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One of my goals for this blog is to share what I know from the “other side” of the table. I’ve recruited and interviewed hundreds of people, many to work for me and to work for my clients. Whether you’re changing careers or new to the workforce, it’s good to know what to look out for and how prepare for your next interview.

Here’s the inside scoop on what every interviewer is really thinking during an interview:


1. Do you look the part?

You’ve likely heard the advice to dress for the job you want. And it’s absolutely true. I’ve mentioned it before here but it’s worth repeating. Help the interviewer envision you in the position.

Do some recon about the dress code, ask around and check out the company’s website. If you’re interviewing at a law firm, it’s best to go conservative. If you’re interviewing for a digital ad agency, you can be more creative. Avoid any clothes that’ll be distracting like those that reveal too much skin or a busy print. And take it easy on the perfume or cologne!

A good rule of thumb is to take your dress up a notch. If the dress code appears to be business casual, make it business formal for the interview.

2. Do you sound the part?

While you know your background and experience inside and out, it can be hard to make it sound conversational when you’re on the spot. However, this is your chance to tell your story.

Being able to articulate your experience and perspective in a memorable way is your sales pitch. You have to nail it.

To prepare, take out your resume and for each position you’ve held think of 1-3 accomplishments or stories you want to tell. You want to show proof through examples and also to make it conversational.

Instead of saying:

“In my customer service job I fielded calls from frustrated customers and helped them work through their issues with our service until they were satisfied.”

You could say:

“ABC company is a $10 million company. I was hired to improve customer relations and within the first year our satisfaction levels increased from 30% to 60%.”

The first doesn’t help you stand apart; most customer service positions look like this. In the second example you’ve proven why you were hired (to solve a problem) and the result (you solved it). Bingo!

Practice this a few times until it feels natural and conversational before heading into the interview.

3. Do you have proof of what you can do?

If you’ve been here before, you know I think keeping an accomplishment journal is the best thing you can do for your career.

As with the point above, it’s important to prove what you can do versus listing your job duties. You want to be memorable while explaining your experience.

For example, we all know what an accountant is meant to do. But what about YOU makes you perfect for this job?

Instead of reciting your skills or God forbid reading your resume’s bullet points, you want to tell your story. The way you approached or solved a problem is what makes you unique. Specific examples, facts, and numbers help make this point.

Consider: What was you goal? How did you accomplish it? What was the result?

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4. Are you likeable?

This may feel very un-PC but it’s a reality. Most interviewers, if they’re managers, will consider seeing you day to day and how you’ll fit in with the team and the culture. But boil it down further and they’re thinking: do I want this person representing me?

Skills and experience are important. You do actually have to be able to do the job. But being likeable is equally as important.

Let me put it this way: I’ve hired people whose skills weren’t as sharp as others’ because I liked them. I appreciated the way they communicated, how they sold themselves and their follow up. I could envision them on my team, taking direction and making things happen.

My advice is to be yourself, relax and to listen.

This WSJ article, Why Likeability Matters At Work brings this point home.

Interviews can be stiff because we’re trying to be what we think the person is looking for. That, or we keep it buttoned up in order to appear credible and professional. Granted, an interview isn’t the time to test out your stand-up routine but it is recommended that you let your guard down enough to show your personality.

You’re likeable! Don’t believe me? Ask your mom.

5. Can you solve my problem?

Last but definitely not least, the interviewer is waiting to learn if you can solve their problem.

The fact that a position is open itself is a stress for the interviewer. Bringing on a new employee is an investment and a bit of a gamble. I always want to know that the person I’m interviewing is going to solve that stress and be worth the time, money and energy.

The only way to know if you can solve the company’s stress is to ask what it is!

Try: What is your focus, goal, or trouble area right now?

Once you have this info, connect your skills and experience to that goal and how you are the solution. Don’t have the experience to solve that stress? That’s ok. Express your transferrable skills, and your willingness and motivation to work towards solving the problem. Solid gold, I tell ya!

The next time you’re in an interview, take a minute to consider what the person sitting across from you is thinking. Connect the dots for them by telling your story. And of course, be yourself.

Don’t worry, you’ve got this!

What questions do you have about the interview process? Or, what advice can you share to those looking for new positions? Share in the comments below!

Like this article? If so, please like, tweet or share it!


 Anne Omland is a career development expert and mentor. She uses her years of experience as a VP for a Fortune 500 company to share all she knows from the “other side” of the table. Her mission is to help ambitious women create corporate careers that are sustainable, mindful and purposeful. Seen as a career stylist, she can help you customize your career to fit your lifestyle perfectly. Click here to inquire about working with Anne. 
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  • Suzanne Gray July 23, 2014, 7:37 pm

    These tips are right one the money. I sat in on many team interviews over the years and with so many qualified applicants looking for jobs lately, it really is more than just what’s on paper.

    One other tip I’d add, and it shouldn’t need to be said, is “don’t bad mouth your former employer.” Even if they deserve it.

    Focusing on what you have to offer is a way better way to go.

    • Anne Omland July 24, 2014, 6:24 pm

      Thanks Suzanne! That’s a great tip. It’s good to know that you’ll always be asked “why did you leave your last position (or leaving your current one)?” It’s so tempting to spill it but I agree with you, the interview is not the time. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  • Emily July 23, 2014, 8:28 pm

    These are all excellent tips! I found the examples you offered super helpful and bookmarked this post for future reference. Thank you!

    • Anne Omland July 24, 2014, 6:22 pm

      Thanks so much, Emily! I’m glad it was helpful!

  • Carlaquarius July 24, 2014, 3:20 pm

    Anne, these tips are so relevant and would you believe? I’m being interviewed today! Could not have happened on more timely and useful advice. Thank you! Really appreciate the extra resources you threw in as well! :)

    • Anne Omland July 24, 2014, 6:22 pm

      That’s awesome! And great timing…we must’ve been communicating telepathically :) Let me know how it goes or if I can help out in any way. And, good luck!

  • Michelle Sears July 24, 2014, 6:16 pm

    You know until I read this blog post I never put much thought into the whole interview process from an employer stand point. And let me tell you, it’s nice to know it from their point of view; it makes the whole process easier for everyone involved.

    • Anne Omland July 24, 2014, 6:21 pm

      Thanks Michelle!

  • Jennifer Twardowski July 24, 2014, 8:42 pm

    Awesome suggestions Anne! I’ll definitely be keeping these in mind the next time I have to go through an interview! :-)

    • Anne Omland July 25, 2014, 12:12 pm

      Thanks Jennifer!

  • Stacey July 24, 2014, 8:46 pm

    Anne, you always impress me with your great content and the way you spin your presentation of ideas is always intriguing. Having just been interviewed myself for a coaching contract with a major insurance company, I completely believe and buy into the likeability factor! I did exactly have the degrees they were looking for, but my background and work experience was impressive on paper. I was able to “seal the deal” by being myself during the interview and owning up to my lack of knowledge in certain areas. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Anne Omland July 25, 2014, 12:12 pm

      Thanks so much for your support, Stacey. And good luck with the potential client! x

  • Brenda July 24, 2014, 10:10 pm

    I’ve been on both sides and completely agree with you especially #1,2 and 4. Great advise

    • Anne Omland July 25, 2014, 12:08 pm

      Thanks Brenda! It’s good to hear we were thinking the same thing.

  • Mike Goncalves July 25, 2014, 3:25 am

    Great tips Anne! I especially liked where you state to just tell your story and more importantly, be yourself. If I was doing the interviewing, that’s exactly what I would want to see. Also, being able to describe the impact you had with a past position with number values versus job descriptions is also very important. Great stuff as always Anne, thanks!

    • Anne Omland July 25, 2014, 12:07 pm

      Thanks Mike!

  • Elise July 31, 2014, 11:15 pm

    Awesome tips that are practical. I am passing this along to my college interns. I am partial to your advice to be yourself, relax and listen. Perfect to help alleviate the stress that often goes hand in hand with an interview.

    • Anne Omland August 5, 2014, 12:21 pm

      Thanks Elise! I hope it’s helpful to them. x

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