Job Hunt 7 – In Person Interviews

Your phone interview went so well that it got you an in person interview!  Now is when the pressure really is going to be felt.

The in person interview is a little bit of an enigma.  There are a lot of unspoken ins and outs that you’ll need to know if you’re going to come out on top and get the job offer.  Just because you’ve gotten this far, don’t get overconfident.  Remember, you’re not the only person they are considering, even if they tell you that you’re the only one, you need to go into your in person interview thinking that you are last in line.

The purpose of your in person interview is to put names with faces, but also to challenge you with questions in an isolated area.  They don’t want you Googling answers to their questions.  They want to see how you problem solve, what your train of thought is on job specific and sometimes non-job specific items.  That being said, there is no “set formula” I can give you that will help you pass an in person interview every time.  However, I will give you some tools you can use that will help you in the long run.

  1. Follow this old adage to the letter – If you’re early, you’re on time.  If you’re on time, you’re late.  Plan to be in the lobby of the company you are interviewing with at least ten minutes early.
  2. If you were given something to prepare, be sure to over prepare.  Case and point – I once interviewed for a data analytic heavy job.  I was given a spreadsheet with dummy information and was simply told to analyse it.  It was a very vague description that left things open to interpretation.  This is more than just a test on analyzing the data, they are also testing your presentation skills in something like this.   I was told by the interviewer, a majority of people had simple just typed up a simple paragraph explaining their findings on the data.  He was surprised to see that I had a 6 page PowerPoint not only explaining my though process, but also exploring ways to optimize the business from that data. This made a very memorable impression.
  3. Have questions ready.  At minimum have 5 questions to ask the person interviewing ready.  You’re welcome to add more and to improvise questions as they pop into your head, but keep them relevant.  If, during the course of your interview they answer several questions you had on your list, make note of that!  It shows that you were listening to what they were saying.
  4. Be prepared to justify you past.  Don’t just think because you’ve left jobs and gotten new ones that you can forget about the company entirely.  Have solid reasoning for leaving companies and making the move to a new one.  Nothing sounds worse in an interview than saying “well they were hiring and I needed a new job because I was miserable.”
  5. Don’t bash your previous employer!  I cannot say this enough.  Just don’t do it.  Whatever you beef with your current/previous employer, keep the drama to yourself.  If they ask why you left, simply say something powerful and generic like “I am looking for a new career challenge”.  This sound so much better than, “Well, my boss is a major jerk…”
  6. Questions will come up like “Why do you want to work at this company?” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  Don’t stress over these questions.  Not everyone has a 5 year plan.  Hell, I know I don’t.  I’m in my 30’s and I’m still figuring it all out.  Canned responses for these are the best, and remember America loves people with ambition.

Interviewer: So OneSheet, why do you want to work at CoolCompany Inc?

OneSheet: I was intrigued by your job listing, and as I browsed your website, I was intrigued by your mission statement and direction you wanted to take the company.  I found these align with my work ethic and career expectations.


Interviewer: So OneSheet, where do you see yourself in five years?

OneSheet:  Great question!  My five year plan is nothing something that I set in stone.  I like to keep it open to new experiences and typically update with each new career path.  Currently, my goal ideally is in a management role helping others succeed.

They are direct answers to their questions, but at the same time they are fairly non-committal so don’t feel pressured!

7.Only discuss salary if they bring it to your attention!  Unless salary is mentioned, don’t bring it up.  There will be plenty of time to negotiate after you get the offer letter.

8. If they do bring up salary in the interview – let them make the first offer!  Rule of thumb for salary negotiation, the person who puts out the first number loses.  Meaning, if an interviewer point blank asks you “What are you looking for in salary should you get hired.”  Don’t just blurt out a number, be creative.  How can you possibly expect to throw out a salary expectation if you don’t fully understand the inner workings of the company or the new position.  Rather than just shout “$50,000”, instead try to spin the question back on them to get some more understanding.

Interviewer: So OneSheet, what were you looking for in salary?

OneSheet: In my current position I currently earn my base salary and have the opportunity for periodic bonuses.  Since this is a new position that I would be taking on I actually wanted to ask you about your salary structure.  Could you give me some more insight as to how the position is paid?  Is it salary only?  Are there opportunity for bonuses?”

This is a great way to work around just blurting out a number.  You’re always welcome to tell them your current salary, but if you are looking to increase your salary you’re going to need to escalate your current pay range.  Now, before I get a bunch of nasty comments.  I don’t condone lying, however, escalating your pay sets a level benchmark for the company to work off of.  90% of the time companies will match your pay with a slight increase.  They do this because they know they have to give you something more than what you are currently making, but they will look like the hero if they can offer you a raise that is still well under the common salary for that position.  So don’t leave money on the table.

Let me give you an example.  My previous position selling software on printers was giving me an annual salary of $52,000.  However, I had the opportunity to make commissions.  In that commissions structure I was able to earn a maximum additional $23,000 annually.  So theoretically, while my actual salary was $52k a year, I had the potential of making $75,000 a year.  So when I was speaking with my current company and they asked for my current salary I simply said “I make $75,000 now, and I know this would be a new position and I have little experience in this role.  I would be willing to accept an offer if you could match or come close.”

It wasn’t a lie.  I had the potential to make $75,000 a year, however, I just currently wasn’t making that much money.  Unless they ask you for your W-2 information they will never know.  To answer your question – yes that tactic worked, and yes I got a $20,000+ a year pay raise.

Also – if a company tells you that before they make you an offer on a job they have to see your W-2 information.  RUN!  They will tell you it was to verify your employment, but all they are really doing is looking at what you made last year, and then lowballing you an offer – I say this because it happened to me.

I needed a new position fairly desperately and my last company was willing to hire me after they looked at my W-2.  I had done my trick – told them I make $70k and I would be willing to match, but when they asked for my W-2 I knew the jig was up.  They looked at my earnings, and when they called back with an offer these were their exact words.

We ran your W-2 information and we know what you were making at your last job, we’re willing to offer you $52,000 for the position because we know we’re giving you a really nice raise compared to what you’re making now.

It’s dirty business.  The company’s HR department is not your friend.  Their job is to get the best talent at the lowest cost.  Your job is to try and earn the most money at a company that will value your work.  If they are using the W-2 as a tactic to keep costs low, chances are it’s not a good place to work.

Now, you’re armed and ready to take on any in person interview you might need, and talk salary if the question comes up.

If you have any tips and tricks that you have found work in an in person interview, list them out below or on the Facebook page!

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