Interview Preparation

When you become one of the small pool of top applicants who are asked to interview for a position, you know you’re doing something right. Your cover letter and resume have effectively conveyed you as a prized employee and a skilled professional. Now it’s time to show them that you are in fact as good as you sound on paper. Every interview is different—mostly because every interviewer has a different idea of the types of questions they’ll ask you. Some may focus on your past work experience without getting into personal details, and others may rely on personal questions to help them figure out if you’re a good fit for the company. You need to be ready for any type of question that comes your way. This chapter reviews basic etiquette and helps you begin to develop your interview persona. You can use the language in this section during interviews or even apply it to your resume.
Use the advice that follows to prepare and practice—and ultimately get the job!

Preparing to Answer Questions

You will be asked a variety of questions on a job interview. These questions will pertain to your skills and abilities, accomplishments, education, and work history. You will also be asked questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and hobbies, and your likes and dislikes, all of which will allow the employer to learn about your personal traits or characteristics.

Be Specific

On a job interview, you will be asked questions about your skills, for example. Of course, you know what skills you have, but can you discuss how you acquired them? What if you’re asked about your accomplishments? You’ve no doubt accomplished a lot at work, but can you recall specifics? You need anecdotes that clearly back up your claims, so it is imperative that you prepare in advance and have some good examples of your strengths ready when the subject comes up.

Take Time to Rehearse

In preparing for job interviews it is important that you do some practice interviewing, both alone and with others. Rehearsing for interviews will allow you to work on any problems that may be viewed as negatives by the interviewer. Rehearsing will also allow you to become more comfortable with the interview process. By the time you go on an interview, you will have no problem confidently answering questions.

The First Defining Moments

The first minute or two of any interview is the most crucial. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a great first impression, and this is when you want to do just that. Your goal is to wow the interviewer and make a favorable impression that will give you an edge over some of your rivals and open the door to an offer of employment.

Introducing Yourself

When the interviewer arrives, it’s show time. If you appear shy or intimidated, an interviewer may not want to dig too deep and embarrass you; that said, she will not ask you the really difficult questions—the questions that get you the job. It’s human nature to judge a person by their first impression; it’s that first impression that hooks many of us when we fall in love. You and your interviewer do not need to fall in love, but you do need to fall “in like.” It shouldn’t be difficult to do this, as long as you know what the interviewer is looking for.

Maintaining Eye Contact

When the time for your interview arrives and you get the chance to meet the person who will be grilling you for the next hour or so, stand up and greet him with a warm smile and maintain constant eye contact during your articulate introduction. Establishing eye contact is probably one of the most important parts of your introduction. You want to make sure that you look the interviewer directly in the eye as you are being introduced and/or shake hands. At the same time, you don’t want to make him uncomfortable, so be sure not to stare.

Have a Firm Handshake

Similar limitations are placed on the handshake; while you don’t want your handshake to be so light that the interviewer is forced to check for a pulse, you also don’t want to be so enthusiastic that she winds up in the emergency room with a fracture. In your preinterview sessions with a friend, practice your handshake so that you will be able to offer up a firm grip with a quick shake or two of the hand. Then, don’t hold on for dear life; let go.

Starting Off on the Right Foot

Before getting down to the important stuff—like why you would do well with this company—it is likely that the interviewer will engage you in a bit of small talk to get the conversation flowing. Prepare for these questions as well. Don’t mistake, for example, “How was your ride in?” or “Did you have any problem finding us?” for anything other than small talk. The interview really is not interested in whether or not you hit any traffic or encountered any accidents on your way to the office. If you anticipate simple questions like these, you can be better prepared to answer them without bogging down the flow of conversation.
All too often, job seekers make the mistake of launching into a huge dialogue about how long it took them to get to the office, how they found a great short cut, and so on. The last thing an interviewer wants—or needs—in response to these initial questions is anything longer than “Great,” “Fine,” or “No problem!” Also, regardless of how nervous you may be, don’t let small-talk questions like these dumbfound you. After all, if you have trouble answering a simple question about the weather, how are you going to help this company come up with a winning marketing strategy?
DON’T BE VERBOSE. It can cause the interviewer to question your suitability to the company immediately.
Upon arriving at the interviewer’s office or area of your destination, wait until the interviewer tells you to be seated before sitting, then sit (don’t plunk) on the designated chair or sofa. Stick with that chair or sofa even if it proves to be uncomfortable. In fact, you don’t want to be too comfortable. You want to keep alert, not doze off!
Be on your best behavior. The traditional rules of etiquette should be observed at all times during a job interview. Don’t yawn, chew gum, or fidget. A few more things could be added to this list:
 Don’t mimic the body language or mannerisms of the interviewer. (This can happen when you get nervous.)
 Don’t keep looking at your watch.
 Don’t be negative.
 Don’t talk too much.
 Don’t ask about money, perks, or things that are unrelated to the job or company at hand.
 Don’t move or touch anything on the interviewer’s desk. This office is his “home,” and you wouldn’t want a stranger to touch things in your home.
If your interview is going well and you are sure this is a job you want, don’t be afraid to say so. Sometimes candidates who seem to be perfect for the job are passed over simply because they never let the interviewer know they wanted it.
Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t be afraid to be proactive, and don’t be bashful. Wrap up your interview by giving some of the reasons you like the company before asking about your prospects. Make it clear that you think this job was made for you and vice versa.

Set a Tone

The tone of the meeting depends on the personality of the interviewer. He may ask a straight line of professional questions, or he may be more lighthearted and laid back. Regardless of the manner of the interviewer, you should always prepare your answers in a very professional way.
One mistake that candidates often make is to prepare for each question by brainstorming the “perfect” answer. They think about the kind of answer the perfect candidate would give and use that. In most of these instances, the job seeker is wasting the company’s time. Trying to project the perfect image can only result in disaster because often the interviewer sees right through it. On the other hand, if the interviewer buys into the candidate’s perfect persona, she may be surprised when—once hired—the candidate does not perform as perfectly as expected.

 Action Speak

Authorized Piloted
Conducted Projected
Diagnosed Routed
Established Standardized
Innovated Surpassed
Though you shouldn’t highlight your faults to the employer, neither should you pretend to be someone or something you are not. Many career experts think that the best way to set and maintain a professional tone throughout an interview is to create a sort of job interview persona. Think about the many personal traits a job interviewer would be interested in and be sure to project those characteristics. Which of your traits would make you a strong candidate and set you apart from the rest of the candidates? Think about the many successful people you know or have heard about and the personality traits that make them good leaders. How can you convey to the interviewer that these qualifications are part of your own professional nature?
Think of yourself as a calm, cool, and collected individual. With any luck, your research has provided you with an understanding of the company’s vision. If you can link this vision to your own personal vision for your career, you should make a strong impression on your interviewer.
Remember, however, that in the end you have no control over the outcome of an interview; you do not decide whether or not you get the job. In many cases, you could conduct yourself perfectly throughout the interview and still not get the job. On the other hand, you could feel like you’ve botched the entire interview and still receive an offer.
The only thing you do have control over during the interview is what you do and say while you’re there. Always keep the following key qualities an interviewer is looking for in the back of your mind and be sure to convey your aptitude in each of them:
  •  Adaptability
  •  Competence
  •  Confidence
  •  Creativity
  •  Dedication
  •  Dependability
  • Easygoing nature
  •  Enthusiasm
  •  Leadership ability
  •  Motivation
  •  Problem-solving ability
  •  Resourcefulness

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