Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image


Scroll to top



Virtual Job Club Day 20: Prep for the Interview

If you’re hustling to implement all that we’ve been discussing, you’re sure to land interviews soon. (In fact, we’ve already heard so many great success stories. You’re next.)

Press play below to listen to career expert Lauren Milligan as she shares with you her tips and strategies on preparing for an interview. Everything you must do BEFORE you show up on the big day.

In the meantime, post your pre-interview questions and stories (good, bad and ugly) and we’ll try to address them.

Then, tomorrow’s call will discuss what to do when you’re actually in the hot seat during the interview.

Make it a great week!



  1. I.M.

    When interviewing at a recruiting company for a job at a real company do you ask different questions at each place or can you ask the same ones?

    What are some of the answers that would turn you off when interviewing a prospective employee?

    How much does your presence count during the interview?

  2. JF

    I have a phone interview Weds. I have looked up the guy, know he what college he went to…is it appropriate to comment on the football game (they killed the other team)?

  3. @IM – if there is time, we’ll discuss questions to ask. I’m not sure I understand your last question about presence…can you restate it?
    @JF – go for it! It’s important to research the people you’ll be talking with and things like this can be magic nuggets of job-gettingness. Since his team won, he’ll probably appreciate the few moments to gloat. If his team had lost, just say that the defensive line is still coming together but overall, they can still end the season strong.
    Hopefully you’ll both be on today’s chat!

  4. sm

    I was in a team interview once. The higher level officer did all the talking while the other individual took notes (good meeting strategy, actually). He would talk and ask me questions in such a heavy accent I had no idea what he was saying. I would answer what I though he was asking…I caught every 3rd or 4th word. I got so unnerved (and the interview went on for over an hour), at one point he asked me about a Six Sigma course I took (he had a degree in it apparently) and I could not remember a single thing about that program. I just wanted to get out of there.

    What do you recommend in that kind of situation? Thank you.

  5. Maureen Reintjes

    Once I land an interview I usually don’t have any problems in the interview itself. Although over the years I’ve had some very unique ones. My goal in the interview is to make the interviewer feel as if I’m not a stranger. If possible I find out as much as I can about the interviwer prior to the interview. If not possible to find out about that person or persons then I try and find some connection with the company, their board members or executives. If still empty handed then I scan the office, the receptionist area ….. anything to find something to talk about that brings a connection.

    Most unique interview: Around 10 years ago I went on an interview at an advertising agency. The job description fit me to a tee as if it was written for me. I was excited and not nervous whatsoever. However I could not find out exactly who would be interviewing me. As I was being escorted to the office where the interview would take place I passed by an older woman who at that moment I realized this is the person whose place I would be taking. The look she gave me was priceless. It shouted “oh well honey you may as well as forget about getting hired in this position.” As soon as I entered the room of interviewers I realized I was correct in my assessment of the older woman. The room was full of 20-21 year olds. It became quite apparent to me that this group had never ever interviwed anyone before in their lives. My skills and education spoke of someone years younger than what I was so I think they had assumed I was young like them. I’ve always been technically advanced so I’m sure my age was a dissapointment. I actually think they were ready to hire me until realizing I wasn’t in their age bracket. They may have had problems working with the “older woman” so it was apparent this interview was going to go nowhere and fast. At that point of realization I could have been bitter, screamed age discrimination, or walked out. It was very uncomfortable for all to try and wade through this sham of an interview. So I stopped the interview and took over. I spoke to them about how to properly conduct a group interview which was something they were failing at miserably. I gave them questions to ask and how not to convey being nervous. They were taking notes! So the interview concluded with exchange of emails and much appreciation directed at me and not to mention much laughter. I later received an email from one of the interviewers asking for help so I helped him through a technical problem. I still smile when I think of that interview. Just be good to others, realize you can’t control all situations but you can control how you react to the situation. And, above all just remember when you sit down at an interview you have before you a person who is worth getting to know.

    Question: I think my only question would be is how do I convey in an interview that although I’m older I am technically advanced and understand and embrace how younger generations brains are wired to work? Actually I know what to say I just don’t know when it is appropriate to bring it up in the interview. I do try and figure out the work culture ahead of time but sometimes that is just not possible. If I know it’s a young, fast paced, tech savvy environment then I have no problem bringing it up but if I can’t get a handle on the environment then should I not bring it up at all?

  6. je

    What is the best way to respond when the person interviewing you indicates that you’re over-qualified for the position? I have an interview Wednesday and am pretty sure that is going to come up.

  7. PL

    Interviews have never rattled me, I am never nervous and almost always very self-confident and have certainty that I can land the job. That is UNTIL this last two years…the longer I go w/o work, without even having the opportunity to GET an interview, I start to wonder if I trust my own intuition. Out of 100s of applications, I have had ONE interview and I really thought it went well, I thought my perspective boss and I connected and I felt that she was pleased with the interview – but I didn’t get the job and she stated reasons being qualifications that were never listing on the original ad for the job OR in the interview in the first place. So – her outpoint on that one but mine for not getting that she wasn’t as pleased as I thought she was (or maybe she was but she ended up fitting better with someone who came after me, who knows?)

  8. Oh my gosh – all your stellar questions are re-writing my topic for me! If I don’t get to all of them, I will also be happy to continue the conversation on my company’s FB page: I’m really looking forward to the call!

  9. Linda

    What do you want to hear from a perspective employee ?
    what topic will seal the deal and land you the job?

    Should all your answers be short and sweet or more lengthy?

    How do you determine what is is they are really asking ?

  10. Linda

    Linda Bechter · East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
    What do you want to hear from a perspective employee?
    what topic will seal the deal and land you the job?

    Should all your answers be short and sweet or more lengthy?

    How do you determine what is is they are really asking?

  11. lhf

    I had an interview last week that I thought went really well. The office manager who did the interview even went so far as to introduced me to a few people in the office. This morning, I received yet another email from the hospital recruiter saying “the job has not been awarded to you”. I am a displaced worker. I had an accident last year and was off work for 14 weeks. When I was released to go back to work, FMLA had kicked in and my job was posted and gone. Now I have go through the bidding process to get another job. The recruiter in HR is the one who determines which applications get sent for consideration for the open position. He holds the keys and everything must go through him. I’ve been bidding since last April and I’ve only had one interview – for the job I didn’t get. I’ve requested feedback from the recruiter. I doubt he will respond. Would it be out of line to contact the person who interviewed me directly?
    Loosing hope fast in Michigain

  12. How can one compensate for the overall first impression?

    The following are not excuses but a genuine “what do I do?” query. Because of a car accident I walk with a cane plus, times have been tough for a long time now so my weight has ballooned from living on the food I can afford. Once I get back to earning decent money I know I can turn around my physical condition (the cane is intended as a temporary aid). These things do not affect my skills and abilities, but how do I compensate? I have terrific phone interviews, but then when it comes to the face-to-face…..

    Of course it’s nothing anyone would refer outright to — not in these days of litigation — so I’m torn as to whether I should bring it up in any way. If I do, HOW? What would I say? And is it something I should speak of in a phone interview or wait for the in-person?

    I prep for interviews — study the job description, familiarize my self with the company through their web presence, but this current ‘appearance’ I present? I don’t know how to compensate for it or if there’s even a way to do so.

    I’ve been trying (so far without success, even the sites Tory has referred to so often) to find a work-from-home situation to help jumpstart my turnaround, so if anyone has any solid leads I’d appreciate it.

  13. All great questions and I’m preparing thoughtful answers to each of them! Join me on the call in just a few minutes!

  14. Debbie G.

    Great call, thank-you, Lauren, for your tips and ideas. It gives me a lot of specific steps to take to research potential companies and opportunities, to prepare for my interviews, and to find companies to target. I appreciate your generous support through this program. Thanks – Deb

  15. Whew! 20 minutes fly by quickly. I hope I presented useful and new information to everyone. Here is your homework:
    Create stories that illustrate how/when/where you have made IMPACT. Use the following as your guide-
    1)Dealing with crisis situations/juggling priorities
    2)Changing course to deal with changed circumstances
    3)Working with difficult clients or internal situations (but don’t be negative!!)
    4)Cost savings – profit generation – financial astuteness
    5)Dealing with a troubled industry
    6)Improving a company’s competitive stance.

    2 Questions Exercise:
    Go through EVERY bullet in your resume and identify answers to the following questions:
    a) What were the RESULTS of this work?
    b) What was this work important?

    Once you have the answers to these questions, you will most likely be able to 1) re-write the bullet to give more of the accomplishment and less of the task and 2) you will be able to construct your interview answers in a way that shines a light on your skills, strengths and results.

    Combine these accomplishment-based answers with the research you conducted on the company (finding out their problems and why they are hiring) and you’ve just well-armed yourself for the interview!!

  16. I.M.

    ResuMayDay: By presence I mean the way you carry yourself, how you look, the way you speak, in other words, the way you present yourself as a total package.

  17. DNY

    This is timely help! I have a very promising job interview tomorrow!! After interviewing with 3 people on the phone, I was asked to come in to meet the Hiring Manager for the position. I interviewed somewhere else last week and one question caught me off guard –
    * If I called your boss now and asked him to describe you, what will he say? I answered what I thought he would say but I am wondering what is the best way to answer something like that without sounding self-serving. She also asked what would he say about my weaknesses…? Hmmm.

  18. OK, here are answers (and longer answers than on the call) to all questions above:
    1) Your questions will be crafted from what you learned in your research and the information provided by the company. Because of that, you’ll be asking high-level questions. Here’s what I mean by that. A low level question: “So, what type of work will I be doing as the Sales Support person?” A high-level question: “I read that your sales force is currently pursuing more sales in Canada and Mexico. Have you already tweaked your sales literature to accommodate those subtle nuances in the different cultures, or is that something I might be a part of at the development stage?”
    See the difference? High-level questions are conversation starters so ask them anytime. The only difference I see is that different people in the company (as well as recruiters) will have different perspectives on the answer.
    2) Answers that turn off employers are answers that show you have a chip on your shoulder about prior employers/customers/work situations or show that you are difficult to work with. I’m turned off by canned or scripted answers. Have a conversation with me!
    3) Your presence is hugely important because a good presence (the way you look, act, speak carry yourself, etc.) is respectful. If I’m hiring someone who will meet with clients in person, I need to be impressed with their appearance. If I’m hiring someone who will speak on the phone, they need to have a pleasant, professional and confident phone voice. Be the best – and most put together – version of yourself.

    @JF – I answered it above but again, yes! That’s a great conversation, just make sure that part of the conversation doesn’t take too much time from the rest of the interview.

    @SM – Ouch. I can’t imagine too many more uncomfortable interview situations. In that situation, here’s exactly what I would have said (honestly), “Oh my, you have a lovely accent! I just hope my run-of-the-mill Chicago accent isn’t to grating! (laugh). That acknowledges the elephant in the room, of which I am a big advocate. Then, every time you only hear a part of the question or are concerned that you didn’t get it at all, re-phrase what you heard or ask him to clarify it. As uncomfortable as that might be, it’s much better than answering an unasked question, right? For example:
    Him – “I’ve never put much value into Six Sigma and think that a PMP certification is more relevant.
    You – “Why yes, I agree that Six Sigma has a lot of value! And no, I don’t have my PT certification. I’m a financial analyst, not a physical therapist!”
    OK – a bit of a stretch but hopefully, you get the point.

    @Maureen – Show in your summary statement and bullet points that you work well with younger generations and older generations. As I said on the call, talk about how you have trained those ‘less tech savvy’ employees to become comfortable with social marketing. Also, lead with your best, most cutting-edge projects that earned buy-in from the younger crowd.

    @J.E. – I love, love, love the overqualified objective! This is your chance to make the interview define overly qualified from ‘just-perfectly’ qualified. Does that ever exist? Let them know that this isn’t the first time you’ve heard the ‘over qualified’ line before but truly, it’s to their advantage. They’ll be bringing on a person who, in short enough time, will make the position bigger than it is now. Ask them if they’ve had trouble in the past with people leaving the position quickly as they outgrew it. Challenge them – in the most endearing way possible – to justify why less is more when it comes to candidate qualifications! Explain that your broad skills will help in a myriad of ways, including inter-departmental projects, adding new requirements to the role and lightening the load of over-extending employees. Also, let them know if you are looking to pull back on some of the responsibilities you held at your last position, if that’s the case. Once you know their true concern, then you’ll know better how to handle it but personally, I’d LOVE IT if ALL of my staff were overqualified!

    @P.L. – Creating extra qualifications that were never presented nor discussed is a coward’s way of saying you just weren’t the right fit. Move on. Also, I encourage you to work with someone (even a friend) on your interviewing skills. Another person may be able to pick up something that you’re unknowingly doing that is a turn-off. I’m not saying that thing exists, but mock interviews are a great way to find out.

    @Linda –
    1) Employers want to hear that you are excited and challenged by the job and 100% enthused about the company. The want to know that you understand their problems they are experiencing, and in some way, you’re their answer.
    2) This is the impossible-to-answer question! It’s going to vary for everyone at every company and even if you found the answer to this question, you may still be competing against the CFO’s son who is going to get it because of nepotism, even though he’s completely unqualified. Don’t spend one more minute thinking of an answer to this question; instead, spend all of your time honing your skills and your Impact Stories.
    3) 30-60 seconds for each answer is appropriate. Once you’ve gone that length, you can ask if they want more detail – or they will ask follow-up questions.
    4) Here’s a little secret for you. Most interviewers have never been trained on conducting interviews. For this reason, I can assure you that most of the time there isn’t much psychology behind their questions. Within a few seconds of walking in the room, you’ll know whether or not this is a rookie or a seasoned interviewer. That doesn’t mean that you can talk down to the rookie, it just means that there won’t be much psychology to the answer. When you’re answering a question, stick to the details that best support and prove your skills and strengths. This is why practice ahead of time is so important. A seasoned interviewer can throw you off your game, but not if you’re a seasoned (well-prepared) interviewee!

    @LHF – There is almost no chance that the interviewer will give you any details about why you weren’t hired. Doing so could expose the company to litigation. I’m concerned that you say you doubt your recruiter will respond. Why not? That’s his job! He only makes money if you get hired, so it’s in his best interest to prepare and coach you. You also, need to find someone who can provide mock interview training. You can find this at local networking groups, or even through a friend, although it’s best if that friend is highly familiar with the interviewing process and won’t be intimidated to critique you. You will show your gratitude by having a very thick skin and an open-mind.

    @Barbara – a few things. As I stated on the call, be the first one to address your physical challenges and assure them you are on the tail-end of therapy. Let them know you’re bursting at the seams to be productive again. While you’re looking, try putting in a few volunteer hours at your chamber of commerce or another organization who will open doors to other employers. And for you also, I highly recommend practicing and mock interviews. Good luck!

    Debbie – thanks so much for the kind feedback!!

    I wish ALL of you the best success in your job search!!

    Lauren Milligan

  19. Susan Kaye

    How do you aswer all the questios that should not be asked such as age, are you married, any children, what are the ages of them, year you graduated any school, how come you have been out of work for three years, and what have you been doing for that time.

    How come you never finished college. Some people make fun of the college you went to, such as State School, in New York CCNY Schools. Some on line schools that are accredited.Some places make fun of what you majored in such as dance education, art education, and many other majors like that.

    If you go to an acct firm and do not have a CPA you get made fun. And if they hire you will call you strange names like boomer.

    These are what I call the horrible questions,

  20. Maria

    I’ve been told I interview pretty well, though I am less confident now that I am older, heavier. Still the traditional interview does not terrify me as I try to listen to the questions being asked and craft my answers carefully. I’ve had lunch interviews and I think those are much more challenging as the questions are more personal (do you have children? what do you do in your spare time?) and the interview lasts much longer, and there are at least 2 company representatives present.

  21. PAL

    In my field of instructional technology, I recently had to provide a technology demonstration as a part of the interview. I had to demonstrate a short lesson that I might present to faculty on using a technology in the classroom. This was more nerve racking than the interview because I had handled the “for example” parts well. Technoogy can go well on your equipment, but go awry on someone else’s system. That would be a good one to address in this forum. Thanks

  22. Maureen Reintjes – Lauren, Thank you so much for taking time to comment on our comments. Over the many years I’ve worked with job seekers many times I’ve seen that just a small acknowledgement, affirmation of existence from anyone can turn a a bad day into a good day.


  23. Alison

    I don’t have any particular stand out stories. I do recall signing up for an on campus interview that I wasn’t prepared for. I had no time to prep because I had to work and had things due. That was a horrible interview. He knew I wasn’t prepared and it showed. Overall I know preparing for the interview is key. It’s great to have questions that show you did your homework.

  24. Victoria

    I’m doing my first Skype interview tomorrow. I had a test-run with a friend tonight. It went well.

  25. Mary

    thanks for the great advice Lauren! I am just now catching up on the assignments. Sorry to be missing your presentation today hosted by SHARE.

Submit a Comment