10 Steps to a Successful Interview

Remember you are selling a whole Package: "Yourself". In order to be successful you need to know "Who You Are", "What Skill Sets Are Important", and "Why a Company should hire you." Put together what we call a two-minute talk about yourself so it is fresh for the interview. You will want to relay this information to the Interviewer smoothly and concisely.

Step 1: Be Prepared

Interview preparation is one of the most important aspects of a successful job search. Before each interview, SCRUM will provide you with coaching and detailed information on the company and the available position. However, you should also be prepared to:

  • Conduct your own research on the company. Utilize the Internet, get the URL of the company and study them.
  • Think over your accomplishments, skills and experience and how they will benefit the company. Write these down, make some notes, and know what you want to say.
  • Be able to explain your past career moves and why you are interested in making another change. Make sure your career-move explanations show foresight and planning.
  • Avoid making negative remarks about your previous job(s) or manager(s). This will only hurt your chances of getting hired. Don't be bitter. Be professional.

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Step 2: Make a Good First Impression

Our research shows that initial impressions are made within the first minute of an employment interview. You can make a positive first impression if you:

  • Bring a fresh copy of your resume.
  • Start the interview with good eye contact and maintain it throughout the interview. Eye contact is key. You will benefit greatly from looking them in the eye.
  • Wear professional business attire, preferably a dark blue or black suit with understated accessories and jewelry.
  • Make sure your clothing is meticulously clean and color coordinated. Shoes should be polished.
  • Create a more polished appearance by being well groomed with neat hair and nails (go ahead and treat yourself to a haircut or a manicure before the interview).
  • Make sure you have a firm handshake.

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Step 3: Be Enthusiastic and Confident in Your Abilities

Being enthusiastic about your work, the company, and its projects shows the interviewer that you are a viable candidate. During the interview:

  • Be confident about your abilities but not egotistical. The "I can do everything" approach will not score you any points.
  • Don't be afraid to give detailed information about what you can do when responding to questions. Make sure you answer with more than just a yes or no. Respond to a question with information or possibly a follow up question.
  • Whenever possible, anticipate questions and be forthcoming with answers. Some examples of this are:

Q: Tell me about yourself?
A: This is a very open-ended question so try and find out what the interviewer wants to discuss, then touch upon points that emphasize your background. This should include interests, hobbies, and the kind of work you enjoy. Keep it 2 minutes max. If you are prepared you will be able to do this smoothly and concisely.

Q: What kind of work are you looking for?
A: You are looking for precisely the kind of work the employer is offering (but don't say that if it isn't true). Repeat back in your own words what the employer has mentioned. If the employer hasn't described the job at all, say, "I'd be happy to answer that, but first I need to understand your requirements."

Q: Can you explain your job history?
A: Make sure you have logical business reasons why you left your companies (more $$ doesn't cut it). Ideally the answer should be to advance your skills or position.* When you claim a skill, back it up with on-the-job examples and be persuasive.

* When you claim a skill, back it up with on-the-job examples and be persuasive.

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Step 4: Emphasize Your Strengths

Almost every interview follows a basic pattern with the person conducting the interview trying to determine your strengths and weaknesses. You'll want to:

  • Talk about your strengths in terms of teamwork and projects you are proud to have worked on.
  • You should project strength of character and a strong work ethic (i.e.: goal oriented, flexible, committed, persistent, self-motivated, ambitious, hardworking, finish projects on time and on budget, good listener, dedicated, intelligent, multi-tasking, work-well under pressure).
  • Address the interviewer's chief concerns (i.e.: if a HR Manager conducts the interview you might want to emphasize your interpersonal skills. On the other hand, if you are interviewed by a Technical Manager you might want to emphasize your technical skills).

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Step 5: Emphasize Your Skills

Employers look for people who know their own limitations and are interested in self-improvement. Mention a weakness and then stress its positive aspect, e.g., "I do not like to be over supervised, because I have a great deal of initiative, and I like to anticipate problems before they even arise."

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Step 6: Ask Questions

It is important for you to leave the interview with a good understanding of the position and company. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Make sure you can make a good career decision on whether you want to work for the company after you leave. To do this, make a list of general questions to ask during the interview, such as:

  • What are the responsibilities of this position, and which ones are most important?
  • What results are expected of this position?
  • What problems and opportunities are associated with this position?
  • What are the goals of this company and the department?
  • What support is available for me to meet these goals?
  • Are there any projects currently in motion? What is their
    history and status?
  • Why is this position open? Replacement or expansion?
  • What criteria are used for performance reviews?

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Step 7: Don't Discuss Salary

If you state a salary figure that is too low or too high, you may not be considered for the position at all. Let SCRUM negotiate the best possible compensation package for you, it is essential that you do not state salary requirements. Instead:

  • Focus on the opportunity and say you prefer to leave the question of salary open for now.
  • Tell them what you are currently earning and that you are negotiable. "I'm very excited about the opportunity, and will entertain your best offer."

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Step 8: Ask for the Job

The close of the interview provides a chance to sum up your qualifications and show your interest in the job. Remember if you are interested in the position, ask for the job. You can use this opportunity to:

  • Ask the interviewer how well your qualifications fit the company's needs. "How do my qualifications fit the position you are looking for?" This makes the employer evaluate your background right there. You can then cover anything missed.
  • Address anything that was missed to reinforce your candidacy. "I may not have that particular experience, however I have similar experience. I'm sure I can learn it and become effective quite readily."
  • Express interest in the position and a desire to proceed to the next step of the hiring process. "I am very interested in this position because (try to mention some particular reasons) and I look forward to working with you in the future. Who else do I need to meet with to help with your decision."

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Step 9: Write a Thank You Note After the Interview

This simple courtesy goes a long way towards making a favorable impression. Your personal, handwritten note should:

  • Always thank the interviewer for their time.
  • Reiterate your interest in the company.
  • Should be brief and well written.

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Step 10: Read a Book

There are many good books to help you better understand the interview process and give you an edge over the competition. We recommend:

  • "How to Turn An Interview Into A Job" by Jeffrey G. Allen
  • "What Color Is Your Parachute" by Richard Bolles
  • "Dress for Success" by Molloy

Hopefully these tips help you do a better job on your interviews. We cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared and we want to help you do your best. Please pass these on to a friend. We know it will help.

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Counteroffer Acceptance

Counteroffer Acceptance: Road to Career Ruin
By: Paul Hawkinsons

Mathew Henry, the 17th-century writer said, "Many a dangerous temptation comes to us in fine gay colors that are but skin deep." The same can be said for counteroffers, those magnetic enticements designed to lure you back into the nest after you've decided it's time to fly away. The litany of horror stories I have come across in my years as an executive recruiter, consultant and publisher, provides a litmus test that clearly indicates counteroffers should never be accepted. EVER!

I define a counter offer simply as an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you've announced your intention to take another job. We're not talking about those instances when you receive and offer but don't tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a "they-want-me-but-I'm-staying-with you" ploy.

These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true counteroffer, however, carries an actual threat to quit.

Interviews with employers who make counteroffers, and employees who accept them, have shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career suicide. During the past 20 years, I have seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counteroffer has benefited the employee. Consider the problem in its proper perspective.

What Really Goes Through a Boss's Mind When Someone Quits

  • "This couldn't be happening at a worse time."
  • "This is one of my best people. If I let him quit now, it'll wreak havoc on the morale of the department."
  • "I've already got one opening in my department. I don't need another right now."
  • "This will probably screw up the entire vacation schedule."
  • "I'm working as hard as I can, and I don't need to do his work, too."
  • "If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to 'lose' me too."
  • "My review is coming up and this will make me look bad."
  • "Maybe I can keep on until I find a suitable replacement."
  • What Will the Boss Say to Keep You in the Nest?
    Some of these are common.
  • "I'm really shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we were with you. Let's discuss it before you make your final decision."
  • "Aw gee, I've been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you, but it's been confidential until now."
  • "The VP has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities."
  • "Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but we'll make it effective immediately."
  • "You're going to work for who?"

Let's face it. When someone quits, it's a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you're really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his side, the boss might look bad by "allowing" you to go. His gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he's ready. That's human nature.

Unfortunately, it's also human nature to want to stay unless your work life is abject misery. Career change like all ventures into the unknown, is tough. That's why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons.

Before You Succumb to a Tempting Counteroffer, Consider These Universal Truths:

  • Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions, is suspect.
  • No matter what the company says when making its counteroffer, you will always be considered a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a "team player" and your place in the inner circle.
  • Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you.
  • Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.
  • Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?
  • Decent and well-managed companies don't make counteroffers. EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will not be subjected to "counteroffer coercion" or what they perceive as blackmail.

If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings.

Ten Reasons for NOT Accepting a Counter Offer

1. Where is the money for the Counter Offer coming from? Is it your next raise, early? All companies have strict wage and salary guidelines that must be followed.

2. You have now made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on, your loyalty will always be in question.

3. When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who was loyal and who wasn't.

4. Once the word gets out, the relationship that you now enjoy with your coworkers will never be the same. You will lose the personal satisfaction of peer-group acceptance.

5. What type of company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you are worth?

6. Your company will immediately start looking for a new person at a lower starting salary.

7. When times get tough, your employer will begin the cutback with you.

8. Accepting a Counter Offer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride; knowing that you were bought.

9. The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future; even if you accept a Counter Offer.

10. Statistics show that if you accept a Counter Offer, the probability of your voluntarily leaving in six months or being let go within one year is extremely high.

Special Note: When you do resign from your present employer, be sure to do so in writing, retaining a copy for yourself. This procedure is to protect you in the future because future reference checks could record the separation as mutually beneficial. Include any constructive criticism, if any, in order to solidify your position for leaving.

"Beware of the Counter Offer"
(Your whole career is at stake)

If you have accepted an offer from a new employer and on giving your notice to your present company a Counter Offer is made, you should consider the following:

  • Ask yourself if you were worth "X" dollars yesterday. Why are they suddenly willing to now pay you "Y" dollars today when you were not anticipating a raise for some time. (Consider the fact that your present employer could be merely "buying time" with this raise until he can locate a suitable replacement).
  • Suppose you were given an annual raise of $3,000.00 as a counter offer. When they find a replacement for you in say 60 days, then the actual cost to them is only $500.00.
  • Is just more money going to change everything in your present job? Consider the new opportunity you will be giving up that looked so favorable when you accepted it.
  • The company will probably feel as though they have been "blackmailed" into giving you a raise when you announced your decision to leave.
  • Realize that you are now a marked man. The possibility of promotion is extremely limited for someone who has "given notice". The company is vulnerable, they know it and will not risk giving more responsibility to someone who was previously committed to leave.
  • When economic slow-downs occur, you could be one of the first to go. You indicated your intention to go once before, so it is only natural that your position would be eliminated in a slack period.
  • You should know that statistics compiled by the National Employment Association confirm the fact that over 80% of those people who elected to accept a Counter Offer and stayed are no longer with their company six months later.
  • Carefully review in your mind all the reasons you wanted to make a change in the first place. Does the Counter Offer really offset these reasons?
  • If you intend to seriously consider a Counter Offer, be sure you ask your present employer to confirm all the details of said offer in writing.

We strongly urge you to carefully think about all of these facts before making a final decision. It is your career, your livelihood. One imprudent mistake at any time could be very costly in terms of your professional growth.

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