A job interview is your chance to show an employer what he or she will get if you're hired. That is why it is essential to be well prepared for the job interview. Preparing means knowing about the industry, the employer, and yourself. It means paying attention to details like personal appearance, punctuality, and demeanor.
I always feel that knowledge is your best weapon. That starts with the very basic bit of knowledge regarding job interviews. Before you research the industry and the company and even before you practice answering the questions you might be asked, you should have some general information about job interviews. Let's start by going over the different types of interviews you might face.
Types of Interviews
The Screening Interview
Your first interview with a particular employer will often be the screening interview. This is usually an interview with someone in human resources. It may take place in person or on the telephone. He or she will have a copy of your resume in hand and will try to verify the information on it. The human resources representative will want to find out if you meet the minimum qualifications for the job and, if you do, you will be passed on to the next step.
The Selection Interview
The selection interview is the step in the process which makes people the most anxious. The employer knows you are qualified to do the job. While you may have the skills to perform the tasks that are required by the job in question, the employer needs to know if you have the personality necessary to “fit in.” Someone who can't interact well with management and co-workers may disrupt the functioning of an entire department. This ultimately can effect the company's bottom line. Many experts feel that this can be determined within the first several minutes of the interview. However, more than one person being interviewed for a single opening may appear to fit in. Often, job candidates are invited back for several interviews with different people before a final decision is made.
The Group Interview
In the group interview, several job candidates are interviewed at once. The interviewer or interviewers are trying to separate the leaders from the followers. In any group there is a natural process that takes place where the group stratifies into leaders and followers. The interviewer may also be trying to find out if you are a "team player." The type of personality the employer is looking for determines the outcome of this interview. There is nothing more to do than act naturally. Acting like a leader if you are not one may put you into a job for which you are not appropriate.
The Panel Interview
In a panel interview, the candidate is interviewed by several people at once. It can be quite intimidating as questions are fired at you. You should try to remain calm and establish rapport with each member of the panel. Make eye contact with each member of the panel as you answer his or her question.
The Stress Interview
The stress interview is not a very nice way to be introduced to the company that may end up being your future employer. It is, however, a technique sometimes used to weed out those that cannot handle adversity. The interviewer may try to artificially introduce stress into the interview by asking questions so quickly that the candidate doesn't have time to answer each one. Another interviewer trying to introduce stress may respond to a candidates answers with silence. The interviewer may also ask weird questions, not to determine what the job candidate answers, but how he or she answers. According to Interviewing by The National Business Employment Weekly (John Wiley and Sons, 1994), the job candidate should first "recognize that you're in the situation. Once you realize what's happening, it's much easier to stay calm because you can mentally reframe the situation. Then you have two choices: Play along or refuse to be treated so poorly." If you do play along, the book recommends later finding out if the reason for conducting a stress interview is legitimate. That will determine if this is a company for which you want to work.
Preparing for the Interview
Before you begin to think about how you will dress for the interview, or answer questions, you should do your homework. By that I mean gather as much information about the employer as you can. Not only will you appear informed and intelligent, it will also help you make a decision if a job offer is eventually made. Gathering employer information is not always an easy task, especially if the employer is a small private company.
In the next section of this article, I will talk about answering questions. You might want to prepare for answering questions by listing some of your attributes. Talk to former co-workers with whom you worked closely. Ask them to list some traits about you that they most admired -- work related, of course. Try to find some faults as well. You won't, obviously, spontaneously tell a prospective employer about these faults, but you may be asked to. One question that sometimes comes up in an interview is “What is something that has been a problem for you at work?” By studying your faults, you will be able to choose one that is somewhat innocuous or could be turned around into a positive.
Practice, Practice, And Then Practice Some More
You want to seem somewhat spontaneous, but you also want to appear self-confident. The way to do that is to rehearse, not exactly what you will say, but how you will say it. A great method is to rehearse in front of a video camera. Study your posture, the way you make eye contact, and your body language. If you don't have a video camera, a mirror will do. Have a friend do mock interviews with you. The more you repeat a scenario, the more comfortable you will begin to feel with it.
Succeeding on the Interview
Dressing For The Interview
Appearance is very important and whether we like it or not, it is the first thing people notice about us. You should match your dress to employees in the workplace in which you are interviewing and probably take it up a notch. For example, employees wearing suits means prospective employees in suits; employees in dress pants and dress shirts or skirts and blouses means prospective employees should still wear suits. If dress is very casual, those being interviewed should wear dress pants and dress shirts or skirts and blouses. To get a good feel for how people in a particular environment dress, visit the parking lot or loiter in front of the building at the start or end of the workday. Don't choose a Friday, since many offices have “casual Fridays.”
Good grooming is essential. Your hair should be neat and stylish. Your nails should be well manicured and clean. Men's nails should be short. Women's nails should be of a reasonable length and polished in a neutral color. Also for women, makeup shouldn't be heavy. Perfume or cologne should be avoided as some people find certain scents offensive.
Since the interviewer's job is to make sure that not only your skill, but your personality as well, is a good match, you must establish rapport with the person or persons interviewing you. That begins the instant you walk in the door. Let the interviewer set the tone. Nothing is as awkward as offering your hand and having the gesture not returned by the other person. Therefore you should wait for the interviewer to offer his or her hand first, but be ready to offer your hand immediately. Some experts suggest talking at the same rate and tone as the interviewer. For example, if the interviewer is speaking softly, so should you.
They say that body language gives more away about us than speech. Eye contact is very important but make sure it looks natural. A smiling, relaxed face is very inviting. Hands resting casually in your lap rather than arms folded across your chest also is more inviting. If you normally move your hands around a lot when you speak, tone it down some. You don't want to look too stiff, but you don't want to look like you're a bundle of nervous energy.
When it comes down to it, isn't this the main point of the interview? Speak slowly and clearly. I tend to speak very quickly, so this is something I must pay careful attention to when I am on an interview. Pause before you answer a question. Your answers will seem less rehearsed and it will give you a chance to collect your thoughts. Keep in mind that a very brief pause may seem like an eternity to you. It's not.
Prepare answers to some basic questions. There are several books that list questions and sample answers. There are also some online resources that do the same. You can find those listed in the Job Interviewing section. Don't memorize the actual answers but become familiar with how you will answer the questions.
Usually toward the end of the interviewer, the person conducting it will ask you if you have any questions. You should have some. You should ask about what a typical day would entail. You could also ask what special projects you would be working on. As in every other aspect of the job search, you are trying to show the employer how you can fill their needs. By asking about a typical day on the job or special projects, you are putting yourself in the job and showing the employer how you will satisfy the employer's needs. Don't ask about salary, benefits, or vacations, as those all imply “what will you, the employer, do for me?”
We have all heard horror stories of interviewers asking job candidates inappropriate questions, such as those about marital status, age, and family status. These questions should not be asked, but it is up to you whether to answer them. Often, interviewers are not aware of the legal issues involved. If you feel uncomfortable answering them, you can change the subject. If you feel these questions are being asked with intent to discriminate, you can let the employer know you cannot answer. Remember that the employer will probably find some reason not to hire you. Whether you pursue the matter legally is a personal choice. Keep in mind, though, that an unethical employer is not one with whom you want to be affiliated.
Money is a very sensitive topic. As discussed earlier, the candidate shouldn't bring it up. However, the interviewer may bring it up first. He or she may ask what salary you hope to earn. You must prepare for this question before the interview. Find out what others in the same position are earning. Always give a range, not an exact number. This will help keep you from pricing yourself out of a job. You don't want the employer to think they can't afford you, but you also don't want them to think you are a cheap commodity.
After the Interview
This is something that is too often neglected. It's the thank you note or follow-up letter. It is your chance to reiterate something you mentioned on the interview or bring up something you forgot to mention. It is also a nice gesture and a simple matter of politeness.
You should try to send a note to each person who took part in your interview. If you don't remember the name of each person, call the receptionist for some help. Keep your note brief. Make sure it is typed. Someone at a workshop once asked me if the thank you note would make you look like you were “kissing up” to the employer. I don't believe so. I do believe that it sets you apart from everyone else who forgot to or chose not to do this.
Ten Myths About Choosing a Career
#4 I should choose a career from a "Best Careers" list
Every year, especially during milestone years, i.e. the beginning of a new decade, there are numerous articles and books that list what "the experts" predict will be "hot jobs." It can't hurt to look at those lists to see if any of the careers on it appeal to you, but you shouldn't use the list to dictate your choice. While the predictions are often based on valid data, sometimes things change. Way too often what is hot this year won't be hot a few years from now. In addition, you need to take into account your interests, values, and skills when choosing an occupation. Just because the outlook for an occupation is good, it doesn't mean that occupation is right for you.
#5 Making a lot of money will make me happy
While salary is important, it isn't the only factor you should look at when choosing a career. Countless surveys have shown that money doesn't necessarily lead to job satisfaction. For many people enjoying what they do at work is much more important. However, you should consider earnings, among other things, when evaluating an occupation.
#6 Once I choose a career I'll be stuck in it forever
Not true. If you are unsatisfied in your career for any reason, you can always change it. You'll be in good company. Many people change careers several times over the course of their lifetimes.
#7 If I change careers my skills will go to waste
Your skills are yours to keep. You can take them from one job to another. You may not use them in the exact same way, but they won't go to waste
#8 If my best friend (or sister, uncle, or neighbor) is happy in a particular field, I will be too
Everyone is different and what works for one person won't necessarily work for another, even if that other person is someone with whom you have a lot in common. If someone you know has a career that interests you, look into it, but be aware of the fact that it may not necessarily be a good fit for you.
#9 All I have to do is pick an occupation... Things will fall into place after that
Choosing an occupation is a great start, but there's a lot more to do after that. A Career Action Plan is a road map that takes you from choosing an occupation to becoming employed in that occupation to reaching your long-term career goals.
#10 There's very little I can do to learn about an occupation without actually working in it
While first hand experience is great, there are other ways to explore an occupation. You can read about it either in print resources or online. You can also interview those working in that field.http://careerplanning.about.com/od/exploringoccupations/http://careerplanning.about.com/od/careeractionplan/http://careerplanning.about.com/library/weekly/aa121202a.htmhttp://careerplanning.about.com/od/salarybenefits/http://careerplanning.about.com/od/selfassessment/http://careerplanning.about.com/cs/choosingacareer/a/hobby.htmhttp://careerplanning.about.com/cs/choosingacareer/a/cp_process.htm