cream cake in the grocery channel. Can you tell me about this shift in strategy?” Needless to say, one question lead to the next, and one executive to the next, such that the very next day I was offered the position. 

4. Incorporate into the Interview Additional Skills. 

The likelihood of your skill set matching identically the skill set of the position you are seeking is less than 75 %. While you might be short on one or two of the specific job requirements, you most likely will be long with additional skills not specifically required by the position. In this case, I strongly advise you to mention these skills as the interviewer might have alternative plans for you. For example, the interviewer might see in you a person who has strong leadership skills and might be looking to promote you from the position you are interviewing for to that of a more responsible manager six months “down the road”. 

5. Never Demand a Salary. 

All too often people make the mistake to demanding a salary that maintains their current lifestyle. Clearly, they do not understand that the skill set they are offering dictates their compensation and has absolutely nothing to do with their current life style. If I were interviewing a person and they made a statement to the effect, “As a minimum I require a salary of x”, I can guarantee you the interview would be over before the end of the sentence. 

6. Prepare a Summary Statement. 

Don’t ever let an interview end by you simply answering the last question the interviewer asked. Always conclude an interview with a two minute summary that addressed that value that you can add to their company by discussing your skill sets against the positions stated responsibilities. I strongly suggest you write this out and practice it in front of a mirror several times prior to your interview. 

7. Prepare a Thank You Correspondence. 

Always send a thank you letter. This communication, be it via e-mail, snail mail or fax, should be timely in nature and should begin with a one sentence thank you for the interviewers time. The body of the letter should re-iterate your specific skill set against each of the jobs stated responsibilities. In addition, you should always mention those additional skills that you will be adding to the position which are not specific to the position and how they will add value to the company. The letter should never be longer than one page (for me the value of the thank you letter was equally as important as the interview itself. This letter informed me of the candidates written communication skills. Generally speaking, I usually receive thank you letters that are between two and three pages. As a place a high value on written communication, I have developed a policy, not only for the content of this thank you letter, but all correspondence I receive, in general: If you can’t say it in a one page memo, you can’t work for me.) 

Keep your thank you letter to one page. As a way to impress your interviewer have prepared a pre-written thank you letter. Immediately after you return home from the interview customize the thank you letter to reflect the content and tone of the interview. DO NOT e-mail or fax the thank you letter at that point. I suggest you send it between 11 PM and 1 AM and always via e-mail. I have used this strategy on numerous occasions and the next day, not only did I receive an offer but a complement from the interviewer informing me how impressed he was with my willingness to prepare the thank you letter in the late evening.

dry mix beveragesWritten by Bob Jenkins, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Beverages®

Bob has had the privilege of working for some of America’s largest and well run public and private companies, including Philip Morris, Canada Dry, Dr Pepper, Cadbury Schweppes, Snapple Beverage Corporation, Tasker Capital Corp. and The Water Club and River Cafe – two of New York’s finest fine dining restaurants. He has worked in various capacities as Finance Manager, Controller, Director of Finance, Vice President Finance & Administration, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary, and Treasurer.

Bob holds a Masters of Business Administration degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Arizona.

Southwest Beverages® is a manufacturer and marketer of two brands of premium quality dry mix beverages: Sippity® hot cocoa mix and Kemosabe® gourmet flavored coffee. All Southwest Beverages® products are uniquely blended flavors that contain all the ingredients necessary for you to enjoy the ultimate hot beverage experience. Simply add water and stir-then sip, savor and enjoy.

For more information, please visit www.southwestbeverages.com.

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