Job interviews evaluate and screen prospective employees to see if the applicant will match company requirements for a particular position. There are two types of interviews: a “screening” interview and the “classic” interview. The screening interview screens out the undesirable applicants. The classic interview is often conducted by department heads who are not as well-versed in interviewing as the screening interviewer, but who are just as influential in getting the right person hired for the job.
Step One: Know Yourself
Marketing yourself to a potential employer requires two things: knowing your audience and knowing yourself. The job interview is a two-way street of information flow. Your interviewer wants to get to know you and your skills better. You want to be intuitive enough to glean some information about what the job offers you.
Selling yourself effectively in the job interview is threefold: your poise and appearance make the first impression, your handshake and eye contact the second, and the words coming out of your mouth, make the lasting impression.
Before you ever walk through the interview door, do a personal inventory check. Have you done your research on the company? Do you have an idea of how you would fit into the company structure and where you might take the position that you are interviewing for? You know what skills you have mastered and what skills that you would like to master. How do they translate into the potential position?
- Researching the Potential Employer
- Selling Yourself in the Job Interview
- Skills Inventory Worksheet
- What Skills Do Employers Look For?
Step Two: Do Your Research
Most corporations have their annual reports listed on their websites. Take a look through it, pay special attention to industry buzzwords and mission statements. Did the company recently go green? What is its community involvement? The twenty-first century brought with it a changing skill-set. Are your computer skills up to date? Who’s the CEO, is there anything about the company that elicits feelings of connection? Capitalize on all pertinent information, don’t memorize last year’s profit margin unless your potential position deems it necessary to know. Weed out extraneous detail that might bog down your interview answers.
- Company Annual Reports Online
- Translating Military Skills to the Civilian Workforce
- Don’t Have Dress Clothes? You Can Still “Clothes the Deal.”
Step Three: Practice
Most interviews are face-to-face interviews, but some first interviews may be telephone interviews. Either way your delivery must be impeccable. Plant yourself in front of the mirror or videotape yourself and practice your delivery. Or find a family member or friend who will help you practice your handshake, tell you if you are making proper eye contact and how long you are holding it. Give them the tools that they need to be the mock interviewer. Clue them in to what position you are interviewing for, give them an overview of the company, and a list of questions that you might be asked. Ask them to assess your body language and clothing choices. Don’t slouch, don’t fidget, lean slightly forward as you answer questions, show the interviewer that you are interested and an active listener. Then accept the feedback, consider it, and revise as needed.
Step Four: Dress the Part
If you are interviewing for a position within your current company, you have an idea already about how to dress for your position. But if you are interviewing for a position within an unfamiliar company, stay conservative for the interview, even for a creative position. Many times you are sent into the company blind as interviews are arranged online or by headhunter, so you don’t have a chance to sit in a lobby, fill-in an application and take in the dress code of those passing your glance. So ask. If you have to make choice on your own, opt for the best suit that you can afford or wear the best suit in your closet. It should be an muted and professional tone and color, limit the jewelry, but wear signature pieces to accessorize. No open toe shoes. Cover tattoos. Be clean, well-groomed. You won’t get a second chance for that first impression and that first impression colors the attitude of the interview. Don’t waste your time or theirs by coming unprepared.
- Reality Check: The Interviewer’s Perceptions
- What NOT to Wear to a Job Interview
- Interview Attire Guidelines
Step Five: Be Punctual and Ask Questions
Get to your interview a few minutes early. Don’t be surprised if the interviewer sends someone through the lobby to check you out or asks the receptionist how calm and collected you seem to be. In today’s security age, you might be on camera, depending on the nature of the company. Remain professional, go to the bathroom before you head into the lobby, or before you sit down, to tweak your appearance and to take some deep, calming breaths. You’ve practiced and prepared for your interview. It is what it is, so relax, and remember that the interviewer may be nervous, too.
Interviews are give and take processes, two-way streets of information flow. You will likely be addressing open-ended questions, so ask questions during and after the interview that are specific and concisely worded. If the job responsibilities are nebulous, clarify them. If you’ve done your research correctly, you should already have an idea of where the position fits into company structure, but not necessarily corporate culture. Address job specific expectations. Don’t ask about salary as a rule, it will be covered during the job offer, and the job specifics regarding company procedures at orientation, if there is one.
- Presenting Yourself in Your Best Light
- Practice Interview Questions
- Interview Question Overview
- Legal and Illegal Interview Questions
- Appropriate Interview Questions
Step Six: Follow Up
Make certain that you understand how the company will contact you after the interview and the estimated timeframe. Don’t wait until that timeframe is over before sending out a thank you email or card to the company for the interview. But do wait until it is over before querying about your interview status. After the interview has finished, stand up, maintain sincere eye contact, smile and shake hands. No fishy handshakes, they parlay a lack of confidence. Thank your interviewer and don’t forget to send that written thank you note and forward any other asked for materials.