Four Steps to a Stellar Interview Performance

1. First things first: Work on phone skills

More than likely, you'll need to make some phone calls before you secure a job. Whether the phone screening interview is the first step toward a permanent position or your one chance to make an impression for a locum tenens assignment, polishing your phone skills will serve you well.

Smile and dial.

Unlike a face-to-face interview, you can't convey anything through body language over the phone. You can only use your voice to make a positive impression. People who work in phone sales or in a customer service call center are often told to smile when they are speaking to a client on the phone because the person at the other end of the call can hear their smile even if they can't see it. In our business we use the catch phrase "smile and dial" to remind us of this basic phone technique.

Avoid dead air.

While it's good to stop and think before answering a complex interview question, long pauses don't translate very well over the phone. First acknowledge that you heard the question with something as simple as "That's a very good question" followed by a short pause. This ought to allow you to gather your thoughts without too much dead air.

2. Interview day: Be prepared

Do your research.

Go to the hospital, health system or practice's website. Read their mission statement. Find out about their community outreach programs. Read about the executive team. Look at their current press releases. This will give you a good overall sense about what is happening with the organization and what their values are. You will impress your interviewer with your initiative, and you will gain a good sense of how well you would fit in with the organization's culture.

Be on time.

This seems patently obvious, but some people fail to abide by this basic social convention. In an interview, you want to make the best first impression possible. Plan on arriving 10 or 15 minutes early, but don't announce yourself to the receptionist or administrative assistant earlier than five minutes before the scheduled time. Padding your time ensures you won't have to make that embarrassing call explaining you will be late.

Bring copies of your CV.

You don't know how prepared your interviewer will be, and you never know when you will be asked to stay for an impromptu interview with another stakeholder, which by the way, is a great sign that they are interested in you as a candidate.

Be prepared to talk about everything on your CV.

If you have a long work history spanning back decades, you might want to make sure you revisit your CV before the interview to make sure that you can speak credibly about everything in it. If you make claims to skills and experience, make sure you can back them up with specifics. Rusty skills or previous jobs that are part of ancient history may come up in conversation and you want to be ready to talk about those. If you can't talk about any part of your resume cogently, revise it or throw it out. Otherwise, your entire CV may be called into question. (Make sure your CV is updated. You don't want to start talking about a job that you recently held that does not appear on your CV. See our CV tips.)

3. During the interview: Setting the tone

Take notes.

Taking notes shows that you are engaged and interested. But don't forget to look up and make eye contact from time to time.

Be personable, but don't ramble.

You want to be conversational in your answers even to simple questions. However, you don't want to ramble and get off topic. Keep in mind that during the entire interview, your prospective boss is envisioning you in the role that you are interviewing for. Rambling makes you appear unfocused, making the interviewer wonder whether you will be unfocused in the job.

Beware of weed-out questions.

A question like "what's your motivation for working here?" is intended to gauge your interest in the organization in general and the job in particular. If you are genuinely interested, make sure you convey that by explaining how you envision yourself in the role and describing how it fits in with your career objectives.

Be prepared for behavioral interviewing questions.

Behavioral interviewing questions allow the interviewer to screen for key behaviors in particular situations. The questions will use phrasing such as "Think of a time when you had to deal with x or y situation. How did you handle it?" or "How would you handle x?" During the entire interview, you should be mindful of how you're presenting yourself to the interviewer. Everything you do and say, especially your answers to behavioral interviewing questions, will be evaluated and used to determine your fitness as a candidate.

Have a well thought out question or two prepared.

As the interview is wrapping up, the interviewer will ask you whether you have any questions. Make sure to come prepared with at least one or two questions. If you have no questions, the interviewer will assume you have no interest in the job.

Minimally, you should ask what the next steps are in the process. And don't be afraid to explicitly state your interest in the job.

4. After the interview: Following up

The thank you note

While email is a perfectly acceptable medium for a thank you note, a hand written note makes a great impression. Some staffing experts even encourage candidates to sit down in the lobby immediately after the interview and write the note. Have your envelope pre-addressed and stamped and drop it in a mailbox that same day. Make sure to include specifics from the interview, especially how you can help the organization accomplish its objectives, and express your enthusiasm for the position and the organization.

The follow-up phone call

Don't wait for the phone to ring. After a few days, call the recruiter or hiring manager (be respectful of the follow-up process that was described to you), and again express your enthusiasm for the job. Some job seekers worry that they may be perceived as desperate or pushy if they follow up too soon or at all. This could not be further from the truth. After a few days, if you haven't heard back, pick up the phone and call.

Happy job hunting!

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