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The major (k)Nots of a job interview

The major (k)Nots of a job interview


One of the major motivators for me to become a Career Coach is the opportunity to
share my know-how gained in the years of my recruiter/head-hunter avatar. I love to
serve it on a plate now to the ones in need to know what’s going on behind the scenes
of an interview and thus benefit their career success.
So I’ll now open this Pandora’s Box of the recruitment process and tell you what your
potential biggest sins from recruiters’ point of view are. Once you are aware of these
potential pitfalls you can manage them properly and that will surely key up the whole
interview, make it truly professional, pleasant for both parties and successful for you!


We’ll take a look first at the prerequisites to be invited for an interview.

  • The CV

There are plenty of resources available both online and offline on how to prepare a
good CV.
Especially if you are a newbie in this field, I’d strongly encourage you not to spare
yourself, but spend enough time and research on the different formats and
approaches before you send out your CV.
These types vary depending on your experience, the cultural practices in the different
countries (for example photo or no photo) or even the professional field you apply
In all cases I’d recommend that your CV is reviewed by a professional, or at least a
senior friend with a wider hands-on career experience. Best case scenario – you get
your own Career Coach and benefit a lot more beyond just polishing your CV.

  • The Cover Letter

Almost all credible HR professionals are adamant about it and I couldn’t agree more!
The Cover Letter is your first chance to build your personal image and help you stand
out. It is where you demonstrate your knowledge of the company, your interest and
understanding of the business and you can link these to your personal background.
Thus emphasizing on how the company will benefit from hiring you. That all should
be in a concise form and PERSONAL! Again – do not spare yourself, do not be
tempted to use templates or send out same cover letters to different employers. It’s
your career and your life (i.e. your happiness), so don’t be lazy!

Part 2: THE DAY

Remember from the moment you enter the building, till the moment you leave – it all

  • Manners

Everyone you meet on your way up is important. I’m sure you’ve heard that one.
Once upon a time my career started as a receptionist of a Big 4 company. I was the
one to meet first all candidates for their interviews, have the first “small talk” with
them and introduce them to the hiring manager. Guess what – my boss debriefed my
impressions after every interview. So, no matter how focused on your forthcoming
meeting you are, or maybe even a bit scared, do not forget your manners –

smile, greet and mind your body position while waiting. No need to play too familiar
though. Keep it professional, but still human.

  • Handshake

As simple as it may sound, it is noted by each and every recruiter and says a lot about
you (introvert or extrovert, shy or confident, sweaty or not…). Healthy handshake is
the one we are looking for here (especially if we’re talking about sales positions or
others where assertiveness and confidence are a must).

  • Be active and… listen actively

You are there to present yourself and get answers too. So, you have every right and it
is even desirable to be an active part of the conversation but do not forget to practice
your active listening at the same time. Outtalking your interviewer is a major mistake.
The HR is usually an individual with a decent EI and he or she realizes when
candidates feel uncomfortable or nervous. However they also expect to hire people
who are able to listen actively and play a team-game for their company. So manage
your emotions, take advantage to gather information from the body language of your
interviewer and don’t just aim to give “a right answer” to all questions. Take a chance
to ask yours too. You will need these answers for your own decision later on.

  • “Little puppy looking for love” or “Super Size Me” ego

Yes, these two were some of the “internal humor terms” of the recruitment dept I
worked for. No pun intended. The clear message is – calibrate your presentation
during the interview. You are not there to please the recruiter; neither you are there
to be pleased. You are there, so that both sides can get answers and be as realistic as
possible. In the end of this process we want to have a clear “yes or no” answer on
whether they can establish a fruitful professional cooperation, or not.
So my advice is – be yourself. But your BEST and authentic self. Speak frankly about
what you know and can and the areas where you still need and plan to develop.
Intelligent human beings are attracted to this. And so are intelligent recruiters – no
matter HRs or executives.

  • Playing the victim

Blaming your “to be ex” or already ex employer for where you are now career wise is a
big NO. Even if you still have a bad taste in your mouth from your previous work
situation, this is still not a proper answer to the typical question “why are you looking
to move away from your current job?”.
Think about yourself and find the answer to this one in yourself, reframe! If you look
deeper you will definitely realize that whatever the situation any drive for a change
comes from within. It could be your desire for further professional development, or
better organizational culture, or a better work-life balance or what have you. But it’s
always personal and it’s always from within. Finding this true answer will add so
much value not only to the interview, it will also help you fine-tune your career
development as a whole.


Do something that not many people do – send out a follow up letter. It could be just a
brief thank you email note or a more elaborated email- your choice. Then again make
it personal and refer to specific parts of the interview or a personal detail you find
relevant. These “bridge builders” repay generously.

Part 4: Money wise or wise about money

  • Choose the Middle Way – not too early, not too late

Well done if you have come to the point of getting an offer! It means you have done
the best you can and you are being invited for the special dance. It is indeed a tricky
part of the process that requires dexterousness, patience and realism.
You will not be considered nicely proactive if you are the one to table the question. It
is a hand the employer loves to play first. So if they really want you on board – rest
assured, an offer will be there for you.
Do not let the above mentioned “little puppy” bark out a number just to get rid of the
pressure of waiting, neither let that “super size me” hero overprice himself and put a
sudden unfavorable end to the negotiations.
I have seen so many people (and especially women) who are ready to give up to the
offer without any negotiations. Be wise and don’t make assumptions on behalf of the
company. Here’s a free trick from coaching you can use in this part: use open-ended
questions and discuss the range the company has in mind, not a specific number.
Listen actively again. This approach will give you flexibility and help you out with
your own decision.
If you find these tips useful and feel there is more to it (in which I can assure you!),
the best you can do is invest further in your career development and success and start
working with your personal career coach.

Author: Teodora Atanassova, Certified Professional Coach and strong professional in

the field of executive search and management consulting.

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