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Plebullt.gif (1232 bytes) Interview Tips &
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Getting Prepared

The Resume

Appropriate Attire


Salary Expectations



During the Interview


Body Language

What to Bring

Do's and Don'ts

Questions you should be
prepared to answer

Questions you should ask

After the Interview

Follow-up letter

Resignation Letter

Counter Offer


The Resume

The resume is a paper presentation. Listing responsibilities is not enough. The number one mistake that most people make is underselling their skills. The inclusion of your significant accomplishments will differentiate you from other applicants. Your resume should include: assignments you created, wrote, designed, developed, implemented, set-up, modified, co-authored, planned, managed, invented, and any quantifiable results. All of those activities create a positive image for a prospective employer. (Example: If you implemented a new inventory software system, include the financial gain/savings the new system provided, or explain the reduction of inventory, reduction of returned goods, reduction of staff, etc. Your resume should be easy to read, have defined sections, have enough detail to appropriately represent you, and have a consistent format.

Getting Started

Many books are available which define resume outlines specific to different disciplines. These can be very helpful in creation of your own outline. The best way to begin is to brainstorm on paper. List every task, skill, duty, project or responsibility as it comes to mind per position. Then organize items according to category. Write a summary for each position held and a general description of duties and responsibilities. Under the summary, use bullets to specify major projects, responsibilities and significant accomplishments. See the following suggestions under "Work History".

Resume Format

Many books on the market stress keeping the resume to one page. In the real world, resumes are at least two pages. If you have five or fewer years of experience, one page may be sufficient. Consulting/contractor resumes tend to require extensive detail and are therefore as many pages as necessary. Put your name and a page number on each additional page in case the pages become separated. Do not use a small font to minimize the number of pages, as it is difficult to read. (Consider the average age of hiring authorities.) Font size 12 is standard text. Name and headings may be typed in font size 14 but 12 is acceptable.

Bold the headings to provide definition for the eye. Be consistent. If you bold one heading, bold all of the headings. Avoid underlining and italicizing, as it will not fax well. Lettering changes can also be problematic in conversion from one word processing program to another when using e-mail. A full horizontal line used to separate sections and/or placed just below your name, address and telephone, for example, creates emphasis.

Spacing and margins should be consistent throughout the document.

Stationary should be a light color (white, cream, or light gray), as dark paper does not fax well and text is harder to read. Try to match stationary and envelope.


Resume Content

Optional. Avoid any objective that is too general or too specific. If the objective is too general, it has no value. If the objective is too specific, it could negate your candidacy.

Education here or at the end of the resume. (See detail at the end of this section)

Significant Achievements:

Significant Accomplishments:
This area would be used to highlight 5 to 10 achievements/accomplishments.
These could be columns or accented with bullets.

If this section replaces the significant achievements, it would include both professional and interpersonal strengths. This section could be used just for the interpersonal strengths separate from significant accomplishments. Including personal attributes will help distinguish you from other applicants.

Technical Skills:
For people in technical vocations, like the information technology field, a section should be included that lists all of the technical tools with which you have experience. If you are entry level, then list all technology classes. Place the technical tool list here or before education. This section could be in columns. Although you have a list of technology in this section, you need to include job specific technology utilized within the text of the work history section. Another option is to create a technology page, which includes; technology/tool, total time using each tool, competency rating, and when you last worked with it. The detailed technology page is frequently part of the contractor's resume, but it is a very effective tool for recruiters and hiring managers as well.

Work History:
The work history order should be chronological beginning with current position and
ending with first position held. Include dates of employment, employer name, city and
state, and title. If you were promoted and /or held different positions with the same
employer, show each position and duties/accomplishments for each position listed. If
you have experience not related to your current vocation:

1. Combine all positions and date range with a summary explanation of what you were doing for that period.

2. List all employers but be brief in your text. Highlight any skill or accomplishment transferable to your current vocation. (Example: supervisory or project management.)

If you have worked at a location and the company changed names/owners, but your position/location did not change, you may ignore the change. Your total employment history should express your full tenure. Explain any change(s) in the summary or during the interview.

List the name of the school, year of graduation, grade point average (if advantageous), degree title and major(s). If you did not graduate, list the total number of credit hours earned and your major. If you have completed only a few classes, list the classes and the grade point average. Include military training here or in the section below.

Continuing Education:
Use this section for additional certifications, seminars, training or employer sponsored classes. Some professions require continuing education and renewals of certifications.

Affiliations / Organizations:
Use the full name of the organization alone or in parenthesis next to the acronym. Limit this category to organizations that do not jeopardize your individuality. Certain political or personal affiliations could be considered discriminatory and therefore detrimental to your candidacy.

Personal / Hobbies:
Do not include height, weight, health, children, marital status, or anything with discriminatory properties.

References available upon request:
This is an unnecessary statement. Hiring authorities will make the request if and when they feel it is appropriate to your candidacy.

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Appropriate Attire

Dress for the business office environment: a suit in a basic color (black, gray or navy), vest (optional), white or pastel shirt, a tie (current fashion), shine the shoes, take out any earrings, get a hair cut, and make sure you have taken care of general hygiene. Once you are hired, the dress may be more casual, but for the interview, get that suit out of the back of the closet, dust it off and try it on to be assured of a good fit and any needed repairs or tailoring. Attend to your attire as soon as possible in the event there is a need to purchase a new suit.

Women :
Dress for the business office environment is not limited to the standard skirt and jacket suit for a professional look. Select a tailored conservative outfit avoiding ruffles, frills and large prints. Avoid wearing a lot of jewelry. Well groomed hair is a must, as are pumps or closed toe shoes (no sandals). Make sure your shoes are polished and the heels are in good condition. Take care of general hygiene. If your perspective employer is a fashion magazine and the position is for clothing design, you would probably wear one of your own designs but, for the average business office environment, these tips will present a proper business image. On the day of the interview, take your make-up kit and an extra pair of pantyhose for emergencies.

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Research the company before the interview. If you are reading this, you have Internet capability so begin there. Today many companies have a web site that provides information about their products, services and often, the future direction of the company. The library is a good alternative and most have a business research person who can assist you. For privately held companies, request company literature and/or the Annual Report to be mailed to you prior to the interview. The information gleaned from your research may assist you in formulating questions as well. The interviewer will be impressed that you took the time to research their company, and that knowledge will indicate that you are a serious and informed candidate. If the potential opportunity includes relocation, research the cost of living to arm yourself with details for the salary negotiation phase. See the "Questions you should ask?" section for a list of questions to research about the potential employer.


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Salary Expectations

The typical salary to start is an incentive increase of 3 to 5 %. There are always exceptions; higher/lower cost-of-living, extremely underpaid currently, and so on. There are generally three scenarios for starting salaries.

1. The opportunity to do something you have never done before will normally offer the least salary to start and may require a paycut to land the opportunity. You are competing with others at an entry level.
2. The opportunity is a lateral move (exactly what you have done with no skill or responsibility advancement). This situation will normally offer the greatest financial incentive because there is nothing else to motivate you to accept the position.
3. This is the one we see occurring most often and what we call the Awin-win" scenario. When some or all of your current skills will be utilized, you can be productive immediately, while opportunities for skill/responsibility advancement are being offered. In most cases, a person can expect an incentive increase to start.

Many universities have a bad habit of overestimating the starting salary for entry level positions, and many new graduates enter the job market with unrealistic expectations. New graduates beware. Before you turn down those first offers, talk with a couple of recruiters in your area who specialize in your vocational arena. If you rely on university salary information alone, you just may pass on the best offer.

If your new opportunity includes relocation you can visit the salary calculator at and the calculator will tell you what a lateral salary will be in the new location. This will at least give you a starting point for your negotiation. (See: "What salary are you expecting?")


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Communication skills can make or break the hire. These skills may be assessed in a number of ways: Your ability to formulate and respond to questions and your body language. Listening skills can be further demonstrated by the manner in which you follow instructions. Never interrupt the interviewer mid-question, even though you may have already formulated a response. If the question is ambiguous or has several potential responses, reword the question or ask, do you mean ____ or ____ ? Clarifying the question exhibits good listening/communication skills. Answer questions as directly as possible. Limit your yes/no responses, as they do not convey enough information. Likewise, don't over elaborate. Try to find the middle ground between too much and not enough. Having prepared responses will make you feel and appear confident. (See "Questions you should be prepared to answer)"

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Body Language

Body language is a subtle form of communication, but can convey much about you, and is therefore an important aspect of your interviewing skills. Make eye contact regularly, but do not stare. Do not gaze out the window or up at the ceiling. Poor eye contact communicates diminished interest, poor self-esteem and lack of confidence. You can show interest by sitting up straight and leaning slightly forward. Slouching may be interpreted as boredom, disinterest or poor health. Fidgeting or continuously glancing at your watch could send a message that you are nervous, disinterested, or that you have something more important to do. It might also appear that you are not being honest. What do you do when you are nervous? Check your habits and posture and make any necessary corrections.

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What to Bring

Take several copies of your resume with you. If the company still uses hard copy applications, one copy can be attached to the application for the work history section to save time. If the company has a PC or terminal set up, you will have a copy to reference for the work history including past dates of employment. You may also wish to provide additional or unexpected parties to the interview with a copy. Producing an extra copy indicates that you are prepared and efficient. During the interview, it is helpful for you to access your resume as the interviewer refers to items contained therein. It is also a good idea to prepare a list of references to bring with you in case you are asked for them at the end of the interview. The list should include name, title, and contact information, and should be kept separate from your resume.

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Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts

DO: Research the company before the interview
Plan a list of questions to ask in the interview
Practice your background presentation verbally
Review and be familiar with your resume
Use favorable internal references
Rehearse answers to frequently asked questions
Have a quiet background for telephone interviews
Call if you are going to be late or need to reschedule
Wear appropriate attire
Take breath mints with you for the day of the interview
Finish the breath mint before you walk in
Take two or three extra copies of your resume with you
Use a firm handshake (check for sweaty palms first)
Cross legs at the ankles (ladies)
Maintain good eye contact
Maintain good posture
Express willingness to learn
Express interest for the position during the interview
Answer questions concisely
Take notes and document the names of the people you meet
Write a thank you letter after the interview



Use call waiting during a telephone interview
Be late
Fidget and wiggle around in your seat
Keep checking your watch
Sit down until you are asked to have a seat
Slouch in your chair
Assume, ask the question
Order alcoholic beverage
Talk with your mouth full of food
Smoke, even if they offer
Chew gum
Misrepresent your abilities
Misrepresent your current compensation
Use she said/he said in your explanation
Tell negative stories about current employer
Walk behind while on tour; walk next to them (when there is room)

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Questions you should be prepared to answer

The following questions are some of the more frequently asked in an interview. The number one secret for responding to any question is quite simple: provide enough information and detail to justify the answer. Rather than "Yes, I have", include examples of projects, detail that includes the number of years or percentage of time spent on that task, and where you were employed when you performed that function. If you have answers ready for some of the typical questions, you will not hesitate on every response. Rehearse the answers aloud, write them down, and read them for a higher rate of retention. If you are prepared, you will be more relaxed and confident.
Remember that the interview is a presentation.

Why are you leaving your current position?
The best strategy for answering this question is simplicity. Be brief and concise and keep details to a minimum. Remain unemotional and do not elaborate with names. Sharing too many negatives creates the impression that you may be difficult to manage, or that you are a malcontent. Keep in mind that you do not need to be escaping negatives to make a career change. The best response is to discuss your goals and how these goals cannot be met in your current organization. Rather than looking back, you are looking to the future.

Why were you terminated (if applicable)?
Rehearse your response with a partner who will listen as a potential employer would. Again, honesty is the best policy. Give enough detail to prevent speculation on the part of the interviewer, take responsibility (if appropriate) and share the lesson learned. Example: If you were terminated because you printed off the entire payroll list and passed it around, you might say, "I shared payroll information with peers, but I understand now the ramifications of sharing confidential information. I have learned a difficult lesson and I will never make that kind of mistake again". The answer should be concise with no long stories or a lot of detail implicating other individuals.

Why were you let go (if applicable for downsizing)?
Your response should include the total number of people, or the percentage of employees who were eliminated. Before you leave the company, ask several people in authority (who are familiar with your work) to provide letters of recommendation. Having real numbers and letters of recommendation will justify the downsizing response.

What are your goals?
The strategy here is to define short and long-term goals that avoid any miscommunication of your current intentions. If you are interviewing for a position as a Programmer Analyst and you say that your goal is to be in management, the hiring authority may assume your goals do not match the position he/she is offering. Split the answer into short and long term goals. Take into consideration the potential company's ability to meet those goals. Ask questions that identify their ability to meet your goals. Avoid saying statements like, "I plan to be self- employed in two years". Some acceptable personal goals might include desires to settle down by sharing plans to marry, start a family or purchase a home. A personal goal concerning continuing education coupled with career goals would be appropriate and speak to the issue of your willingness to learn and better yourself.

What are your strengths?
The strategy for this answer is to choose assets applicable to the position for which you are applying. Example: For a Help Desk Manager position, sample strengths to mention might include problem solving, the ability to calm an angry person, asking appropriate questions to identify the problem, follow through, communication skills, listening skills, and documentation. You might choose an issue for which a past supervisor praised you during a performance review. Be confident about what you know and do well. The ability to discuss your strengths without seeming egotistic is an important skill.
If the new position requires very different skills than those you have used previously, try to identify a relation to the skills of the new role.

What are your weaknesses?
This is the number one dreaded question. No one wants to expose his/her negative side to a potential employer. One strategy that works well for this question is to choose a weakness that could also be considered a strength. Example: "I am a perfectionist and sometimes I expect too much of others and myself." "I work too much! I am so focused that I have to make myself go home and relax."
A second approach might be to consider previous employment performance reviews. Has a supervisor suggested some areas that need strengthening? Have you done anything to make changes or improvements in those areas? As you talk about the issue mentioned in your performance review, discuss briefly the steps you took to make improvement. This second method tells the interviewer that you are mature and able to accept criticism and take corrective action.
If you are weak in a particular skill, honesty is always the best policy! Don't exaggerate when discussing your abilities. At some point in the interview, you may be asked to substantiate your skill responses and you will be unable to do so. If questioned about a skill you don't possess, respond positively by expressing your willingness to learn. Example: "I have not had the opportunity to use that skill, but I am confident I can learn it in a short amount of time."

What do you like most about your current position?
Find something positive to say. Select a task or skill that may have relevance to the new position. Example: "I especially enjoy contact with customers."

What do you like least about your current position?
Be succinct. Avoid sharing all of the negatives about your environment or management. Choose a response that speaks to your career objectives. Example: "My current position limits my opportunity to learn new skills."


What salary are you expecting?
This is usually an uncomfortable questions. Above all, be honest about your current compensation. How much information you have before the interview dictates strategy. Generally, in the art of negotiation, he who speaks first loses. DO NOT state a range or a specific amount. On the application blank "Salary Required", simply write, "open" or "negotiable". That response will place the issue back on their side of the negotiating table. Why is this important? If you state; AI will accept between $50K and $60k", they have no reason to offer you more than $50k. If you state an amount that is well above what you would accept, you may not receive an offer at all. If the amount you state is lower than what they had in mind, they will offer the salary you requested. So what do you say? Examples: "You are in a much better position than I am to assess my worth to the company." " I would accept a fair and reasonable offer." "I will consider your best offer." "What figure did you have in mind?" "I am currently earning $55,000. What starting salary did you have in mind?" "I would like the opportunity to reflect on all the information I have gathered here today before I answer that question." "I would need more information about benefits and incentive plans to answer that question." Choose responses that are most comfortable for you, depending on your negotiating skills and confidence level about the salary discussion. Rehearse and memorize three or more answers so you are prepared for a hiring authority that is intent on getting you to state a specific amount.

We all want to be paid what we feel we are worth, or at the very least, market value. In order to estimate market differences in locales, visit the link to homefair .com and use their salary calculator to learn what a lateral salary would be in the new area. If the new location has a significantly higher cost of living, share the disparity with the interviewer. This will provide you with a starting point for the salary discussion.

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Questions you should ask

The only stupid questions I ever heard is "Honey, what time did you unplug the clock?" If it is important to you, then it goes on your list. Your list of questions should include anything that you need to know to make an informed decision about an offer of employment from that company. Create an outline to use in the interview. Organize your questions from general to specific and by category: company questions, departmental questions, specific position questions, and benefit questions. You should research the organization for your own information, but also to help you formulate intelligent and relevant questions. Benefit concerns are best addressed to the human resource representative or after an offer is made. Benefits are only important if/when you receive an offer or during offer negotiation. Address questions specific to the position (day to day duties or departmental environment) to the immediate supervisor/manager. Reserve "big picture" questions (company revenue/performance, company direction, strategic plans, products or services) for upper management.
The following questions may help you get started. Speak carefully and listen carefully!

Company Questions:

Some of these questions could be answered through your own research prior to the interview.
1. The company's primary source (s) of revenue
2. The company's annual sales last year and the disparity in previous years.
3. Their mission statement
4. Their goals and objectives
5. The business philosophy and a brief description of its corporate culture
6. The general makeup of its clientele, (businesses, consumers, or military)
7. The key industry or industries
8. The number of employees, and whether this number is growing or shrinking
9. Location of major plants and offices (national and international
10. Their standing or ranking within their industry
11. Their major competitors
12. Their general reputation
13. Any unique or innovative products or services they offer


Departmental Questions:

1. What areas do you manage?
2. In which department will I work?
3. How many people are in this department and how many on my team?
4. What are the skill levels of the team members and what are their responsibilities?
5. From whom would I receive direction on a daily basis?
6. Will I be assigned a mentor?
7. What changes are expected in this department over the next year?
8. What changes in technology are planned over the next two years?
9. How would you describe your management style?

Position Questions:

1. Outline for me the responsibilities of this position.
2. What projects and/or problems would you need me to address right away?
3. What would be my primary area of responsibility?
4. Describe the normal three-month acclimation period.
5. What duties/projects would I work on within the first six months to a year?
6. Will I have the opportunity to learn any new technology and what is your training process?
7. Tell me about your performance review program.
8. What criteria are used to assess performance for this position?
9. What are the possibilities for advancement from this position?
10. When would the first salary review and increase occur?
11. What percentage of time will be spent traveling?
12. In an average week how many hours of work are expected?
13. How do you handle overtime?

Benefit Questions:

1. What medical plan(s) is offered? Is it a major medical, HMO, PPO, self-insured, or is there a choice?
2. What is the cost of my monthly contribution?
3. Is there a waiting period before coverage begins? (Preexisting conditions are no longer a concern, insurance companies must cover it all.)
4. Does the company offer Dental, Optical, or Long Term Disability and what is my cost?
5. Do they offer a 401k plan and is it a company-matched fund? When would I be eligible to sign up and what do they match?
6. Is there a pension plan and how does it work?
7. How many paid holidays are there?
8. When would I be eligible for vacation and how does it accrue?
9. Are there any paid sick/personal days?

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Follow-up letter

The follow-up letter is a wonderful tool. Thanking them for the opportunity to interview is the catalyst for the letter, but it can communicate so much more than just "thank you". It is an opportunity to communicate why you are a fit for the position and why you are interested. You may be the first candidate interviewed and this helps to keep you in the forefront of their minds.

Joe Director
ABC Company
22 Work Way
Any City, IN 46802

Dear Joe,

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the Systems Administrator position. I am confident my prior experience will allow me to be immediately productive in this role. Having spent ten years supporting the AIX operating system and networks, I feel I bring the expertise to the department that you need at this time. The strategic direction for new technology that you outlined fits my career goals and I hope to be working with you in integrating the new technology into your environment. If there is any further information you need from me to complete your selection process, please let me know.

Truly yours,

Jane Doe

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Resignation Letter

You do not have to share the information about where you are going or the salary amount you accepted. It is best to avoid sharing all of the problems you identified with the company or the management. You may need them in the future as a reference and it is best to leave on favorable terms. The sample letter below will help you avoid the uncomfortable counter offer sessions and leave the company with a positive image. If your employer persists in asking you to reveal information about your new situation, you may tell them that the opportunity is advancing your career and you will not change your mind. This sample reiterates the positive and negates the negative. Avoid using words like regretfully which might encourage a counter offer. You are moving forward in your best interest.

Joan Supervisor
ABC Company
22 Work Way
Any City, IN 46802

Dear Joan,

Thank you for all of the support and assistance you have provided during my employment with ABC Company. Our relationship is one that I value and I am thankful for the opportunity to have been associated with you and ABC Company. However, I am resigning my position effective December 31, 1999.

I will be happy to assist however possible to ensure a smooth transition with my departure. Thank you for the many opportunities afforded me during my employment.


John Doe


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Counter Offer

It may be more comfortable to stay in your current position than it is to make a career change because of the many unknowns about a new opportunity. A counter offer allows you to retreat to the comfort of the familiar and escape from the fear of the unknown. The recognition and kudos received during the counter offer process can create a warm and fuzzy feeling and/or be emotionally taxing. "Gee, I didn't know how much they really needed me or appreciated me. How much more can I make and keep my tenure?" Most often, the counter offer is a temporary "Band-Aid" as statistics indicate that those who accept the counter offer leave the company voluntarily or are terminated within six months to a year later. Seriously consider why you were originally choosing to seek other opportunities and remember that when the current opportunity is gone, it is gone. Some other issues to consider before accepting a counter offer:

1. The real reason(s) you wanted to leave in the first place will still exist.
2. Your loyalty will now be under scrutiny. (Now who will get that great project or promotion?)
3. If the company needs to downsize, who will go first?
4. Your relationships with managers and co-workers will always reflect your attempt to leave, and never be the same.
5. Many companies extend the counter offer and then immediately start a search to replace you.
6. Where do you think the money comes from for that nice increase? Usually it is your next raise early. (All companies have budgets.)
7. You made a decision in your best interest and now you are allowing the company to change your decision by offering you promises of increases, or maybe a promotion which were only offered to you because of your resignation. If you accept a counter offer, don't count on a resignation threat to generate a second counter offer. (What will you have to do next time for your contributions to be recognized?)

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Plebullt.gif (1232 bytes)  LINKS

Offers many resources to help with a move, including a salary calculator, reports on local schools and side-by-side city comparison including population statistics, a crime index, cost of living analysis and major employers.
Locate a new home to buy or an apartment to rent.

Relocation Services
Works with candidate to assist in the relocation process and provides a detailed cost of living analysis between locations. Email for information.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter
An online personality temperament test.

Interactive maps and driving directions are just two of the many things this site offers.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Use this site for help with spelling and grammar to complete your resume.

Weather Channel
Considering relocation? Learn about a location's climate at this site.

U.S. Postal Service
This site can help you locate an address or zip code.

Thomas Register of American Manufacturers
This site can help you learn more about a specific company.

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