The interview levels the playing field. No matter where you went to school or JOB, no matter what your Goal is, no matter how much experience you have, no matter who you know--if you aren't able to interview successfully, someone else may get the job you desire. Following are some insights designed to help you successfully interview and get the job you want.
Preparing for the Interview
When an appointment is made for an interview, it is important for you to be fully prepared for it. Know Your Employer. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your research skills. It is important for you to find out as much as you can about the organization, agency, institution, etc., with which you are interviewing. For example, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does the organization make or what type of service does it provide?
- What is the size of the organization? What is its organizational structure? How much potential for advancement is there within this structure?
- Who are the organization's officers, administrators, etc.? Know something of their background, recent achievements.
You should try to find out what the position you are applying for will be in relation to the whole organization. Try to pinpoint some priorities, problems, policies, or philosophies of the organization, and plan to focus on these during the interview. You can find this information from many sources, start with the companies' web site then expand that research thru a good search engine online.
This research can be very valuable to you during the interview. It will not only increase your self-confidence, but will also impress the interviewer. S/he will regard you as a person who has sincere interest in the organization because you took time to find out something about it.
You need to know many facts about the employer, and the interviewer needs to know many facts about you in order to make a fair evaluation. Interviewers are often amazed at the answers that are given to them when they ask the question: Who are you and what do you want to do? Before an interview, know what you have to offer a potential employer.
Evaluate yourself in terms of your strengths, and how you could translate these strengths into skills your prospective employer can use. It is also helpful to know your weaknesses for no one's perfect. If you state a weakness, do not elaborate on it and try to turn it around into a potential strength for the organization. Be ready to talk about your career objectives, your long and short range goals, and your interests. Study your resume and be familiar with your education and experience. Practice illustrating how your extra-curricular activities are examples of skills in leadership and responsibility. The most important point to remember when preparing for an interview is that the prospective employer is primarily concerned with hiring someone who will make a valuable contribution to the organization. Be prepared to tell an employer why you should be hired. With many applicants for the same job, it will be up to YOU to convince the interviewer that of all those interviewed, you are the best choice.
Though it is imperative for you to know yourself and the organization with which you are interviewing, if you are unable to communicate your knowledge clearly and concisely, your interview will not be impressive. You must be able to express yourself to the interviewer.
The best way to improve your communication skills is to practice role-playing before the interview. Consider participating in a mock interview through the Career Center or ask a friend, your spouse, or roommate, to help simulate an interview Sample Questions can be found on many websites and books. Make sure you are critiqued on the strength of your voice and eye contact.
Another suggestion for role-playing might be to get together with people who are also preparing for interviews. You could learn a lot by critiquing different approaches and this might also be a good way to boost each other's morale.
A critical point to remember while practicing is to avoid memorizing what you want to say. Whether you are talking about yourself or the organization with which you are interviewing, let it be a natural flow of words. If you come across like you have a speech prepared, your interview will be less effective.
You probably will be nervous during the interview. Concentrate on what is being asked and respond appropriately. Many people make their voices more monotone to sound professional. Don't! Use normal tone and don't speak too softly.
Be On Time
It is better to be a few minutes early than one minute late for your interview. Interviewers have a busy schedule and if you are late, it will cut down the amount of time allotted to you. Most important, if you are late, you will make a bad impression.
If you are seeking a professional position, you must look like a professional. A good guideline to follow is to dress as others do in the same occupation. Remember: The first impression is a lasting one.
Women: Wear a simply tailored suit or dress. Wear conservative nail polish and lipstick. Have a neat hairdo. Leave flashy earrings in your jewelry box. Be moderate in use of perfume and makeup.
Men: Wear a clean, pressed, conservative suit with a non-flashy shirt and tie. Have your shoes shined and wear plain socks. Have your hair neat and trimmed. Long hair and extremely long side burns are out. Clean and trim your nails. Avoid gaudy or flashy jewelry.
The interview situation can vary from a one-to-one contact between you and an employee of the organization (human resources manager, campus recruiter, department manager, etc.), to a panel composed of several different employees representing various levels or functions. The situation also can vary from a single interview with an organizational representative to a sequence of several interviews on a given day.
Breaking the Ice
Interviews are unpredictable and no two interviews are alike. A lot depends upon the interviewer for s/he has control and you should respond to that control.
At the beginning of the interview, interviewers usually try to make you as comfortable as possible. Usually they start off with basic questioning from your resume. Since this is information that is familiar to you, the interview will become less tense and you should be ready when the interviewer starts to concentrate on specific facts.
The interviewer will be assessing some of the reasons or motivations for a candidate's actions or activities as well as some of the individual's style of operating. While a resume provides the facts, the interview provides the why's and how's.
During the interview, the most important thing to remember is to be honest. The interviewer will not be able to evaluate you fairly if you attempt to con him/her. Telling interviewers what you think they want to hear is not the purpose of the interview. If you try to con the interviewer and s/he is on to your game, the chance of being invited for a second interview is slim.
Another point to keep in mind: be prepared to back up what you say. According to interviewers, too many applicants make statements that they are unable to prove. If you state that you have certain skills and abilities, be prepared to cite specific incidents where you have used or demonstrated them.
In some interviews there might be some stress questions thrown in so that the interviewer can get to know you better. Stress questions are usually problem-solving in essence, and there are no right or wrong answers. The purpose of this type of questioning is to see how you think and react under pressure.
After the Interview
Write A Follow-up Letter
Ask for the interviewer's business card and write him/her a letter or follow-up e-mail. But make it more than a plain thank-you note. Tell him/her you are still interested in the position and go over some of your qualifications that were discussed in the interview so that his/her memory will be refreshed.
Make Each Interview A Learning Experience
- As soon as possible after the interview, write down what you have learned.
- By reviewing your performance, you can make plans to improve your skills.
- Remember, the more you interview, the sharper your skills become and the sooner you will receive an offer!