An interview is usually your first meeting with a prospective employer and is your opportunity to convince your interviewer that you are the right person for the job. For a successful interview, you must make a positive first impression. Answer the interviewer’s questions in ways that demonstrate that your experience and qualifications meet the requirements of the job, ask intelligent questions, and conclude by determining when the next point of contact will be.
Before the Interview
The key to a successful interview is preparation. Research the company to find information on their products, services, and industry trends that could influence present or future operations. Find out how to pronounce your interviewer’s name. Determine the appropriate dress for an interview by calling or visiting the company. Locate the company on a map and find out how long it will take you to get there. If you can, visit the company beforehand to ensure you can find the company on the day of your interview. Additionally, you will want to:
· Develop and practice a 60-second introductory statement that describes who you are and what you can bring to the company.
· Practice describing your experience and accomplishments.
· Practice identifying and describing your weaknesses in a positive light.
· Practice your answers to interview questions in the Virtual Interview section of ResumeMaker.
· For the interview, bring several extra resumes, examples of your work, letters of recommendation, a list of your references, and any research you have gathered on the company. Also, bring a note pad and pen.
· Finally, get a good night’s sleep. You will make the best impression if you are in a calm and positive state of mind.
During the Interview
Arrive at the company a few minutes early. Greet everyone in a positive and friendly manner. You never know if the person you meet in the parking lot is the same person who will be interviewing you, or whether the hiring manager will ask the receptionist about your behavior and attitude. When you meet your interviewer, look him in the eye and greet him by his first name. Follow his cues about handshaking. If he offers his hand, shake it in a firm manner.
One of the things a potential employer looks for in an interview is whether your personality will fit well within the group. Try to establish a personal connection with the person interviewing you. Be friendly and personable as well as professional. You want to sell yourself as a person as well as an employee.
The interviewer may begin by revealing information about the company and position. If he says something you would like to address, put a reminder in your notebook to mention it later. When the interviewer begins asking questions about your experience, answer each question confidently and honestly in a way that highlights your abilities as they pertain to the requirements of the job. If you are not asked questions about key strengths and abilities, find other ways to describe them during the interview. If asked about your weaknesses, answer by describing a quality that could also be a considered a positive trait. For example, you could say, “I am sometimes seen as being too demanding. I work hard and expect others to do the same.”
Ending the Interview
Ask questions about the position and the company. This lets an employer know that you are interested in the position, took the time and energy to research the company, and that you care enough to want to know more about this opportunity. Use your questions to initiate discussions that reinforce how your skills and abilities will fit the needs of the department or company. Asking questions can also help you determine whether the company is the right fit for you.
Try to delay answering questions about salary until the end of the interview. If you are asked for a target salary before you had the chance to demonstrate your experience and qualifications, explain that you would like to learn more about the position before discussing salary. The more the employer understands how your skills, abilities and personality will be a good fit for the company, the more you will be worth to them. For more information about negotiating salary, refer to the Salary Negotiation section in Expert Advice.
When your interview ends, determine what the next step will be. Ask where the company is in the hiring cycle and how many candidates they are considering. Ask if you can provide any additional information to support your qualifications, such as references or examples of your work. Finally, always remember to thank the interviewer for his time, re-affirm that you are interested in the position, and ask when would be an appropriate time to follow up.
Following-up After an Interview
After your interview, be sure to send a Thank You letter. A handwritten letter will provide a personal touch that an employer will appreciate. It is the polite thing to do and demonstrates your personal and professional courtesy. Be sure to follow up with a telephone call within the time frame set during the interview to ask: where the company is in the decision process, whether you can provide any additional information, or if they would like to schedule another interview. Follow up at least once a week unless given a specific time frame for the decision-making process. This will demonstrate your continued interest in the company.
Common Interview Mistakes to Avoid
Some of the top reasons that candidates are eliminated from consideration are:
1. Poor communication skills. You must speak clearly, look the employer in the eye when talking, answer his or her questions directly, and communicate your skills, abilities, accomplishments, and experience succinctly and confidently.
2. Lack of confidence or overt arrogance. You want to give the impression that you know what you are doing, but you don’t want to appear as if you are trying to tell the employer his or her business.
3. Dishonesty. Dishonesty in your resume, interview, or follow-up can end your candidacy or even your job if discovered. Always be truthful in your resume.
4. Inappropriate attire. Your clothing and personal hygiene should reflect the social standards of the company and that of other professionals at your level.
5. Lack of research. By researching the company and industry, you have the opportunity to learn how the job you are applying for affects the short-term and long-term goals of the company, and how your skills and abilities will help in achieving these goals.
6. Political correctness blunders. You should not talk about issues such as race, religion, or lifestyle choices; or display prejudice of any kind in an interview.
7. Inappropriate salary discussion. Bringing up salary too early in the interview, or not negotiating salary effectively at the end, will reduce your chances of getting the offer. Be sure to get a clear understanding of the position’s requirements, communicate the value you can bring to the company, understand what an appropriate salary would be, and research the range of salaries the company can offer before entering into salary negotiations.
Interview - Tips
The interviewing stage of your job search is the most critical. Your success or failure in obtaining a position is often determined at the interview. However, anyone can learn to interview well, since most mistakes can be anticipated and corrected. Learn the following top 25 interviewing techniques to give you a winning edge.
1. Bring extra copies of your resume to the interview.
Nothing shows less preparation and readiness than being asked for another copy of your resume and not having one. Come prepared with extra copies of your resume. You may be asked to interview with more than one person and it demonstrates professionalism and preparedness to anticipate needing extra copies.
2. Dress conservatively and professionally.
What you wear to an interview can make a tremendous difference. It is important to convey a professional image, and it is better to overdress than underdress.
3. Be aware of your body language.
Be alert, energetic, and focused on the interviewer. Make eye contact. Non-verbally, this communicates that you are interested in what the interviewer has to say.
4. Consider first and last impressions.
The first and last five minutes of the interview are the most important. It is during this time that critical first and lasting impressions are made and the interviewer decides whether or not you are a viable candidate. Communicate positive behaviors during the first five minutes and be sure you are remembered when you leave.
5. Fill out company applications completely – even if you have a resume.
Even though you have brought a copy of your resume, many companies require a completed application. Your willingness to complete one, and your thoroughness in doing so, will convey a great deal about your professionalism and ability to follow through.
6. Remember that the purpose of every interview is to get an offer.
You must impress your interviewer both professionally and personally to be offered the job. At the end of the interview, make sure you know what the next step is and when the employer expects to make a decision.
7. Understand employers’ needs.
Present yourself as someone who can really add value to an organization. Show that you can fit into the work environment.
8. Be likeable.
Be enthusiastic. People love to hire individuals who are easy to get along with and who are excited about their company. Be professional, yet demonstrate your interest and energy.
9. Make sure you have the right skills.
Know your competition. How do you compare with your peers in education, experience, training, salary, and career progression? Mention the things you know how to do really well. They are the keys to your next job.
10. Display an ability to work hard to pursue an organization’s goals.
Assume that most interviewers need to select someone who will fit well into their organization in terms of both productivity and personality. You must confirm that you are a hard-working, productive, and personable individual by emphasizing the benefits you will bring to the company.
11. Market all of your strengths.
It is important to market yourself, including your technical qualifications, general skills and experiences as well as personal traits. Recruiters care about two things, credentials and personality. Can you do the job based on past performance and will you fit in with the corporate culture? Talk about your positive personality traits and give examples of how you demonstrate each one on the job.
12. Give definitive answers and specific results.
Whenever you make a claim of your accomplishments, it will be more believable and better remembered if you cite specific examples and support for your claims. Tell the interviewer about business situations where you successfully used a skill and elaborate on the outcome. Be specific.
13. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes.
Employers want to know what mistakes you have made and how you have learned from them. Don’t be afraid to admit making mistakes in the past, but continuously stress your positive qualities as well, and illustrate how you have turned weaknesses into positive results.
14. Relate stories or examples that heighten your past experience.
Past performance is the best indicator of future performance. If you were successful at one company, odds are you can succeed at another. Be ready to sell your skills and performance using relevant stories from your work experience in the interview.
15. Know everything about your potential employer before the interview.
Customize your answers as much as possible in terms of the needs of the employer. This requires that you complete research before the interview about the company, its customers, and the work you anticipate doing. Speak the employer’s language and address his or her needs.
16. Rehearse and practice interview questions before the interview.
Prior to your interview, try to anticipate the types of questions you may be asked and rehearse the appropriate answers. Even if you do not anticipate all of the questions, the process of thinking them through will make you more confident and relaxed during the interview itself.
17. Know how to respond to tough questions.
The majority of questions that you will be asked can be anticipated. However, there are exceptional questions tailored to throw you off guard to see how you perform under pressure. Your best strategy is to be prepared, stay calm, collect your thoughts, and respond as clearly as possible.
18. Address the relevant needs of the employer.
While you undoubtedly have specific strengths, skills and experience, identify how these qualifications address the prospective employer’s needs. Emphasize the benefits you are likely to provide in the new position. Whenever possible, give examples of how your strengths, accomplishments, and contributions relate to the employer, using the appropriate language for the job or industry.
19. Identify your strengths and what you enjoy doing.
Skills that you enjoy are the ones that are most likely to benefit a future employer. Prior to the interview, understand what it is that you enjoy doing most, and what benefits this provides to both you and your employer.
20. Know how you communicate verbally to others.
Strong verbal communication skills are highly valued by most employers. They are signs of educated and competent individuals. Know how you communicate, and practice with others to determine if you are presenting yourself in the best possible light.
21. Don’t plan to arrive on time, plan to arrive early!
No matter how sympathetic your interviewer may be to the fact that there was an accident on the freeway, it is virtually impossible to overcome a negative first impression. Do whatever it takes to be on time, including allowing extra time for unexpected emergencies. However, don’t show up too early either. A good time to announce your arrival is 5 – 10 minutes before your interview is scheduled to start.
22. Treat everyone you meet as important to the interview.
Make sure you are courteous to everyone you come in contact with, no matter who they are or what their position. The opinion of everyone can be important to the interview process.
23. Answer questions with complete sentences and with substance.
Remember that your interviewer is trying to determine what value you would bring to the company and the position. Avoid answering the questions asked with simple “yes” or “no” answers. Give complete answers and use examples of past experiences that demonstrate your qualifications.
24. Reduce your nervousness by practicing stress-reduction techniques.
There are many stress-reducing techniques used by public speakers that can certainly aid you in the interview process. Practice some of the relaxation methods as you approach your interview, such as taking slow deep breaths to calm you down. The more you can relax, the more comfortable you will feel and the more confident you will appear.
25. Be sure to ask questions.
Be prepared to ask several questions relevant to the job, the employer, and the organization. These questions should be designed to elicit information to help you make a decision as well as to demonstrate your interest, intelligence, and enthusiasm for the job.
Interview - Questions & Answers
Q: What is a typical interview structure?
Although there is no set rule, a typical interview is scheduled for about one half-hour to an hour, and will include several phases. The first phase is an icebreaker, a few minutes of pleasant conversation so that you and the interviewer will feel comfortable with each other. Then the interviewer will get into some substantive questions, behavioral questions, and questions about your background. This will be the bulk of the interview and lasts anywhere from 15 to 50 minutes.
An employer will usually leave 5 to 10 minutes for you to ask questions. That’s a very important part of the interview and you should be prepared for it. Then there’ll be a close. The interviewer will thank you for coming in. You’ll have the opportunity to tell the interviewer what a pleasure it was to be there and how much you want the job. Usually, you’ll have to interview a second time, perhaps even a third time before getting a job offer.
Q: How many interviews should I expect with any one employer?
You can expect anywhere from two to three interviews depending on the company’s interviewing process and the number of qualified candidates applying for the position.
Q: What is an interviewer really looking for?
Some people wonder, “What can interviewers learn about me from the questions they ask and what do they really want to hear?” There are several things going through the interviewer’s mind during an interview. The first is, “Why should we hire you?” With questions of this nature, an employer is trying to learn if your skills and abilities meet the company’s requirements, if you have good communication skills, and whether you are dependable, honest, and a team player. He or she wants to find out what you will bring to the team if hired.
Another underlying question is about your motivation, “Why do you want to work for us?” With questions of this type, an employer is trying to learn what motivates you, what your ambitions are, and whether you are the kind of person who will do the hard work to get ahead.
Interviewers often determine how well prepared you are with questions such as “What do you know about our company? Or our profession?” With these questions, an employer is trying to learn if you have done the necessary work of researching their company and business environment before the interview. This will indicate two things. One, that you cared enough about the position to learn more about it. Two, that you are the kind of person that puts the extra effort into preparing for important assignments, interviews being one example. An employer also wants to know if you have the necessary knowledge to make intelligent business decisions based on the goals of the company and the industry in which it operates.
Q: What are the best ways to prepare for an interview?
There are eight important steps for you to take in preparing for your job interview:
· Use your resume. Have a friend ask you “how” or “why” about each line. This exercise will help you get a better understanding of your own motivation, thought process and accomplishments so that you can better communicate this information to an employer.
· Be able to articulate how the employer’s needs are met by what you have to offer.
· Be able to articulate your own motivation for being interested in that particular job. What attracts you to that particular company? And what is your interest in that industry or profession?
· Be prepared for behavioral questions, which are asked to determine how you responded to certain situations, or where you demonstrated certain behaviors that are important to the job.
· Practice answering some background questions which are commonly asked, such as “Can you describe how your experience qualifies you for this position?”, or “Can you describe some of the companies you’ve worked for?”
· Research the firm and its industry. Know the firm’s major products or services. Have they been profitable? What challenges will they face over the next 3 to 5 years?
· Be sure to have at least five good questions ready to ask about the job, the firm, the industry or profession.
· Practice interviewing with a friend. Be sure to play the role of both the interviewer and the job applicant.
Q: What if I am not sure that I want the job when I go to the interview?
It’s very important to let the employer know that you really want the job even if you are unsure or need more information to decide. Remember that your objective at the interview is to get an offer. Once you have the offer you can make a decision whether or not you want to accept it. Focus on those reasons that you want the job, even if it’s not the only job that you would ever consider. Remember, that you don’t have to be certain about this particular job until you have the offer.
Q: How important is honesty?
There are two important things to remember about honesty in an interview. First of all, although you don’t have to reveal everything in response to a question, everything you do say must be absolutely true. Secondly, you still will want to position yourself in the best possible light. Focusing on and emphasizing the positive aspects of your previous experience is not dishonest.
Q: What should I know about a company before the interview?
Before your interview, research the company and see if you can discover the following key information:
· The company’s products and services
· The company’s short and long-term goals
· The size of the company, both in terms of the number of employees and overall value
· The company’s annual revenue and profits
· The company’s competitors
· The location of all corporate offices and facilities
· The names of the president and other senior officers of the company
· How to pronounce the name of the person interviewing you
· Where the interview is located and how to get there
You can find this information on the company Web site, in the company’s annual report, through the local chamber of commerce, or by research materials available at your local library.
Q: What is the question-answer-question cycle? How important are specific examples?
The answer you give to any question may give the interviewer material for the next question. We refer to that as the question-answer-question cycle. So when you’re preparing answers for a question, include some material that you’d like the interviewer to follow up on. Examples are an extremely important part of your answer – they give your answer both context and credibility.
Q: How long should my answers be?
Your answers should be informative but concise. As a rule of thumb, think in terms of 6 or 8 sentences. If you’re not sure if you’ve answered the question fully, feel free to ask. “Have I answered your question?” or “Would you like me to tell you more about that?”
Q: Why do interviewers ask if I have any questions for them?
Employers almost always give you time to ask questions of them. They have two reasons for doing this. One is simple courtesy, they’ve been asking you questions, so you should be able to ask them questions in return. A second reason is this: your questions are an important means of evaluating how interested you are in the position or company.
Q: What kinds of questions should I ask during the interview?
There are four rules to follow in preparing your questions for the interviewer.
· Stay positive. Don’t let the questions you ask raise doubts or barriers to getting hired. For example, don’t ask a question like, “Is weekend work necessary?” or “Will I have to travel a lot?” Phrased that way the question makes it seem that you won’t be available for weekends or that you don’t want to travel.
· Consider asking more detailed questions about the position, the company environment, and the management style of the person you would report to. During the interview, make notes of areas you would like more information on, then ask questions based on your notes at the end of the interview.
· Ask about external influences. Ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and profession in general, and how external influences such as government policies and the state of the economy could impact the company.
· Only ask questions that you sincerely want to hear the answers to. If you ask questions at the end of the interview just for the sake of asking questions, you may not be as attentive to the answers as you should be and might appear bored or indifferent. If you have been asking questions throughout the interview it may not be necessary to ask any further questions at the end of the interview.
Q: What is the best way for me to close an interview?
At some point the interviewer is going to thank you for coming in and wish you the best of luck. Some job candidates just say, “Thank you,” and leave but that’s a mistake. The proper way to close your interview is to say, “Thank you, I’ve enjoyed this interview and believe I would enjoy working here. When should I follow up or what should be my next step?”
Q: Is the interview over when it’s over or do I still have work to do?
After you leave the interview you might feel very relieved and think, “Gee, I’m glad that’s over.” Well, it’s not really over yet. It’s important to take notes about what happened. What was the first question? How did you answer it? How did the interviewer follow up on your answer? What was the second question, and so on? What questions made me feel very confident? What questions made me feel uncomfortable? These notes will come in very handy if you’re invited for a follow up interview with that company, or if you interview for a similar job, or with a similar company. You can also look over those notes and see what you can do to improve your interview techniques the next time. It’s also important and courteous to send Thank You letters to those people who spent time interviewing you that day.
Q: How important is proper dress to interview success?
The key point to remember about dress is that it’s something you want to neutralize. That is, you’re not going to gain points for wearing fancy or expensive clothes. You simply don’t want to lose points for being improperly dressed. To determine the proper dress, try calling the company, describe the job you are interviewing for, and ask how to dress appropriately for that type of position. Another option would be to visit the company and observe how people are dressed. If in doubt, dress professionally, modestly and conventionally.
Q: What if I’m asked where I see myself in five years?
This question is commonly used to evaluate your drive and ambition and to assess your career stability and potential for future growth with the company. An appropriate answer would be one that portrays you as a dedicated professional who is motivated to succeed.
Q: What if I seem over-qualified?
If you encounter this situation, you will want to identify the employer’s real concerns and overcome his objections.
They can’t afford you
You must convince the interviewer that they can’t afford not to hire you. Demonstrate how your knowledge and skill set will add value to the company above and beyond what someone with less experience can offer. Then, use your past achievements to illustrate how you will achieve the same positive results here.
You won’t be challenged
Describe the exciting opportunities you see in this position and the areas in which your abilities and experience can bring real value to the company. Describe how you like what you have seen of the staff, corporate culture, and long-term goals of the company. By expressing excitement about the job, you can alleviate the impression that you will be bored or unchallenged by the position.
Q: How do you answer the question, “What did you like least about your last job?”
Never say anything negative about your former employer before, during, or after an interview. An excellent strategy for answering this question is to describe a situation that says something positive about you. One answer might be, “There were limited opportunities for growth in my former position. Though I enjoyed what I was doing, I felt that I was ready to grow beyond what my position would allow.”
Q: Should I expect a phone interview?
A telephone interview is very important. You should only answer phone calls from potential employers if you can talk in a focused, quiet environment. If not, then ask if you can call back at a time convenient to both of you. For phone interviews, you should begin with a 30-second to 2-minute summary of yourself that highlights your key strengths and details the kind of position you are looking for. If you encounter an awkward moment, ask questions about the position; this will give you a chance to organize your thoughts. Following the interview, if you are interested, affirm that you think this position is a good fit for your skills, abilities and experience and that you are interested in an interview to explore this opportunity further.
Q: How can I be more assertive in an interview?
Being assertive is knowing what you want, having confidence in your abilities, understanding how you can contribute, and not being shy about expressing yourself. To be more assertive, look the interviewer in the eye, answer their questions quickly and confidently, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
Q: What if my skill set doesn’t match the position exactly?
It is important to research the company and position and discover exactly what skills, abilities, and knowledge are required to succeed. Determine, based on your experience, which of your current skills and abilities meet the requirements of the position. Demonstrate how the skills and abilities you have are a strong reason for hiring you, and explain that you can quickly learn the additional skills needed to excel in the position.
Q: How should I handle a Job Fair interview?
Job Fair interviews are simply a faster paced version of a normal job interview. You still must demonstrate that your skills, abilities, and experience are a good match for the position. Before attending the Job Fair, research the companies that will be attending and ascertain which companies have positions available in your field. Determine the requirements of the top positions you are interested in and practice a positioning statement for each, describing how your skills and abilities are a perfect match for that position. Then, as for any interview, prepare to answer questions about your qualifications.
Q: How can I overcome being nervous at interviews?
Prepare, prepare, prepare. The ResumeMaker software includes a Virtual Interview which explains how to answer 500 interview questions, explains why employers ask these questions, and illustrates the answers they are really looking for. With this knowledge and some practice, you should become less nervous. Also, give yourself a pep-talk before each interview. Convince yourself that you are the perfect candidate for the job and that any employer should be glad to have someone with your abilities. If you are confident in your own abilities going into an interview, you will also be confident during the interview.