I have been lurking here for a while (mostly in the engagement/waiting section) but I felt a need to reply to this. In full disclosure, I am a guy. I take a lot of pride in my ability to inteview, I went to a big name engineering school where we took multiple semesters with of classes to prep for interviews.
1. What should he wear?
Definitely a suit and tie (and one that fits him well), I can’t imagine interviewing in anything else. Less formal attire may also be appropriate but it is a sure bet that a Suit and Tie will always be appropriate unless the company expressly states otherwise. Blue, Gray or Charcoal are Ideal, white shirt, solid or conservative pattern tie.
2. What are some good questions for him to ask about the company? Are there any “winning” questions?
One question that often goes over well is asking if the company has any programs to further his education or professional development. If he knows the company has something like tuition reimbursement for future schooling then have him ask if a lot of employees take advantage of the program.
3. I’ve heard from more than one source that he should “ask for the job” at the end of the interview. Thoughts?
I have never heard this and really don’t like the idea of asking for the job. I have always been of the opinion that interviews are mutual, their are a lot of companies hiring but far fewer very good jobs, on the other side there are a lot of people looking for jobs but far fewer cantidates. Rather than asking for the job, I make it a point to state that I enjoyed the interview and really like the company (point out specifics) I also like to end with “I look forward to the oppotunity to work with you in the future.” I also highly reccomend sending a thank you card to the hiring manager, thanking them for their time and reiterating that you enjoyed your time speaking to them (and seeing the company/lab if they give a tour).
4. He was actually laid off from his last job due to budget cuts. Should he mention this if asked why he’s looking for a new job?
Yes, always be honest, but be sure not to say anything negative. In the tech world layoffs happen. However don’t bring it up unless they ask.
5. Is there anything he should refrain from mentioning during the interview (like salary, for example)?
Salary is always best left for the offer stage, specifics about benefits (insurance, 401k etc) should be saved for later as welll. Company specific benefits, like Education assistance, or programs they mentioned on their website can and often should be brought up, it shows you did your research into the company and it shows what you like about the company. If you mention that you really like that the company will help you with tuition if you go back to school it often gets the manager into a position where they are selling the company to you as much as you are selling your self to them.
6. For HR Bees – what makes certain candidates stand out, apart from their experience.
I am not in HR but I have interviewed cantidates for technical positions. Confidence is huge, especially if it ends up being a group interview. Look the person asking questions in the eye. If he doesn’t know something, especially if there is a technical interview involved he should simply say “I don’t know” If it was part of a hypothetical then “I don’t know, I would have to look it up” is a great answer. In technical interviews I often ask more and more difficult questions until the person doesn’t know, for two reasons, first, to see what the do know, and second, to see how they handle it. As cliche as it sounds, first impressions make all the difference, a new haircut, pressed suit, firm handshake, eye contact and a smile will go a long way towards having the interviewer on his side.
If you can google the company and find out more about the interview process, GlassDoor.com is a good resource. Big companies often have a set interview process, some ask off the wall questions, like How would your life be different if you were a … (duck, rabbit, dog, etc), many tech companies use the STAR method, they as a question like give me an example of a time when you resolved a conflict within a team, then they are looking for a response in a specific format (Situation, Task, Action, Response). If you can provide the company name or share what you know about the process I’d be happy to help with specifics.
EDIT: I almost forgot the most important thing, make sure he is ready with his 60 second sell (elevator pitch, whatever you want to call it) odds are right at the beginning of the interview they will ask something very open ended like tell us about your self. He should have a 30-60 second pitch ready, include where he went to school, where he has worked in the past, what he is looking for in a job today, and where he sees himself going. This shouldn’t include what he does on the side, where he grew up, or how much he loves his future wife. Those things might come up later but the 60 second sell needs to be the pitch that makes the impact. You really want to leave them thinking, wow this guy is exactly who we are looking for.