The Interview Process
As you prepare to re-enter the working world, here are some helpful tips for your upcoming interviews.
The scenario: You happen upon a posted job opening via Craigslist, word of mouth, Facebook, etc. You read the job description and say, “Wow, I would really like to have that job.” You decide to take your chances; you fill out the mile-long application, submit your resume, cross your fingers, and wait (this could take days or weeks!) for a call. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… will the phone ever ring?
Suddenly, the sound of your favorite ring-tone comes to life and you answer, “Hello?” On the other end of the line is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for – an interview! You happily accept and begin planning for the big date.
Before the Interview:
Do Your Homework!
Take some time to research the company and position that you will be interviewing for. Get to know the mission and focus of the company. Will this be a good fit for you? Do the goals and ambitions of the company match your professional goals and ambitions? If information about or a personal statement from the officers of the company is posted, ( especially if one of them is the person you will be interviewing with) be sure to take a look at their credentials and what they have to say about the company and their goals.
Double Check Your Facts
If you haven’t already submitted a resume, you will need to spend some time making sure that your contact information is correct, your qualifications are listed appropriately, and be able to explain any discrepancies or gaps in dates of employment. If you have career accomplishments or awards listed on your resume, be sure that they are geared towards the company’s goals and are appropriate for the job you are interviewing for. Once your resume is completed, print a few copies to bring to the interview.
After researching your prospective place of employment and brushing up on your resume, grab a friend or family member who is willing to help you practice your interview. Here are some sample questions to get you started:
How would you describe yourself?
What do you know about our company?
What do you look for in a job/career and what are your career goals?
Why should we hire you?
How does this position fit into your overall career plan?
How would your colleagues/boss describe you?
What are the most significant accomplishments in your career so far?
Can you work well under deadlines or pressure?
Have you kept up in your field with additional training?
What are your strong & weak points?
Why did you leave your last position?
If it helps, write down answers to these questions before you begin to practice. Try to keep answers concise while making sure to fully answer the question.
Practice Your Handshake
Many prospective employers base their decision about a prospective employee off of first impressions. Besides dress and manners, a proper handshake with the right amount of grip will make a significant difference in the result of your interview.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
Looking exhausted upon your arrival will not likely yield employment. The standard 8 hours of sleep should leave you full of energy to take on the excitement of the interview.
Dress for Success!
If you are interviewing for an office job, you will want to dress in business casual attire. Some examples are:
For men: dress shirt (white, a shade of blue, or even a soft yellow) slacks, a tie, belt, dress shoes and socks.
For women: dress slacks and a blouse, or a pencil skirt and blouse, and close-toed shoes (preferably a heel that is approximately 2 inches high).
Choose your outfit the night before. Be sure that all garments are clean and pressed. Hair and nails should be under control and should be subtle. Don’t forget that dressing for an interview is different than dressing for a date! Generally speaking, your interviewer should get to know you by how you answer questions, and not by attire or appearances.
*Colognes and perfumes should be reasonable. Wearing a strong scent could annoy your interviewer. Or they could be allergic to perfumes. A great way to wear a hint of scent is to spray twice into the air in front of you, and then walk through. Tada!
At the interview:
The night before your interview, check the weather. If it will be raining, snowing, rush hour, etc., be sure to give yourself extra travel time to navigate traffic or catch the right bus. Plan your travel so that you will arrive anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes ahead of your scheduled interview time. Once you arrive on company grounds, employ your professional manners immediately. You never know who is watching – your interviewer could be outside amongst other company employees!
Spit Out Your Gum!
If your breath smells funky, you may want to freshen up. Most likely you will not have your toothbrush and toothpaste in the car; however, if you feel the need to freshen your breath, tic-tacs, a breathmint, or breath spray is ideal.
Keep Eye Contact
Keep eye contact with your interviewer. (It’s ok to blink or glance away briefly!) Keeping consistent eye contact shows your interviewer that you are very interested in not only the interview, but primarily, obtaining this position.
Be Positive No matter how you feel about past employers, managers, or co-workers, or job duties, be sure to avoid making negative comments whenever possible. Employers are looking for employees who have a positive attitude to contribute to their workplace.
Listen carefully and adapt to the questions being asked. Try to get a feel early for the style of your interviewer by paying attention to the way they dress, the office atmosphere and furniture, and the general décor of the office that you are interviewing in. These clues can be very useful when tailoring the answers to your interview questions.
Relate your answers to interview questions to the company or the person you are interviewing with. Focus on job experience, achievements, skills, and awards that are relevant to the company and your desired position.
Encourage your interviewer to share information about his or her company and answer any questions you may have. Some suggested questions to ask the interviewer are:
Why is this position open?
How often has it been filled in the past five years? What were the main reasons?
What would you like done differently by the next person who fills this position?
What are some of the objectives you would like to see accomplished in this job?
What are some of the more difficult problems one would have to face in this position?
What advancement opportunities are available for the person who is successful in this position, and within what time frame?
In what ways has this organization been most successful in terms of products and services over the years?
How is one evaluated in this position?
After the Interview:
One of the most important things you can do to improve your chances of a job offer is to say, “Thank you!” Continuing to display professional manners even after the interview will go a long way. It is highly recommended that you send either an email or brief letter to your interviewer, thanking them for the opportunity to interview for the position, re-stating your contact information, and expressing your hope to hear from them soon.
Best of luck!