Job Interviews: the ABC's

Steve just hung up the phone from a corporate recruiter at Amalgamated Consulting. He was to come to Baton Rouge for an interview for a position as a senior consultant. He is excited at the prospect and at the same time terrified--it has been six years since his last job interview. Most professionals can relate to Steve's conflicting emotions.

Fortunately, Steve has a mentor in his profession to whom he can go for confidential advice. He calls Glen on the phone and arranges to meet him for lunch the next day.

Glen is happy to offer his advice to Steve. He has been on the hiring side of the interview table many times, and knows that Steve has great credentials and experience--his intent is to help him learn how to present that experience and skill positively. He sees that this would be an excellent career move for Steve, and wants to help.

"Steve, having a successful job interview experience is not as hard as it seems," Glen related. "Actually, it is as simple as ABC."

For the next hour, Glen shared with Steve a simple formula for success in a job interview. His ideas centered around what to Always do in an interview, things to Beware of, and things that will cause the interview to Crash and burn.


1. Research the company with a focus on customers and competition. Ford Harding, an executive recruiter and author, writes, "Too often, prospective employees spend too much time focusing on their functional skills. Employers are looking for individuals who understand the value of their work from the customer's perspective as well as the dynamics in today's competitive marketplace."

Research can be conducted on the Internet, by reading annual reports, and by talking with credible industry observers.

2. Provide examples of when you have successfully worked in team environments. More and more, organizations are relying on interdisciplinary teams to accomplish their missions. A strong commitment to team play and a solid track record as a leader and a participant of work groups make an applicant a top contender.

3. Demonstrate creativity and responsibility. Focus on your interesting accomplishments in previous employment and how those projects supported the organization's mission. While functional skills are clearly important to an employer, so is the ability to get things done.

Beware of:

1. Having an "I" attitude. Most prospective employers are interested in what you have done, but realize that they will likely check with your previous employers and colleagues. Overstating your accomplishments or your role in them will nearly always backfire. Be honest when explaining what you have done.

2. Negotiating too early. Discussing salary and job benefits during an interview can send a message that you are more interested in the money than in the job. And, from a negotiating standpoint, you want to wait and discuss salary after you are sure that you are the first choice. That is your true position of strength.

3. Being too casual with the interviewer. Many interviewers have learned that prospective employees tend to drop their guard when the interviewer stops taking notes. Recognize that the job interview starts when you first arrive, and does not end until you are out of the office and on your way.

Crash and Burn:

The following behavioral faux-pas will almost certainly eliminate an interviewee from consideration:

1. Displaying bad manners. Poor etiquette and boorish manners send a message to an interviewer that you will behave that way with their clients and customers. Be on your best behavior (and be careful where you scratch!)

2. Demeaning your current or past employer. Hanging your bad attitude about another employer like wallpaper will brand you as a potential problem. Stick to your own experience and accomplishments. It is a very small world, and reputations are made and broken on the basis of sometimes unknown relationships.

3. Being dishonest. Making up stories about holes in your resume, claiming a degree you do not have or fabricating accomplishments may sound good in an interview, but can be easily checked and verified. An interview should be a time to put the best spin possible on your career, but not at the cost of your integrity.


"Job interviews seem to bring out the best and worst in us," Glen concluded. "But they are our opportunity to sell ourselves to a future employer, and like any salesperson, we must believe in our product and help the buyer understand its advantages." The ABC approach can help any interviewee make a positive impression and line him or herself up for career success.