Interviewing Tips

by Jeffrey Jonas

Greetings to all the NJIT Speed Networking folks!
It was a joy meeting so many enthusiastic, motivated students and networking with my fellow NJIT alumni. This web page is my way of sharing all I can about effective interviewing.
Please help improve this with your comments to (remove zzz for address).

NJIT's CDS (Career Development Services) is a WONDERFUL resource for students & alumni, staffed by friendly & knowledgeable folks.

When I started computer consulting, one of the fine things the consulting company did for us consultants was a week long course "how to interview".
Rick Reid's mock interviews were wonderful for the individual and personalized feedback.
Most of my notes are just to myself (don't figit, don't stare at shiny things, put the toys down!)
but I'll "reverse engineer" them to make them more useful to you.

I'd summarize it in 2 parts: WHAT you say and HOW you say it.

HOW you say it


Before the interview


During the interview

Show how YOU CAN PRIORTIZIE your task at hand (the interview) and wisely use the precious little time & attention you're given!

  1. You'll usually first have to sign-in at the front desk with a receptionist or security.
    BE COURTEOUS and go into "data mining" mode: perhaps they have important information such as how many others have interviewed, if the people you're about to see are in a rushed or relaxed mood, etc. (I'm reminded of the PBS NOVA show "The Echoes Of War" where the general's secretary warned folks "you might not want to see him right now" when he was in a bad mood. It's your job to gather all useful clues and heed their warnings)

    READ ALL NOTICES on bulletin boards, even the bathroom. I found some product notices and tech info posted in the bathroom, intended for tech employees.

  2. Most of the time the first person encountered during the interview process is personnel/Human-Resources.
    Here's my personal checklist of things to handle at that time:

    1. Ask about their ground rules for interviewing:
      Who will you see?
      How much time per person?
      What is each person's role in interviewing?

      Large companies tend to have this already printed out for you.
      For example, one person may be ONLY giving you a technical quiz. Don't waste their time with anything else! (only once you've passed the quiz, if time permits, ask them about working there, what's their assignment, what's the project, what part is being offered to you).

    2. Do NOT ask about benefits, time off, etc.
      There will be plenty of time for that once you're hired.
      Just accept any brochures or literature offered and READ IT LATER!

    Many times, the H-R representitive is a "gate keeper": there solely to screen OUT candidates. Your job is to GET THRU THIS STEP AS QUICKLY AND EFFICIENTLY AS POSSIBLE. Save your efforts for the folks making the hiring decision.

  3. There's usually an escalation of people you meet, starting with team members, working up to project manager, dept head, etc.

    The first people you meet should brief you about the company and the project at hand, where they think you'll fit in. With each successive person, YOU ought to spend LESS time learning about the company and either refining that knowledge or applying it

    eg: I'm really excited about the foo product, but I'm unsure how it's different from bar (so tell me more)

    eg: I've learned a lot from Mr Foo about the Bar process.
    Ms. Baz elaborated with details how the xyzzy group tests it
    [show what you learned during the interview, say all the names of the people you met, pronouncing them correctly]
    That is something that greatly interests me and I'd love to be part of your group!
    [yes, a sales pitch: say how you're really IN LOVE with specific things about the job being offered]

Following Up

Like bookends, the cover letter initiated interest in your application, and the followup letter shows you're interested in following thru.
Send the thank you letter to the all the people you met, thanking them for their time and consideration.
I like to summarize what I learned from the meeting and any afterthoughts such as questions that came to mind on the way home.
I'll be honest: many companies don't show any consideration for their interview candidates and won't reply.
But that's no excuse for lack of manners or courtesy on your part.
Some people may intentionally withhold their phone number or email to avoid further direct contact. But you had to contact somebody to get the interview, so have them relay the thanks to the interview team.

Writing your resume

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.
The people reading your resume are an impatient lot.
They'll barely give you even a full minute and won't give a second chance.
Make the most of it and LEAVE THEM WANTING FOR MORE without being TOO BRIEF.

I have several versions of my resume on my web site: in plain text (to view directly from the web site) and in "word" format (as required my many recruiters) for both: There's no concensus as to the ideal length for a resume. Some say 2 pages no matter what. I've heard that enough times that I finally gave in and edited, revised, hacked and trimmed my resume to 2 pages (despite 20+ years experience!) but offer the full length version also (on my web site, which is on all resumes and correspondences). I feel it's too terse but if that's what people insist on getting, I'll comply.

Some employers will web-search for you before the interview, particularly for FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social media.
If you have a web site, keep it professional! No facebook, No LiveJournal (unless it's appropriate for your profession, such as an artist's portfolio).

Using an email address that's ONLY for interviewing may help protect your privacy, and help you give priority to all job-related emails, keeping them totally separate from everything else. But be aware that some folks don't take kindly to free email providers such as AOL or hotmail. Using an email address that conveys professionalism helps, such as your own domain (they're cheap from, or via a professional society (such as ACM, IEEE).

Resources and References

These are the books I keep re-reading to keep myself sharp and ready:
  1. Martin Yate's Knock 'em Dead series of interview books are the best for up to date information about the entire interview process from cover letter and applications to anticipating all sorts of interview situations to followup letters. Highly recommended reading for all the useful examples of cover letters, resumes, interview questions and the best ways to answer them (particularly trick questions intended to make you fail). I'm cheap and only bought the book. The web site lists workshops but I'm always scared by such expensive things.

  2. How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie is essential reading for effectively showing interest in others and eliciting positive responses. Dale Carnegie Training offers courses too (but I've never taken any).
    first published in 1936, which has sold many millions of copies. It was a New York Times best seller for 10 years. This book appeals to people who want to change their life and gives tips and strategies for communicating with people. In contrast with some modern theories of psychology, which emphasize autonomy, self-expression and assertiveness, it echoes Lord Chesterfield's view that pleasing others is both a duty and a paradoxical route to personal success.
  3. An interesting companion to writer's guide "The Elements Of Style" is
    The Elements Of Resume Style: Essential Rules And Eye-opening Advice For Writing Resumes And Cover Letters That Work
    by Scott Bennett. It is a small, non-threatening concise guide to writing resumes and cover letters.
    Available at I got mine for $5 at New York's Strand Books.

Other people have recommended:
  1. What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles.
    I'm unsure how this compares to Yates for effective job hunting. Both are listed as "recommended reading" on and
    Citing the author's web site
    This site is designed as a supplement to my book…It will be particularly helpful if used along with that book, as there is much that is covered there that I cannot cover here.
  2. Keith Ferrazzi's Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time and Who's Got Your Back
  3. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard, Spencer Johnson.
  4. "Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies" and "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't" by James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras
  5. Toastmasters International teaches folks how to be comfortable with public speaking, addressing large audiences, etc.

Essential Writer’s Tools

I was forced to use some of these books when writing term papers, but when it's not homework writing can be fun and enjoyable!

Non-Essential Writer’s Tools

These are books for enjoying the English language.
Updated March 15 2010 by (remove zzz for address).