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Q&A: Interviewing for Jobs

September 05, 2008

Peter Vogt, MonsterTrak’s Career Coach, answers questions about the job interview process.
I interviewed on campus with a company last year and was invited for a second on-site interview at the company’s HQ a week later. My on-site interviews were not as strong, and I didn’t get the job. I called back one of the interviewers and we talked about it.

A couple weeks ago, the company’s placement firm called me and asked me to come in for an informational interview. When we were talking, I told them that I had interviewed before with the company but did not receive an offer. They didn’t say anything about it, but my question is: Does being passed over by this company once before hurt my chances of being hired for another position?

Answer: You’ve done several SMART things here:

1) You asked someone from the company how you could have been better in your first interview. VERY smart! 2) You’ve stayed in touch with the company. 3) You haven’t burned any bridges.

While your case may feel unusual, it really isn’t. Many people interview a second, third or fourth time with one company. Employers know that the reason you weren’t hired one time isn’t necessarily because you weren’t qualified, but simply because someone else was slightly better. Chances are, when you interviewed for the first job, there were several other candidates the company could have chosen, not just the one it ultimately hired.

In some ways, your past experience with this company can HELP you if you play your cards right – which you’re already doing. You are demonstrating your motivation, your follow-up skills, and your willingness to improve yourself. So keep at it. Often, persistence is what sets apart the person who gets the job from the rest of the applicants.

At a job interview, I met with two groups in the company; each group had two people. Should I send a thank you note to each person, or just one note to the manager of the company? The other three people were department directors and report to the manager.

Answer: If the person interviewed you and you have the name/title, then send each person an individual note. Each person has his/her own agenda, and this is one more opportunity for you to talk to their concerns or the questions they asked.

A follow up/thank you letter can be the tie-breaker in some cases. Put some time and thought into the letter – make it professional. Let them know why you are the right person for the job and the added value you bring.

I was called back for a second interview to meet with the partner of my first interviewer. I already asked all my questions at my first interview. What kind of questions should I ask his partner? Do I repeat some of my questions that I asked at my first interview?

Answer: I don’t think it hurts for you to ask some of the same questions – even if the first guy happens to join you for this second interview – because you want to get different people’s perspectives on your questions.

You could even acknowledge that you’ve already asked a question, and then ask it of the second person. For instance:

“I asked this question of Mr. Johnson during my first interview, but I’d like to get your take on it as well: In your mind, what ___________________________?”

There’s no need to repeat questions for which there are obvious answers that you already have. But you can certainly repeat questions for which there could be a variety of responses, depending on whom you’re asking.

I’ve been honest when I go on interviews, but it’s just not working. I know that I can perform a lot of these positions’ responsibilities. Can I tell them I know a lot of the desired skills, find some business that has recently closed their shop and tell interviewers I worked there and learned the skills they seek?

Answer: I can understand why you’d consider this, but I strongly encourage you NOT to follow through with it, for several reasons:

1) Many employers will investigate the claims you make on your resume and in your interviews. The fact that you may have “worked” for a now defunct business won’t stop them from contacting that business’s former employees.

2) Word gets around about people who lie on their resumes and in interviews – even in large cities. Employers talk to each other — at professional organization meetings, on the golf course, at the bar … everywhere. If you get caught lying for one company, its hiring manager there might warn other companies/organizations about you.

3) It might actually work in the short term … but then you’ll be hired and asked to perform the skill or task you claimed you’d done before. If you then cannot perform that skill or task as well as you’d claimed, you could end up being fired.

4) If you’re going to lie about your management experience, do you really want to “brag” about how “well” you managed at a company that went belly up? If you’re such a great manager, an employer might (rightly) ask, why did your company go bankrupt?

While the job market is very difficult right now, what might seem like a good solution in the short term will almost certainly come back to haunt you in the long term.

I went through two rounds of interviews last week and received the rejection letter today. I really wanted this job because it was an entry-level position and had ample room for career growth. Should I write a letter to thank the interviewers for their time and to request them to keep my application in case their chosen applicant doesn’t work out?

Answer: I’m sorry this job didn’t materialize for you. But pat yourself on the back, for a couple reasons:

1) You made it through two rounds of interviews, which proves that this employer did indeed think highly of you. 2) You’re showing class by sending the employer a thank-you note now, even though you didn’t get the offer. You’re also being smart because you can use the letter to keep the door open for the future.

You can handle this thank-you note much like you’d handle any thank-you note. In the first paragraph, thank the interviewer(s) for his/her time and consideration. Talk about how much you appreciated meeting with him/her and then wish him/her luck with the candidate he/she chose.

In the second paragraph, briefly reiterate your key skills and say something like this:

“If, for whatever reason, the candidate you chose doesn’t work out, or if you have a similar position open up in the future, please feel free to get back in touch with me. I’d like to keep the door open because I truly think my experience and skills are a good fit for your organization.”

Then, close with the usual “Thanks again” and “Sincerely…”

The key is to show class in your note, and to also let the person(s) reading it know that there’s no hard feelings where you’re concerned — indeed, you’d like to keep the door open for the future.

These questions were compiled from message boards at MonsterTrak.com (http://www.monstertrak.com). Check out MonsterTrak for additional tips and job listings.


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