Be Prepared! And Other Helpful Interview Tips
Job interviews are a source of stress and trepidation for many, especially in a job market that is more competitive than ever. So take these tips to the table when it’s your turn to sell yourself to a prospective employer.
- Research prospective employers and jobs. Understand the company mission and culture, as well as the role, responsibilities and qualifications of the job.
- Don’t merely dust off an old resumé and add your latest work experience. Rework it after viewing it critically to determine if it makes a convincing case as to why you would be an asset to the team. Each time you send a resumé, it should highlight the experience and skills most relevant to the job for which you are applying. Rather than just listing dates and job titles, it also should describe your responsibilities for each position, the results you’ve achieved and the extra skills you’ve acquired, such as learning how to operate various computer programs or becoming fluent in a foreign language. Quantify your accomplishments. For example, say “I increased sales by 350 percent in three years.”
- Give a shining first impression with your cover letter. Within a few paragraphs, you should be able to summarize why you are a good fit for the job and what you want the reader to remember about you. Stay away from clichés and cookie-cutter phrases that could apply to any job applicant. Developing a strong cover letter also is good practice to prepare the main points that you will underscore if called for an interview.
- Schedule your interview during the time of day when you’re most alert and energized. Mornings work best for most people. Find out ahead of time the names and positions of those who will be interviewing you.
- Anticipate the questions you will be asked and practice your answers. Role play with someone whose feedback you trust. Also, switch roles and play the part of the interviewer so you might anticipate his or her approach. Practice answering these three types of questions:
Open-ended questions – “Tell me about yourself.” Take advantage of these to convey your nutshell points and make a lasting, positive impression.
Tough questions – “Why did you leave your last job?” or “What salary do you expect?” Practice your responses until you can answer with confidence. If you are unsure how to word something, research online or ask someone you trust for ways to handle such questioning without jeopardizing your chances.
Behavioral questions – “How would you deal with a difficult customer?” or “Are you a big-picture or detail-oriented person?” Answer these by using examples of past experiences and accomplishments.
- Prepare questions to ask the interviewers to gain more insight into the job, while demonstrating your active interest. Examples: “How do you measure success in this job?” or “What are the main challenges facing the person who fills this position?”
- Address employment gaps. If you stayed out of the workforce for a few years to raise children, for example, don’t apologize, but be prepared to point out how you grew from volunteer experience, continuing education or keeping up with trends in the industry.
- Make a good first in-person impression. Dress conservatively and professionally, regardless of the employee dress code. Arrive on time, or a tad early. As you are introduced, give each interviewer a firm handshake, make eye contact and repeat his or her name. And don’t forget to smile! It will help release nervous energy.
- Be confident, not arrogant. Sit up straight, and relax the shoulders and neck so you don’t look stiff. Never talk negatively about former employers or colleagues. When speaking, make eye contact, even with those not asking questions. Slow your speech a notch; it will calm your nerves and give you more time to think.
- At the end of the interview, ask if there is anything you can clarify or if there are any concerns about your ability to do the job, which you’d be happy to address in person.
- Follow up with a thank-you note within two days after an interview. Gratitude is always appropriate.