May / June 2017

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Repeat.

David G. Smith

Hi David, I've had several interviews, but have yet to receive an offer. What could I be doing wrong?

Interviewing repeatedly without receiving an offer can be humbling. Let’s walk through some questions to assess where you might be able to improve.

Were You Prepared?

The most important thing you bring to an interview is confidence, and that’s a product of preparation. Interviewers expect you to have done your research. Did you visit the company website? Did you find out as much as you could about the people you’d meet? Did you review their LinkedIn pages to understand what they do and the role they play in relation to the position?

Having the right materials handy also demonstrates organizational skills and your interest in the position. Did you have copies of your resume, a list of references, and appropriate supporting documents (such as a recommendation letter)? Did you bring a copy of the interview agenda—including the names and titles of people you’d meet? Did you print a copy of the job description? How about something for taking notes, or a list of prepared questions?

What Did You Say Without Speaking?

Your interview starts the moment you arrive on site. Did you park in the appropriate location? Did you show up on time with enough leeway to check in with security or the receptionist? Did you greet each person you met with a smile and respect? The first impression you make can greatly influence the hiring decision.

The most important thing you bring to an interview is confidence, and that’s a product of preparation.

In a face-to-face interview, nonverbal communication is critical. Did you greet each interviewer with a good handshake and a smile? Did your posture, style, eye contact, and body language reflect your enthusiasm for the job? Using a positive tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining good eye contact, and leaning toward the speaker all demonstrate engagement.

Your appearance is the first thing people notice about you, and the way you dress shows respect for the opportunity, interviewer, and organization. Proper attire says that you’re eager to make a good impression and fit within the company culture.

Did You Provide Good Answers?

The content of your resume is usually what leads to an interview, and most interviewers use it to formulate questions. Did you think about questions that might be asked about your work history (employment gaps, reasons for changing jobs, etc.)? Were you prepared to provide detailed answers about your accomplishments and results? Were you able to discuss the scope and depth of expertise for the skills you listed?

Behavioral-based questions open the door for candidates to share how they work with others, handle adversity, and adapt to challenges. Were you too negative about a current or previous employer or colleagues? Did you talk about what you learned from experiences and discuss actions you took to produce a better outcome, or were you more focused on the others’ faults?

Not fully listening to questions is a sure way to miss context and the desired answer. Did you allow the interviewer to complete a question before planning what you were going to say? Interrupting or hijacking the conversation is another common problem for many candidates and a frequent area of frustration for interviewers.

Trust is a key factor in deciding which candidate to hire, and to establish trust you must be authentic. Did your responses give the interviewer a good sense of who you are? Did you say what you thought he or she wanted to hear or what you really believe? Interviewers can usually spot a canned answer, which can make them wonder what you are holding back. Think about how your answers can be less cookie-cutter and more representative of your true beliefs.

What You Should Do Next?

Interviewing is a learned skill. The more you practice, the more skilled you will become and better prepared you will be. Rehearse with a friend or colleague who can give you real, objective feedback. Reviewing possible questions, conducting mock interviews, and learning more about the organization are also good strategies.

As you conduct post-interview evaluations your confidence will grow, your verbal and nonverbal communication skills will improve, and you will understand your value to potential employers. By learning from your mistakes and successes, you will be more prepared the next time.

Thank you once again for your questions. I hope you will find this guidance helpful. If you are curious about other topics, please email me at, and I will likely answer in a future column.