smart spending

Interview tips to snag a good job

Use shotgun approach, but don't shoot self

John Lala, president of Rycorp in Virginia Beach, Va., interviewed a woman for an IT specialist position. "She had every certification imaginable and was way overqualified," Lala says. He forwarded her resume to a friend with an opening geared toward her experience. The woman ended up getting hired by another company as a result of the referral and Lala received an unexpected $1,000 finder's fee.

Lala recalls another applicant whom he wouldn't refer to his worst enemy. "He smelled like marijuana, called me 'dude,' talked bad about every boss he's ever worked for, said that he was going to kill the person who fired him from his last job, and whined that this girlfriend was pregnant -- again -- and this time he wasn't sure if he was the father," Lala says.

Get to work before you're hired

Diversity attorney Natalie Holder-Winfield at Quest Diversity Initiatives in Greenwich, Conn., will never forget a candidate for a public relations manager position who found leads and obtained media exposure for her firm before he was even hired. "He was my best find and is still working for me," Holder-Winfield says.

Greg Szymanski, the director of human resources for Seattle-based Geonerco Management Corp., also interviewed a candidate who put himself to work before the interview. The applicant drove to the home sites that the company had under development and talked to the salespeople as if he were a customer. One location had no sales staff in sight and open access to the model homes. He pointed out during the interview that if nobody is in the sales office when the model homes are open for tours, it doesn't leave a good impression and leaves us open for theft, Szymanski says. "He gave us some ideas for staffing and brought it up in a way that didn't make him sound arrogant or leave us defensive," Szymanski says.

Avoid flaunting your flaws

Holder-Winfield and Szymanski share stories about applicants who caught their attention in a negative way, too. Holder-Winfield's applicant offended everyone in the waiting room by criticizing them and giving unsolicited advice. "When I met with the other interviewees, they all asked, 'Where did you find her?'"

Szymanski interviewed an internal candidate who flipped a piece of paper across the table with a breakdown of the salary and benefits he wanted and said, "This is what it's going to take if you want to promote me."

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