A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the basics of interviewing, things like appearance, eye-contact, and office manners.  Needless to say, there’s more to being effective in a job interview than simply looking the part, a firm handshake, and knowing about the basics of ordinary civility.

One of the most important things a job seeker can do is careful homework beforehand about the company with which he or she will be interviewing.  Go on-line; look up the company; and read about their history, their product lines, their corporate culture, and anything else you can use to let the person conducting the interview know you’ve studied the company.  The more information you can have at your command, the better – particularly if the interviewer asks, “So, what do you know about our company?”  The worst possible response would be, “Gosh, not very much.  I just need a job!”

Also, be prepared for what I sometimes call “off-the-wall” questions.  The purpose of questions like these is to see how well you think on your feet and how well you can articulate a sensible response to an unanticipated question.  Questions that I like to ask include, “So, who’s the person you admire most and why?”  Another is, “If you could go back and change anything in your life up to now, what would it be and why?”  More obvious questions for which to be prepared include, “Why do you want to work for us?”  (This question requires knowing something about the company as the result of doing careful homework before the interview.)

On the other hand, most interviews include a segment where the interviewer says something like, “Now, what questions do you have about us?”  Drawing a blank on this one is definitely not a good thing to do!  Possible responses can include questions like, “Could you tell me about career growth opportunities within your company?”  Or, “Will I be able to get feedback on how I’m doing so I can focus on areas in which I need to improve?”

What NOT to ask are questions like, “If I’m offered a position with your company, how many vacation days will I get?”  Nothing could be worse than to ask a prospective employer how many days they’re going to pay you not to work!

I would never advise anyone seeking employment to ask a question about benefits during the initial job interview.  If the job is offered, it would make sense, after everything else is finalized, to ask if it would be possible to get a copy of the company handbook, which ought to contain all the information about freebies, but asking about free stuff during the first interview is definitely not advisable.

Being prepared for a job interview, as I’ve tried to illustrate, includes much more than just looking good and having a firm handshake.  It requires doing one’s homework about the company and practicing for the unexpected interview questions to be able to highlight desirable qualities like ambition, drive, and the desire to get ahead!