Way OT: Job interview tips

Submitted by Dark Blue on February 8th, 2010 at 12:37 PM

I don't want to take up too much of your time, but I am looking for some tips/advice. I have been laid off for pretty close to a year, and the only kind of serious work I have ever done is factory work. After I was laid off, I enrolled in a college looking to go into the IT field. Well This afternoon I have a job interview. I've never been to a real professional interview, and I was hoping that some of you could give me some tips to enhance my chances of landing this job.

Thank you gentleman(and ladies).



February 8th, 2010 at 12:41 PM ^

do NOT ease up. It is very much a part of the interview. DO NOT order beer (even if the interviewer does so).

Emphasize your quick learning ability and even if you cannot answer a technical question, show curiosity and an eagerness to learn the correct answer from the interviewer. It will make him feel good about himself and also cause him to subconsciously think of you as his protege.

Do NOT ever speak a bad word about you ex-colleagues or ex-employers. Remember that the word "problem" does not exist..it is only referred to as "challenges".

Good luck.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:52 PM ^

Interview styles can be very different. The interview that got me into dental school was with a much older guy who I think could relate with me. If your interviewer is older (and you are still pretty young), then I would try to get your interviewer to see you as sort of a young version of himself.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:42 PM ^

-Ask good questions about the business.
-Dress at least level above what you would expect to wear each day to work there.
-Put yourself up whenever you get the chance without lying. Everyone else will be doing the same.
-Be honest and stay calm during the rediculous questions. "If you were a vegetable, what would you be?" seems stupid, and they know it's technically a stupid question, but how you react to it will say a lot about you. A thoughtful or humorous response makes a much better impression than "I have no idea..."

I'm sure others have much more/better advice, so I'll leave the rest to them.



February 8th, 2010 at 12:56 PM ^

legally. I had someone ask me, "If you were marooned on a deserted island and could have one person with you, who would it be." I can't remember my answer, but I remember telling my new colleagues, after I was hired, and they all said she could not ask such a question.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:56 PM ^

When I interviewed prospective students for grad school I would usually ask the vegetable question, as well as the favorite Beatle question. I would tell them they were wrong, and the correct answers were "cauliflower" and "George Harrison." Then I would pause and pretend to be serious for a second before telling them I was kidding.
I'm pretty sure that's not illegal. Not giving someone the job because they answer "rhubarb" or "Ringo" might be, though it would be really tough to prove...

Sorry, OP, I know that contributed nothing of value to this post.

As for advice, be yourself, and be confident while showing self-awareness (e.g., if they ask you about your "growth edges" don't say "I'm too hard of a worker" or "I'm a perfectionist." It's ok to admit that you have things to work on...


February 8th, 2010 at 12:51 PM ^

Have been of the variety "Tell me about a time that". Which IMO are the most bs questions in the history of the world. I'd much rather get "what kind of vegetable that I'd be" than one of the normal "behavior" interview questions.

name redacted

February 8th, 2010 at 1:02 PM ^

I was once asked if I were an animal on the african safaria, which would I be. It was then followed up by asking if the qualities of a giraffe or lion match me better and why.

I have also been asked a number of puzzle questions. Like, you have 7 balls that look exactly the same. Same color same size. 1 ball has a greater mass than the other 6. The other 6 are all equal. You have only a balance scale, and can use it 2 times. How do you find the ball with the greater mass.

name redacted

February 8th, 2010 at 1:14 PM ^

I should follow it up with, no matter the animal, giraffe or lion, the interviewer would have added something along the lines of "A lion huh? Most of our successfully hires for this position describe themselves as giraffes, being able to see far down the safari which demonstrates strategic thinking".. or whatever. The point is integrity, the interviewer wants to see if you flinch, if you stick with your answer or change to what you now think the "right" answer is.

The point is, be calm, be yourself. Don't try and impress, especially if they throw some dumb ass question at you. Know your strengths, highlight them. Enjoy it. Don't worry if interview #1 or 1-7 don't work out. In this market, there are 5,000 applications for every job. Not getting the job is about fit, not so much about you personally. They just thought someone else was a better fit, skills or personality or whatever, not necessarily better or smarter. Heck, the ppl i know that do the hiring in most of the companies I have worked at don't know how to hire in the first place. So don't take rejection personally. Stay motivated.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:28 PM ^

Put two balls on either side of the scale.
~If the scale is out of balance, weigh the two from the heavier side against each other. The heavier one is... well, the heavier one.
~If the scale is balanced on the original weighing, weigh the next two. If one side is heavier, you've found your winner. If the scales are balanced, the one remaining ball is the heaviest.


February 8th, 2010 at 2:33 PM ^

You can also do this by putting 3 balls on each side of the scale. If they are balanced, the remaining ball is it. If not, pick two from the heavier side and proceed with your second bullet.


February 8th, 2010 at 2:30 PM ^

Put three balls on each side of the scale. If it balances the left out ball is the heavier one. Otherwise, take the 3 balls from the side of the scale that has more mass. Take two of the balls from that group of three and compare them. If they are even, the left out ball has the most mass. If they aren't even, well, there you go.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

Things are technically illegal, they either are or aren't.

Those types of questions aren't illegal. If you do get asked a "what vegetable would you like to be" question, the interviewer isn't as much concerned that you really want to be a Yam as much as the thought process on why you want to be a Yam (I'm sweet, nutritious, festive, and can be made into a variety of tasty foods, unlike other vegetables like Broccoli and Celery that nobody likes).

These questions aren't really asked that often, although I wish they would ask this more than the "tell me a time when..." crap.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

They could very well ask you, "so, what is our mission statement," or "what can you tell us about our sales last year." These are fair game and will show them how serious you are about their company.

Also, ask a lot of questions yourself. You are interviewing them, too.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

Make sure to smile some, look people in the eye. Answer the questions the best you can but don't make stuff up, it usually comes back to haunt you. You need to be yourself, if you seem comfortable/relaxed it make you appear more confident. However, don't kick back and put you legs on the desk. Be prepared to answer the same questions each time a different person comes in, they often are working from the same set of questions. Some people may be looking at your technical knowledge, others may just want a glimpse of your personality to see if they feel they could work with you. Dress nice, Men should still wear a shirt and tie w/ a coat if possible, Ladies should wear appropriate business attire, the way you look does count so you want to extend your best look. Thank them for the opportunity at the end of the day and walk out with your head held high.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:09 PM ^

One of the best tips I've ever heard (from a psychologist who studies body language), is to mimic the posture of the interviewer. If they sit forward and look serious, you sit forward and put on your game face. If they're more relaxed, lean back, too. There's obvious limits; don't put your feet on their desk or anything, but generally just do what they do. The idea is that you're trying to be likeable, most people like themselves, so try act like them.

Other tip: "I don't know," is a perfectly good answer for technical questions (as long as it's not used too often). Nobody knows everything, and saying so, says 1) you understand your limits, which is a sign of intelligence, 2) you're confident enough in what you do know to won't let this phase you, and 3) you're not going lie and bullshit whenever you run into an unforeseen situation. #3 is particularly valuable in the IT field, where people tend to be straight shooters with little tolerance for BS.

Steve Lorenz

February 8th, 2010 at 12:44 PM ^

These are the two most important things to keep in mind (IMO).

1. Be yourself. I know that sounds simple and cliche, but provided your interviewer has any experience in seeking out new employees, they will be able to pick up on phoniness right away.

2. Keep your answers short and to the point unless the situation dictates otherwise. Avoid rambling because it leads to stammering confusion which leads to disaster. Especially if you are unable to keep your nerves.

Good luck!


February 8th, 2010 at 12:44 PM ^

Do your research on the company. Know everything you can about them. Sound confident, but not cocky. Think of some possible questions they may ask you and have answers ready. Have some strengths you want to emphasize and find ways in your answers to emphasize those strengths. Good luck!


February 8th, 2010 at 12:45 PM ^

If t his is just the first interview, it will probably only be about 5 minutes. As such, and I'm serious, expect something relatively close to this:

Most of the questions will either fall into the obvious (name, work history, etc) and the ridiculous, which is more to gauge your personality than your ability to do the job. That would come in the second interview.

Fresh Meat

February 8th, 2010 at 12:45 PM ^

The best advice I ever received was to keep in mind that these people will be working with you. They don't just want to see that you are qualified, they want to hire someone that fits in there and that they would enjoy working with. Do whatever you can to be a likeable guy and to establish that you would fit in well with their culture.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:47 PM ^

First of all, good luck.

I actually do some interviewing and I will tell you that we specifically look for results. For example, you do something that's listed in your resume and we'll ask you the results of those actions - positive or negative. Did it accomplish a goal that you set out? If so - how did you help out? If not - what went wrong and what would you do to rectify the situation?

Totally agree with the above - do NOT bad mouth anyone - it gives a negative portrayal of your character.

Be confident - firm handshake and smile.

Do research on the company that you are applying to - it'll make you seem very interested in the company and that way when your interviewer asks you if you have any questions, you can launch into your questions about x and y about the company.

I'd also dress up a little - not saying that it's the most important part, but as intervierwers, we want to see that you put in an effort to look nice and try to impress. It's amazing how many people think jeans and nice shows are okay to a campus interview - they are not.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

When they ask if you have any questions, make sure you have something. Interviewers are always looking to gauge your interest as well, and if you just seem to be going through the motions, they can tell. Also, don't be this guy

Jim Harbaugh S…

February 8th, 2010 at 12:51 PM ^

Give a nice firm handshake but not too firm.

Act interested in the job, make sure they know you want the job.

Do a little background research on the company that way you know a little bit and can impress them with some relevant questions.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

I'm graduating in 2 months and had to go through a lot of interviews this past semester. These are the things that I thought were the most beneficial:

1) Be honest - I was asked by one company what my 3 weaknesses are. Apparently you're supposed to give a BS answer and spin it so that it's really a "strength". But I didn't know this. So for one of my weaknesses, I said "I procrastinate a lot...way too much". They all started laughing, and then I told them that I've learned from my mistakes - that was important for them to hear. I ended up getting an offer, and I was baffled.

2) Give SPECIFIC examples of how you took charge and/or were a leader in your job or school. But BE SPECIFIC. Anybody can sit there and BS you saying "Yeah, I took control of this team and I told people what to do and I got things done on time." You really need to be specific as to WHAT you did, HOW you did it, and what were the RESULTS.

3) Have an example ready of a challenging problem that you solved and how you solved it. Again, specifics are everything.

4) Communicate the fact that you have those "soft skills". Knowing IT stuff is great, but knowing how to work with potential coworkers is just as important. Talk about a time you got in a "riff" with somebody and how you managed to work it out - not by throwing fists or taking the issue up to your boss but by how you felt it important to communicate with the other person exactly what the issue was and to come up with a solution.

Well, I hope this does you some good. Good luck!


February 8th, 2010 at 1:04 PM ^

About the weaknesses.....there is actually nothing wrong with mentioning a weakness that's actually a weakness and then adding what you're doing to correct it. "I procrastinate," is probably not ideal, but a weakness that doesn't have much to do with the position is a good one. Companies know they're never getting Mr. Perfect With No Flaws. And they've already heard, "I'm a workaholic." Doesn't work any more.


February 8th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

... where half the curriculum is interview preperation:

Know the company -- read their website, if they have core values or a mission statement, know it. Be able to explain why it resonates with you.

Be honest -- the fact you went back to school to acquire a new skill is really impressive and shows you're hungry. As a person manager now, I will always take the person that has fought to improve themselves. Talk about that story. Show your hunger.

Ask good questions -- Ask about the company:
1) What areas does it see the most growth opportunity in the market
2) What are the biggest risks facing the company
3) How would the interviewer describe the culture of the organization.

Good luck!


February 8th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

Wear a tux and interview as a team with your step brother.

Make sure you show up with questions about the business, how it runs, how your department runs, what it's goals are, etc.

One last thing:



February 8th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

There are 3 pivotal items to keep in mind during an interview:

1) Wear a tuxedo, regardless of the position you're applying for.

2) Have your best friend sit directly behind you during the interview, as if you're trying to block them from the interviewer's view.

3) If the interviewer is a woman, tell her to shut her mouth repeatedly and try to prevent her from getting a word in edgewise.

Kilgore Trout

February 8th, 2010 at 12:55 PM ^

I'm not a great person to give advice as I seem to suck at interviews...

But, I'd say be early (but not ackwardly early), slightly over dress, mind your posture, don't chew gum, and don't ask questions about time off policy or things that can be interpreted to be looking for ways to avoid work.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:00 PM ^

- RESEARCH THE COMPANY. Know at least what they do and be able to answer the question, "What can you do for us?"

- The interview begins from the very moment you arrive in the parking lot. Companies pull all sorts of tricks. They might sneak a peek at the inside of your car to see if you're the kind that leaves burger wrappers all over it. They might have the boss eavesdropping on your conversation with the receptionist to see how you treat people. All kinds of things. Obviously, you might not be interviewing at the company's premises, but the point is the same: the interview doesn't begin and end with the face-to-face contact with the interviewer.

- I second just about everything above. Also, dress nice. Depending on the job you might not need a suit but it can't hurt. A tie is bare minimum unless it's one of those places like Google that prides themselves on being kooky.

There are entire classes on this stuff that go on for days - I literally just got done with one last week. So much to learn about the right way to do a job interview. Next time (if there is one and hopefully there won't because you already have the job) I'd recommend looking for advice a little earlier ;) seriously, there's a lot you can do pre-interview, like, call ahead to scope out the dress code, the research, prep your clothes, rehearse your answers, etc.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:15 PM ^

On the car thing: I've been told by my college's career development staff that driving a shitty car (or borrowing one from someone) can help because they see you as needing the job more. Showing up in a benz, while probably not an issue here, implies that you don't need this job.

Don't let sitting in a POS make you smell bad though, that would be detrimental to your chances overall.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

Minimum should be slacks, collared shirt and a tie but more likely a suit. If the interviewer/HR person tells you not to wear a suit, don't wear a suit (it depends on your industry) but if it's a laid back place of employment/manual labor job it might be best to not wear a suit. (I always ask the contact what the dress code is if it's business casual or business).


February 8th, 2010 at 1:09 PM ^

Look on their website for core values or qualifications for the job. Be sure and have an specific example from your life that demonstrates you have that quality. For example, if they say they want a "creative, analytical" person, be able to tell a story when you were creative, and another when your analytical ability was useful in a situation.

Don't be uptight, show personality.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:17 PM ^

lots of good advice above, but keep in mind that while they are interviewing you, you should be interviewing them to see if this is the right fit for you professionally and personally.

1. research the company, and the industry, to see what types of challenges and opportunities exist. also, as 4godking said, know their mission and values and how they mesh with your own. interviewers are very impressed when you give examples that directly tie to their mission/values.

2. be yourself, and do not lie (cliche, but important). you do not want to get a job based on lies or by acting like someone you are not. you will likely be unhappy in the position, or worse, the company will be unhappy with their hire.


February 8th, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

Mention that you post items on the MGoBoard during the day. Or better yet, get a letter from Brian, confirming that you create content, might even get you a raise.