Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts

Episode 3

Episode Overview

This episode is packed with vital information about how to land that dream job by sharing what you should and shouldn’t do during the interview process. Pete Newsome, host and President of 4Corner Resources, talks with Rebecca Totten, owner of HR Advisory Services and human resources expert, as she shares her thoughts on what can make or break a candidate during an interview. 

29 minutes

View transcript

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.


Pete Newsome 0:00

You’re listening to the higher calling podcast. Today, we’re going to share critical interview information that every candidate needs to know. Let’s go.

Welcome, everyone. And thank you for listening to Episode Three of the higher calling podcast. Today I’m joined by Rebecca Totten, who has more than 20 years of HR experience. And Rebecca, who’s with HR advisory services is here to give information today that will be helpful for interviews. So Rebecca, welcome.

Rebecca Totten 0:35
Thank you. Thanks for having me today. Exciting to be here.

Pete Newsome 0:38
Let’s just get right into it and start with, you know, what candidates should do in preparation for their for their interview?

Rebecca Totten 0:45
Yeah, absolutely. And I again, thank you for having me here. I do think a goal is going to be how do we stand apart because the numbers are what they are. Our competition as a candidate is going to be a lot greater. So hopefully some tips today to Let you get you to stand apart. So I think, you know, reviewing some common interview questions is kind of a given, right? Being prepared to share your strengths, maybe some areas that you need to work on leadership skills. So that really goes down to in my mind knowing your resume. As an HR experience person, I, it’s amazing to me that in interviews, I will ask a bullet point from a job, maybe two, three jobs ago, maybe their most recent job, and they really have a hard time explaining what they did, what the impact of the bullet point was, whatever that may be. It’s concerning. You wonder, okay, did you write your resume? Did somebody else write it for you? Are you just pulling a template and it’s not actual example. So even keeping notes on your resume, be able to speak to in sales, speak to your numbers, what you accomplished, your programs you used, you know, and making sure you know, your resume.

Pete Newsome 1:58
Well, there are a lot of folks were Right now getting help with writing the resume. And we talked on our previous episode about some, some resume tips, some some do’s and don’ts. But the the main point here is you have to take responsibility for anything that’s on your resume. And I can tell you that our team at four quarter resources, sees too often sees that people will you’re exactly what you’re saying that people can’t speak to the bullets on their own resume. Man, this is your story. So you better be able to speak to it without hesitation.

Rebecca Totten 2:32
Absolutely. And I one little nugget of information from an HR perspective. You know, there’s different kinds of interviews. So you’ll have screening interviews, where there’s like the initial phone interview, really high topical kind of just understanding your experience and the logistics is location work, things like that. Obviously in person, you’re going to go more into behavioral interviews or a technical interview depending on the role. So behavioral questions are really Where we have enjoyed getting to know what you’ve done. So not as much, what would you, you know, what would you do in the future? Or what do you think of the situation? Because most likely, you’re going to be able to come up with a pretty good answer. It’s more looking at what you’ve done. And explaining to me Tell me about a time when, where there’s team work, teamwork, or communication or a project management. And so an answer that we’ll go for is called a star. It’s a situation, task action result. And an HR you know, train, this is some of the interview training we’ve had, we want to understand you specifically, what you what role you played in that situation, what tasks you did to perform, you know, those that meet those goals, the actions and then the results and then it may be an unfavorable experience, because we’re going to ask some of those tell us about a time when you did not to dwell when you did not lead well if it’s a management position, but Understanding and being able to speak to your role is key, which goes back to the preparation. Because off the top of my head, I may not be able to think about some experiences and again, leadership, teamwork, communication, but if I think about my resume come up with some examples or some stories, I should be able to answer those questions or modify the answers.

Pete Newsome 4:21
So spend the time anticipating the questions that may be asked and how you’d answer them. That’s that makes perfect sense. Is it okay to write down those questions that appropriate to bring bring a notebook into the interview?

Rebecca Totten 4:33
Absolutely. Think so. And hopefully, that environment allows you, you know, to look down I’ve, I’d rather somebody say to, you know, let me go ahead and gather my thoughts for a minute and I you know, and that’s okay, we can pause and an interview. Or just let me take a minute. Great question. As a candidate, I would say that right. Great, great question. Give me just one second, maybe look at your resume. I think that’s fine. I think that’s works

Pete Newsome 4:57
perfect. And then so many of The things in the staffing world, I like that they just require some logic to be applied. And so if you’re going into an interview with a company who’s going to consider you as their next hire, it just makes sense for you to show interest ahead of time that you were prepared for that and, you know, I believe me in believe us, because I know Rebecca will agree with us that if you’re unprepared, it shows there’s no hiding that in an interview, especially when you’re being compared to potentially multiple candidates. Right.

Rebecca Totten 5:32
And I will say, I’ve seen that more often than not, unfortunately, whether it’s an administrative role a sales director role, a VP of operations, I’m just thinking of some examples now that and I we understand people are busy and their career but there’s absolutely time in the morning or at night to do some preparation and again, to our point, prepper, prepare your own resume your experience. Prepare some questions to ask the company. So you’re looking The company, do some research on the website, do some research on the news clips, see what’s on LinkedIn about them. So get to know the company common sense things, but they’re not always done. They really aren’t

Pete Newsome 6:12
know and and our team at four core resources is learn not to take these things for granted. So be sure you write this one down. Not only be prepared to speak to your own experience, but but be prepared to speak to the company you’re interviewing with and know the role that they play in the market. Understand the what the position is about at an intimate level. And it just like being prepared to speak to your own experience, if you haven’t done those things up front, it’s going to be pretty obvious to the person interviewing you.

Rebecca Totten 6:47
Even if you always say even if you don’t necessarily want the job, if it’s maybe not your top pick job. Oftentimes, there may be another job in the company that is open that you didn’t apply for or that there Thinking about with your skill set may fit in that or of course it goes back to networking they may have somebody that they know of that’s looking for somebody exactly what their skill set so don’t take that opportunity to interview for granted I guess even though it may not be your top number one job some people like I’ll just do it for the experience but you never know where that could go

Pete Newsome 7:18
Sure. Especially not right now in this market. Yeah, every interview should be taken very very seriously. Right? So once you get to that day, let’s talk about that a little bit. What What advice can you share for candidates who are going in to the interview on the day off?

Rebecca Totten 7:34
Yeah, I think similar preparation right having notebook and pens you know, keeping a another copy or two or a few of your resume. I don’t know if it’s as popular in my mind to do the fancy paper anymore Like we used to do back in the day. But having a resume that you can present and give to potentially a panel would you know want to each person may be good, but then your own resume right marked up as fine a list of references If it’s a licensed position or the portfolio type of support needed, you know, you have work samples or that sort of thing. I think that would be good to bring. Have your list of questions prepared for the interview, you may have time to ask it. You may not. But trying not to just ask, so when will I hear from you is better not to, you know, don’t just ask that let’s ask, you know, try to get your understanding of the job, what did they do their responsibilities? How will my responsibilities and performance be measured? Can you explain the organizational structure? What’s the company’s plan for the next five years, you know, try to have four to six, be able to ask four to six questions that you’re able to ask the candidate or the interviewer and recognize too, that you may have multiple interview interviewers, HR people or hiring managers. So you may want a couple for each one. So have that prepared to

Unknown Speaker 8:56
and as far as

Pete Newsome 8:59
the data Have this may be a virtual interview, but if it is in person, as Rebecca said, Bring a copy of your resume, it just shows that extra level of interest and care and thought ahead of time and when we’re talking so much about standing out from everyone else, it just gives you a little bit of an edge compared to others who may not do that. What about dress code? Let me ask you that because you see a lot of things on the internet today, there is there to be some, what I consider to be some irresponsible, and just, quite frankly, bad advice. It’s shared by folks who have a big following. And I’m going to talk in a future podcast about some of these folks I like to think of as LinkedIn heroes who want to portray a scenario where the candidate doesn’t have to do their best to, you know, in terms of how they dress, and showing up on time or early, which is on time for an interview. So to talk a little bit about that and how it’s perceived. From the interviewer standpoint, sure.

Rebecca Totten 10:03
So, you know, like you said piggyback on what you just said, plan your schedule to arrive early, making sure you’re there 10 to 15 minutes I don’t think and a half hour to an hour is appropriate to be there that early but you can always sit in your car. You know, go by yourself Of course it’s kind of common sense and to your point about attire. My, my experience and advice has always been to the first interview is your first impression, so to look professional to look the part now, if it’s a warehouse position, I still would recommend khakis and a nice shirt polo shirt buttoned down. If it’s even, you know, moving boxes, I wouldn’t necessarily come off your other potential construction job sweaty and that sort of thing and you’re dirty to interview I mean, I think if you can wear clean up a nice attire would be good. If it’s obviously a professional job. You know, I’m still with the business casual to professional now I there’s a lot of companies who are extremely casual and people know people within the company. So they’re saying, Oh, you can wear jeans and T shirt and you’re fine. In my mind and my recommendation I’d be curious Pete, if you what your thoughts are the first interview, I still would not do the jeans I would do the professional or at least business casual attire.

Pete Newsome 11:26
Absolutely. I would go we make an even stronger point there to say wear a suit if you have one. Even if it is a warehouse job. We have never seen anyone ruled out for being overdressed in an interview. And we’ve seen the inverse of that many times. So it is trendy to say that you can dress casually we’re all dressed pretty casually right now even though we’re in the office, but that’s because we’ve already gotten on the other side of the door. Right? we’ve we’ve we’ve earned the right to do that. And when you’re interviewing, you shouldn’t take anything for granted, that’s a word that keeps coming up. And I think it’s really appropriate in this scenario because you have to put your best foot forward and anything less than that is limiting your chance of success. It just is. So our team goes through a list of, of things with everyone in preparation for an interview, including being on time being if we advise everyone being at least 15 minutes early, and dressing as professionally as they possibly can. And we see that advice ignored way too often, and the outcome is not good. So don’t don’t don’t take a chance with that. Don’t listen to the advice of folks who, who aren’t in the position to do this professionally.

Unknown Speaker 12:45
dress as well as you can dress for the dress for the role.

Rebecca Totten 12:48
Now we’ve never ever said to somebody you’re too professional or had that thought afterwards like they were dressed way too professional. So that’s a great point. I definitely think that that is accurate and true. And you know, leave other This kind of some of the things on the day of the interview, leave your soda, your coffee, your is just your stuff your backpack. I mean, if you, you know, it’s kind of that same just think in a business suit your portfolio and yourself. You don’t need the drink you don’t if you have a cell phone, understandably we all do but turn it off to oftentimes it has interrupted our interviews and it’s an immediate even if it’s an emergency, and I hate to say that, but it’s an immediate, just gut check of what’s your priority? I mean, are you going to is your priority working here or checking your phone when we have a half hour

Pete Newsome 13:36
and don’t bring your phone or make sure you turn it off? If you’re coming in? And look, I mean, that’s the market has shifted drastically. So there there were opportunities to do all of these things and get away with some bad behavior or less than professional behavior when we were in the negative unemployment situation. That is We were just a few short months ago and specifically in Central Florida, where we are. And throughout most of the country, well that’s That’s no longer the case. So every job is going to be very competitive, or at least assume that it will be. And then, and then act accordingly. And well, you know, one more thing I just want to touch on that is has to do with grooming. Yeah. Don’t take any chances there. Yeah, there’s there’s a lot of talk. Again, I see this on LinkedIn often where the implication is that you shouldn’t have to be judged. Well, you are judged. Everyone who’s considering you for the role is judging every aspect of your behavior of your dress of your apparent appearance. And to suggest otherwise is just not is just doing you a disservice or to think otherwise. So you you can make that choice to not be judged. But just know that the employer is also making a choice whether to hire you and it’s probably not going to be favorable. If you if you know you really want your personality to shine and do things your way too much, versus, versus doing what the company expects, and quite frankly, what society expects in those situations, so just just know that every choice you make is going to have a big impact on the outcome. Yeah, it is just because

Rebecca Totten 15:19
and I think that also comes with displaying confidence. I think in nature. We know interviews are nerve racking, I mean, it’s it’s a common situation of nerves, and we as HR professionals, I hope you have somebody who tries to take the edge off a little bit, but do your best to display confidence, you know, have a smile on your face. You know, do we shake hands? Do we know that’s kind of a newer territory with this whole thing, but being and that’s really I would say, case by case. So I’m not going to weigh in too much whether you shake hands or not at this point, but maintaining eye contact, listening carefully, you know, giving direct answers I sometimes will have a candidate maybe For a more entry level position, who looks down the whole time we’ll look in our face. And it’s, it’s concerning. Even if it’s a position that they don’t interact with people, it’s a computer data driven position. I want to make sure they’ll be able to Team well and to be respectful and to have that confidence. So I think that’s important.

Pete Newsome 16:22
Yep. Yeah. And that’s a great point. So take it seriously, which is a message we’ve hopefully consistently delivered so far. But also be yourself too. And you while you’re being judged, you have the ability to judge the interviewer, the panel, whoever it is to make sure that it’s situation that you want to be in. So the main thing that we want to make sure everyone takes away from this is give yourself the best opportunity to be in position to make the choice and not have it made for you because of something you overlooked or because it could have easily corrected. So let’s let’s go on to In the next day we have, you know how the interview is going to come to an end eventually, right? You’ve been prepared. Well, you’ve you’ve answered the questions accurately and in let you know. Now you now you have to wrap up, right? What What advice do you have when when that time comes?

Rebecca Totten 17:20
You know, I think one of the key things is being being prepared to if you want the job to say it, I think that’s can be a key closer. Some people are uncomfortable doing that, but I think it’s fair to either. There’s different avenues you can go to close, right. You can restate anything you want them to leave with, oftentimes interviews, interviewers will say, Are there any ending questions or anything else that we didn’t forget? Or we forgot to ask that you want to share so feel free to take that opportunity to restate your strengths, some areas that you’ve excelled, something that you’ve learned through the interview, that you can now speak to I think that’s I love when candidates do that when they, you know, three questions after a different one. And they came back around and said, you know, well, I did have an experience that spoke right to what it shows they were engaged

Unknown Speaker 18:09
right and paid attention. And that’s a great sign.

Rebecca Totten 18:12
So definitely, you know, stay attentive through the interview, stay engaged and take notes. To Pete’s point earlier, you know, it’s okay to write them things down that they’re sharing with you and they should be sharing the job the company, so you can kind of reiterate that or summarize that. Again, a particular accomplishment or an activity that fits this job. And if you want the job I think you say it I mean, I think you close out I look forward to hearing from you this job sounds right. Like the next step in my career perfect opportunity to take my skills and you know, move forward. I’m going to be too cliche or to fake but I do think an appropriate closure is very professional.

Pete Newsome 18:52
Yeah, do be genuine. If that if you want the job, let them know. Don’t Don’t walk out that door with with having any Any doubt in the interviewers mind? And if you don’t, there’s no reason to say it if you don’t mean it, but in doing so we have one of the traits that just shines through with that exception is display of enthusiasm. And it’s something that I talk about a lot to my team probably ad nauseum, they get sick of hearing me, bring it up, but you just can’t miss that with someone when they show enthusiasm and energy. It just, it’s so noticeable. And it’s so rare, quite frankly, that you know, if you feel that show it it’s only gonna, it’s only going to serve you well.

Rebecca Totten 19:39
Well and look at HR we can train where, you know, our managers can train the skills we can train the systems, we can train the process where we are going to because our company is different than where you’ve worked. But to your point of the energy, that professionalism, just your confidence, the enthusiasm you have to work with our company is gonna give us the That fighting edge I agree.

Pete Newsome 20:01
And more often than people may realize we see candidates hired because of who they are their personality, their enthusiasm and energy, then maybe other more qualified candidates who just don’t display the personality traits that make them likable and that show interest. So there are sometimes being very experienced and knowing that you have the skills for a job can work against you, if you you forget that people still want to work around people they like. And to Rebecca’s point, they can teach you the job, they can teach you the individual aspects of the role, but they can’t teach drive and motivation and they can’t teach personality. So remember, remember that if you’re going into a job that you want, the take those things seriously too.

Rebecca Totten 20:55
And I think part of showing your personality is having the preparation done now. circle back to the beginning. But if you’ve done the preparation on the job on the company on yourself, and you’ve kept notes on your resume that you can speak to, then you can hopefully relax a little bit into just who you are because you’re going to be able to rely on your notes. It’s not all just up in your head five minutes before your interview, you’re trying to remember everything that’s not going to set you up well for your, you know, just being able to project that confidence and comfort with being there. And I think at the end, the final question I always like is, you know, when they make like when the employer plans to make a decision, when can I expect to hear from you? I I’m absolutely fine with that question. And I like that question because it shows you’re interested. Let’s talk about follow up.

Pete Newsome 21:40
That’s a great question. And I love when candidates asked me when when they can start right you know, that just that just puts it all on the table right there. And, you know, I like to think that I’m pretty adept at handling any any question that comes up as a longtime salesperson, but that one, you know, I better prepared Parents you better be on my toes. Yeah, absolutely. But I love it because it It shows what I want to see above all else which just interested in the role so I’ve taken the time to interview you candidates taking the time to participate let’s let’s not screw around with this thing. Let’s see if there there’s something’s gonna

Rebecca Totten 22:19
happen. Right? And you know, I think thank you note, I’m curious, get your thoughts on this, you know, but we rarely will see thank you notes anymore. And I feel like back in the day I used to send them handwritten. Now an email is sufficient. Hopefully in the interview, you got a business card or you obtained you can ask the HR person for their email addresses of the managers you met with or the people you met with. But I think sending a thank you card and letter within one to two days. I don’t think you do it from your car right after you leave, but give some time to process yourself. Maybe put a couple things in that thank you that you know, I that reference the interview and then content, maybe reiterate your strengths or reiterate how you are perfect for the job. And I think that’s key. And we don’t see it very often.

Pete Newsome 23:10
Nope. But I would highly recommend it. It is a little act that amounts to a huge differentiation, because it happens rarely. And I talk about this in the office quite a bit where when I’m approached, usually by a vendor, who wants to us to consider a product for them, the ones that write a handwritten note, I I’ll delete an email quickly. So I’ll say hey, let’s email just one, you know, push on the button. But I feel almost responsible to keep the handwritten note around for a while. So even if it’s someone I have no interest in following up with. I will keep that handwritten note because it’s meaningful and it certainly raises their status in my mind. So even if I otherwise wouldn’t have followed up and would have deleted you know that sales email quickly. I’ll keep the handwritten note around and I have one on my desk right now. But, you know, just when it was sent with the card, it was a quick thank you to took the center just a couple of minutes. But it the impact of that it just stands out.

Rebecca Totten 24:10
Right? It slows the person can read your handwriting because that can be right. If it’s just chicken scratch, that’s not ideal, but no, I totally agree. I’m really

Pete Newsome 24:19
glad you brought that up because it’s like so many of the things that we’ve talked about today, it’s a matter of choice. And yeah, those who choose to just do these little extra things will certainly stand out. Right.

Rebecca Totten 24:30
And I think from there people asked to be curious, your thoughts on when to follow up from there. So they say okay, I interviewed I sent a thank you. I haven’t heard from them. And my advice I think some employer you know, some advice will say don’t follow up, they’ll call you. Others I’m more vote once a week unless I’m told otherwise, if I specifically tell the candidate from an HR perspective, if I tell the candidate Hey, look the positions on hold for three 30 days, then we will get back to you then please don’t follow up every week. Right? But if you don’t, if I don’t give you that kind of guidance, that and that’s gonna be an email I have in my mind, it’d be an email just checking on the position I interviewed on this day, curious made decisions can have been made, is there any more information I can provide? That kind of?

Pete Newsome 25:18
So I think that’s an add on to the end of the interview where ask them in that moment, you know, when should I expect to hear from you or when would it be appropriate to follow up? And the answer that I would give, also would differentiate a little bit depending on whether you’re working directly with the company or with

Unknown Speaker 25:37
a with a recruiter, a third party recruiter like,

Pete Newsome 25:40
like for corner, where we’re going to be really aggressive on your behalf in a way that you couldn’t be on your own. It’s one of the benefits of working with a third party recruiter. Because, you know, believe me, we’re super aggressive. That’s, you know, we don’t have to be sensitive when we talk about getting feedback. Or following up or talking about income. Those are things that that we just do a second nature. So when you’re working with a recruiter immediately contact that person and let them know how the interview went. And if they’re a good recruiter, then they will quickly go off and running and trying to obtain that feedback on your behalf. So, in that case, follow up with that third party contact that you have, at least every other day, because once again, let them know that you’re interested and we like to hear from our candidates regularly. If you’re working with a company directly, ask them what’s appropriate and then don’t let more than two days go by in I’m always a little aggressive. I’ll use that word again when it comes to these things because it shows interest, let them tell you to back off, let them tell you to slow down a little bit. But you are listening sponsible for your own success in this, which is also a theme that we’ve mentioned repeatedly. And a big piece of that is the follow up. So don’t sit back, don’t let anyone else have to come to you make don’t make sure that that company who’s interviewing you that has no doubt of your interest level.

Rebecca Totten 27:21
That’s great advice. And as a HR person working with companies like 4.0 resources, just very helpful. It helps it helps us to be able to streamline our feedback to be able to get the skill set we need. So I’m just going to do a little plug for four corner because I do think, you know, it’s, it’s helpful on both ends from the employer perspective and from the candidate perspective to just make the process more efficient and produce a better result to be honest, because the candidates gone through screening and you have the skill sets a little bit different.

Unknown Speaker 27:51
Of course, we’re biased,

Pete Newsome 27:52
right? That goes without saying but I you know, it’s one of the things that is most impactful about having that recruiter on Your side is that we can navigate through all those difficult things that, that as an individual who’s not used to interviewing, you’re asked to be sensitive. You don’t want to be, you know, put the wrong message out and not knowing what’s appropriate in every scenario. We do all that for you. So it’s just one less thing to worry about as a candidate. So, in a future date, we could talk about the pros and cons of working with the recruiter some some situations are better than others for sure. But in terms of following up on an interview, having a recruiter in your in your corner is always a good thing. Well, there’s a siren going off in the background, from from our office here in downtown Orlando. So that may be the sign that, you know, they’re telling us to wrap up. So I hope that everyone who’s listening today has some things that you can take away from this. We would love to hear from you. If you have additional questions, email us at higher quality At four corner resources comm topics further thing things you’d like further clarified, we welcome that feedback and we’d be happy to address it. And Rebecca, thank you so much for coming on today. Hope I hope you’re you’ll be willing to do it again soon. Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Rebecca Totten 29:15
A lot of fun.

Pete Newsome 29:17
That’s it for today. Thank you for listening to this episode of the higher calling podcast Your source for all things job related, please subscribe and visit our website at four corner resources comm also if you have any questions or topics that you’d like to suggest, we’d love to hear from you over email higher calling at four corner resources. com. Thanks and have a great day.

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