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How to Get Through the Job Interview Process, Successfully

Don's life and work experiences over more than 50 years allow him to have an important perspective on many Political and Social issues.

Watch Out for the Snakes

Check the Water before you Jump In!

Check the Water before you Jump In!

Job Search Tips.

Finding that perfect job is tough anytime but the process is even harder when the job market itself seems to be dried up.

Although I am recently retired, I was a manager in both Manufacturing as well as R&D Engineering over the years, for my company (a leading global communications company) and finding the best person for the job was always a real task for me as my organization grew.

We were a very progressive company and we always searched for the absolute best talent for the job and we processed quite a few candidates for each and every opening.

Our HR department was plugged into all of the latest scouting and pre-selection tools and procedures in their attempts to get my fellow Managers and I the best and the most qualified applicants for every job opening.

Now, I won’t attempt to sit here and tell you all of the intricate ways for you to write a resume.

Nor will I tell you specifically what clothes to wear, or even how to structure your resume.

There are already too many people out there trying to make their own personal fortunes writing books and giving lectures to people who are hoping for an edge when they apply for a job.

So, I will just ignore those well-worn truths (and often stupidities) that you will find everywhere and just give you a few simple tips that I know of and/or have seen done, that might, that’s right, just might help someone looking for a job land an offer.


You probably already know this but your resume no longer needs to be a thing of Beauty, written on classic and expensive paper and formatted and structured so well that it makes people want to frame it and hang it on the wall.

Your resume needs to be packed with the right KEYWORDS.

Which Keywords do you use? Well, that depends on the industry that you are going out for a job in.

You see, most HR departments will either visually scan or have software that scans everyone’s resume for certain keywords as a first pass applicant screening tool.

Face it, you might be a great salesman, but a Manager, in say, a Manufacturing Quality organization will probably shoot an HR person who tries to get him/her and their fellow interviewers to spend time on someone with absolutely no experience in the field of Manufacturing Quality.

But, you probably already know that this kind of pre-screening goes on every day by HR people for pretty much every job out there.

Your resume needs to be short, written in a single font (it scans easier if you have used a simple and very popular font). And it must be packed with the keywords that are recognizeable as pertinet to the job opening.

If you are looking for a position in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering then you had better have such words as; “wrote patent on…..”, “designed widget for…..”, “tested and proved feasibility of new …..”, “reduced budget on project for ……”, “saved over $xxxxx dollars on project ….,” and so forth.

Read the job description and if this job is in your field of endeavor, then you will obviously understand what the person in this job will be doing, at least generally.

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And once you understand what the manager really wants in an applicant, then you should write a resume designed and focused on what that job is asking for.

Again, face it, the market is tough out there and to “shotgun” your generic resume out to dozens of relatively similar jobs is just not going to cut it anymore.

You need to have a resume that marches through the job description requirements, matching your own capabilities with each and every point listed. Your resume must be a "great fit" for the job opening.

But remember also, typically the HR person doesn’t have a clue what most of those words and phrases mean in the job description. So they are searching for the keywords in the resume that match those that the manager defined in the job description as well as others that were submitted.

The first thing to remember is that your resume first has to get past the HR person with those critical keywords.

Then, the interviewing manager and his/her team will actually get a copy of your resume (along with others who got through the first HR screens) to go over for yet another level of screening, before you are even considered for an interview.process.

From RESUME to PHONE Interview

My company, and all of the others that I know of, have an interview process that will include at least two phases.

The first phase of an interview is when the HR people have already screened out the bulk of the applicants with their own resume screening procedures.

At this point, if the stack of resumes is still large, they will get with the manager, and together they will spend a while tossing the resumes into three stacks; Yes, No and Maybe.

If the list of YES people isn't long enough the manager might, just might, pick one or two more resumes from the Maybe pile and add them to the Yes pile.

It really is that mundane and simple a process, and at this point your resume had better have those keywords in it, clear and simply stated, because the manager is not going to spend a lot of time reading through a lot of BS.

They only want great candidates and they don’t often have a lot of time to sort through a lot of grandiose verbage. They want to see facts, solid and impressive facts.

Once this is done the HR person really goes to work. They will confirm and clear up any points that they may have left open from when they did their other checks on you and then finally they get to your references.

If you don't have any references listed with your resume, they will make a note to get some from you when they do call you. So, you had better have your information on at least a couple of friends or co-workers that are willing to be called and questioned about you and your history in general.

Your references are very important and you need to select yours carefully. Essentially, you need people that will praise you and your work.

People that are going to use words like; OK, nice guy, did a fair job, I got along with him but I don't know about others, and worse, are not going to help your cause, so you need to pick people who know how to say the right things if they are going to be one of your references.


Then, finally, after these screens are performed and double-checked, and if your resume is still in the YES stack, HR will call you and begin the task of asking you lots of questions that they and the hiring manager have put together.

Some of these questions are more psychological and are designed to try and screen out; the murderers, the liars, the braggarts, the incompetents, etc., who might have put in for the job.

Others of the questions are designed to be literal checklist items for eliminating you if you do not meet some company criteria that isn't even hinted at in the job description.

And, a few will just be generic job related questions to see if you are the person described in the Resume.

Remember, it is an elimination process at this point, and you may get some strange questions thrown at you, so think before you answer.

A book on Job Interviews for Dummies

Phone Interview Skills

And, by the way, they don’t care; what race you are a member of, what your political affiliations are, if you are handicapped or disabled, and they are not supposed to ask you these things either under most circumstances..

Your mentioning them could possibly make them mad, because if it is not pertinent at that time then they will possibly have to make a ton of notes about how they didn’t ask you these things about yourself, but that you did mention it.

They will ask you the things they need to ask, and remember, this is what they are trained for, weeding out the applicants that will not fit into the company. So, be careful what you say to this person, they will latch onto anything strange that comes out of your mouth.

Also, during this phone interview, you should come across as intelligent, affable, competent, friendly and honest, along all of those other traits that will make them think that you will make a great addition to their company.

Here are a few hints for the Phone interview:

  • Don’t tell jokes yourself, but laugh at theirs if they tell one. Do not judge, even if you don't like the joke, laugh, at least a little. You can kill your chances with a negative remark.
  • Be in a quiet room for the phone interview without background noises like kids, bar sounds, etc.
  • Take notes so that you do not have to ask the same questions over and over.
  • Know what salary you desire as well as what salary you will accept before the phone interview. The HR person is going to get that window defined, if you are a real candidate. You can count on it.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, act desperate, in any way during this phone interview. Be professional and cooperative.
  • Do not go into details about your past job, other than what is asked of you. Most companies, if called by another about an applicant, will only confirm to another company representative that you did or did not work there. They will not give out details of any kind over the phone.
  • If asked, keep your answers simple and as vague as possible about why you were let go from your previous job. Things like; “I was caught up in a manpower reduction” or “Our company restructured and our design team wasn’t part of the new focus” or some other such statement will usually be acceptable. "The Boss hated me!" is not a good response.
  • If asked why you are still out of work or if you have had many interviews, respond with something like; “I just haven’t found a position yet where I was a good fit”. Do not use such excuses as; “I was called in for other interviews on several, but there were a lot of candidates and they didn’t work out for me”.
  • Be positive and upbeat. You might be out of a job, but you need to make them understand that you are ready to take on a position that is challenging and allows you to grow and enjoy your work.
  • Do not indicate, in any way that this job is not what you really want. no manager is going to hire someone who is so desperate that they are ready to "settle".
  • When asked if you have any questions, this usually means that their part of the questioning is over, and they are ready to wrap things up.
  • Be sure to ask a few questions about the job, the team, what their goals are, etc. Show interest with a few pertinent and intelligent questions.

· And, if it hasn’t already been mentioned by HR, you should ask about their benefits; Health Insurance, Retirement Plan, Savings and 401K plans, Vacation Plan, Work Hours, etc.

If they call you in later for face to face interviews, they will go over these in more detail then, but try to get a general feel for these items in the phone interview.

· Basically, you need to kiss the HR representatives butt in this phone interview, while at the same time not being so obvious about it.

By the time you hang up from the phone interview, you should have a feeling yourself about whether they think you might be a good candidate, just from how they talked to you.

Typically though, the HR person will tell you that they will be in touch later, generally within a week or two, to let you know if they are interested in you as a candidate.

The FACE to FACE Interview

One thing that you need to know and enjoy if you get to this point in the job process is, if a company calls you in for a face to face interview, then they are actually very interested in you for their opening.

You have already made it over a number of major hurdles by this point and you are a now viable candidate for their job opening.

Having candidates come in for interviews is a time consuming and expensive process, and only viable candidates are brought in for this final level of screening, so you need to prepare yourself.

The Internal interview process

Here are a few things that can help you stand out relative to the other candidates.

  • Research the company on the web and be prepared to ask questions and discuss general details about such things as; their products, their profits, their future plans for growth, etc.
  • If you live near where the company is, then drive by, and sit in your car and watch as people go in to work one morning, if you can. Do you see smiling faces, or people who are obviously dragging themselves in to their jobs?
  • Do you already know anyone who works at the company? If so, contact them and try to get a feeling from them about your potential boss, the job, the company, etc. You might be surprised about what you can find out to help you in getting the job. If you do know someone who works there, do not hesitate to ask if they could give a recommendation for you to your potential new boss.
  • Dress professionally! Do not overdress, but do wear appropriate clothes for an interview that are in good condition and that are clean and pressed.
  • Be Clean! Be freshly shaved if you are a man, wear deodorant and/or Cologne/Perfume, brush your teeth, and have breath mints with you, just in case.
  • You do not need for anything about your appearance to distract from the interview teams impression of you.
  • And have a clean handkerchief with you, just in case you need to sneeze, wipe your nose, or wipe away some nervous sweat. So many people forget this little fact, and end up embarrassing themselves.
  • Arrive with a small portfolio or folder where you can carry extra copies of your resume as well as a resume support document that has more detailed descriptions of your professional skills and accomplishments on past jobs. Questions about these details might come up during your interview and it is always handy to have such data on a document that you can leave with the interviewers, especially the interviewing manager.
  • You might be doing a lot of sitting around during the day, so be prepared for this. Dress comfortably and do not look bored or nervous. Try to project the impression that you have just sat down and are ready to go at any time.
  • Do not eat anything that might upset your stomach and do not drink a lot of water the day before. You do not want to be running to the bathroom in the middle of an interview.
  • Each interviewer will be different.
  • Some will see the interview as a disruption to their work and will try to get the interview over with as quickly as possible. Just try to make a good impression with even these people.
  • Some will grill you and even possibly test you during their interview so be reasonably prepared for such.
  • It is highly unlikely that everyone that interviews you is going to like you. Personalities vary, but also, at times you may be interviewing for a job that perhaps one of the interviewers really wanted for themselves. Or, sometimes, before the first word is spoken, they have already decided that you are not right for the job. You just need to go into each interview and sell yourself the best you can with each interviewer.

Inappropriate Questions during an Interview

All interviewers are not trained well in how to do the job properly and sometimes one of them will slip up and ask a question that they should not ask.

If it is a personal question, visibly squirm a little and politely avoid giving an answer.

If it is an inappropriate question, that has nothing to do with the job interview, just do the same and try to get through the interview without displaying any negative emotions.

You do not need to answer such questions, but you do need to get the job. So, hope for the best, if this does happen.

If you get an inappropriate question, do not mention it during the interview process, but note the information about the interviewer and the question asked, and wait until you know whether you got the job or not.

Then, contact the HR representative and let them know the details. Do not kill your job opportunity with a complaint until you know whether the job is yours or not.

The Follow UP or Dinner Interview

With many companies, the manager may review all of the data from their interview with you and decide that you are a very strong candidate, often along with at least one other candidate, and they may invite you in for yet another set of interviews with their boss or bosses.

If you are brought in to interview with upper management, be prepared to participate in a more Social interview. By this time, they have already determined that you have the skills and background for the job, from the previous interviews, now they want to know if you fit in with “the team”.

They might even want you to bring your spouse (if you have one) to a Dinner meeting.

If this happens, the spouse needs to remember that during such a dinner meeting they are actually an accessory at the meeting and you are the main attraction.

So be sure that you both do the following;

  • Neither of you should drink alcohol, unless they do, and then you should nurse your one drink through the dinner. Do not get this far in the process and end up loaded and making the Boss’ Boss mad.
  • Feel out everyone at the dinner as quickly as possible and use what you learn from the others to help you impress the Big Boss if possible. The Big Boss is the one that matters, throughout the evening. He is going to be the one that either; picks you, or your unknown competitor, for the job.
  • The most important person at the dinner is the Big Boss, but of course you need to work the actual hiring manager also.
  • The third most important person at the dinner is your spouse. Your spouse should be dressed discreetly and professionally, whether a male or female.
  • They should not drink anything if socially possible, or if they must, then they must stay clear headed and sober..
  • They should smile so much that their jaw hurts later. They should be prepared to take a part in the conversation but just enough to be polite. They should defer to you throughout the evening, whether they want to or not.
  • Any other people who are there are probably potential co-workers and will just be there for the free meal. But you should watch them carefully for any signs that they might not like you. If you see this happening, subtly attempt to mend any fences you might have broken with them.
  • They will let you know when the Dinner is over, and until then, you should be at your best socially; smiling, polite, tell a couple of jokes if the situation calls for it, eat your food slowly, do not spill or drop anything, and try to be everyone’s friend.

A Dinner meeting is a tough thing to get through, but you just need to project to everyone that you (and your spouse, if there) are very comfortable in a social environment and that you can carry your own with upper management. They often just want to se that you would represent the company well with vendors and even customers.

Relax and just Do Your Best.

There are a lot of other scenarios that I could mention, but here are the major things that a candidate for a job should be sure that they know how to manage when they go through the interview process for a job.

The key thing about your search for a job is to recognize that you will probably not get the first job you apply for.

You may go through a number of applications before you get to the actual interview process, and you can end up dropping by the wayside during the screening process more than once.

All you can really do, when you lose out on a great opportunity, is to start over with the next good job you see advertised; and attack ot with the same zest and vigor that you applied to each of the others.

Often, just perseverance and the right attitude will get you into the right job that fits you and your career goals.


How to prepare for an Interview

How to Survive an Interview

Classic Job Interview Questions

After the Interview - Follow-Up

Don Bobbitts Authors Page

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Maria Alibusa on July 01, 2020:

Thanks for the tips, I found it very helpful.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on April 15, 2020:

Carrie - I found that the people interviewing for a technical job like the ones I managed would often prefer to interview me for what my likes and dislikes were rather than try to get me to talk about what I and my team actually did. It was if they felt; if they could find out what I liked; say Golf, then they had a good chance of getting a job with me and they would not even pitch their skills to me.

But you're right, experience sells a candidate before one with no experience in a job interview. No manager wants to pay a new person to be trained for 6 months because they have NO experience when they can hire one who is ready to walk into a job and start being productive right away.

Have a Great Day,


Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on April 15, 2020:

I loved this article !! A condensed and well flowed peice. I have been out of the ball game for some time and still am employed, but I like to keep my options open. I had an automated interview about two weeks ago and it was like talking into an answering machine. It was uncomfortable. Thank u for reminding to use key words. It seems like they are not interested in how many years experience u have if u do not use their key words :)

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on September 18, 2018:

Thanks Tim, I appreciate your kind words, and just re-reading my article made me have a few flashbacks.

Your articles are good reading and I hope you keep up the good work.


Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on September 16, 2018:

Hi, Don,

I enjoyed this article immensely, You speak the language of work fluently and with dedication to the topic. I particularly like where you mentioned "do not act desperate" during the phone interview. Believe me, I've seen some of my clients from the past do just that.

But your information is great for anyone seeking work.

Thank you.

I'm glad I found this article.

Much respect and admiration,



Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on April 25, 2013:

bydojo- Thanks for the comment and the kind words about my article. I hope is is helpful to others that are stymied by the whole "interview" process.

Good luck on your writing adventures.


Ramona Jar from New York on April 25, 2013:

Absolutely great information. It's been years since I was at an interview (am running my own small business now), but what you write here is TRUE. I didn't know back then, but I applied most of the stuff here and it worked like a charm. I applied twice in my life for a job and got it every time. Loved the article.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on January 17, 2013:

Frances Barlow- I am so glad that you liked my Hub, and I hope it was of some use to you i your search and interview process.

As to your question? There are so many reasons for these internal delays that it is always hard to figure your real status out.

I can only say that with what you described from your interview as well as the post-interview talk about salary, etc. I would assume that you are one of their top contenders. All I can suggest is patience and maintain your confidence that you are up there in the finalists.

Good Luck,


Frances Barlow on January 16, 2013:

Thank you for all the great info and support from this site. I have already been through the interview process and left the interview with positive thoughts and comments. The two people I interviewed with left me feeling like I had the job and were interested in my qualifications. We talked about hours and salary. I felt confident that I was able to appropriately answer their questions. I was told they needed to talk in private and would get back to me by the end of the week. I of course understood. I sent a brief thank you letter to both interviewers. I have not heard from the regional manager. It has been seven days since the interview. I did call yesterday and the manager was not available. So the receptionist gave him the message. I am stumped how to proceed. How long do I wait to call back to follow through? Thank you!

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on January 04, 2013:

shiningirisheyes - good story. And, you know from your experience that even though the process has holes in it, eventually it comes down to the old one-on-one.

Thanks for the comment.

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on January 04, 2013:

Great advice Don - especially with the current job market crisis. In my old career, we spent many long hours going through the stacks of resumes. As you probably are aware, a few always manage to pass every level of the interview process and end up sitting in front of you for a final interview. I could not believe my ears when the gentleman I was interviewing responded to my inquiry as to what made him interested in our company with "My Mom told made me." Yup - true story. I also hope his Mom wasn't too hard on him when he told her he didn't get the job!

My thought as I shook his hand? "Your Mom did me a BIG favor!"

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on December 31, 2012:

Thanks debbiepinkston for your kind words.

I was talking to a friend whw was looking for a new job and we started laughing about someof the interview gaffs we had witnessed, and I thought the subject could use a new Hub from a Hiring Managers perspective rather than from some "expert".

Thanks again for the kind words.

Debbie Pinkston from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas on December 30, 2012:

Don, you have provided some excellent advice for job seekers. I'm not looking for a job but I know that those who are will welcome all the good advice and information you have. Thank you!

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