• January 2010

HR expert Sharon Armstrong reveals the secrets to landing a second interview

By Sharon Armstrong
Sharon Armstrong and Associates, owner
The Essential HR Handbook, co-author

A job interview is the most important undertaking in the job search process. It’s the key to being hired, and how you approach the interview can determine it’s outcome. The goal of the interview is to raise the interviewer’s expectation of you so you will be invited to continue in the selection process, and subsequently, receive a job offer.

To sell yourself effectively, you need to match the position requirements with your skills, accomplishments, and personal qualities. So begin by doing your research.

1. Visit the company website and get informed about the organization, it’s services and products.

2. Google the company, check out the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed, read annual reports and trade publications. In addition, ask all your friends what they might know about the organization. Try to learn something about the interviewers too, if possible.

3. Practice some common interview questions. “I have 100 free ones on my website”:http://www.theessentialhrhandbook.com (click on the Free Report banner to access them. Please help yourself!)

4. Be prepared to ask questions. This is essential because it demonstrates your interest in the position and the company. It helps you uncover the interviewer’s needs and it provides some valuable information you’ll need to determine if that employer is right for you.

5. Pack extra copies of your resume and reference list.

6. Get a good night’s sleep!

7. Dress appropriately.

8. Make sure to arrive a little early — and be polite and professional as soon as you walk in the door. When I was a full-time recruiter, our receptionist would zip into my office right after an interview if the applicant hadn’t been nice to her. And the process would stop right there.

9. Be proactive. Send your career-related questions or column suggestions to me: sharon@sharonarmstrongandassociates.com. I’d love to hear from you.


Sharon Armstrong began her career in human resources in 1985 as a recruiter/trainer in a large Manhattan law firm. She took over as Director of HR at the DC firm Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge in 1991, and in 1994 became the Director of HR and Administration at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

In 2000, she opened her own firm, Sharon Armstrong & Associates, and since has consulted with many large corporations and small businesses. She has facilitated training, completed HR projects and provided career transition services for a wide variety of clients in the profit and non-profit sectors. Her firm also serves as a brokerage house for other HR professionals.

In 1998 she wrote a humor book about her dog Scooter, “Healing the Canine Within: A Dog’s Self-Help Companion.” Her first business book, Stress-Free Performance Appraisals: Turn Your Most Painful Management Duty into a Powerful Motivational Tool was published by Career Press in July 2003. The Essential HR Handbook – A Quick and Handy Guide for Any Manager or HR Professional was published in August 2008.

Sharon received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern Maine and her Masters Degree in Counseling from George Washington University. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR). To contact Sharon, send her an email.