Interviews make many people nervous. You have just a few seconds/minutes to make that all important first impression. This has a tendency to make our palms sweat, to make us giggle or act nervous. This is typical and most hiring managers understand a little bit of nervous behavior especially in an economic climate where applicants know there are probably many people vying for the same job. Below is a list of things that can help you be better prepared for your interview and hopefully help calm some of those pre-interview jitters.
- Make a list of examples
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for an interview is make a list of examples of actions you took in the past that will benefit the company for which you will be interviewing. The key is to find what in your past employment history can you draw on to make a positive connection to the position for which you are interviewing. Look at the advertisement to pick out key words as a basis to work off of. Does the ad say “selling”, “managing”, “stocking” ,“customer service” and so forth? For example; if the advertisement lists selling and you have previous selling experience this gives you the opportunity to say things such as “In my previous position I was the top seller for three months in a row. I have excellent skills in figuring out what the customer wants and then helping them to find just the right thing that they will be happy with. Good customer service is very important to me I want to build a rapport with my customers so they will come back to us the next time they need (product or service).
- Practice Answering Questions
A good interview will flow with each of you asking questions. For this section we will focus on the questions the interviewer will ask you. Questions such as “Tell me about yourself?”, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “Why should I hire you?” are typical interview questions. These questions are the ones that usually trip people up and cause them to say “um” a lot. If you practice how you will answer these questions not only will you make a better impression but you will be less nervous when these questions are asked. It is important to remember that whatever question is asked that you give an honest answer. One simple method to answering questions is the STAR method. S=Situation, T= Task, A=Action, R= Results. After being asked a question give the interviewer an example of a past event by describing the situation such as what your role was, where it took place etc, then describe the task you were performing. Next give details on the action you took and finally the results of that action.
- Research the company
Knowing information about the company in which you are interviewing can give you an incredible edge. It will allow you to take the information you learn about their products or services and incorporate it into your answers. For example if asked “Tell me about yourself” you can answer “I have always wanted to work with a top company that services air conditioners and see that (company name) is in the top ten companies in (location). My expert skill in servicing air conditioners will be a real asset to the excellent service you already provide.” Whether the company is large or small you can use any information to help you on an interview. If it is a small company, where research is limited, focus on whatever service or product they perform. For example if you are applying to a medical office as a billing specialist you could say “I have always wanted to work in the medical field and I know that keeping patient records is an important part of their healthcare.” Be creative on how you incorporate the research into your answers however; refrain from appearing to be excessively flattering when doing this as it may appear insincere. It is important to practice how you want to use this information in your interview.
- Have current information about the industry
One of the easiest ways to impress an interviewer is to show you are keeping informed about what is new in your industry. Someone who follows what is happening in their field shows they take their job in that field seriously. Knowing changes in your field can also give you an edge in the interview if you can incorporate this information into answers you give to the interviewer. Something as simple as citing a new trend, can give you an edge in an interview. Caution is needed here as you don’t want to sound like a book report on the industry simply saying “I recently read that (your industry) is working on a new thingamajig. I think this is exciting and I am looking forward to using/marketing/implementing etc it.”
One of the best ways to keep current in your industry is through industry magazines. Most industry magazines are not very expensive and will have the very latest information as well as articles about different companies in that industry. This can give you an even bigger advantage in an interview if you happen to be interviewing at one of those companies or a competitor. Another way to keep abreast of new trends is to join an industry group. You can usually find these groups by searching the Internet or by seeing if the industry magazine has them listed.
- Make a list of questions for the interviewer
Most people do not know what is appropriate to ask an interview however to know what is going to be expected of you. It is important you get a clear understanding of the job description. Finding out what your exact responsibilities are should be your first question. How will you know if this position is the right fit for you if you do not understand what the job entails? Ask for details such as; will I be working alone or with a team? Will I be required to write daily, weekly, monthly reports on a project? Do I have the authority to order any supplies I may need? Ask specific questions about any aspects of the job you do not understand.
It is important to point out that it is not appropriate to ask about salary or any compensation during the interview. If the interviewer brings up how much you make now, or what you will be looking for in the form of salary a nice way to respond is to deflect the questions by responding “Are you making me a job offer?” If they respond with anything in the affirmative, this changes the conversation from an interview to a hiring meeting. You can also ask what they think the position should be paying giving them the opportunity to offer a salary.
- Dress Appropriately
Men should wear a nice pair of ironed slacks and an ironed shirt with a tie. The pants should be black or dark blue with a white or light colored shirt. The tie should be simple, no loud colors or cartoon characters. While this would probably make you memorable it is not the impression you want to leave with the hiring manager. It is also good to wear a suit jacket if you have one. This is a must if your job requires you wear one for work. If you wear cologne you should use very little or, preferably, none at all.
Women should wear a nice pair of dress pants, or a skirt or dress. It is important that you choose clothing without loud colors or loud prints. You should also not wear low cut tops or very short skirts or dresses. Shoes should not be too high heeled. A minimum amount of make-up and very little perfume, or no perfume at all, is also a good bet.
- Practice your handshake
A nice firm handshake is important to a first impression, after what you wear, the handshake is second impression you will make on your interviewer. It should not be too tight, nor should you pump your arm like you are trying to rip the interviewers arm off. Neither should it be viewed as a test of strength. You also want to stay away from the “limp fish” handshake or the demur handshake where it looks like you want your ring kissed. It should be firm and you should look the person in the eye while you are shaking hands.
- Cover up tattoos and take out piercings
Tattoos and piercings are more common today than ever but tattoos are best covered up and piercings taken out for the interview. This does not mean you will have to keep tattoos covered or piercings out for the actual job. Some companies, especially where you have a position that does not put you in contact with customers, will allow you to have piercings or show tattoos. This will be a question for the person who is interviewing you. It is important to think about whether you will take a job that will require you to remove your piercings and keep your tattoos covered before you go on any interviews. If you are willing to keep your tattoos covered and remove your piercings then there is no need to question the company policy on this, which could increases your chances of being offered the job.
- A few things to remember at your interview
- Turn off your cell phone and/or pager
- Have paper and a pen to write down the names of anyone you meet during your interview.
- Make sure you have the correct address of where your interview is taking place.
- Leave enough time for travel so that you arrive a little early.
- Have the correct pronunciation of the name of your interviewer.
- Bring an extra resume, cover letter and resume card.
- Have extra time open for the interview in the event it runs long.
- Bring a reference list if you do not have them on your resume and the interviewer has not requested them previously.
- If you are even going to be a few minutes late, call the interviewer.
- Have “Thank You” notes ready to send out to everyone involved in the interview. (These should all include a personal note)