Cover letters, resumes and telephone calls have their purpose in the employment process, but there is nothing like an interview to give an employer a chance to meet you and discover more about your interests and goals. It also provides you with an opportunity to learn about the company and the job, which is important in your decision process if you are offered a position.
But the job market is highly competitive with lots of people applying for each position. What will make you stand out? The job candidate who knows the most may not be the one to get the offer. Often, the job goes to the candidate who interviews the best. But people don't interview every day, so it is easy for the interviewing skills to get a bit rusty.
An interview is not something you should dread and lose sleep over. Look at it as a positive, mutual exchange of information. And the more interviews you attend, the better you get at them. Try to prepare and practice for each interview with enthusiasm and confidence. Here are a few suggestions on how to approach the interview process:
- Research the company. It is good to become familiar with the organization and the position. Try to match your skills and experience to the position you are seeking.
- Look good. Dress to impress. First impressions are lasting, so make it count. Projecting a confident and professional image is essential. Dress professionally, but don't overdo it with jewelry or excessive perfume or cologne. Even if the work environment is “business casual” always dress “business professional” for the interview.
- Know the location of the interview. Consider driving to the location in advance. Rushing around trying to find the facility can add to your nervousness. Have the phone number of the contact person and call if an emergency happens that can not be prevented.
- Know your resume. Be prepared to discuss every aspect of your education and career experience. Be honest. Don’t over state your experience, training or education on your resume.
- Have your questions prepared. Come to the interview with questions to ask about the company and position. You need to make sure that the job, company expectations, and the work environment and culture are the right fit for you. A good job placement is a two way street. Remember your questions should be held until the end of the interview session.
- Talk about your previous contributions. Prospective employers are interested in knowing how you made a difference in your previous job. If this is your first job tell them what you are capable of doing that will make a difference and help the company reach goals and objectives.
- Look for ways to sell yourself. Seize opportunities to tell the prospective employer how good you are. Be careful not to brag, but speak confidently about your skills.
- Don't overdo it. Choose your words carefully and don't talk too much. Most people only retain 20 percent of what they hear. Select your words, speak clearly and get to the point. If giving an example for an answer remember S-A-R (situation, action, result). Most behavioral interviewing techniques will require you to give a specific example of when you displayed a behavior or skill. Keep your answers to the situation, the action, and the result.
- Avoid fear by visualizing the interview. It's just an interview, so relax. You will get more comfortable the more you interview. Imagine the experience in advance. Try to visualize various things such as items to bring, physical presentation, eye contact, body language, etc.
- Listen carefully. Pause briefly after each question before you respond to be sure the interviewer has finished speaking. Answer questions directly and concisely. If you don't understand, ask for clarification.
- Should you ask questions about compensation and benefits? Any questions on these topics should be held until the end of the interview session. As a general rule, compensation questions are best held for a different time. This area is one that ideally has already been discussed prior to committing to the interview or discussed during follow up conversations with Human Resources. It is normally acceptable to ask questions about benefits at the end of the interview.
- Write down important data. Get the names and titles of the people with whom you interview. Be sure the spelling is correct, as you may need the information later. Leave a good impression. After the interview, don't just hop up and head down the hall. Try to leave a good final impression by letting the interviewer know you really want the job (if you do) and that you're ready to move to the next step in the employment process. If that doesn't feel right, simply ask about the next step in the process.
- Use resources. Review an annual report, product information or other data that will give you a better picture of the company and the kind of work you might be doing if one is provided to you. It may be beneficial if invited back for second interviews or follow up phone call.
- Don't forget the follow-up. Send a letter or note thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to discuss your skills and qualifications. You might use the opportunity to recap a few points you discussed.
- Don't become invisible. Following the interview, be sure there is a way in which you can be contacted, even if you are out of town. An answering machine is a must when job hunting.