Acing that Job Interview

05 Jan

Congratulations! You have been spending days, weeks, or possibly months of looking for the right job and this finally paid off when you were asked to come in for an interview. This is of paramount importance considering the present global economic recession in which jobs are not so easily secured. You can wipe the sweat from your brow as you’ve cleared the first hurdle. The biggest question of all comes next: now what? You will have normally only 15 to 20 minutes to sell your experiences, attitude, and skills to the employer – most likely without knowing what the employer wants to hear from you. It can seem overwhelming, but remembering a few key points can help make your interview successful.

1. Research.
Research should always be your first step. Gathering background information on employers is a crucial element in successful interview preparation. Visit the location in person if it is a store or building open to the general public. Visit the company’s website and talk to anyone you might know who works there. What kinds of products or services does the company make or sell? What types of people work there? What are the typical hours this position requires? (Really important because I’ve found that many jobs these days require employers to work several hours beyond closing time, and/or on the weekend.) What are some of the day-to-day tasks that the job involves? Find out everything that will give you a clear picture of what working at this company will mean for you and how it will affect your family life. In the long-run, if it’s a high stress job, you and your family will have to deal with the negative effects on your health and the depletion in income that treating it brings.

Make notes of things you want more information about and ask the employer about them at the end of your interview (it’s always a good idea to have a few questions to ask the employer, anyway!). Researching a company and the position make you stand out in an interview. Now who doesn’t need a leg up on the competition? Doing research shows that you are really interested in working there.

You will need to be prepared to answer the questions “What do your know about our company”? and “Why do you want to work here?” Knowing as much as possible about the company’s past performance and future plans can make your interview more interactive and could be just the leg up you need in a competitive job market. Google the company to see what other information is available online.

2. Practice
It sounds funny – and it looks even funnier – but practicing out loud for your interview will help you sound more polished and concise and less nervous in the actual interview. List a few key things you want the employer to know about you, and review common interview questions. Formulate answers to those questions. Doing so will help you analyse your background and qualifications for the position. Answer the questions out loud while looking at yourself in the mirror. Another great idea is to practice with a friend and record your responses so you can replay the interview and see how well you did. This exercise prevents you from rambling in the interview and sounding unpolished and unsure. It also helps you discover what really does make you the best candidate for the job!

Behavior based interviewing is becoming more common. It is based on the premise that a candidate’s past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Rather than the typical interview questions on your background and experience, you will you need to be prepared to provide detailed responses including specific examples of your work experiences. The best way to prepare for this is to think of examples where you have successfully used the skills you’ve acquired. Take the time to compile a list of responses to both types of questions and to itemise your skills, values, and interests as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Emphasise what you can do to benefit the company rather than just what you are interested in. Also prepare a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer. Remember, you aren’t simply trying to get the job – you are also interviewing the employer to assess whether this company and the position are a good fit for you.

3. Dress to Make a Good First Impression.
In an interview, first impressions do matter. The best way to ensure a good first impression is to dress smart. If you are interviewing for a job in an office, it is usually best to wear a dark-colored, conservative suit (for both men and women). If you are interviewing for a job where the dress code is more casual (at a factory or a construction site, for example), nice slacks and a collared button-down shirt with a tie for men and a nice dress or blouse and slacks or skirt for women are usually appropriate. You should avoid wearing excessive jewelry, perfume, and flamboyant clothes. Good personal hygiene is also important.

If you are unsure what to wear, you should always go with the most conservative, professional option. Most experts agree it is better to be overdressed than dressed too casually. What you are wearing tells employers a lot about how serious you are about getting the job.

4. Be Conscious of Good Interview Etiquette.
Some basic “interview etiquette” tips that are important to remember are:

  • Be on time for your interview. This is, perhaps, the most important. Employers expect employees to arrive on time to work. They may see a person who is late to an interview, when he or she is supposed to be showing his or her best side, as someone who will have difficulty arriving on time to work or meeting deadlines if hired. On time means ten to fifteen minutes early. If needs be, take some time to drive to the office ahead of time so you know exactly where you are going. Know the interviewer’s name or at least the name of the main interviewer (many times it will be a panel of individuals who do the interviewing) and use it during the interview. If you’re not sure of the name, ask the person who called to advise you of the interview. Remember to take along an extra copy of your resume and a list of references. They sometimes ask for them during the interview.
  • Be aware of your body language. When shaking hands, make sure your grip is firm and confident. Have good posture, but avoid appearing like you’re as stiff as a cardboard cutout. Even the most experienced professionals get nervous in an interview – it’s normal. However, if you appear too nervous, the interviewer might draw the wrong conclusions about your ability to do the job – especially if it involves interacting with people! Conversely, make sure you don’t slouch – this could give the impression that you are lazy or uninterested in the position. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer(s) to convey confidence. When speaking, be polite and professional and avoid using slang and profanities. The more confident and polished you appear the more likely you are to leave the interviewer(s) with a positive impression of you.
  • Keep the interview positive. Avoid making negative remarks about any previous jobs or employers. Also, refrain from complaining about any job-related tasks or responsibilities you were given in a previous position. Employers want to hire someone who is positive, enthusiastic, and able to meet and deal with challenges. Plus they might just imagine you doing the same thing to them in the future if you they employed you and you were seeking to move on to another place of employ. Not a pleasant thought for them.

5. Be Prepared to Ask the Interviewer Questions.
This is where all that your research you did comes in. Employers want to know if you’re truly interested in the position. So impress them. They also want to know that you have all the information you need to make a decision, if offered the job. It isn’t a good idea to turn the tables and “interview” the interviewer, but it is a good idea to go into the interview with a few questions in mind. This is your chance to ask additional questions about the business, the position, the requirements, and the expectations of the person who will fill the position.

Remember to ask questions that are relevant to the company and position for which you are interviewing.

6. Stay Calm.

During the interview try to remain as calm as possible. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure what’s been asked and remember that it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to frame your responses so you can be sure to fully answer the question.

End the interview with a thank you to the interviewer or interviewing panel and reiterate your interest in the position.

All of this advice comes down to three important things to remember when you’re interviewing: being prepared, professional, and polite is the best way to make the right impression. Good luck!


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