Need Interview Suggestions!

I am awaiting a call from a human resources person from the local WorkForce Center here. I have applied for the Employment and Training Technician position and she called this morning while I was out to schedule an interview. While I am playing telephone tag, I am thinking about this upcoming interview. It will be a panel interview, which has not boded well for me in the past. Anyone who has suggestions, from either having gone through this type of interview as an interviewer or the person being interviewed, please give me any suggestions you think might be helpful. Thank you for any help you can give.


The interview will probably be sometime next week, by the way.

Hi, Spider Woman!

Well, I have not experienced a panel interview either as an interviewer or as an applicant. I can give you all the advice you need otherwise, though!

I’m sure you’ve been interviewed before, so I am not sure how experienced you are in that regard, or even if you need coaching.

But here are some common rules to follow:

  1. Always make eye contact. When you look around the office, the interviewer thinks you’re not paying attention to him or her, and therefore you must be wasting their time. If you look them in the eye, you can convince them more easily that you’re the woman for the job.

  2. Dress professional, but not super professional. Of course, different jobs have different work attires, but in general you don’t ever want to appear sloppy and you don’t ever want to appear like you’re better than the job. Male perspective: I would never wear a three-piece suit to an interview unless the job paid enough to buy many of them immediately. You don’t want the interviewer to immediately think you’re overqualified based on your dress.

  3. Be forthcoming with all information. Many interviewers will ask you about your experiences as they apply to this particular opening, and you should be ready. The last interview I had asked me specific details about my previous job. When they ask you this, make sure every one of your answers relates to the job for which you’re applying. When I answered those questions, I always threw in how I could multitask, how I paid attention to detail, and so on because I knew those traits would be welcomed in the new job.

  4. Smile, but don’t smile all the time. Being cheerful and friendly to your interview can make a world of difference. If you were interviewing someone, would you hire them if they hardly ever smiled? Yes, I know it depends on the job - but a friendly smile will always relax the atmosphere.

  5. Be ready to ask your own questions! I always get stumped on this. A good interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Don’t hold back! If you need certain information before you consider the job, ask for it politely. Most potential employers will be very willing to talk about their company.

  6. When walking through the office (if you’re led to an interview, for example), note how the employees appear to be dressed and how they interact. What are the working conditions like? Do people seem unhappy? Hopeless? Or does it seem kind of laid-back?

  7. And above all, be yourself. A decent interviewer can discover a fraud in no time. A good interviewer will sniff a pretender before he or she even sits down. Interviewers love honesty, as long as you’re not saying something like, “Nice company, but the building sure is a dump, huh?” or “Are those real breasts?” Don’t misrepresent yourself!

I’m sure you know all this, but just in case it was helpful, there you go. (And while I was composing this, you might already have received several replies!)

Spider Woman, to thine own self be true.

Good luck!

I appreciate all those suggestions, and even though I have heard some of them before, a little review never hurts.

----:)/ x o x o x

I just underwent an in-house gangrape, I mean panel interview. (The promotion, whether or not I get it, is currently on hold pending a government wide hiring freeze. Thank you Dubya!)

What worked really well for me was reviewing materials for training we had recently undergone on teams and mentoring. The materials gave me a vocabulary to phrase manny of my answers. And the training indicated what management thinks is important this year. So, it would help if you could find out what type of training this place has recently had, or what is current for the industry.

A couple of concrete suggestions, don’t say anything bad about anyone.

Remember that even when they ask you about someone else, they are interested in you.

Aim for the middle ground between overly brief answers and rambling on.

It definitely helped me to work out some responses before hand, both on paper and with Mrs D. For example, you can pretty much expect to get:
Why do you want this job?
Why would you be good at it?
What specific experiences do you have that qualify you for this job?
What work accomplishment(s) are you most proud of, and explain specific results?

Also be prepared for a couple of personnel-type scenarios. Sexual harrassment sort of thing.

It was a really nice feeling to have the 1st 2 questions be ones I had ready responses for.

Also remember there are no single correct answers for this type of thing. So just do your best, and don’t beat yourself up afterwards.

And that panel interview description is so on target.


I forgot one!

  1. Do not talk about Fight Club.

I’ve been conducting group, or panel, interviews for the last three months. I have all kinds of advice, however much of it may turn out to be specific to this type of work (desktop publishing). Feel free to e-mail me privately for more specific advice. I dispense it freely!

First: the reason my company does this is that we are using a team-management matrix. We’re a private company, which acts like a public employer, becuase everything we do is done by committee. At least it gives the most lowly position a feeling of empowerment – we even listen to the mail room clerk! Unfortunately, it means most of us spend way too much time in meetings and not actually working!

Sometimes interviewers in this situation will use a technique called “behavioral interviewing.” This turns out to be a lot more accurate gauge of what kind of employee you are. Instead of asking mundane questions, like some of those cited above, I ask things like, “Tell me about a situation when you blew a deadline. How did you handle it and what were the consequences?” It forces you to really think about the answers and tends to trick people into accidentally revealing negative information about themselves. Shows me the chinks in your armor, so to speak. If you get this type of thing, be careful and try to phrase your answers as positively as you can, while still being honest. I can spot a lie in an interview in under 30 seconds!

An example: my team was interviewing potential copywriters. We were speaking with a woman who had been running her own business out of her home. She had lots of editorial (read: management experience) skills and my question (probing for future attitidue problems): how do you think it will feel to not be the boss anymore? Is this really the type of position you’re looking for? To go from the top rung on the ladder to near-bottom?
Her brilliant answer: I don’t see it as as step down. Everybody has a boss and I can’t always be the boss. I’m really looking for a workplace where I feel comfortable with my co-workers. I am not looking to increase my responsibilities as my personal obligations are enough right now. Translation: I don’t wanna be the damn boss! Just let me be the worker bee, so I can save all that stress for getting my 2-year-old into bed every night.

I hired her last month. See how she turned a negative question into a positive answer?

Other advice not already given in this thread:

  • Arrive on time and no more than 10 minutes early.

  • Be prepared to discuss – HONESTLY – what software applications you can use well. Do not say you know everything about PageMaker, if you’ve only used it once. In fact, if you haven’t already, please update your resume and list the software you know. This is for anyone reading this thread. I can’t believe how many of you do not bother to list this on your resumes. Do you have the skills to do this job or not? Why don’t you tell me that so I don’t have to guess if you can use Word or not?

  • Do some research on the company interviewing you. Go to their website. Go to the library. Be prepared to know how they make their money and how the position you’re interviewing for affects the bottom line. What my company does is very difficult to explain. I expect interviewees to at least have some basic grasp of what our business is. It amazes me how many people think they can just walk in the door, not knowing anything about a company, and think they can be effective in whatever position they’re interviewing for.

  • Be prepared to show/demonstrate that you have the skills, knowledge, training and ability to perform the basic tasks and functions of the job. Will you have to speak to all the new hires in the company? Talk about situations where you had to be the trainer, or teach somebody something that was complicated. Did you have to be creative to resolve problems? Tell them…

  • You may have people firing questions at you all at once. Do not allow yourself to get flustered or intimidated by this. They are doing this to save time, so you won’t have to sit through six different interviews. This is not the Spanish Inquisition, although it may feel that way. Take a deep breath, answer one question at a time, and don’t be afraid of silence. It’s an old journalists’ interviewing trick for the interviewer to clam up and let you sit there, simmering in silence. People hate that and tend to blurt things out just to hear someone talking. Don’t bite! If you need to think about the answer for a second, say so and take your time. Or say you want to think about it and can we come back to that one?

  • I once called back after the interview and asked if I could amend my answer. The hiring manager allowed me to re-answer the question. She ended up hiring me and I still have the same job.

  • Be sure to observe basic consideration and etiquette skills that most people ignore. Like, sending a thank you note to the interview team afterwards. Nobody every does that anymore.

  • If you have done that kind of work before, and they are available, bring samples of your past work.

This is advice from another angle. I myself would not like to have to make a decision about hiring someone, so I don’t envy you.

The points you made will help me in preparing for the interview. My time on the computer will be ending in a bit until probably tomorrow morning, when I may e-mail you for more specific advice. Thank you for your help.


Spider Woman, although I only went thru a gangbang interview once, I have interviewed applicants, so let me throw in $0.02 worth.

I agree with all of the above but let me add that everything that is on your resume is fair game for questions. If you did a project but it was a few years back and you don’t remember very much about it, either brush up on it to be prepared to answer questions or else leave it off of the resume.

And let me reiterate the advice about always answering with a positive even when asked for a negative question. Like if they ask what you weakness is, I like to say I am a workaholic (which I am).

This is advice from another angle. I myself would not like to have to make a decision about hiring someone, so I don’t envy you.

The points you made will help me in preparing for the interview. My time on the computer will be ending in a bit until probably tomorrow morning, when I may e-mail you for more specific advice. Thank you for your help.

[Having trouble with the submit button: apologies in advance if this gets posted twice].

I finally got around to trying to e-mail you this morning, and found that you have a private e-mail address. Would you mind e-mailing me?

And thanks for the reminders, deb2world!

Good luck Spider Woman.

A good tip is to think about it from the other side of the desk. Just in case you’ve never been the interviewer, let me share what it’s like.

A company has a vacancy. Some manager has to take care of hiring. This is a drag.

Even finding a few decent candidates to interview is a pain. 9 out of 10 candidates on paper are just non-starters, so Miss Hirer begins to feel she’s chasing a needle in a haystack.

Eventually, there is a short list of people worth interviewing. Miss Hirer is under a lot of pressure to fill the vacancy quickly. But it’s a big decision. Whatever the salary for a job, it actually costs a company about half as much again to employ that person (factoring all the overheads and resourcing costs). So there’s a lot of money at stake. Plus most recruits aren’t all that productive in their first few days or weeks, while they’re still learning the ropes. And Miss Hirer knows if she gets it wrong, she has to fire the mistake, go through it all again and her reputation for ‘sound judgement’ takes a hit.

It gets worse. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who interview just fine, but turn out to be minimum-input clockwatchers, liars, cheats, embezzlers, lazy, dim as a cellar… all of these things can happen.

So, get into the mindset of the person interviewing you.

Most people go into interview thinking like this: “It’s OK for her (the person interviewing)… she’s already got a job and she’s got the power of job/no job over me, and I’m powerless”.


Here’s a better attitude: "This person (who is interviewing me) has a tough and difficult high-risk decision to make. She doesn’t want to screw up. She will probably have seen a few disappointing time-wasters.

I am sympathetic to all this. The good news is, I have the power to make her day go well. I can show her I am what she is looking for: I’ll do the job well, I’m a nice person, I’ll work hard and play fair. I have some good experience, but if I don’t know something I’ll own up and learn fast. I have a good attitude, and I’m conscientious. I respect that a company has to run on authority, so if it comes down to it, I’ll do what I’m told. But I can show initiative too, and I don’t need hand-holding. I am prepared to commit to the company and its aims, and I’m not greedy - all I want in return is the going rate for someone of my experience and ability, no more no less."

If you go in with that attitude, I promise you will maximise your chances. Understand the hirer’s problems, and be the answer to her prayers!

I would not like to have to choose a new employee. When I was working as a temp at the local university here, I watched the interview and hiring process for the position I was temporarily filling. I wanted them to hire all three of the candidates.

I have, in the past, been terribly nervous about interviews, but I am getting better, and will continue to improve as I have more interviews. I don’t like the idea of having to sell myself as a product, which is sometimes the way I look at interviews. I would like it to be more of a thing where I go in and say: here are my qualifications and how I feel I would fit your needs, from my knowlegde of the position. Here are my weak points (usually inexperience; most of my experience is in a factory or a student) but in spite of that, here is how I believe I could do a good job.

Sometimes I am asked why I would be the best candidate rather than other candidates. I don’t like this question. Perhaps I’m not the best candidate. I don’t know what their qualifications are; I only know mine.

Another question I wonder about is: tell me about yourself. I don’t know how much personal information they want, and my work history is brief: twenty-five years working in a factory (during which time I finished my degree), training and looking for jobs since last March.

I have an appointment to meet with my job counselor on Monday. She is going to try to help me anticipate some of the questions they might ask (the position I am applying for is a step under what she does).

Thanks, everyone, for all of your suggestions and good wishes.

If you have questions, I have found it very helpful to make a list and write them down before the interview. Sometimes during an interview like this, you get nervous and forget what it was you wanted to ask when they ask if you have any questions. Don’t be afraid to consult your list!

Good Luck!