For a final job interview, advice ranges from 'being yourself' to aggressively pursuing a desired salary and perhaps even job title. The truth is somewhere in between. Find out which questions to expect and how to ace them. Learn how to prepare for a final interview the right way.
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Why the Final Interview?
Gone are the days when applicants were hired on the spot and final job interview advice was unneeded. Today it is not uncommon for an applicant to be vetted with two, three or even four interviews. A 1983 Focus Magazine(1) article likened the interview to a fencing tournament or chess match and this suggestion applies today even more so, since there are more – and frequently different – players involved in the process.
Conventionally, the final interview takes place with a manager, human resources representative and most likely also an executive, such as a CEO, CFO or vice president of sales or marketing (depending on the position). Whereas initial first or second interviews may feature common questions such as “tell us about yourself" or “why do you want to work for us," the final interview is a mix of getting to know you and negotiation. Preparation is a key element.
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Likely Questions (and their Answers)
“Why should we hire you?" This is a variation of “what can you do for us." It demands subtle but effective and well-thought out self-praise. For a modest person who detests singing her own praises, this is a difficult question to answer convincingly. Practice at home how to respond truthfully, without stumbling and with a straight face. Remember: you are selling your skills, abilities and frequently hard-earned education; this is not the time for meekness or humility.
“What is your plan for (insert task here) once we hire you?" Tread lightly! This is a behavioral question and it is easy to come across overly confident and make predictions that are impossible to keep (frequently due to inner workings about which you know nothing). This question also serves to separate the team player from the lone wolf who comes in, changes everything around and upsets the team. The right answer is a mix of acknowledging that this task will take top priority while also giving a nod to the already existing team and signaling that you are willing to play ball and learn the ropes – albeit at an accelerated pace.
“What makes you a good (insert job title here)?" This is a variation of “what can you do for our company" and is an achievement-focused question(2), which demands that you are knowledgeable about the job description for which you are applying as well as current business conditions in the field. In addition, you need to know a little something about the company to understand what it needs in a manager, supervisor, nurse or teacher. Highlight your assets but do not veer off on a tangent involving a prior work situation; the latter is a common mistake that leaves you taking credit for a likely team effort, which does not sit well with employers.
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Navigating the Salary Question
“What are your salary requirements?" This is the dreaded question that nevertheless ushers in the negotiation portion of the final interview. Do not commit to a firm number. Instead, show that you did your homework by explaining that you understand the pay range for a qualified candidate to be between $X and $Y.
Suggest that you are comfortable with this range. In some cases a hiring committee will attempt to get you to name a figure; avoid this pitfall simply by politely reminding the managers that they already know your current salary. Explain that you would love to go above the figure but really your main focus is the position or getting your foot in the door with the new company.
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A Word about Dress
The same rules apply as for any other job interview: dress for success. Come prepared with extra copies of your resume and be early or at least on time. If possible, wear something different than you did on the other occasions when you met for an interview. Even though this interview process is not a fashion show, it is worthwhile to show that you have a business wardrobe suitable for the position to which you are aspiring. When there is only one business suit or dress in the closet, accessorize differently to have it appear in a new light.
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It is impossible to cover each and every possible question that may crop up during a final job interview. Advice, tips and tricks that serve you best are those that have you looking and coming across as confident and comfortable in your skin. Be aware that you are a highly likely candidate for receiving the job and it is vital to highlight your soft skills at this juncture. Walk the fine line between confidence and cockiness and you should have a good chance at closing the deal.