The Successful Interview—Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

by B. Simone Lyles
January 13, 2012

The start of the new year will bring new job opportunities. It is your job to make sure you are prepared for the job interview process. Since many people apply for the same position, the stakes are much higher and making a great first impression should be foremost on your mind.

Job seekers often make careless mistakes that can sabotage their chances for landing their ideal job. To avoid these common pitfalls, it is important to remember that you are being evaluated from the moment you walk in the door. The interviewer(s) will assess your appearance, attitude, knowledge of their business, level of interest, experience and skill set. To successfully navigate through this sometimes complicated process, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Research the employer. It is imperative that you thoroughly conduct your due diligence for every employer and position prior to your interview. Having knowledge of key information about the employer demonstrates your sincere interest and enthusiasm for them and the job.

  • Make sure your resume speaks for itself. Your resume should be detailed, insightful and tailored specifically for the job opportunity. Make sure you bring several copies of it and your references to the interview. Also, have a fresh set of eyes review your resume for grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors prior to submitting it to a potential employer.

  • Always be on time. You should plan to arrive 5-10 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Arriving any earlier can be off-putting to your potential employer and arriving late will surely be the “kiss of death.” If you are not absolutely positive of the location of the interview or how long it will take to get there, map out your travel plans in advance to avoid being late. If you are running late, call ahead and apologize for the delay.

  • Charm the gatekeeper. Often, employers will ask the receptionist for their initial impression of you upon your arrival. Make sure you greet the receptionist cordially and appear confident. Exchanging pleasantries with the receptionist can possibly give you an edge on the competition as you may get some helpful information about the job opening and/or the interviewer(s).

  • Have a conversation vs. question/answer session. Engage the interviewer so you do not have a stiff, formal question/answer session. If you have something in common, briefly discuss it and remember that you can sometimes control the interview with the type of questions you ask.

  • Be likeable. No employer wants to hire a person with a challenging personality. Even if you have great skills, experience and academics, if you are perceived as a difficult person to work with, you will not be hired. Remember to smile.

  • Have good posture and great eye contact. During the interview, try a more relaxed posture, but don't slouch. Also, make sure you have great eye contact with every interviewer.

  • Actively listen and ask questions. Focus your attention on the interviewer. Make sure you listen to the questions. Think before you speak. Answer each question fully and concisely. Give specific examples to illustrate your points rather than general statements. Also, try to ask at least three relevant questions about issues that have not been addressed during the interview.

  • Send a “thank you’ email. Always send a brief thank you/follow-up email the day of or following your interview to reiterate your interest, qualifications and skills. Be sure to carefully proofread your email, which may be forwarded to other hiring personnel involved in the process.

Prior to your next interview, make sure you hone your interview skills and techniques. A savvy (or experienced) recruiter can offer you invaluable advice. Remember to be confident, professional, calm and ready to convince the interviewer(s) why you are the best candidate for the job. With an increased emphasis on pre-interview preparation, you will considerably increase your chances of being hired.

About the Author

Portrait photo of B. Simone Lyles

B. Simone Lyles

Legal Staffing Director

Simone is the Founder and Director of CLS Legal Staffing, and a graduate of the University of Iowa with a bachelor's degree in Sociology. She is a sustaining member of the Illinois Paralegal Association, National Association of Legal Assistants and National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc., and a member of the Northwestern College and Wright College Paralegal Advisory Boards. Simone has served as an invited speaker at several major university paralegal programs on legal recruiting and diversity matters. She has conducted mock interviews at the Institute of Paralegal Studies at Loyola University Chicago and was a Career Counselor for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin's resume critique program. Prior to joining Chicago Legal Search in 1997, Simone interned for President Bill Clinton during his tenure as governor of Arkansas and interned for U.S. Senator David Pryor. Simone is also a vocalist and has opened for the late Koko Taylor, George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, Joe Lovano, Maceo Park, Raheem DeVaughn and Roy Haynes. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and has lent her voice to several award winning television commercials for Wal-Mart and has done projects for Charmin, Toyota, WVON, the Illinois Lottery and the popular dance video game  Dance, Dance Revolution

Phone: 312-251-2560

LinkedIn: View My Profile on LinkedIn

Testimonials about B. Simone Lyles

Assisting Law Firms & Corporations in Their Search for Exceptional Legal Staff

Chicago skyline from the beach
  • Simone assisted me in getting hired in my current position. 

    Simone is a results-oriented professional who is a pleasure to work with. Simone always made herself available, answered my numerous questions and responded timely. 

    I would absolutely solicit her services again if necessary.


    Regina Wooten, Corporate Paralegal

    Baker & McKenzie

CLS Legal Staffing. 180 N. LaSalle St., Suite 3525, Chicago, IL 60601 312.251.2588.