Interview tips

Once a potential employer contacts you to schedule an interview, you know that he/she believes the skills and experience you included in your resume could qualify you for the job opening advertised. The interview allows both you and the prospective employer the opportunity to determine whether you could succeed in the position. It means you have made it through the first round of elimination.

How you handle yourself before, during and after the interview will have a critical impact on whether or not they ultimately offer you the job. Proper preparation could determine if
you make it through the second round of elimination.

Sometimes a prospective employer will call to talk to you briefly before deciding if he/she would like to schedule a personal interview. Your resume should have included as much contact information as possible to increase the chances of speaking to you in person when he/she calls. If for some reason he/she can only reach your answering machine or voice mail, make sure your message sounds professional and clear.

The experience and skills on your resume may seem like a good fit for the job, but your unprofessional manner on the telephone could convince them not to consider you for the position. Also, if they have trouble reaching you, they might just move on to the next name on the list.

Remember that from the moment you answer the phone, your interview has already begun. Your choice of words and tone of voice will already begin to create an impression about you in the prospective employer’s mind. If they offer an interview date and time within 24-48 hours, but you feel you need additional time to prepare for the interview, you can say you already have a commitment at that time and then suggest the same time a day or two later. This way you can research specific company information and gather important data that will impress the person who interviews you. Don’t make scheduling an interview difficult though. It will not count in your favor if you frustrate a potential employer by introducing complications at this stage.

Always make sure that you have allowed yourself plenty of time to get to the interview without rushing. If you know that you have a class beginning at 3:00, don’t schedule a 2:00 interview since you don’t know how long the interview process will take. Sometimes a potential employer will say “Plan to be here about an hour,” but if they don’t offer the information, don’t ask, as it gives the wrong impression.

Being on Time
Arriving on time or a few minutes early for your interview indicates to the potential employer that you respect his/her time and demonstrates punctuality and professionalism. Whether you have to rely on public transportation or your own vehicle to get to the interview location, allow plenty of time for unforeseen delays like traffic, schedule setbacks or getting lost. Remember you only have one chance to make a good first impression—make the most of it by arriving on time.

You will feel much less anxious if you arrive too early, than too late, and you can always spend the extra time at a nearby coffee shop reviewing your information. Arriving late for an interview can severely hurt your chances of moving forward through the interview process. If you cannot avoid a late arrival, always call the company and let them know why and when to expect you. Offer to reschedule if your late arrival presents an imposition to the interviewer.

What to Wear
What you wear to a job interview makes a statement even before you open your mouth. Experts recommend wearing conservative, tailored outfits rather than flashy or casual clothes, regardless of the position. Err on the side of conservative as interviews generally maintain conservative standards.

Men should wear a button-up shirt and tie, slacks with dark shoes and socks and a fresh shave. Women can wear a blouse with a jacket and slacks or a skirt, or suit, and conservative shoes, make-up and jewelry. You want the interviewer to focus on you, not what clothes you chose to wear.

You can often gain confidence based on how you dress, so give yourself every benefit by looking professional and confident.

Follow up
Once you have completed a job interview, don’t just sit back and wait. Send a thank you note to everyone who interviewed you within 24 hours of the interview. Thank them for their time and restate why you think you would make a good choice for the open position.

Meanwhile, you can alert your job references to expect a call from the potential employer. Remember, recruitment always takes longer than you expect. Respect their timing and any indications they gave you about their stage in the process.  If you have not heard back from them within the expected time frame, you can follow up with a phone call, but don’t make a nuisance of yourself. Exercise patience and continue to follow any other leads you have.

In the event you receive another job offer, you should let any other potential employers know that you have so that if they consider you a top prospect, they can have an opportunity to make their move.

What to Expect
A job interview helps both you and prospective employers explore whether or not your skills and experience, as well as your personality, mesh with the position they have available. They have contacted you for an interview, so they obviously think you might have what it takes to fill that role. At the interview, they want to determine if they still think so after meeting you in person. That means they design the entire interview experience around assessing your chances to succeed in that position, in their company.

They will evaluate your appearance and grooming, your energy and enthusiasm, your skills and experience, your confidence and potential, and then they will try to determine if that whole package fits the role they need to fill.

Don’t let it surprise you if your first task upon arrival involves completing a standard application form. More and more companies require that this step be completed online and/or before scheduling a personal interview. The basic form ensures that the company will have the same fundamental information from all the applicants since resumes come in so many different varieties and therefore provide less standardized data. Complete the form as efficiently and neatly as possible, using the resume you brought with you as a resource to fill in information and dates that you might not readily know.

Prospective employers and human resource employees look for confidence, eye contact, enthusiasm and interest. They look for non-verbal cues that indicate your compatibility, and details that communicate to them how much time and effort you have put into preparing for the interview.

How to Prepare
Once you have an interview scheduled, do everything you can to thoroughly research the company. Resources include the public library (newspaper and magazine articles, reference books), the internet and anyone you may know who works (or previously worked) for that company. The more you know about the company, the more carefully you can tailor your qualifications to match their business profile.

Interviewing skills improve with practice, so rehearse in front of the mirror or with a friend or family member until you become more comfortable with representing your skills and accomplishments, and answering questions. Scrutinize your tone of voice, delivery, body language, mannerisms, poise and enthusiasm.

Review this following list of common interview questions. Knowing them ahead of time can allow you to prepare appropriate answers.

  • What do you think are your strengths? (pick a few that would align with the position you seek)
  • What are your weaknesses? (be honest, but try to show how you have made it a strength)    
  • Why should we hire you? (briefly and succinctly lay out specific unique qualifications that you bring to the company)       

  • Tell me about yourself. (tailor your response to focus on qualities that will benefit the company)       

  • What salary are you expecting? (avoid specifics until you get an offer)       

  • Where do you see yourself in five years? (they want to assess commitment and ambition)
Remember, confidence (not cockiness) and poise will make a good impression in any interview.