Back To Basics: Best Practices For A Successful Interview

Bring it back to the basics. Here's how you need to be prepared for the interview to further your career.

Each year when the UCLA Bruins would begin their new season, whether you were a rookie or a returning senior, everyone got the same lesson.  To quote Coach John Wooden, “This is a basketball…” followed by a lengthy discussion of how to put on your socks.  Why did Coach Wooden start this way? Because he believed that by knowing the basics he then could move his team forward to another winning season for the UCLA Bruins.  The basics are where everything always begins and can be built upon. In today’s blog that is where we are going to start – with the basics of the hiring process. You must be prepared for the interview to start off.  Many have forgotten as they may have not interviewed for a new position for a while.

Be Prepared For The Interview Before The Interview

Let’s start with the beginning leading up to an interview. Now what? First of all, you will do your due diligence on the person that will be interviewing you.  You will gather all your information to be prepared for the interview, but these are known ideas. What about the simple things that we may tend to forget?  For example, confirming the interview.  I always recommend that the morning or the night before, a candidate should send out a quick email confirming the time and place of an interview and who is going to call whom.  Many candidates waited for the phone to ring only to find out that it was their responsibility to make the call.  If it’s a Zoom interview, have you checked your computer for the right software? Is your microphone set up and working?  Is the lighting in your room appropriate? Most importantly, is your choice of clothing appropriate and easily seen on your Zoom camera?

Do You Have Any Questions?

That was all leading up to the interview. Now let’s explore the time during the interview. You will still need this part to be prepared for the interview.  Do you have the right questions prepared?  Do you know the questions to avoid as well as the questions that will provoke interest in your hiring manager?  In the first set of interviews, there are certain questions to avoid.  As you get further down the path, these taboo questions on the first date then become applicable.  At all costs avoid any question that has to do with compensation or benefits.  Avoid any questions that may do with the future logistics of setting up your office.  The key is to avoid any questions that may cause the hiring manager to believe that you have alternative motives at this stage.  The questions you do want to ask should revolve around culture and platform (if you are a banker).  Any questions that relate to your ability to do your job are well accepted and expected.

A Strong Conclusion To Your Interview

You need to be prepared for the interview – every phase of it. At the conclusion of the interview, I always recommend that a candidate hold back at least two important questions.  The reason for that is twofold.  The first is that it will be the last two questions of the interview; therefore, this part of the conversation will remain in the mind of the hiring manager.  Second of all, the interview is concluding, which is a part of the process a lot of hiring managers do not necessarily enjoy.  They tend to let their guard down a bit, and you get to see the real manager rather than the one that you are currently interviewing with.  Third and most importantly, the conclusion of an interview (unless someone has a hard stop) is usually hard to affect.  By having two questions you then can conclude the interview and share your thoughts.  We have addressed this in past blogs, so I will not rehash it here.  Lastly, and this is critical, do not forget a thank you note.  I cannot tell you how important this is.  Many managers will comment to me that a thank you note was received.  But more importantly, I also hear when a thank you note was not forthcoming.  Managers, even today in our high tech-low touch because of COVID environment, want a thank you note.  Email is more than fine by the way.

A Friendly Reminder On How To Be Prepared For The Interview

Remembering these basics to be prepared for the interview in the future. They should be like putting on a pair of socks by Coach Wooden. They are extremely essential and crucial because you do not want to get blisters by putting them on incorrectly. The same holds true with the interview process.  The goal is to move forward and not be sidelined by forgetting the basics.


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Harlan publishes a blog every Thursday here. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting.”

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.