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Do's & Don'ts of Interviews

The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing:  Goober Pile vs Sheena Sharpe

Goober flings his bed sheets staring bleary-eyed at the clock, it is 8:05AM and he has 9:00AM interview.  He would have been much more awake if he hadn’t stayed out until 2AM at a party, and wouldn’t have forgotten to set his clock.  Realizing he has no time to shower, he throws on his suit, and runs out the door.  He doesn’t notice the dog hair and lint clinging to his jacket, which by-the-way, is made from a different material than his trousers because he spent his money on an i-phone, so when it came to buying an interview suit, he instead had to borrow a jacket from a friend.  And it is not tailored for him and doesn’t fit.  Neither has his shirt been pressed, he has worn it several times—another big no-no for an interview.   Moreover, he is wearing the same rubber soled shoes that he wears to the clubs, instead of a pair of quality dress shoes with leather soles.  In general, the impression he creates is more that of a security guard than the finance executive that he hopes to be one day.

Goober arrives at the interview about 20 minutes late, with his backpack in hand because intends to go straight to class afterward.  Because he failed to brush his teeth and tongue, the receptionist winces at his breath.   He also attempts to flirt with the young woman, and asks her if she is available that evening.  None of this is creating the best image—particularly if she mentions it to her boss, Mr. Moody.  When he finally sits down in the reception area, instead of reviewing his interview notes (because he has none—Goober didn’t bother to research the job or the company, or write down any questions), he begins texting his girlfriend whom he had a fight with the previous night.  He then tries to engage Sheena in a conversation; but Sheena politely ignores him, she is reviewing her notes, intent on making the best impression possible during her interview.

When Goober is invited into Mr. Moody’s office, he automatically sets his backpack down in one chair and flops himself down in another, before Mr. Moody has invited him to sit.  He only reaches to shake Mr. Moody’s hand after Mr. Moody—a little unsettled by Goober’s overly familiar behavior—extends his.  Mr. Moody begins the interview by asking for a copy of Goober’s resume.  Now, Goober didn’t bring a copy because he had provided one earlier, and assumed his interviewer would already have it; another breach of etiquette, you always bring a resume.  After a delay, in which Mr. Moody has his receptionist make a copy, he asks Goober about items listed and a couple basic questions related to Goober’s coursework.  But Goober never liked to study!  His modus operandi was to copy other student’s homework and submit it as his own.  In group projects, he let everyone else do the work.  How he got through school has baffled most of his classmates; but now he has to answer for it, or at least, questions about material he should understand as a finance major.  See, what Goober didn’t realize is that it is not about the degree, or even grades, it is about the knowledge and being good at what he is supposed to be good at.  And at this moment, Goober looks like a dunce.

Rather disappointed, Mr. Moody decides to wrap-up Goober’s interview quickly, and asks Goober if he has any questions.  Having spent no time thinking about them, Goober only asks about the vacation time and salary.  None of this creates a positive impression; these are two questions you do not ask about in a first interview.  Mr. Moody shakes Goobers hand while telling him it was distinct pleasure, and lets him go.  After Goober leaves, Mr. Moody tosses his resume in the circular file. 

Goober is upset over the fight with his girlfriend, she is not responding to his texts.  He is so absorbed that he forgets to send a thank you note to Mr. Moody.  It would have only taken a short email.  Little did he know that Mr. Moody thought about Goober later that day, and retrieved the resume; Goober reminded Mr. Moody of himself when he was younger.  He was thinking of giving Goober some tips, and the opportunity to interview once again.  However, after several days and not even the courtesy of thank you note, Mr. Moody concludes Goober is just too lost, and returns the resume to the trash.

Sheena, in contrast, arose at 7:15AM that morning, giving herself plenty of time to prepare for her 9:30 interview.  Knowing she would have to perform, she went to bed early despite the party.  Earlier that month, not familiar with women’s professional clothing, she sought the advice of a knowledgeable salesperson at a major department store.  It was there she picked up a business suit, and spent the extra dollars to ensure it was properly tailored.  The suit is now a perfect fit.  Likewise, before she leaves her home, she uses masking tape to remove lint and any hair from her cat.  Her hygiene is of course, perfect, and she looks like potential executive.

She arrived at her interview fifteen minutes ahead of the scheduled time, comfortably early.  When she did enter, she notified the receptionist, and immediately took a seat to review a list of questions that she had written the night before.  Sheena may not have time to ask all of them, and some she even has the answers too, but if the interview loses momentum, she knows having a few questions in her pocket might allow her to rekindle interviewer interest.  She is already seated when Goober arrives, noting that he looks like he has slept in his suit.

After interviewing Goober, Mr. Moody is pleased to have a candidate proactively greet him by offering to shake his hand.  Likewise, he appreciates Sheena awaiting an invitation to sit, before taking a seat, and then, proactively offering to give him a resume.  While Sheena may not be asking the questions, she intends to control the interview. 

Sheena has not only researched the firm, she has talked to classmates that have gone on similar interviews to find out what questions were asked.  She has also reviewed some of the basic material from her coursework that she figures might be asked to test her competence; she knows she has nothing to lose by putting in this extra effort.  She also chooses to mention finance courses that might showcase her skills, and she mentions that she took Securities Analysis, being prepared to give a fuller description of what she is capable of.  When given the opportunity, she asks several questions about the position, her responsibilities, her growth path, and businesses or projects the firm is involved in.  She steers clear of questions about Salary and Vacation Time, knowing that the latter, in-particular, raises red flags.

When the interview is approaching its end, she reads Mr. Moody’s behavior correctly, asks when they might have a decision, allows him to terminate the interview and thanks him.  And as soon as she arrives home that evening, she emails Mr. Moody a thank you note (after checking her grammar and spelling), indicating her continued interest in the position.  This is particularly crucial, because firms are often uncertain after an interview if a candidate is still interested, and a short well written note demonstrates also knowledge of professional etiquette.  Then she goes to work on the locating the next interview, knowing she has done her best—the decision is up to them.

Now, who are you going to be, Sheena or Goober?