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Ace The Employment Interview
You may have the qualifications, the experience, and the ability to be considered the right person for the job. However, if you do not have a great interview and are not able to set the right chemistry, then you probably will not be offered the position. The focus in most interviews is based on “why I want to work for you” rather than the important “what can I do for you”. The interview in most cases is geared to show you in a positive light. It is the choices you make determining how well the interview goes and if the chemistry is right for everyone.
The process can be different for every company. You may go through a series of interviews or only speak to one person. A series of interviews normally consist of a screening interview to eliminate unqualified candidates and then one-on-one interviews or a panel interview to determine the most qualified candidate. The process will vary due to each organizations beliefs and cultural attitudes to finding the perfect candidate.
The goal of the interviewer is to determine a match between applicants and the position. The ultimate goal is to find a perfect match in several areas to include: the position, a fit to the work environment, and how a person fits the team. You goal is to show what you can do for the company and how you fit these areas. You need to show the interviewer the chemistry is right between you.
There are three types of interviews:
1. The traditional interview asks typical or standard questions to determine the skills you posses and how well you fit the company.
2. The behavioral interview uses techniques comparing similar situations from your past to possible scenarios within the interviewer’s organization. Typical examples of questions for this type of interview include:
- When was the last time you were late on an assignment?
- Tell me about an unpopular decision you made and how you were able to hold people accountable to it?
- Tell me about working with someone you did not like?
3. The stress interview consists of one or more people bombarding you with a series of questions designed to see how you operate in a stress situation. Typical questions may include
- How do you think the interview is going?
- What would you change about a banana?
- If you caught a coworker cheating on their expense report, what would you do?
- Start again…I am not sure you are answering the question I asked?
There are numerous books and information on the internet describing different methods to handle each type of interview. It is up to you to research and determine which methods work best for you. The bottom line is how you answer the question not always the exact answer. Do you take the time to think before answering or do you just say whatever you are thinking at the moment? The best thing to do in all cases is take the time to slow down…take a breath…and think before you speak.
Before the Interview
Research is the key to any interview. Research allows you to understand yourself, the company, the interview, and many other areas. Here are a few key items to research before you go to an interview:
- Identify your strengths, weaknesses, goals, skills, etc…
- Research the company and understand what they produce, their mission, their competitors, and their philosophy. You should be prepared with as much knowledge about the industry, employer, and position as possible. Check out their website and trade magazines.
- Rehearse what you plan to say.
- Practice answers to common questions and try to anticipate the unusual questions.
- Prepare questions to ask the employer.
Plan your wardrobe. This is the first thing an employer sees and will create the mood and impression for the rest of the interview. Follow a few simple rules when getting ready for the interview:
- Wear well pressed and conservative clothing. If the position is normally business casual show up in a suit, always “one up” the dress code.
- Wear sensible and polished shoes that match your outfit. Attention to detail is critical to any interviewer.
- Wear a conservative hairstyle. You want to show how you will fit in not how different you can be.
- Avoid excessive jewelry and downplay makeup.
- Avoid tight or form fitting clothing.
- Avoid colognes or perfumes. Smells can deter the greatest interview. If you smoke, do not smoke before the interview. Those sensitive to smells will be turned off and could cost you the job.
You are now ready for the interview.
It is important that you arrive early or on time. Employers will not take you seriously if you arrive late. Be sure you bring an extra copy of your resume for you and the interviewer, a pen, and a small notepad. While you are waiting, be polite and courteous to the receptionist or who ever initially greets you.
When the interviewer greets you make eye contact, smile and introduce yourself. Shake hands firmly but do not try to crush their hands and show dominance. Wait until the interviewer sits or you are asked to do so. As the interview begins, express yourself clearly with a strong voice, good diction, and proper grammar. Avoid the use of slang terms and remain professional even if the interviewer uses slang. You should remember the interviewer’s name and use it during the interview on several occasions. This shows attention to detail and helps to relate your communication and interpersonal skills. During the interview display a sense of humor and self-confidence but do not be overbearing, aggressive, or conceited. It is important to listen actively and show interest but do not interrupt. Be sure the interviewer has finished speaking before asking or answering a question. Above all…be yourself.
Be aware of nonverbal communication. Sit up straight, look alert, speak clearly and forcefully, but stay relaxed. Make good eye contact, avoid nervous mannerisms, and try to be a good listener as well as a good talker. Remember to smile. A few nonverbal communication signals or body language can deter a good impression during your interview. Be aware of the following items:
- Sit with your arms across your chest. You will appear unfriendly or disbelieving.
- Cross or shake your legs. You will appear nervous and uncomfortable.
- Slouch in your seat. This is not professional and makes you appear as a slacker or not interested.
- Rub or touch your nose. This is a sign of dishonesty and people will not want to shake your hand.
- Stare blankly during the interview. You need to be engaged in the conversation to show interest and respect to the interviewer.
- Sit up straight and lean forward slightly. This show interest in what the interviewer is saying and you are engaged in the conversation.
- Show enthusiasm by nodding slightly and making slight agreements.
- Be aware of personal space. Invading a person’s space can make them feel uncomfortable. A general rule is an arm length away.
- If there is more than one interviewer engage and recognize all parties when asked a question and then answer the person who asked the question.
- If the interview is interrupted remain tactful and show interest in something other than the interviewers business. It is considered polite to motion for yourself to leave, the interviewer will let you know if it is necessary.
- Remember to smile with interest, not as if you just did something devious. A genuine smile lets the interviewer know you are happy to be there not uncomfortable.
Once the interview begins you can expect many of the usual questions to be asked. This is why time was taken to be prepared to answer various questions. A key point is to follow the interviewer’s lead, but try to get the interviewer to describe the position and duties to you fairly early in the interview so you can then relate your background and skills in context to the position. Your research may have given you an idea but it is the interviewer’s perception of what they are looking for that is helpful to you. The following is a list of usual questions:
- Tell me about you? Do not make excuses for unfavorable factors on your record.
- What do you know about the company? Here is where your research pays off. This is a common question and many interviewers will be offended if you did not take the time to at least look at their website.
- Tell me about your experience? Never speak ill of past employers, keep your comments positive. Offer examples of your best work and references which document your best qualities.
- What are your communication skills? Have examples prepared and be ready to give explanations.
- What do you plan for your future or current goals? Be ready with concrete plans and objectives. Be decisive but let the interviewer know this position may create positive changes to these plans.
- What are your weaknesses? Explain your weaknesses in a positive light and how they have been turned in to strengths. Explain what you have learned from self-evaluation and how you are correcting your weaknesses.
- Why are you qualified for this position? Talk about items from your research, key points from the interview, and explain what you will be able to do for the company.
The interviewer will generally end his questions by asking if you have any questions. If the interviewer does not ask you then take the initiative to ask before you leave. Use the questions you have already prepared about the employer and the position. Here are a few good questions to keep in mind:
- What are the daily activities of this position?
- How are my evaluations conducted?
- Will there be company provided training?
- Who will be the chain of command or who will I report to?
- Is there a program for continuing education?
- What are my future opportunities?
- Why is this position currently open or why did the last person leave?
- What makes this company better than your competitors?
- What is the company philosophy?
- DO NOT ask about salary or benefits until offered a position. The question can be used to weed out applicants. If you are out of their price range you just pushed yourself out of a job. Leave it open for negotiation.
Be familiar with questions set by federal law that can or can not be asked. Avoid answers by asking how this is pertinent to the position. Do not be rude but avoid answering. At the conclusion of your interview, ask when a hiring decision will be made. Then thank your interviewer for his or her time and express your interest in the position once again. Remember to take notes on what you feel you could improve upon for your next interview and any information about the employer you feel is pertinent once you leave.
After the Interview
A thank you letter sent the same day or within 24 hours demonstrates genuine interest and gives you a chance to clarify any misconceptions or forgotten information. If you are not called within a week, make a follow up call and ask if additional items are needed. This will let the employer know you are truly interested in the position.
When the employer calls to present a job offer this is the time to negotiate. Here are a few rules to follow:
1. Know the going salary for the position and industry. There are several websites to find this information like cbsalary.
2. Investigate the benefits package.
3. If salary is not negotiable then you can ask for additional benefits such as:
- Additional compensation – 401k, stock options, year-end bonus, etc…
- Continuing education funds. Don’t assume that all employers will be delighted to hear of your plans for graduate school.
- Vacation, holiday, or time off.
- A performance based review in a shorter time frame for a raise in 3 or 6 months.
- Compensation for mileage, cell phones, etc…
If negotiations go well and a finalized offer is made, take time to review the offer before making the final decision. Ask for a 24 – 72 hour period to review before giving your final answer. This shows the employer you are not desperate and take the position seriously. After you get the job – work hard and prove what you told the employer.
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