By Tim McMahon~ editor
Obviously you’ve done something right… you’ve attracted the attention of a company and they are interested enough to schedule an interview. Perhaps it was your resume or even better a recommendation from a friend or former coworker. Now, the job interview is the next hurdle toward landing that new job. The purpose of the job interview from the employer’s perspective is to help them put a face with the resume, see how well your personality fits with the organization and most of all judge your qualifications in person rather than just in writing.
Since the employer was impressed with your qualifications as presented in your resume, you have made it to the interview stage, so don’t blow it now. Make the best use of this opportunity to ace the interview and land the job.
Here are a few techniques to help you prepare for the interview:
Preparation is the Key to Interview Success:
If you want to perform well in the job interview, prepare well.
1) Know Thyself-
Review your resume in detail. For each position you have had held, make notes of your achievements, the steps you took to move toward your goals and the methods you used to cross any barriers. Be sure also to write down your strengths, to fix them in your mind and also so you can review them shortly before the actual interview. Include things like verbal and writing skills, analytical abilities and management experience that have helped you in your accomplishments and that you can contribute to the job. Recall accomplishments and also key situations in your professional life. For instance, it could be about a tool or technique you used to complete a project or the ways you convinced a colleague or customer to adopt your way of thinking.
Everyone loves a good story, prepare several memorable stories that each illustrate your strengths and how you triumphed. Have one story illustrating your creativity, one for your problem solving skills, one for people skills, technical skills, etc. Then when you are asked about one of these areas you will have a story ready to answer it. It is much better to illustrate with a story than to say yes I am the best whatcha-ma-jigger fixer in the world. A cool story about how you stepped in after everyone else tried to fix the whatcha-ma-jigger and failed shows not only that you are technically proficient but it also shows that you are a great communicator as well.
Imagine you are in the interview room telling your favorite stories to your best friends. Of course, the stories illustrate your strengths and before you know it the interviewer is one of your best friends, rooting for you to overcome the obstacle, laughing at your jokes (everyone loves to laugh at tasteful jokes).
And as an added bonus your story will be much more memorable than the other guy who just said yes I can fix whatcha-ma-jiggers.
2) Know Thy Enemy-
The famous Ancient Chinese General Sun Tzu in his treatise on The Art of War said, “Know Thy Enemy” in this case that means know the company you are interviewing with. That means more than just where they are located.
Research the Company- You already have some information about the interviewing company and have used the same in your cover letter. Now, you need to dig deeper, much deeper. It is a good idea to know about the company’s mission and vision. Learn about their products and services and the reasons for the reputation of those in the market. Find out general info and specific data that relates to the job. For example, if you are interviewing for a marketing position, you will need to know, among others, the market share the organization holds for a specific or range of products. If the company President has written a book, read it. If it is a publically traded company read the prospectus or Annual Report. These days with the internet you should be able to find out a lot of information about any company without ever stepping foot in the door.
If you have solid information about the company, you can excel in answers to questions like, “What you know about our company?” The knowledge also helps you weave information about the company into your answers to questions, where it makes sense. Remember that the primary question on everyone’s mind is WIIFM– What’s In It For Me? So by showing interest in their company and tailoring your answers to show them how you can help them meet their goals, you will stand out in their mind. But don’t sound like you are bragging or know their business better than they do. Just demonstrate an egarness to help them solve their problems.
3) Prepare Answers for Traditional Interview Questions-
Some examples of this type of question include,
- “Why do you want to work for our company?”
- “Which course did you like the most in college and why?”
- “Are you a self-learner?”
And the sort of trick question “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?” obviously you don’t want to say something like “I’m a lazy bum and hate anything that even sounds like work.” So you have to come up with an answer that shows that you have a weakness but it isn’t a bad one or even better something that might be perceived as a weakness by some but will actually be a strength in the eyes of the interviewer. The standard answer to this question is something like, “I have a tendency to work too hard” interviewers hate that answer and know you’re just saying that because you read the answer somewhere.
Interviewers much prefer an honest answer that shows you recognize your weaknesses and are working to improve them. Like this one from Gottamentor.com: “I have very good verbal skills but have always had to work hard in math. This year, I decided to take a math course to help solidify my quantitative foundation.” For more on this question: How to answer, “What is your greatest weakness?” personally I would say even that answer is a bit bogus. Who says “quantitative foundation”? Why not just “… so I decided to take a math course to improve my math skills.” Even better, add “and I got a B in the class” or an “A” or whatever. Of course you have to really have taken the class! Never lie in an interview, they can tell and even if they can’t it is grounds for termination if they do find out.
4) Prepare Answers for Behavioral Questions-
Some examples of this type of question are:
- “Give an example of a situation when you had to walk the fine line of maintaining the quality of a project and completing it faster?”
- “Explain how you handled a situation in which you had to take on more work?”
- “Describe the steps you took to reduce the cost of a project?”
Note these are all questions that can be answered with a story. As a matter of fact it is the only way to answer these questions. Be ready with your best stories.
5) Conduct a Mock Interview-
Stand in front of a mirror and practice job interviewing. Better yet, ask someone to interview you. In either case, be sure to cover traditional and behavioral questions. One candidate said:
My dad was the mock interviewer for my first job. He gave me valuable job interview tips, especially about my body language and speaking style. The experience I gained from his useful feedback remains with me even today.
6) Get Familiar with the Location-
Use tools like Google Maps to find out the route you have to take to reach the company. Check with a member of your family or a friend if there’s any special circumstances to watch out for. Drive by if you can.
For an interview, I once drove by the company the evening before the day of the interview and got to familiarize with the route. If you are not familiar with the city, it is a good idea to do a test run.
8) Dress for Success-
What you wear to the interview gives the first impression of you to the employer. Make it good. If possible find out what’s the proper wear for the interview from the HR Department of the company you’re interviewing. If you are a recent graduate, visit or call the Career Center of your school for pointers on the dress. You don’t need to wear a suit for a construction job but you don’t want to wear pants that are around your knees either. Dress a little nicer than you would if you worked in the position you are applying for. The rule of thumb on the dress for the interview is to stick to conventional and conservative dress.
9) Carry Copies of your Resume-
Take a few copies of your resume to the interview. You may have to give it to the interviewer. Or, there could be more than one person who will interview you and may need your resume.
10) Be Punctual-
Reach the place of interview fifteen minutes earlier than the actual time of interview. If you are late, the chances of you being hired for the position are much less.
One time, I had to travel a couple of hours for an interview. I allowed myself what I thought was plenty of time but then I got stuck in traffic. When I realized I was going to be late I stopped the car and found a phone (there were no cell phones in those days) so, I called to let them know I would be about 10 minutes late. And I think that is what actually helped me get the job. It was courteous and I made a good impression as a responsible worker.
I’m not recommending that you are purposly late just so you can call, but if something comes up, certainly call.
11) Greet the Interviewer-
Smile and make an eye contact with the interviewer. Then, give a firm handshake. All these help break the ice and set the tone for the interview. As you shake hands say something like, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you today.”
12) Make Eye Contact-
Maintain eye contact with the interviewer throughout the interview. Why? Through eye contact you communicate to the hirer that you are confident and have high self-esteem. But don’t make it a staring contest. Look just above the eye of the interviewer for a second or two, now and then, and make the eye contact again. With this approach, you do not give a feeling to the interviewer that you are staring at him / her!
13) Positive Body Language-
Sit up straight towards the front of the chair, don’t slouch or lean back and keep your chest wide and send non-verbal signals that you are egar and confident.
14) Speak Properly-
Do not speak too loudly or softly. Both can hurt your job prospects. The key is to speak with confidence and in a way that’s pleasant to hear.
15) Ask Questions-
Interviewing is not one-way traffic. You should ask questions too and give an indication to the employer that you have an interest in and are keen for the job.A friend recently interviewed for a job as a Safety Officer in charge of Risk Management with a large company. One of the interviewers, was the person who held the position before him and had been promoted to the next level. As the interview was drawing to a close everyone stood up, and my friend asked if he could ask a question. They said yes and everyone sat back down. He then asked a question, very pertinent to the position and how things were currently being done and and if they were addressing a certain issue. They were not, and so they were impressed because one thing you need in risk management is someone who can think of everything that could go wrong and then develops a contingency plan. Needless to say my friend got the job.
It is important to ask only questions related to the job. Do not ask about, for example, training, benefits and tuition reimbursement until you are offered the job.
16) Watch for Facial Cues-
Another friend, was in an interview and asked if the company would train him. Depending on the position Employers often do not want to train you to do the job. So, that sent a negative signal to the interviewer, as was evident from his facial reaction. He quickly got back on track by saying that he was a self-learner, giving concrete examples on how he learns on his own.
Many companies do provide ongoing education to help you keep your skills up to date, especially in areas like computers that are constantly changing. So demonstrating a willingness to keep your skills up to date and a desire to learn in that case would not be a negative. Much depends on how you phrase it.
Do not discuss salary. If an interviewer finds you a good fit for the job, they will ask you about your salary expectations. Usually, it is best to handle this question tactfully as well. A lot depends on your current circumstances. If you have another job already you can tell them how much you are currently making. If on the other hand, you are unemployed and despirate you can always say that it is “negotiable” or that you are flexible.
One of the questions you should ask after the interview would be something like, “When will you be making a decision?”
17) Send a Thank You Letter-
Within a day after the interview, send a thank you letter to the interviewer thanking them for their time and consideration. Give one or two of your main qualifications, again, in just a few sentences, which have the best fit with the job needs.
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