Getting Started

General Questions
If the thought of a potential interview is overwhelming, you are not alone. Most people have never been trained to interview and they do not usually take the time to prepare and practice. You should not participate in any interview without advance study and preparation. One common mistake is to treat an interview as if it were merely a conversation. Carefully read through these tips so that your next interview will be your best one.


Prior To The Interview
Learn as much aspossible about the company you will be visiting and the position you will be applying for. Use the Internet, library, friends, or any other appropriate resources. If time allows, take a preliminary drive so that you won't have the added stress of wondering exactly where the building is. Examine interview questions and plan your answers. It is especially important to make a list of those questions you hope won't be asked of you and then practice with a friend on how to handle them to your advantage.


Interview Day
Arrive 15 - 20 minutes early. Leave time for the unexpected! Get your thoughts together, fill out application forms (neatly and in detail) and observe the company's surroundings and their employees. Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet. Many employers check with their receptionist/secretary to see how they were treated by a candidate waiting to be interviewed.

Bring a fresh copy of your resume, letters of recommendation and any examples of your work that would be pertinent, along with a portfolio pad holder and pen. Your pad should contain key points you wish to convey to sell yourself and previously prepared questions to show your interest and intelligence. Those questions should always be based on curiosity about the company, its products or services, goals, etc. Do not ask about their sick time, vacation time, salary, benefits, or how much the hiring manager earned last year! Always interview from the standpoint of what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. Very, very important!

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First Impression Are Crucial
Employers form 90% of their decisions in the first 30 seconds and spend the rest of the time justifying that decision. Dress for success. Conservative business suits, or dresses, plain hose, well cared for shoes (black scuffmarks on bone shoes is not attractive), low key make up, jewelry, and perfume or after shave. Nothing would be worse than a sneezing fit from an allergic reaction to perfume or after shave. Less is better than more! No clanging bracelets or dangling earrings. Also not acceptable are sandals, and low cut or sleeveless blouses or dresses. Hair should be neat, and tied back if long. You will be judged on your firm handshake, smile, pleasant demeanor, energy, and good eye contact. Do not smoke right before your interview or chew gum during your interview. Enjoy a breath spray or mint before the interview.


Let The Interviewer Set The Tone And Tempo.
Listen, take notes, and DON'T INTERRUPT! The first few minutes should be devoted entirely to building rapport. Encourage the hiring manager to talk about himself or herself and the company. Restate what you know about the company and ask them to expand. Express enthusiasm about being there.


Your Mission Is To Convey Your Positive Qualities
Your general demeanor throughout the interview will be what the employer will rely on most heavily in determining whether or not you measure up. Also, what you don't say in a job interview may open or close doors. Actually, research shows that 65 Ð 85% of communication occurs on a non-verbal level.


Facial Expressions
You may concentrate so intensely on communicating your credentials that you inadvertently might convey a less than flattering message with your facial features, or forget the importance of smiling. Likewise, watching the interviewer's face will also serve as the most accurate feedback to evaluate the impression you are creating. If the interviewer is smiling, nodding and maintaining good eye contact, you're okay. Warning signs would be a puzzled look, or clockwatching, or dozing off. If you sense you've "lost" the interviewer, then quickly summarize your presentation.


Body Language
To make your best impression, communicate positively with an enthusiastic expression and alert body stance, leaning forward, positioning arms openly and make closer eye contact. After you sit down, the employer will usually talk about the weather or offer another "ice breaker," then sometimes will ask the question "Tell me about yourself." At this point, answer the question with a question, such as, "Mr. or Ms. Employer, that is the hardest question, and I really would like to answer it. But before I do, would you please share with me what the main duties and responsibilities of the position are, and then I will be able to answer your question based on my previous experience." If you are not sure about a question, don't be afraid to ask the interviewer to elaborate on it. Once you're clear on the question, answer it, giving an example at any opportunity you have.

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If you were the hiring manager, which example would you remember and/or be more impressed with?

  1. "I have strong organizational skills" or
  2. "My strong organizational skills allows me to juggle changing priorities without important details falling through the cracks". Another technique might be to paint a visual picture for the employer of several projects you handled simultaneously and include examples of interruptions that occurred (have a real life example ready).


  1. "I am a very reliable employee."
  2. "I'm proud to say I've always been reliable. In the last year, I've only missed two days of work; most days I arrive 15 minutes early; I never leave before checking to make sure everything is in order; and my employer knew she could always count on me to help with a last minute project."

Being Specific Makes All The Difference
If you are applying for a position as a customer service representative and the interviewer asks why you want the job and your answer is because you like to work with people - you're coming up with a meaningless phrase! It's important to identify the way you want to work with people such as "I'd like to be able to work with customers, identify their needs, and match those needs with ABC's products". See the difference?


Don't Discount "Irrelevant" Work Experience
Any experience is a plus. Never say you were "just a waitress." Emphasize the big picture skills you learned in that job. Waitresses work under intense pressure, must communicate well, and are excellent at customer service. Draw the parallel for the hiring manager. Sell yourself!


Be Able To Discuss Your Weaknesses
When asked for weaknesses, candidates sometimes choke. Plan and prepare your answers. For example:

Positive weakness:
I always give 110% to whatever project I'm working on, so I get very frustrated when other members of the team don't pull their weight. I've been trying very hard lately to lead by example rather than express my frustration openly.

Former weakness:
When I started in sales, I tended to overbook my appointments. Then I realized that I wasn't devoting enough time to each call. Since then, I've learned not to schedule more calls than I can handle effectively.

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