The Interview - are You Prepared?

By: Jennifer Geary

You finally made it to the interview. While you are sitting in the waiting room, your hands become cold and clammy, thoughts begin racing through your head of whether you are sweating, does it show, did you drink too much water, and what if you have to pee in the middle of the interview? What will they ask? Do I get right to the point, or do I explain every detail? What if I can't answer a question? Many other thoughts begin racing through your head when you finally decide you need some type of headache medicine. At that moment, the front desk calls you back to the office for your interview. You stand up, dust yourself from any last-minute lint accumulation, clear the lump in your throat, and begin your walk toward the door.

Your resume was the first impression you made. Your interview will be the deciding factor for the job. Before you head into your interview, there are a few things you should prepare for.
1.How large is the company - this gives you an idea of your chances for advancement, the types of jobs above yours, the number of employees, how fast it's growing, etc.
2.How old is the company - this will give you an idea about its stability and the security of the position you are seeking.
3.What does the company do? Is it a service or product in which you can develop an interest?
4.What do you know about the position and what job responsibilities does it have? Be sure the position is one you want as it should not just be a source of income, but something you enjoy doing.

Once you have completed the research, you need to get ready for the actual interview. Dress for success. Remember, you only have one chance to make a good impression. Your first impression makes a lasting impression. Not to put any pressure on you or anything!!! BE EARLY, but not too early!! This sets the stage for your attendance in the future. Understand the background of the company you are interviewing for. Know what they are about and what they stand for. Research it if you have to.

The Interview

Always greet the employees you meet before, during, and after the interview with an aggressive handshake, except the receptionist. What I mean by aggressive, is, don't be afraid to squeeze their hand a little, and initiate the shake. Don't give a puny handshake by laying your hand inside theirs with no squeeze and no shake. Let them know you are there for a purpose and SMILE!! Comment on their clothes, office, facilities, or something, but don't overdue it. For example: Mary (yes, please remember your interviewer's first name and USE IT!), I love those earrings, where did you get them?

Your appearance makes a lasting impression. Before you even open your mouth at an interview, you have already made an impression by your manner of dress. It is vital you dress at a level appropriate for the job and not be a distraction. You should look fashionable, but not over dressed. For example, no large fancy earrings, only mild perfume or cologne, hair neatly combed, neatly trimmed facial hair (for the guys of course), and remove your hat and/or coat during the interview.

Your attitude is the next most important piece of the interview. You have already grabbed their attention with your resume and they are talking to you because they believe you meet the qualifications of the job. Now, it's your time to convince them you are right for the position.
1.Smile and be friendly - try to demonstrate a genuine enthusiasm and sincere interest in the position. Don't be overly happy or bubbly and on the other hand, don't be depressed and passive, either.
2.Give the interviewer the respect and attention that the position requires - don't try to be a know-it-all; you should display a willingness to take direction, to learn and to grow within the position. Highlight what you do know, but don't play it up. If you don't know about a subject, ask. At least let the interviewer know the truth about your knowledge. Often times, they will not have an exact fit for the position, but if you are willing to go the extra mile to learn one subject you're not very familiar with, the interviewer understands you can grow into the position.
3.Exhibit a desire to do more than the job requires - going one step beyond what is requested.
4.Keep your personal problems out of the interview - if you don't, you may cast doubts on your ability to focus your full attention on the job. Problems with spouse, parents, or family are not an appropriate subject during the interview. Neither is the fact that your financial situation may be growing serious and you really need a job; no interviewer is going to respond favorably to being pressured should you try to "guilt" them into hiring you.
5.Thank the interviewer for their time - if you enjoyed talking with them, say so.
6.Be on time - many employers are on a tight schedule. Arriving more than 10 or 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment may interfere with other tasks they need to do; arriving late never makes a favorable impression.
7.Do not smoke
8.Do not chew gum - doing so gives the impression you don't know how to behave in a business setting.
9.Avoid heavy perfumes and aftershaves - they are distracting and prevent an interviewer from focusing on your qualifications to do the job.
10.Sit across from the interviewer - there may be several chairs when you enter the interview room; choose one facing the interviewer. In the case of multiple interviewers, choose the best seat where you can see all interviewers.
11.Maintain good body posture - sit erect. Do not cross your arms. Be aware of nervous mannerisms; swinging your leg, clicking a pen, cracking your knuckles, etc.
12.Maintain eye contact - when there is more than one interviewer, divide your attention equally among those present, even if most of the questions are asked by just one person.
13.Do not use slang - words such as "yeah," "you know," "okay," or "nah" should be avoided.
14.Do not ramble - give brief answers, yet provide all the necessary information; most answers should take no more than 30-40 seconds. Make sure your answers apply directly to the questions asked; when possible, emphasize your strong points within your answers.
15.Answer all questions fully - avoid replying with "I don't know" since you DO know all about you and your feelings, likes and dislikes. If you don't know the answer to a question, simply state the reason you don't know the answer.
16.Do not bring friends or children to the interview - your social/home life belongs outside the employment setting.
17.Be honest - don't mislead the interviewer by overstating your qualifications or understating your abilities.

The entire purpose of an interview is to determine whether your personality will blend with those of the other employees and the general atmosphere of the employment setting. Your qualifications have only gotten you to the interview; it is your attitude, personality, and your ability to describe your skills which will get you the job.

Sell yourself

You need to impress an employer with the fact that you possess many of the qualities that make a good employee. Giving concrete examples of these qualities makes you a much stronger candidate:
1.Creativity - Ability to listen to others
2.Initiative - Ability to learn from instructions
3.Maturity - Ability to take supervision
4.Self-starting ability - patience
5.Working with details - ability to accept criticism
6.Ability to work with others - sincerity
7.Innovation - neatness
8.Sensitivity - confidence
9.Problem solving ability - cooperativeness/teamwork
10.Punctuality - assertiveness
11.Striving for advancement - motivation
12.Sense of humor - dependability

Questions you should be prepared to answer:
1.Tell me about yourself - give a brief autobiography. This should include your schooling, education, interests inside and outside work, skills, etc.
2.How does your background fit this position - this is your chance to bring out those points which demonstrate your ability to do the job.
3.What did you like the most about your last job/What did you like the least - give a brief statement. This is a chance for the interviewer to find out what most concerns you about a job.
4.Tell me about your last supervisor - they are really asking, "How well did you get along with your supervisor?" BE HONEST! If you got along, provide some evidence of that good relationship. If things didn't work out, explain why and what you've learned. Don't be overly negative as you will only present yourself as a complainer.
5.Tell me about the people you worked with - the interviewer is really asking, "How well did you get along with your peers?" Answer the same as the previous question.
6.Why are you leaving the job you have now/Why did you leave your previous job - again, be honest. Don't blame others for past difficulties. If you quit, state your reason, if you were fired, give an honest estimation of why.
7.Tell me about your most significant work accomplishment/What has made you the most proud of the work you have done - this is your chance to expand on your resume. Give details of the accomplishments for each job function and/or position you have held.
8.What has made you the most proud of yourself outside of work - this gives the interviewer an indication of how your initiative, motivation, and self-confidence have translated into actual achievements.
9.What do you know about the job/What do you know about this company - this is your opportunity to impress the potential employer with how well you have researched the company.
10.Why do you want this job - don't answer "I don't know" or "I need the money". Tell them what makes THIS the job YOU want.
11.Did your job responsibilities change at any time in your last job - Simply a "yes" or "no" will do.
12.Have you taken any additional courses since graduating or leaving school - this lets the interviewer know if you are willing to learn.
13.How did you do in school - make a general statement concerning your grades, attendance, and extracurricular activities. The interviewer is looking to see if you are teachable.
14.What do you do outside work - make a general statement concerning your community involvement and leisure activities.
15.What are your future plans - give short-term and long-term goals. Make a simple statement, don't drag it out.

These are general questions which would be asked in a normal interview, however; I have found that in answering some of these questions, they spark other, more complicated questions like:
1.How do you deal with stress or conflict
2.Describe your personality
3.Who do you turn to for help when making decisions/If no-one is available, are you comfortable making difficult decisions
4.Describe a difficult obstacle you had to overcome and how you handled it
5.Is there a question I haven't asked you that I should
6.Why should we NOT hire you - this was difficult and I answered the question without answering it, if that makes any sense.
7.How would you describe your organizational abilities
8.When have you failed and how did you deal with it

Remember, during the interview process, answer all questions and try to ask a few for yourself. If you don't get the opportunity to ask during the interviewer's questions, they will give you the opportunity to ask questions at the end. Some interviewer's don't give the opportunity for you to ask questions for the simple reason that they want to see if you will initiate the questions if you aren't asked. Here is a short list of questions you can ask if they are not answered in your discussions:
1.Is the position permanent
2.Why is the job open
3.How soon does it begin
4.What are the work hours
5.Who would be my supervisor/What does the supervisor look for in an employee
6.What qualities do you look for when considering people for promotion
7.When will the decision be made as to who is hired
8.What are the company's business objectives/Where is the company going/Based on what I've read, it seems to me the company wants to _______; is that accurate
9.Do you encourage employees to further their education
10.What is the company's policy and/or expectations regarding overtime where this job is concerned
11.ALWAYS ask about items you didn't understand during the interview. If the interviewer is discussing a type of item you aren't familiar with, ask them to elaborate on how their company uses it.
Asking one question is better than not asking any. This shows you have interest in the company and are genuinely interested in the position.

Avoid these questions:
1.How many sick days do you provide
2.How much vacation time do I get
3.Do you give an hour for lunch
4.When will I get a raise
5.How soon can I expect to be promoted
6.What does the position pay

These are all questions asking, "What's in it for me?" This is definitely not an attitude that is going to get you hired. You must always keep in the front of your mind that you are asking someone to give you THEIR money. Would you be willing or eager to give your money to someone you felt was not going to give you what you paid for? Once the interview is over, don't hesitate to call them with questions if they extended that option to you, but don't bug them every hour with questions about getting hired. Your questions should be directly related to the functions of the position. Only during the second interview or the job offer should you discuss salary and benefits. At that point, you know they are interested in you and you should get into deeper subjects within your previous positions and what you can do for their company. The same rules apply to the second interview.

Being personable and approachable is the key. I know this is a wealth of information, but this is my experience and what I found worked well and what didn't. I have been to several interviews where the interviewer was overwhelmed by my qualifications and explained that I was over qualified for their position, but offered me advice on my resume and interviewing skills. Simply because you are not offered the position, does not mean you should simply walk away. Ask the interviewer why they are not interested in you and what tips could they offer you in future interviews. Always walk away with something.

Visit THE one site for searching thousands of job boards, newspapers, classifieds, and company websites

Job Interview

» More on Job Interview