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Andrews & Associates is an established search firm working exclusively in the areas of state income and franchise tax, sales and use tax and property tax. For over a decade, our reputation has been founded on integrity, quality results professionalism and confidentiality.

Exploring other career opportunities is a sensitive issue which must be handled with extreme confidentiality. For this reason, we never submit your resume to a prospective employer until we have your permission to do so.

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This is the second in our two-part series about interviewing. In our previous newsletter, we discussed some general guidelines for interviewing. Now we will discuss some of the more difficult interviewing issues.

The Interview

Prior to the interview, prepare and practice aloud answers to questions you are likely to be asked concerning the position, your qualifications, or your past employers. This will include any areas or weaknesses which might trigger a difficult question. For example, if you've been let go from a previous position or you have a gap in your employment history, have an answer prepared which you can deliver confidently without sounding like you're reading from a script. While you should always answer honestly, you do not have to go into all the details. Do not, under any circumstances, make derogatory comments about a past or current employer. No matter the situation, you will be perceived as a malcontent. Express and sell your qualifications as they relate to the position. You alone can sell yourself and your abilities. Focus on the value and benefits you can bring to the company.

An area often overlooked by candidates is showing excitement and enthusiasm about the position. When two candidates are equal in qualifications and experience, our history has shown that the enthusiastic candidate usually gets the offer. You don't have to act like a cheerleader at a pep rally. A great deal of enthusiasm can be conveyed through non-verbal communication, including voice intonation. At the close of the interview, be sure and state your excitement and interest in the position.

Every candidate expects the dreaded "weaknesses" question. Acknowledge your shortcomings honestly, but try to end on a positive note. Tell what steps you are taking or have made toward improvement. In the final analysis, it's not your weaknesses and past mistakes that count as much as your acknowledgement of those weaknesses and your steps toward improvement. Practice answering this question before the interview. A well-spoken answer will send a powerful message about your real strengths, not your weaknesses.

As we mentioned in our previous article, interviewing is a two-way street. Not asking questions indicates lack of interest on your part and will seriously hurt your chances of receiving an offer. But an interview is not an interrogation session consisting of individual questions followed by an answer. It's communication back and forth between two or more people.

You must build rapport with the interviewer. Qualifications being equal, hiring authorities offer positions to people who are enthusiastic and with whom they have built a rapport. How do you build rapport? Talk about what you have in common - in this case the experience of doing the job and the technical skills required to do it. Ask what they would like you to accomplish in your first year on the job. Ask what specific issues they are dealing with.

In addition to the questions we discussed in our first series concerning the company, its industry and leadership, some additional questions you might want to ask would be why the position is open, growth and expansion plans of the company and advanced training opportunities. You might want to ask the interviewer why he or she joined the company and what they like about working there. If you interview with more than one individual, be sure and ask questions of each one. It is acceptable to ask variations of the same questions. Don't sit quietly through the remaining interviewers just because the first one answered all your questions (yes, we've seen it happen). You will receive a variety of answers and perspectives which will help you gain additional insight into the company and the position which will in turn help you determine your level of interest.

Be prepared to answer behavioral interview type questions. The basic premise behind the behavioral interview is that past behavior will indicate future success. Many behavioral type questions will begin with "tell me about a situation where....." or "describe a time when.....". Before the interview, think about what you've done or experienced that most closely relates to the success of the position. Review the job description so you are ready with specific examples that are relevant to the position. Be ready to give an organized, clear answer. Make sure you fully convey the problem or issue, not just your solution or response to it. Highlight the benefits you can bring to the company.

Speaking of benefits - don't. Never bring up the subject of salary, vacation, benefits, retirement, etc. on a first interview. Doing so will indicate you are primarily interested in money, not the actual position. If the interviewer brings up the subject of salary, indicate that you are interested in the opportunity, more than a specific salary. If they push the issue, indicate that you would expect them to offer a salary appropriate to your qualifications, experience and demands of the position.

When the interview is coming to a close, reiterate your interest and enthusiasm for the position. Ask about the next step in the process and when you should expect to hear from the company. Of course, thank the interviewer for their time. Under all circumstances, send a thank you letter or email the day after the interview. Even if you felt the interview went poorly, or you have determined you are not interested in the position, a thank you letter or email is the expected response from a professional. If you interviewed with more than one person, send a personalized letter or email to each, varying the contents.


Jeff Andrews is the managing partner of Andrews & Associates, an executive search firm specializing exclusively in the state and local tax areas of income, sales use tax and property tax. Jeff has over 20 years experience assisting state and local tax professionals reach their career goals. For more information about the recruiting firm, visit
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