Interviewing for a job, you have the space of a single conversation to introduce yourself and establish as much (positive!) information as possible about your work ethic, your skills, your attitude, your experience, and your fitness–above and beyond all other competing candidates–for the position.  With the following interview tips, you can make the most of your interview opportunity and give yourself the best possible odds of securing the job for which you’re interviewing.

Before the Interview

  • Research everything you can about the company with which you’ll be interviewing.  What is its mission statement, its standing in the business world, stock market trends, business locations, corporate partners and competitors, products and services, marketing campaigns, pricing schemes, and corporate history?  What is the leadership structure, and who are the key players?  Get familiar with the company’s website, and read everything you can find publicly available about the company.
  • Find out as much detail as possible about the specific position for which you’re applying. In addition to the posted position requirements and responsibilities, know about the proposed salary range (and whether that range is competitive for comparable positions in the industry), and if possible, talk with an employee who serves or has served in a similar position within the same company.
  • Using a list of common interview questions, gather your thoughts before the interview.  Have ready answers for all the questions you think you might be asked, so you won’t be spending time during the interview gathering your thoughts and coming up with answers on the spot.  Having thought through your answers in advance, you’ll be more readily able to articulate your knowledge about the company as well as the details of your own background, and how those two fit together to make you the best candidate.
  • Rehearse!  Don’t just think about these questions silently; answer them aloud in front of a mirror, video camera, or friend.  Although you don’t want your replies to sound like rote recordings, a practice run aloud will help the thoughts flow more smoothly off your tongue during the actual interview. A camera or friend can alert you to unconscious verbal habits–like excessive use of “um”–which will detract from your speech.
  • If you haven’t yet been to the office or interview site, MapQuest it or–better yet–make the drive so you know exactly where it is and can arrive on time.

Arriving at the Interview

  • Dress in your best, most professional looking clothing.  Even if the office itself tends to dress more casually, interview dress should be a notch above every day.  Make sure you’re ironed, buttoned, and tucked in, and that everything about your appearance is tidy and professional.
  • Don’t douse yourself in perfume or cologne.  If you’re concerned about nervous sweat, use a strong anti perspirant deodorant.
  • Arrive early.  A slightly early arrival is insurance against being late for the scheduled interview, and provides you with a few moments to compose and collect yourself and introduce yourself to the receptionist or front office.
  • Know the name of your interviewer, and ask specifically for that person when you arrive.  Use individuals’ name during the interview, and make a point to remember the names of anyone whom you meet while in the office.
  • Realize you are in the spotlight the moment you enter the workplace. Even before you’re ushered into the interview room, employees will be checking you out, constructing first impressions, and assessing your carriage and appearance.
  • Remain relaxed and confident, open and friendly.  Introduce yourself with every appropriate opportunity; employees talk amongst themselves, and the receptionist’s opinion may carry more weight than some people realize.

During the Interview

  • If you are offered water or coffee, feel free to accept, but don’t use the cup or bottle as a “prop” for nervous fiddling.  Pay attention to your hands, keeping them still and relaxed to convey your confidence.
  • Be aware of your body language throughout the interview.  Let your posture convey confidence and enthusiasm, make eye contact throughout the interview, and keep hand-gesturing to a moderate amount.
  • Your answers to interview questions should be concise, specific (with examples), honest, accurate, and articulate. Make sure also that your replies actually do answer the questions asked; don’t lose focus and neglect to answer the question at hand.
  • Just as interview dress should be a notch above every day wear, interview language should be a notch more formal than casual street slang.  Speak properly and professionally during the interview.
  • If any question is unclear to you, ask for clarification rather than flailing or guessing.  Requesting more information will be read as a show of confidence, not weakness, and allows you to focus your answer appropriately.
  • If you need a moment to collect thought for a reply, take the moment in poised silence; don’t use “fillers” or empty prattle while you think.
  • Remain on your guard with regard to professionalism and thoughtful answers.  Some humor may be appropriate, but gauge the interviewer(s) carefully.  Keep in mind that an interviewer who puts you at your ease may still be on the watch for you to let your professionalism slip.
  • As the interview concludes, thank your interviewers warmly and shake hands again.

After the Interview

  • Within a day or two of the interview, send a polite follow-up thank-you note (either by email or by post) to reinforce your interest and offer an opportunity to answer any additional questions that may have surfaced.

Unique Interview Circumstances

  • Phone interviews sometimes serve as the first round of screening interviews, and many job-hunters find the prospect of a telephone interview more difficult than a face-to-face interview.  You needn’t worry about dress or body language, of course–but you also don’t have those methods of making an impression at your disposal when you interview over the phone line.  Do feel free to take advantage of your “invisibility” by having your resume or other notes handy. Don’t eat, smoke, or chew gum during the interview, but do make a point to smile as you speak; even though they can’t see the smile, the act of smiling still affects the tone and projection of your voice.
  • A dining interview sometimes takes place when a prospective employer takes a candidate out to lunch or dinner during the interview.  In such cases, the employer may simply be multi-tasking (fitting in another interview during the lunch break), but it’s safer to assume that the interviewer wishes to assess the candidate’s social skills as well as interview answers.  Take care with your table manners throughout the meeting, including the all-important suppression of the urge to immediately answer a question when your mouth is full of food.
  • A video-conference interview–via Skype or any other conferencing software–may be the venue of choice for a long-distance interview, or for a job in which the candidate would regularly need to use such programs.  Before the video-conference, turn off your phone, clear pets and children from the room make sure that you are professionally dressed (at least the parts of you that will be visible) and take note of the background view of the room behind you to ensure all is appropriate for an interview interaction.
  • A group or panel interview can be somewhat more intimidating than a single interviewer, but for the most part should be approached in the same way.  Make a point to include all the panel members in your direct eye contact and responsiveness; you may direct the majority of any given answer to the individual who posed the question, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your audience is larger than one.  Asking questions to establish the titles and roles of the panel’s individuals can also guide you in directing specific information to the most fitting panel member.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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