The Interview Process

You can have the training, the experience, and the ability to do the job well. But in the final analysis, it is "chemistry," how you relate to the people involved and how you handle the interview, that usually determines whether you're offered the position. That's the conclusion of a major research project by the Bureau of National Affairs.

People often waste their interview time explaining "why I want this job" when they should be concentrating on "what I can do for the company." Yet most interviewers' questions do give you the opportunity to look good if you understand what the questions really mean!

The entire process of employment (application forms, resumes, interviews, references, etc.) is a lot like a sporting contest. Unfortunately, unlike football or basketball, the rules involving the "game of hiring" are unwritten. You learn them only through experience. As you know, experience can be a painful teacher. Some of the rules of hiring are subject to judgment and interpretation depending upon the situation. Others are not. Those concerning compensation fall into the latter category and should be adhered to.

Assuming the potential employer is aware of your current salary, the unwritten rule regarding compensation is "Never discuss money until the end of the interview. " Before a single word is said about it, you and your potential employer should come to an agreement that: 1) the organization can effectively profit from your services and; 2) you will find an opportunity for personal challenge and development within the organization.

If both of these conditions exist, money usually will take care of itself, frequently as an afterthought. Discussing salary requirements prematurely may create an obstacle to this objective and terminate the interview before you and the employer realize the mutual benefit of an association. What may be a reasonable salary expectation on your part may seem unrealistic to an organization until you are able to explain your experience and capabilities. You may never get this chance if you discuss compensation too early in the interview.

Addendum to the Interview Process

… THE FIRST 10 SECONDS often determine the outcome of a job interview. BEHAVIOR THAT LEADS TO REJECTION: A weak handshake. Poor eye contact. Slouching in the chair. Lack of enthusiasm. Sloppy grooming. Smoking. Hostility. Boastfulness. Condescension to the secretary or receptionist.

… ONLY ONE JOB HUNTER out of 100 bothers to research a company before a job interview. One out of 25 has prepared questions about the job or company. One out of 10 works at selling himself or herself. And only one out of 50 follow up the interview with a note to the recruiter. And, so, so important and obvious: your physical appearance. Spruce up! BOTTOM LINE: The well-prepared candidate has a major advantage.

Now, as to when you get an offer, what about counteroffers? I strongly advise against accepting a counter offer from your current employer for a number of reasons. In most cases, a person who seeks new employment does so for a variety of reasons (greater exposure, new challenges, better working conditions, more potential, etc.) aside from, or in addition to, making more money.

Even though your existing employer is willing to match your new dollar offer, nothing has changed that will affect the other fundamental reason(s) for your seeking new employment. In addition, you are at a definite psychological disadvantage in terms of future promotion and/or salary increase.

The very fact that you have sought new employment indicates a disloyalty to your present organization. The company may also feel that it can delay your next raise indefinitely since it now knows that all it has to do to retain your service is to match your next outside offer.

Finally, your present company may be playing a waiting game. Since it knows you are basically unhappy, the willingness to match your offer could be motivated by a desire to buy time in order to seek your replacement.

Good luck to you, and let's hope that the "Chemistry" is right!


You have your foot in the door. How to keep it there.

By Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe Columnist | January 10, 2010

Deborah Mitchell has had cellphones go off while she′s interviewing a candidate. Usually, the candidate quickly turns off the phone. But Mitchell, director of recruiting at Feeley & Driscoll P.C., a Boston accounting firm, can′t forget the time a candidate answered her phone to explain to the caller that she couldn′t chat because she was in the middle of a job interview.

For Brian Shin, chief executive of the Internet video analysis firm Visible Measures Corp. in Boston, when candidates are inconsistent about the answers they give to different interviewers - like the city they′d like to work in - it can knock them out of the running. Christine Lahey, vice president of corporate hiring at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., observes that when candidates arrive for an interview in casual khakis and a button-down shirt, it shows that they′ve somehow missed the fact that the Boston firm is "a very conservative financial institution," Lahey says. "We start to wonder, is this the right kind of culture for you?"

Few things are worse than the silence of sending off a resume and hearing nothing, or showing up for an interview and not moving on to the next stage of the hiring process. But job seekers rarely know what it is they′ve done (or not done) that has torpedoed their candidacies: Rejection letters don′t include constructive criticism.

So in an effort to uncover the secret reasons that even the most qualified candidates don′t get hired, I spent last week talking to about a dozen chief executives, headhunters, and human resources executives at big and small companies around town. My question: What things have you seen good candidates do that cause their applications to go from the "strong interest" pile to the circular file? I organized their responses into four categories: problems related to the resume and cover letter, the interview, reference checks, and follow-up.

The resume and cover letter. Spelling and grammar mistakes were the first things mentioned by everyone I spoke with. "Have somebody else read your resume and cover letter - or even better, two people," Mitchell says.

Generic cover letters and resumes, shipped off to dozens of potential employers, are likely to ensure that you′ll have to send off even more. Human resources executives say a succinct cover letter should explain why you′re enthusiastic about your field and why you′re interested in their company. At Partners HealthCare System Inc., human resources director Mariana Bugallo-Muros recommends using the cover letter to "fill in the gaps on your resume and tell your story better. What is it that has connected all the jobs you′ve had?"

Trying to cram your entire resume onto a single page can backfire if it has so little white space that it′s impossible to read - but beware a resume that meanders on for more than three pages, says Shin. "Long resumes just require so much work to scan, even if there are some gems in there," he says.

And French at Hill Holiday says, "Worse than having someone who is unprepared to serve as a reference is when none of the candidate′s references will answer an e-mail or return a phone call."

Follow-up. Thank-you notes are nice, but "more than two phone calls to ask about your status starts to get excessive," says Maria Harris, director of employment at Rockland Trust.

"When you start to get sent articles that a candidate read on the Web, or volumes of information where they think they′re helping to solve a problem you have, quite often that works against the candidate, " says French at Hill Holliday.

At Children′s Hospital, Gordon-Seemore told me that she′d informed a candidate recently that he wasn′t going to get the job for which he′d interviewed. "The person became irate and sent an e-mail - they were very upset that they didn′t get the job, " she says. "It was bad judgment, because we would′ve considered them in the future. "

It′s important to remember that other jobs may come along that could be a better fit for you. But " people don′t take well to rejection - that sort of scares a recruiter, " Gordon-Seemore says.

Scott Kirsner can be reached at

©Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company


What mistakes can torpedo your chances of getting hired? BSG Team Ventures, an executive recruiting firm in Boston, provided this list:

  • Excessive name dropping
  • Excessive use of "I"
  • Excessive use of buzz words
  • Lack of vulnerability/weaknesses/
  • Bringing up money/compensation in the first call/interview/meeting
  • Being particularly difficult or rigid to schedule a meeting or call
  • Not having prepared questions to ask about the opportunity
  • "Closed" body language: folding arms; shifting in the chair; looking at the floor

Dress for Success: What to Wear in an Interview

Thursday, June 24, 2010 | Career Rocketeer

You′ve heard it before. Your first impression can make you or break you when it comes to a job interview. And when it comes to making a dynamic first impression, it′s key you dress for the job you want. Making sure you look the part not only packages you as a ready-to-hire employee, but it can boost your confidence as well. Here are five things to keep in mind when you′re choosing the right outfit for your big day:

1. Err on the side of dressing up, not down.
It′s important in a job interview that you stay more conservative and look like a professional so the employer interviewing you sees you as one. Stay on the safe side. If you′re a woman, wear a solid–colored blouse, black pencil skirt or dress pants, and black heels. If you′re a guy, put on solid–colored dress shirt, a pair of button–down dress pants and polished shoes. If you′re wondering whether you should also wear a blazer and tie, look at the industry you′re in. If it′s more creative, the blazer and tie probably aren′t necessary. But if you′re interviewing at an investment firm, it′s mandatory. And again, it′s better to be over–dressed than under–dressed; it′s pretty hard to grossly overdress (at least for people with a decent amount of common sense), as most employers really appreciate the respect you showed by taking your interview seriously.

2. Good grooming is mandatory.
You don′t want to look like you just rolled out of bed after a night of partying. Take the time to fix your hair, trim your nails, iron your outfit and make sure nothing is out of place. You want the interviewer′s focus to be on you and not your bad breath and bed head.

3. Don′t distract.
Make sure when you′re planning your outfit that nothing is distracting to the interviewer. Keep in mind that employers interview multiple candidates for each open position, and if they′re too busy focusing on your bracelets clunking together, they′re not going to pay attention to what you have to say. It′s also a good idea to stay away from wearing a strong perfume or cologne. You want to leave a lasting impression, just not the kind that smells.

4. Keep comfort in mind.
Just because you dress up, it doesn′t mean you should sacrifice utility. It′s not uncommon after a job interview to have a tour of the office, and you don′t want to be the girl who can barely walk in her five–inch stilettos, or the guy who winces in pain with every step from a blister. Make sure the outfit you choose is comfortable because once it′s on, it should be the last thing on your mind.

5. Don′t forget the final touches.
It′s ok to add a little personality to your interview ensemble in the form of accessories, and it′s essential if you′re entering a creative industry where personality is king. Just make sure that the creative touches you add don′t distract. If you′re a man, a nice watch could add to your outfit. If you′re a woman, a sleek purse or pearl earrings might be the way to go.

Dressing for success isn′t all that difficult, and it could be a deal-breaker if you don′t pay attention to it. As long as you stay away from things that distract, lean on the conservative side and present yourself nicely, you′re positioning yourself for an interview that focuses solely on you. And if all else fails, turn on CNN or SportsCenter and copy what the anchors wear.

Joel H. Wilensky Associates, Inc.

P.O. Box 155 • Sudbury, MA 01776-0155
Phone (978) 443-5176 • E-mail
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