The Essential Job Interview Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Every Job Seeker

The Essential Job Interview Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Every Job Seeker

by Jean Baur
The Essential Job Interview Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Every Job Seeker

The Essential Job Interview Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Every Job Seeker

by Jean Baur

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Even with a fairly detailed job description or a briefing by a knowledgeable recruiter, job candidates rarely have all the tools they need to ace their interviews. This is one of the reasons why interviews are so harrowing—we have to pay close attention to what we're told, what we're not told, and the many non-verbal signals we receive. In addition, many people who conducts the interviews aren't well-prepared, haven't been trained in interviewing, and often don't even like the process.

The Essential Job Interview Handbook will help job seekers prepare effectively for interviews and become familiar with different types of interview questions and styles of interviews. A unique feature of this book is the multiple answers it provides for each question, rated good, better, and best; with this feature, you'll learn what makes a winning answer and understand the strategy behind it.

Whether you're just finishing school or have been working a long time, The Essential Job Interview Handbook will give you all the powerful tools you need to not just get a job, but to get the right one.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601632821
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 09/23/2013
Series: Essential Handbook
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Jean Baur, a career coach and author, has worked in the outplacement industry for the past 19 years. She's an expert in working with job seekers of all functions and levels, and likes nothing better than helping those in transition overcome obstacles and find work that's a good fit. Her first book, Eliminated! Now What?, won national media attention. She currently lives in New England, where she continues her work with Lee Hecht Harrison, a talent-solutions company, and teaches her own highly successful workshop: Boomers Back to Work! As an independent consultant, Jean has prepared thousands of job seekers for this critical part of getting hired.

Read an Excerpt



It's the moment all job seekers are waiting for: you receive a call and schedule an interview. There is a surge of hope as you think about working again and how exciting it could be to join this company. In addition, you dream of the huge relief that your search is over.

However, the excitement is quickly mixed with panic. What should you do? How will you get ready? And most importantly, how can you know what they really want?

Let's back up for a minute to see what you already know:

[check] The name of the company.

[check] How they found you.

[check] The industry.

[check] The title (and hopefully a job description).

[check] The date, time, and place of the interview.

[check] How many people you're seeing (and eventually a schedule that includes their names and titles) or if it's simply a screening interview.

[check] Contact information for the person who set this up (often a recruiter, agency, or HR representative).

As a friend of mine likes to say, "Facts are friendly," meaning I think that solid information is helpful and is the best place to start. So if you know the name of the company (and there are times when recruiters don't give this to you up front), you can begin your research. You could start with the company's website, but be careful not to stop there, as there may be more useful information on other websites or in industry journals and blogs.

You must know what the company does and be up-to-date with their current situation. If they've just acquired a small biotech company, you need to know about it as it could affect your potential job at the company. Having this up-to-date research at your fingertips is one of the most effective ways to prove you're interested in the company. Never wing it and ask, "What does your company do?" That's the quick path to a polite, "Thank you for coming in" and the interview is over.

If research isn't your thing and you're struggling to find good information on the company, go to your local public library and ask the reference librarian for help. They're skilled at finding even obsolete information.

Now that you've done some research, think about how the company found you, or in some cases, how you found them. If it was through an Internet ad, study the job description, but keep in mind that those descriptions are almost always incomplete and in some cases inaccurate. If you were referred in by a networking contact, ask that person for a convenient time to find out what they know about the company. In some cases they may have inside information, such as why the position is open or how the department is structured, which could be very useful to you. Most recruiters have solid working relationships with the companies they submit candidates to, so make sure to ask, if you're using a recruiter, what they know about the company, the people you'll be meeting, and any other general information. It's in their interest for you to do well. And lastly, if you targeted the company directly by emailing the hiring manager, review what you put in that email.

Next, make sure you're up-to-date in the industry. Let's say you're going to interview with Campbell's Soup. You need to know what their new products are, who their competition is, how their business is doing, and new trends or challenges that affect not only Campbell's, but other companies in the food industry. There are industry journals, blogs, and associations that can help you find this critical information.

Now take a careful look at the title and job description. Titles can vary wildly from one company to another, so it's best to study the scope of the job itself without getting concerned about the title. From what you know so far, ask yourself: "What is the most important thing the person in the position must do?" Start thinking about how your particular background fits or meets this need. In the sidebar there's an interview MAP that is going to help you specifically structure how your qualifications meet their requirements. Your interview MAP will help you stay on track, reduce nervousness, and document the main points you've covered with each interviewer.

If you're seeing three people, create a MAP for each meeting with the name of the company and the name and title of the person at the top. In the left column put the job description and what you've learned from your research. In the right, list key words to remind you of your qualifications and accomplishments that match the company's qualifications. If, for example, they want someone with three to five years' experience, that would be listed in the left column, and if you have six years of experience, you put that in the right column. I know you may be thinking, "How silly is that? There's no way I'd ever forget how long I've worked!" However, in my experience of coaching thousands of job seekers, it's amazing what can happen under stress. So even if you never refer to your MAP during an interview, I believe you'll find it helpful. Just knowing that it's there in your portfolio is a comfort, and if you hit a nervous moment or two, you can open your portfolio, glance down at your notes, and regain your confidence.

Also take note of the date, time, and location of the interview. Check the directions carefully; many career coaches recommend taking a dry run if it is reasonable. If you have to fly to a distant location, make sure you have all the travel information as well as someone to contact if there's a problem. And if you have to purchase the tickets yourself, ask how you'll be reimbursed. If a recruiter is involved, they should handle these logistics.

Try to give yourself unstructured time both the day before and the day after the interview. This is an exhausting process and you want to give yourself every possible advantage. Scheduling three interviews in one week is rarely a good idea. As soon as you can, get a sense of how the interview is expected to run. Will it be a panel with eight people asking you questions at once? If you're a scientist, when will your presentation be given and how many people will be attending? Is it one of those all-day affairs where you might be put in a conference room and the interviewers come in one after the other? We'll talk later about how to survive these "meat-grinder" interviews. Ask for the schedule and the names and titles of the people who will be seeing you. This allows you to learn something about them (through LinkedIn, Google, and so on) and it gives you time to practice pronouncing difficult names. Many times candidates are told "We'll give you the schedule when you arrive." Ask firmly but politely to have it now if possible.

The Interview Map

XYZ, Inc

Your questions for them:

1. What do you see as the biggest challenges for the person in this role?

2. How would a person in this position know how they are doing? Performance management system/feedback?

3. How much of the work is outsourced?

4. What percent of people in the Newark office will be new hires (not transitioning from Dallas)?

5. What impresses you most about your company?

Ditch It

1. What does your company do? This is insulting to the company as it shows you haven't even visited their website.

2. Sure, I can come in for an interview this afternoon. Two problems here: It communicates that you're not busy and it doesn't allow you enough time to prepare properly for the interview.

3. I've got to take the kids to the dentist so I can't come in. Of course you have other commitments, but don't be specific about what they are. Instead, say, "I have a conflict that afternoon, but can change it if that's the best time for you."


[check] Research the company carefully and don't rely solely on their website.

[check] If possible, give yourself enough time before the interview so that you're well prepared and rested.

[check] Ask for a list of who you'll be seeing, including their titles.

[check] Make sure you have the name and number of a contact person as well as good directions.

[check] Prepare your interview MAP (one copy for each person you'll see) and include your questions for the interviewers at the bottom.

[check] See if anyone in your network works for or has worked for the company and ask them for additional information.

[check] Knowing about the company and the people you'll be meeting with gives you a huge edge. This information will help you select the most appropriate accomplishment examples (to prove you're the right one for the job), and is one of the best ways to demonstrate interest in the company. You can't say you'd love to join them if you aren't up-to-date on their latest initiatives.



How can you come up with a strategy or know how to prepare for an interview when you don't know what will happen? If you think of having a plan for the interview as part of your preparation, and understand that many aspects of the interview may change, then you have positioned yourself in the best possible way.

You've done your research and now have an interview MAP for each person you're seeing unless it's a panel interview. An important part of your MAP is creating accomplishment examples or stories that prove your credentials. In other words, you have to learn how to talk effectively about yourself. We'll look at how to do this after exploring a few strategy examples.

A Convention/Meeting Planner has an interview and matches most of the company's job description. She has planned large meetings, negotiated with vendors, managed complex budgets, and dealt with all of the logistics of bringing many people to one place. One of their requirements is international experience, but she doesn't have this. What can she do to prepare for questions on this topic?

[check] Talk to other Convention Planners who do have international experience and find out what the particular issues or needs are.

[check] Look at published information from her professional association or journals to see if there are resources for international events.

[check] See if there is any way she could volunteer with an organization that is hosting an international event near where she lives.

[check] Research this specific topic.

[check] Come up with an accomplishment story or example that proves her ability to learn new skills or functions quickly and effectively.

The goal of a Senior Finance Manager with a strong background in manufacturing, is to become CFO (Chief Financial Officer). He has never held this title, but with 20 years of experience and a strong network that keeps him up-to-date in his field, he believes he has the qualifications for the job. Through his network he is referred to the CEO of a small manufacturing company and has an interview scheduled. How can he prepare for the most critical question: "Why should we hire you as CFO when you've never held that position?"

[check] Outline the scope of his responsibilities and, in his MAP, prove that although he hasn't held the CFO title, he has already successfully managed many of the requirements.

[check] Research the challenges facing this company and create a 30-6090-day plan. This will give the CEO concrete examples of what this candidate would do if he is hired.

[check] Create a list of questions that again prove his value to the company and illustrate that he is a big-picture thinker.

[check] Take the contact who referred him to the company out for lunch and ask for advice. This is the person who saw him as a good match, so his or her help will be invaluable.

On the right side of your MAP, where you have a brief reminder of the story or example you want to use to prove how well you match what the company is looking for, you need to prepare in detail exactly what the situation was, what you did, and the end results. This is similar to the accomplishment statements or bullets on your resume, except that in this case you'll be talking and can go into much more detail. (And in interviews you also must expect to be interrupted as you talk, because the interviewer may want more details about a particular area.)

There are several acronyms for this structure, but my favorite is PAR, which stands for Problem, Action, and Result, because it's simple, easy to remember, and gets to the point. PAR is your scaffolding; it will support your answers and make it easy for the interviewer(s) to follow you. And most importantly, it will keep you from rambling. Follow this template for the bulk of your answers and you will do very well. Let's look at a few examples of accomplishment stories to see what makes them effective:

Career Coach

Developed and delivered two ancillary outplacement workshops: "Polishing Your Interview Image" and "Organizing Your Job Search" to help clients improve their confidence and efficiency in the search process.

Problem: People in transition often need help with how they look and how they go about looking for work.

Action: "Developed and delivered" tells us that this person is creative, proactive, and is also a trainer.

Results: This can't be quantified, but still it's important to note that for this career coach, there is a strong, two-part benefit to the clients.

Note: This was from the resume of a friend of mine, and she left out the last part of the bullet (the part about improving confidence and efficiency) until I told her to do it. To her, it was obvious — she knew the value of these two workshops she had designed and given — but the interviewer didn't. As you're creating your list of accomplishment stories that are a critical part of your interview preparation, ask yourself: So what? I know this sounds a bit rude, but in my work with thousands of people in transition, it really helps in getting to the selling point or results.

IT Professional

Recruited by a Director of Information Technology to develop a Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence infrastructure to support Residential Mortgage Financial Reporting, Master Servicing, and Analytic Team.

Problem: This bullet starts with an action that implies the problem: The company didn't have the infrastructure they needed to handle technology efficiently.

Action: "Develop" and "support" tells us the key roles this person played.

Results: We know the three areas in the company that are now improved: Residential Mortgage Financial Reporting, Master Servicing, and the Analytical Team.


Designed new synthesis routes, developed new reaction conditions, and modified reaction procedures to optimize the yield, processes, safety, and efficiency. Published patents and papers on the new processes.

Problem: A scientist would get this better than I would, but it looks as if a lab procedure needed improvement.

Action: This person "designed, developed, and modified."

Result: He improved "yield, processes, safety, and efficiency" — quite a complex accomplishment — and by adding publishing and patents, gives outside credibility to the worth of this work.

Ditch It

1. Isn't it obvious I can do the job? Never assume that someone "gets" your fit without proof. Build a list of strong accomplishment examples so that you can offer verification that you can do the job.

2. I don't need to know who I'm seeing until I come in for the interview. Why would you create this kind of pressure for yourself? The more you know ahead of time, the better you'll do.

3. As you can see from my resume. It would be wonderful if you could count on interviewers having read your resume, but you can't. Don't use this phrase, but rather be prepared to explain your background in detail.


[check] Have a MAP or plan, but realize that it would be unusual for the interview to follow it.

[check] Select the accomplishments from your background that best meet the job requirements as you know them.

[check] Devise a strategy for talking about gaps or parts of your background that may be missing from what the company requires (for example, no college degree, lack of a certification, and no international experience).

[check] Get help from others if you're new to the industry or lack other key information.

[check] As you review the right side of your MAP where you've listed your accomplishments, ask yourself, "So what?" to make sure you highlight results.



Figuring out what employers want might seem like an odd idea if you have a detailed job description or are working with a recruiter who has filled you in on the position, company culture, and the people you'll be meeting. And because you've already researched the company carefully and spoken to inside contacts if you can find them (LinkedIn is really helpful), it's understandable that many people getting ready to go on interviews think that this is enough. Unfortunately, it isn't because of the following reasons:

[check] The job description is out-of-date.

[check] The job description wasn't written by the hiring manager and therefore may not reflect his or her most important needs.

[check] Someone was just promoted or retired so the department needs to reorganize.

[check] A new project or contract has changed the top priorities.

[check] The company has recently gone through a downsizing or an acquisition so roles are being realigned.


Excerpted from "The Essential Job Interview Handbook"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Jean Baur.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 13

Part I Preparation

Chapter 1 Where to Start? 19

Chapter 2 Get Your Stories Straight! 27

Chapter 3 Figure Out What Employers Want 33

Chapter 4 Rephrase and Reframe 39

Chapter 5 Final Preparation: First Impressions 45

Part II Types of Questions

Chapter 6 Ice-Breaker Questions 55

Chapter 7 Preliminary Questions 63

Chapter 8 Substance Questions 71

Chapter 9 Fit Questions 81

Chapter 10 Other Questions 91

Part III Types of Interviews

Chapter 11 Phone Screenings: You Are What They Hear 103

Chapter 12 HR Screenings: Are You a Match? 113

Chapter 13 Recruiter Interviews 127

Chapter 14 Behavioral: Let Me See You in Action 143

Chapter 15 The Panel: One of Me, So Many of You 157

Chapter 16 Bull's-Eye: Meeting With the Hiring Manager 167

Chapter 17 Presentations 181

Chapter 18 When There's Travel, Meals, Skype, or Assessments 193

Part IV Managing Expectations

Chapter 19 Too Many Cooks and Unclear Job Requirements 205

Chapter 20 Watch Your Pride 215

Chapter 21 But I'm So Nervous! 225

Chapter 22 Other Challenges 235

Part V Putting it All Together

Chapter 23 Closing the Deal 245

Chapter 24 Evaluating Your Interview and Processing Feedback 251

Chapter 25 Effective Follow-Up (How to Show Interest Without Being a Pest) 261

Chapter 26 Negotiating an Offer 269

Chapter 27 You're Never Not Looking 277

Index 283

About the Author 287

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