Preparing for a job interview
When you attend a career fair or meet with company representatives visiting your campus, you may be asked to interview on the spot. When you send in your resume to a company and apply for an open position, you may be called in for an interview. Congratulations! The interview is your first step in getting a job.
Remember that the interview is not an interrogation but rather a chance for you and the employer to get to know each other a little better. It's a time for you both to ask questions, listen to answers, and decide whether this is a good fit.
Typical interview questions
Every interview is different, but a few similar questions tend to be asked in many interviews. After all, most employers are generally interested in one thing-why they should hire you rather than someone else. It may help you to do a mock interview with a friend, family member, or your career center on campus. They all can share honest feedback and you'll become more comfortable with interviewing the more often you do it. Typical interview questions may include:
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? (The key here is to turn your "weakness" into a strength. For example, your weakness might be "perfectionism," which can prevent jobs from being completed; you can explain how you work to create more realistic expectations for yourself.)
- How do you handle stress?
- If you had a conflict with a co-worker, how would you resolve it?
- Has a manager ever done something you didn't like? What did you do in response?
- What are you most proud of?
- Why do you want the job?
- Why should I hire you?
An interview is also your opportunity to learn more about the company and the position. Some questions you might want to ask include:
- What makes a person successful in your company?
- How will you know you've hired the right person?
- What kind of person will succeed in this job?
- What kind of advancement potential is there in your company?
- What's your company's biggest challenge right now?
- Can they describe the company culture?
Before heading out for an interview, be sure you:
- Are clean and groomed: Simple things such as chewing gum, animal hair on your clothes, bad breath, dandruff, a scruffy beard, body odor, a run in your panty hose, or dirty fingernails can ruin a first impression.
- Have your hair appropriately styled: If you need a haircut, get one before the interview.
- Have driving directions to the interview: Give yourself plenty of time to get there, especially if it is in an unfamiliar area. Go alone, and arrive about 15 minutes early so you can get settled and fill out any necessary forms.
- Are not wearing wear perfume or aftershave: The interviewer may not like your favorite fragrance or may have allergies.
- Turn off your cell phone or any other electronic devices: If you forget to turn your phone off, and during the interview it happens to ring, quickly silence it and do not take the call.
- Have not smoked in your interview clothes: If you smoke before changing into your interview clothes, brush your teeth or use mouthwash.
- Make eye contact: Look the interviewer in the eye and shake hands firmly.
- Speak clearly and use good grammar: Say "yes" instead of "yeah" and avoid words such as "like," "um" and "you know."
- Smile: Smile frequently and show your interest in the job.
- Be positive: Find something good to say about past jobs. Employers rarely hire complainers.
- Be warm and caring: Employers are evaluating whether you'll "fit in" with the other employees.
At the end of the interview, shake hands again and thank the interviewer for his or her time. Ask when they expect to make a decision, and when you should call to inquire. While not part of the interview, send a thank-you note as soon as you return home. If you wish, include a couple of points that didn't come up in the interview, and restate your interest in the position. Always thank the interviewer for his or her time.
Know the business
To impress a potential employer, do some homework on the company. The time you spend researching the company, its business, its position in the field, and its competitors demonstrates your interest in the job as well as your initiative. To research a company:
Make a good first impression
- Start with its Web site. It may contain some great information on the company's history and its outlook for the future. It also may list information about its products or services as well as a list of current clients.
- Google the company and see what other sources say about the company. Try searching on the company's name, its ticker symbol if it's publicly traded on the stock market, and the CEO's name.
- Find out which trade journals reflect the company's particular business segment. Read up on the hot topics in the industry. When you know the important current issues faced by the company, you'll be better prepared to discuss your potential employer's business-and likely impress the interviewer.
- Google your city's name and "business journal" to see if your city publishes a business journal. Most major cities do. This publication covers different industries each month, and provides different lists of top local companies in a number of industries. You may need to subscribe to read many of the articles online. Check if your local library archives past issues that you can search.
- If you are interviewing with a social service or nonprofit organization make sure you are familiar with their mission and programs. Also, research the trends, current events and state and local policies that are related to their mission.
The saying, "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression" is very true when it comes to the interview process. Like it or not, we all make hasty judgments about people based on the way they look, what they wear, and how they talk. Employers do the same thing. You can stack the odds in your favor by making a conscious effort to make a good first impression. This doesn't mean not being yourself-it just means presenting your best side.
The first thing that will be noticed is your clothing. For an interview, you can't go wrong by wearing a nice suit, whether you're a man or woman. If you're a man, you could wear nice pants, a dress shirt, and a blazer. If you're a woman, a conservative dress, or dress pants and sweater set or jacket is appropriate. When in doubt, it's always better to dress up rather than dress down.
Dress the part
As you enter the work world, you'll need two types of clothing: clothes for an interview and clothes for every day at work. Depending on the job, these clothes might be the same-or very different. Software companies, for example, are often casual to the point of shorts and T-shirts, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't dress up for the interview!
After you've landed the job, try to dress like your co-workers. If everyone wear suits every day, then do the same thing. If the office has a "business casual" policy, men and women usually are allowed to wear nice pants or slacks and shirts or blouses, but it doesn't mean you can wear weekend gear. Some experts say you should dress for the job you want. If you want to be promoted eventually, then wear the same style outfits as those in the positions you seek.
The days after the interview
It may take days-or weeks-for an employer to make a hiring decision. During that time, you can call and ask if a decision has been made. The trick here is to show interest without being seen as annoying or bothersome. So, while calling every day is probably too much, calling once a week or every two weeks should be fine.
In the meantime, keep looking for and applying for other jobs. You may get the job you interviewed for, or you may find a different job that suits you even better. Keep your options open.
Anticipating a "no"
If you didn't get the job, don't take it personally. There's a good chance the company's reasons for not hiring you have nothing to do with you or your skills. Just accept that this job wasn't meant to be and remain confident that there will be other opportunities.
Also, realize that you're now one interview closer to landing a job. Finding a job is a numbers game, really, so the more interviews you have, the sooner you'll find the job that's best for you. Keep up your spirits, and keep trying. With time, effort, and faith in yourself, you will land a job.
Anticipating a "yes"
If the company makes you a job offer-congratulations! You might already know the job meets your needs and you don't have any unanswered questions. If that's the case, you can accept the job immediately.
Other times, you may need more information before you make a decision. Companies often expect you to take 24 hours to contemplate a job offer before making a decision, so don't feel like you have to accept the job when they call you with the offer. Iinformation on how to
assess a job offer can be found on this web site.