Interview Play-by-Play

Regardless of the type of interview being conducted, you should go into a prospective interview with a plan. Your plan should be built around the three key attributes you must communicate to effectively convince the interviewer you are a fit for their position. It is helpful if you think of an interview as a term paper comprised of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion with your key attributes forming your thesis.

The First 5 Minutes - Introduction

Like the introduction to a paper, an introduction to an interview is critical. During the first five minutes, you will set the tone for your interview. Make a good first impression. Look sharp and present a professional image. Relax, smile, and remember your plan. Your resume got your foot in the door, now you must effectively show the interviewer why you are a fit for the position.

Keep the following tips in mind during the introduction portion of your interview:

Be On Time

Show up early and make a good impression. Being late can derail your interview before it starts.

Make Eye Contact, Give a Firm Handshake, and Smile

Company representatives often tell us that they determine people who are not 'fits' for their company within the first 5 minutes of an interview. Make the best first impression you can - it matters! Make sure your attire is sharp and professional, and make sure your body language reflects the type of image you are trying to project. Be confident and personable. Smile. It will help you relax.

Build Rapport

Most professional interviewers will immediately attempt to put you at ease in order to find out who you really are. This should assist you in relaxing, but do not forget your setting. Do not get too comfortable or lose your professional bearing.

Start Off Strong

Typically, the first question you will be asked is some variation of "tell me about yourself" or "please walk me through your resume." Both of these questions allow you to introduce yourself to the interviewer. An ideal answer here will tell your story, make an impact, last 2-3 minutes, and be tailored (using your thesis) for that interview. This question will be your first chance to talk about your background and will set the tone for the rest of your interview.

The Next 30 Minutes (The Body)

During the body of your interview, the interviewer will typically ask you a series of questions focusing on your qualifications, for approximately 20-30 minutes. Some questions are behavioral (looking for specific examples when you demonstrated a particular behavior), others may be company oriented to get a feel of how much you know about the position and industry. Your answers should highlight your qualifications, personality, and interest in the position you are interviewing for.

You should keep the following question in the back of your mind during the body of your interview: "Why are they asking me this?" Any question asked is an attempt to see if you are a good match for the position for which they are interviewing. Your responses need to be genuine, practiced, and tailored to the job. It is important to make an impact.

Keep the following tips in mind during the body of your interview:

Have a Plan

You must have a plan before you walk in the door and stay on course! Know what the company is looking for and have three points (strengths/attributes) that you need to emphasize that align with what the company is looking for. Rehearse your answers to maintain concise responses and avoid rambling.

Be Sincere

Be confident and genuine. Avoid clichés. Do not attempt to pass generic textbook answers as your own. Back up your answers with specific, detailed examples from your career. The more substance you can lend to a trait or accomplishment, the more believable and interesting you will be to an interviewer.

Show Interest and Enthusiasm

Make sure your interest and excitement in the job are apparent. Qualified but disinterested will not get you a second interview. Energy and enthusiasm go a long way. If you are a very even keeled person, verbalize your interest. Tell the interviewer that you are excited about the job.

Be Specific

Examples will add depth to your answers and make you stand out. Be as specific as possible. Try to include names, places, and time periods in your answers. Remember, everyone says that they are a leader, a communicator, and a problem-solver. Prove it with examples that illustrate your strengths. Vague answers will not suffice while six minute monologues will lose your audience's interest. Your best bet is to stick with professional examples in your responses unless they request a personal one.

Stay Focused

During an interview, it can become easy to be a victim of question overload. Maintain your concentration; the interviewer will provide indications of the qualities he/she is seeking. A perceptive candidate often picks up clues from the interviewer and tailors answers accordingly. Also, keep track of what is being said. You don't want to be caught asking a question on material that was already covered.

Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Signals

Facial expressions and body language can significantly aid you in determining how the interview is progressing. If an interviewer appears interested (leaning forward, smiling, etc.), expound and give further detail; if you feel like you are losing them (glassy eyes, yawns, crossed arms), wrap it up and put the ball back in their court.

Listen to the Questions Being Asked

You want to make sure you are answering the question that was asked, not the question you want to answer. Make sure you listen to the question completely. Pause. Then answer the question. Don't feel like you have to answer as quickly as possible. It is much better to take a second to collect your thoughts and give a good answer than it is to recover from a poor answer that you did not give much thought to before you began speaking.

Focus on Your Body Language

Ensure you look the interviewer in the eye, but not to the point of making him uncomfortable. Think conversation, not inquisition. Be cognizant of your body language. Sit straight, lean forward, and avoid distracting gestures.

Never Interrupt the Interviewer

This isn't your show, so go with the flow. Let the interviewer conduct the session at his own pace. Concentrate on getting in synch with them. However, the best interview is a dialogue. Establish rapport with the interviewer, and work on the smooth exchange of information.

Keep it Positive

An interview is not a confession. Everything you say should reflect positively upon you and what you will bring to your employer. You must come across as someone the interviewer will want on his team not someone who needs redemption.


Being a little nervous is natural. However, it should not be noticeable to the interviewer. Be confident in your preparation and your attributes. Practice will make you more confident in your answers.

If you don't remember anything else, focus on presenting a good professional image, giving good examples, and being enthusiastic about the opportunity for which you are interviewing.

Wrapping it Up (The Conclusion)

You have just completed answering a series of questions focusing on your qualifications, and now it is time to wrap up the interview. At this point, the interviewer is going to give you the opportunity to ask some questions. You must ask questions. Questions equal interest in the minds of an interviewer, and are a critical component of your interview. Formulate three to five well-thought-out questions that show that you are prepared, demonstrate genuine interest in the position, and set you up for your close.

Keep the following tips in mind when formulating your questions:

  • Do not ask questions that should have been answered in your research (company philosophy, products, competitors, etc.). Check with your Orion Account Executive on questions on job related questions (number of people you would supervise, growth potential, career path, etc.).
  • You have a limited amount of time to ask questions in an interview; focus on questions that will assist you in your career decision.
  • Avoid questions which will raise red flags, or "what's in it for me" questions (potential benefits, vacation days, salary, etc.). You do not want to create the impression that you are more interested in benefits than in what you can do for the team.
  • Ask sincere questions in which you are genuinely interested in the answer.

Closing the Interview

"The Close" is a term used to describe the process of gaining some form of commitment from the prospective customer. In this case, the interviewer is the customer. By paying attention and asking the appropriate questions, you should uncover the employer's needs. The needs that you are able to satisfy, through the use of your talent, become potential benefits to the employer. Focus on those needs during your close.

The importance of the close is more critical during a sales interview than in any other type of interview. In a sales interview, the interviewer will determine how well you can sell his product based on how well you sell yourself. However, it is important that every potential candidate, regardless of the type of job you are seeking, understands the mechanics of the close. You must be able to convey your desire to work for the interviewer's company. We recommend that you always close an interview, no matter what type of position you are interviewing for.

By practicing closing techniques, you will feel more natural and comfortable when you "close." Do not attempt anything in an interview that feels canned or forced. Experiment with different closes and find the one that works best for you. Regardless of your closing technique, a close should consist of three points:

Thank the Interviewer for His/Her Time.

Be genuine; for example - "Thanks for taking the time to interview me today."

Sell Yourself.

How hard you sell the interviewer is up to you, but at a minimum, you should tell the interviewer that you believe you are a strong fit for the position and list a couple of qualities that you think are particularly strong: "I think I am a very strong fit for this position. You are looking for a strong leader and communicator, and those are two of my strengths."

Ask for What You Want.

After a first interview, you should ask to go onsite and meet the rest of the team. After a final interview, you should ask for an offer. "I am really looking forward to going on-site and meeting the rest of your team. When can we set that up?" or "I am looking forward to receiving an offer."

A great interview isn't complete without a good close. Make sure the company knows you are interested as you are leaving the interview. Do not leave the company wondering if you are interested.

Continue to the next topic: Thank You Notes

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