By Beverly Lieberman



In today’s economy, employers are in the driver’s seat. As the unemployment rate slowly creeps up, the demand for new hires steadily decreases. Employers want the best people they can find, and their talent pool from which to choose grows almost daily.


Interviewing in times like these is both an art and a science. As a job seeker, your ultimate goal of an employment interview is to perform well enough to receive an offer. You must stand out in your prospective employer’s mind and prove that you are indeed the best candidate for the job. To

accomplish this, you must go beyond simple planning and practice. There are, in fact, nine interview strategies employers look for. Master these on your next interview and that corner office could be yours.


1. Do your homework on the prospective company.


Today’s technology makes researching companies simple. Look up the company’s profile on their web site and educate yourself about the company’s products, services, customers, and financials (if they are a publicly traded company). In addition, you can learn who serves on the Board of Directors, as well as the current executive officers running the company. Web sites also provide company news about announcements on acquisitions, new business initiatives, etc. When you take the time to research the company’s background and learn about the company’s products, successes, and challenges, you show your interviewer that you’re a self-starter who took some initiative and put some time and investment into the meeting.


2.     Bring a well-written resume.


While this step may sound elementary, it’s amazing how many people come to interviews without a resume or with one that is riddled with errors. Your resume is a reflection of you on paper and should look as professional as you do. An ideal resume will be brief but clear in stating your objective, your experience, and key accomplishments. A good resume should not exceed two pages and should stress the benefits you brought to prior employers, such as “saved the company money,” “helped the company achieve greater sales goals,” or “improved customer service.” Hiring managers and executives in general want to see accomplishments that link to business results. If you need help with your resume, get a copy of the book What Color is Your Parachute?, a good book on job-hunting tips. Also, have an executive read and critique your resume and ask a recruiter to do the same.


2.     Learn about the people you will meet during the interview as well as the company culture.


When you know a little bit about the people who will be interviewing you as well as the company’s general “style,” you can tailor your image to match. Prior to your meeting, find out what your interviewers do in the company, how long they have worked there, and what they are like, if possible. Also, inquire about the “dress code” before you go there so you can dress appropriately. When in doubt, a navy blue suit and a white shirt or blouse that fits you well and is of very good quality is safe. Of course, if you are interviewing for a Silicon Valley company, a suit is probably inappropriate. There, a blazer and slacks are more fitting. Your interviewers will notice your first impression and will remember it; therefore, your appearance should be professional, up-to-date, and in accordance with the company’s style. Prior to the meeting, call the employer and ask if they will send you a job description for the position you are interviewing for.


3.     Establish rapport with your interviewer.


If the interviewer does not initiate shaking hands, then you should do so. It shows friendliness and good will and puts both parties at ease. Because people tend to hire those whom they like and can relate to, try to discover hot buttons and values that are of interest to the interviewer. Weave these elements into your conversation to show support and agreement, if you feel there is compatibility there.


4.     Emphasize your talents and strengths.


Once the initial small talk is over, allow the interviewer to start the interview process. Be prepared to have a five-minute overview of your work history, paying particular attention to accomplishments and team-oriented projects where you had a leadership role and where there was a positive outcome. Stress examples that relate to the company’s business issues and to the position at hand.


5.     Be aware of your body language.


What you don’t say often tells more about you than you realize. Employers want people with a “can do” attitude and who look “the part.” During your entire conversation, sit up straight in your chair and look the interviewer in the eye as much as possible. Think positively and show enthusiasm, energy, and confidence. If you are interviewing for an executive management position, your words, tone, and body language need to exude leadership and a “whatever it takes” orientation.


6.     Come prepared with four or five questions.


When you ask the interviewer questions about the position and company, you show an interest in the company other than simply wanting to earn a paycheck. Some excellent questions are 1) What do you think are the CEO’s top three objectives for the company? 2) What are the things I could do that would truly make a difference? 3) If you hired me and we were discussing my first year’s performance, what would be the things you would hope I had accomplished for you and the department? Most important, truly listen to the answers you receive. This information will help you determine if you indeed want the particular position.


7.     Know how to answer “the salary question.”


In a first interview, if the interviewer asks what your salary expectations are, do not answer this question directly; rather, let the interviewer know that you hope an offer would be consistent with the job responsibilities and with what other strong performers in similar positions are making in the company. Anytime you state what you want, you take the risk that you are too high or too low and can bias the interviewer and your chances. If this question comes up during a second or third interview, and you feel confident that you understand the job requirements and the industry salary norms, then you may decide to offer a salary range that would be acceptable.


8.     End the interview on a positive note.


Once the meeting has ended, always thank the interviewers for their time and ask what the next steps might be. Get a business card, and if the meeting went well, write a thank you note. In the note, highlight one item that seemed to be of interest to the interviewers and restate your interest or understanding. The sooner you make contact with the interviewers after the meeting, the better they will remember you during the decision process.


The bottom line to any successful job interview is that preparation enables you to do your personal best. Do your homework on the company and even practice telling your five-minute work history summary to a spouse or friend. Focus on accomplishments, consider your body language, and think about techniques that create rapport. The best job candidates act confidently and enthusiastically without sounding arrogant. When you master these important interview skills, you can land the job of your dreams. 


About the Author

Beverly Lieberman is President of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm. She is also a sought after speaker on information technology management issues. Ms. Lieberman has successfully managed searches for communications, healthcare, high technology, management consulting, manufacturing, financial services, and retail companies. Executive Recruiter News recently honored her as one of the 50 leading retained search professionals, and The Career Makers heralded her one of the nation’s top recruiters. For more information, call 203-327-5630 or visit