Job Search. Common Interview QuestionseBook

Common Interview Questions

Scheduling The Interview



  • Getting the interview

  • Making a favorable impression on the interviewer

  • Attending to the details of setting up an interview appointment

Before you go on your winning job interview, you have to prepare for it. Winning interviews do not just happen. They are the result of careful planning, attention to detail, and research. The chapters that follow show you practical strategies for learning about the company, practicing interviewing skills, handling anxiety, developing better communication skills, handling difficult questions, and negotiating salary and other issues.

In this chapter, you make a checklist to identify all the things you need to do to prepare for that phone call that invites you to interview with the company of your dreams.

Preparing for the Call

Okay, you have sent your resume with the best cover letter you could compose. Now what? Do you just sit by the phone hoping for the phone call to set up an interview? No. This is the time for tilling the field, laying the foundation, and making things happen. And here are some suggestions for turning the waiting period into the preparation period.

A checklist for success

You should use the time between sending your resume and going to the interview as productively as possible. What you do in this in-between time can make the difference between success and failure in landing the job you want.

Take a look at the following checklist. You may think of other hems to add to it because of the nature of your job search. Customize it to suit you own needs and situation. As you accomplish each item, cross it off your list. You gain energy and a sense of accomplishment as you take a proactive approach to getting that interview.

  1. Learn about the company (see Chapter 2).

  2. Use the Company Fact Sheet form to record contacts with the company (see Chapter 2).

  3. Make networking calls to make contacts within the company.

  4. Learn the exact location of the company.

  5. Plan a travel route to the company to allow enough travel time.

  6. Plan your wardrobe for the interview (see Chapter 4).

  7. Organize forms, folders, or files for each company you contact.

  8. Line up a friend or colleague to help you practice your interviewing skills (see Chapter 3).

  9. Learn about salaries and job descriptions in the industry

  10. Practice your telephone skills.

  11. Just in case you get a rejection or are ignored, make a list of 25 other companies that might be potential employers. Include names, addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers for each.

  12. Other, please specify.

Using preparation time

After you send off your resume and cover letter, you wait impatiently for a response. The days can lengthen into weeks, even months, without a phone call or letter from the company. Indeed, you may never hear from some companies that you sent your resume to. Such companies may have been deluged with resumes. Or they may have advertised a position even though they already had someone in mind for the job before you even sent your resume.

One of the first things you want to do as you prepare for the interview is develop a job-search calendar for yourself. Try the following steps:

  1. Make or use a blank form for a month. You know the kind - seven squares across, five squares down. Label the month and add the appropriate number for the days of the weeks.

  2. Invent a code or use abbreviations to identify each company you send a resume to. Add a key to that code to the monthly calendar.

  3. Consider using a color code for each company so that you can more easily track the chronology of your job search with each company.

  4. Keep track of the important days of contact with the company. On the calendar, record the day you sent a resume to the company, the day you get a phone call, the day(s) you make phone call(s), the day of the first interview, and so on.

  5. Review this calendar every day and update it as necessary.

Getting the Call

Your job search is sure to involve calls that you make and calls that you receive. You will make calls to set up interviews and network with your professional contacts. You will receive calls from companies responding to your resume. How you handle these calls may be just as important as the content and appearance of your resume and your actual interviewing skills.

The following suggestions can help you improve your telephone skills and increase your chances of delivering a winning interview.

Listen to yourself

You may take your voice for granted, but for others, your voice is an important part of that important first impression. Consider how you sound to others. Try calling your own phone and listening to your answering machine or voice-mail message. How does it sound?

Is the quality of your voice pleasant? Is it energetic? Do you sound professional? What about the volume - do you speak too softly or too loudly? Have you done a grammar and slang check recently?

Try to listen to your own answering machine with the same objectivity a potential employer would have listening to you for the first time. This could be a good time to change your voice mail or answering machine message. Avoid slang, goofy music, or sound effects. Your aim is to project a friendly, professional tone and message. Before you record a new message, write out what you want to say and practice saying it until it sounds natural and appropriate for your job search. You can use any of the following, or you can write your own.

OPTION A Hello. You have reached (Name. Give the name you want the interviewer to use, not a "nickname"). I cannot take this call now but would like to contact you when I return. Please leave your name and phone number at the sound of the tone. If there is a convenient time for me to contact you, please leave that information as well. I am sorry to have missed you. Good-bye.

OPTION B Hello. You have reached the answering machine of (Name. See Option A.) because I am unable to take this call at this time. I apologize for the inconvenience of leaving a message, but if you will leave your name and phone number, I will return this call as soon as possible. Please wait for the tone. Thank you for calling. Good-bye.

OPTION C Greetings. You have contacted the voice mail of (Name. See Option A.). I am sorry to have missed your call. Please leave your name and phone number at the sound of the tone and I will return this call as soon as possible. Thank you for calling and I look forward to speaking with you soon. Good-bye.

Keep a resume near your phone at all times so that you do not have to fumble around trying to find it after you get a call from a potential employer. Also keep your record sheet, calendar, and note paper close at hand. Make sure that your pen has ink in it.

Phone etiquette

The following are some basic do's and don'ts for the kind of phone skills and etiquette you want to develop for your successful job interview.


  • Be prepared. If you are initiating a call to get information about a name, correct spelling, directions, or a fax number, have your questions or script written out in front of you. Write the answers down as you get them.

  • Be brief. If you're calling to request information from a receptionist or from the human resources department, keep your questions simple and direct. This is not an opportunity to promote your own candidacy for the job.

  • Speak clearly. If you're nervous, write out a script and practice saying it before making the call. Speak slowly, distinctly, and in a friendly yet professional tone. On the phone, you can always refer to your notes or script.

  • Call early. People are often running to meetings or attending to their work during regular business hours. If you plan to call between 8:00 and 9:30 a.m., your chances of catching the person before a meeting are greater.

  • Practice your voice-mail message before you make the call. You will probably have to leave a voice-mail message sometime in the course of your job search. Playing "telephone tag" is not much fun. When you make a phone call, be prepared to leave a voice message. Write this out so that your name, number, and the reason for your call are clear and distinct. Even if you think the person has your telephone number, leave it on the voice mail as a courtesy. Leave times of availability to help prevent phone tag.

  • Be polite. Remember your please and thank you. If you know the name of the person with whom you are speaking, refer to the person by name when thanking him or her or saying good-bye. Better to be more formal and use Mr. or Ms. than risk using a first name when doing so is not appropriate. Receptionists, assistants, and secretaries should be treated with respect even if you find their gatekeeping responsibilities aggravating.

  • Speak to the phone with a smile. This might sound silly, but smiling while you talk on the phone conditions the tone of your voice and conveys a warmth and energy that is at least as important as what you actually say.

  • Follow up. After you send a resume or fax, a follow-up call to make sure that the communication has been received is often a good idea. Be brief, however. The follow-up call is not the time to try to set up an appointment.


  • Don't call if the job posting indicates "no calls." In this case, you could follow up sending your resume after five days or a week with a note or fax asking for confirmation that the resume has been received. If the job posting gives an e-mail address, sending your resume and cover letter in this manner is fine. Always check to see that your material went through, however.

  • Don't use a false name. When making your first calls to a company, never use a false name to acquire information or try to disguise your voice so that it won't be recognized if you call again. Never attempt to deceive a potential employer.

  • Don't be a pest. Avoid unnecessary phone calls (like calling to verify the spelling of a name after you just asked that question in the previous phone call). Avoid too many requests to speak to your target person directly if the gatekeeper is screening calls.

  • Don't seem disorganized or disinterested. Organize your notes about previous conversations and communications so that you can be precise and to the point when you speak to your target person in the company. If suggestions are made to contact someone else or inquire about another position, do so. Then follow up with a note or another call thanking the person for the suggestion.

  • Don't be timid. You may experience some anxiety in making a cold call or contacting an unfamiliar person. Don't let your fears prevent you from making the calls you need to make to gain the interview. If you are prepared with a written script or written questions and practice your phone skills, you will conquer your anxiety.