An effective cover letter and a well-prepared résumé will open the door for your consideration as a job candidate, but they will not secure the job for you. They give you the opportunity to demonstrate to the employer, on paper, that you are one of the best applicants for a position.
The interview is your opportunity to match your talents and interests to the needs of the employer. Your goal in the interview is not merely to convince the employer you are the right person for the job; you should also use the interview to evaluate whether this is the right position for you. Throughout the interview, the employer is looking for an answer to the question, “Why should I hire you?” Your responses must focus on answering that question. Remember: interviewing is a two-way street!
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW: PREPARATION
Preparing for the interview is almost as important as the interview itself. The key to successful interviewing is knowing yourself and knowing the organization with whom you are interviewing. To prepare for any interview, you should:
- Review your skills, interests, and values as they relate to this position.
- Research the organization.
- Prepare to answer questions you might be asked.
- Prepare questions you can ask the interviewer.
- Practice interviewing to familiarize yourself with the interview process.
- Plan your wardrobe so that you are dressed appropriately.
EVALUATE YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
- Handshake—firm, don’t hesitate to extend your hand first. Always shake hands before leaving the interview.
- Eye contact—direct eye contact makes you appear confident.
- Posture—stand up straight, do not slump in your chair, do not cross legs at the knee, maintain a “natural” posture.
- Use professional verbal communication—avoid slang terms, pronounce words completely.
- Adjust the message on your answering machine so it sounds professional.
- Remember—employers often make their hiring decision within the first 3-5 minutes of the interview so your communication skills are being tested—market yourself properly!
- Concentrate on giving clear and concise responses to questions you are asked. Avoid “yes” and “no” answers. Be prepared to give examples to support your answers. Responding with vague generalities will indicate you have not taken the time to think about the questions you could be asked and that you have not exerted much effort in preparation for the interview.
- Have a positive attitude even when answering difficult questions. Be confident that you can respond openly and honestly.
- Project enthusiasm about the position.
- Gesturing and smiling, when appropriate, are considered behaviors used by successful, intelligent candidates.
- Speak with conviction in your voice.
- Think about how you will manage the first impression the interviewer(s) will have of you in terms of verbal and nonverbal communication!
- Be courteous and attentive to everyone you meet.
RESEARCH THE ORGANIZATION
It is important to research the organization, industry, and/or any institution with whom you will be interviewing prior to the interview. You should acquire as much information as possible. This information will help you understand the organization and the position for which you are applying. Thorough research will enable you to ask better questions during the interview and to determine which of your assets to emphasize.
Some questions you may want to keep in mind as you conduct your research:
- What does the organization do? What are its products and/or services?
- What industries/populations does the organization serve?
- How large is the organization?
- Is it part of a larger organization? If so, which one? What are some of its acquisitions?
- Where is its headquarters? What are the other divisions and where are they located?
- What is the outlook for this organization? For this industry in general?
- What is the salary range for this type of position?
The answers to these and other questions should help you formulate a clear idea of whether this organization is a match for you.
DRESS APPROPRIATELY: INTERVIEWING ATTIRE
Your appearance at a job interview may work for you or against you. Few people are hired simply because they are well-dressed, but wearing the wrong outfit has ruined the chances of many a job hunter. Select clothes that project the image appropriate to the position you want. Candidates should research the employer’s standards then dress as though they were representing that specific employer.
Neatness counts. Check for missing buttons, store or dry cleaning tags, tiny rips in your clothing, or run-down heels. Be sure your clothes are neatly pressed and use a lint brush if necessary. Your shoes should be clean and polished. People may equate how neatly you dress with how neatly you work. Make sure your nails are well manicured—regardless of gender! Avoid showing anything that may be considered unprofessional such as tattoos, piercings, or exotic jewelry.
In the professional world, conservative clothing in basic colors is the unofficial uniform. In a more creative field, casual and colorful clothing may be acceptable. Dress comfortably, but appropriately. Then, relax and concentrate on the interview.
SOME ADDITIONAL POINTERS
Some additional areas of preparation that may have an impact on your success in the interview situation include:
- Know where your appointment is to be held. If possible, travel to the location in advance of the appointment to be sure you know how to get there.
- Be on time. This is a courtesy to the interviewer and creates a positive impression. An early arrival of 10-15 minutes will also allow you time to collect your thoughts and review those ideas you intend to express to the employer. When the interview begins, you want to feel relaxed and in control of the situation. If you have an emergency, inform the organization as soon as possible.
- Know the correct pronunciation and spelling of the organization’s and interviewers’ names. Listen closely when the interviewer introduces her/himself. You may also need to find out if “Chris” is a man or a woman. Answers to these types of questions can usually be obtained from the receptionist or call ahead.
- Be friendly and polite to everyone with whom you may come in contact, from the receptionist to the company president. People notice!
REASONS FOR REJECTION
There are a number of reasons why applicants are rejected by an employer. Many reasons have no relationship to your skills. The following list will give you an idea of some “typical” factors why a candidate may be rejected for a position.
- Inability to express self clearly and/or poor communication skills
- Uncertainty about future goals and/or career plans or unrealistic goals
- Poor personal appearance
- Lack of enthusiasm or interest in the job or organization (failure to ask questions)
- Excessive interest in salary, benefits, and vacation
- Lack of courtesy, maturity, or tact
- Lack of knowledge about the organization
- Lack of confidence or over-confidence
Source: Basic Interview Techniques- Russ College of Engineering and Technology Ohio University