Simple interview and phone screen tips

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I've been busy doing a lot of phone screens and interviews as of late. Actually, I've been doing a lot of interviewing during my time at Cappex. Since joining the company in July of 2012, I've done over 400 phone screens & interviews. I'm certain I've looked at over 1,000 resumes during my time at Cappex so far. Anyhow, I thought I'd jot down a list of interview & phone screen tips. Every single one of these items are things I've seen candidates do in the past. These items are in no particular order.

Know that it's okay if you don't know something. If you don't know something, be open about it. Your interviewer most likely will not expect that you know the answers to every single one of her questions. As an interviewer I certainly don't. Now, you could try to pretend you know something when you don't, but there's a good chance that the interviewer will be able to sniff this out and when this happens, it will reflect poorly on you. It's always way better to tell the interviewer you don't know something Vs. making up a wrong answer. And if you are caught doing this more than once during your interview, your interviewer will assume you're a pretender. And no one wants to work with such an individual.

Don't put items on your resume you don't have at least some knowledge of. For example, I've come across numerous folks who put "SQL" on their resume but should not have. These are folks who could not write even the simplest of SELECT statements (ie, SELECT first_name FROM accounts). By including items on your resume you do not have any working knowledge of, you open the door for your interviewer to discover that you're a pretender.

Be on time. Be ready to receive the phone call when the interviewer calls you. Show up to onsite interviews at least 5 minutes early. If you're running late, make sure you have a really good excuse. And even if your excuse is rock solid, give a heads up to your interviewer/recruiter/etc as early as possible. Being late to your own interview will make you look really bad. It will cause your interviewer to assume that you'll be one of those people who constantly struggle with showing up to work & meetings on time and that you're an unreliable person.

Don't get argumentative during your interview. Of course, it's perfectly fine if you disagree with your interviewer. Disagreements can sometimes lead to intelligent conversations that will reflect positively on you. Just don't turn the disagreement it into an argument. It will make you appear hostile and no one wants to work with a hostile person.

Prepare questions to ask. Be prepared to ask at least 3 - 5 good, smart questions. You're not only judged on what you know & what you've done but also on the questions you ask. Asking smart questions will demonstrate that you've done your homework, which will always reflect positively on you. Remember that interviews are perfect opportunities for you to interview the company.

Be prepared to demonstrate what you know. If you're a coder, there's a good chance you'll be asked to write code during your onsite interview and have 1 or more people looking over your shoulder as you type each and every character on the keyboard. This causes most people to get very nervous. And when you're nervous, it becomes difficult to think. Be mentally prepared for that.

Be frank about what salary you're aiming for. I know - there's a lot of folks out there saying that you should dodge the salary question as long as possible and that answering the salary question prematurely will potentially lead to losing out on large sums of money. However, I think that being well informed about what you're worth (in terms of salary) reflects positively on you and it tells me that you've done on your homework.

Don't get too comfortable with your interviewer. Your interviewer is not your friend. Don't chew gum while you're talking. Don't lean too far back in your chair. Don't slouch. Don't swear.

Keep your resume to at most 3 pages. Please.

Know what the company does. Take some time to check out the company's product/website/etc. Asking questions related to the company's product will help you earn points during the interview. If it becomes apparent during the interview you know absolutely nothing about what the company does, it will reflect poorly on you and will cause your interviewer to assume that all you care about it looking for a way to collect paycheck. And by the way, if you don't know what the company does, do not pretend you know what the company does. It's better to say "I don't know" than come up with a wrong answer about what the company does.

Express that you're interested in the job and the company. If you don't whether or not you're interested in the job and the company, spend some time thinking through things before talking to companies. Take some time to figure out what your "must haves" and "nice to haves" are as well as "things to avoid". Write these things down. It will help you evaluate job opportunities.

Be careful about badmouthing your current or former employers. I think there are limited situations where badmouthing your employers will work to your advantage. But you need to be careful when you do. Don't share information about your current/former employers that you're not supposed to (trade secrets, for instance). This will cause your interviewer to perceive you as an untrustworthy person and no one wants to work with such an individual.

Dress up when you show up for an onsite interview. No need to come in a suit and a tie but you should at least go with business casual. Over-dressing for your interview will not reflect poorly on you. However, under-dressing might reflect poorly on you. The extra 5 - 10 minutes it will take you to get dressed up is more than worth it. Oh, and you should make sure you don't smell bad. Go easy on the perfume/cologne, please. It can be rather distracting to your interviewer.

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