Your career may depend on it…
· Tell me about yourself… (Your answer should contain much more about your job skills than your personal life.) Talk about the growth of your career, what you learned from previous employment or even things like how your volunteer worked help you develop your organizational, time management and leadership skills.
· What are your strengths? (If you really enjoy new challenges and tackle them in an organized manner, this would be a useful strength in almost any situation.) You can talk about your ability to find unique solutions to problems. Be prepared with some concrete examples, since that may be the follow-up question.
· What are your weaknesses? (A “good” weakness might be that you have trouble leaving the office behind when you go home in the evenings.) This is a very difficult question that is not asked often, but it’s one you should prepare for anyway. If you talk about your temper, your tendency to gossip or the fact that you’re lazy, you may as well pack up and go home right then. If you mention a weakness such as your lack of patience with people who don’t do their share of the work, you should also mention that you keep this impatience to yourself and try very hard not to express it toward others.
· Do you have any questions about our company? (If you have paid attention during the interview and if you have done your homework, this would be a good time to ask for more details about some aspect of the company’s organizational structure or products. It would not be a good time to ask about your first raise. You could also ask questions about the community, their training program or details about the work environment.)
· Where do you expect your career to be in 10 years? (Be careful here. You do not want to give the impression that you’re simply using this company as a stepping stone to another career. Think of a related managerial position within the company that would interest you.) There is a story about a young accountant who was asked this question by a CPA firm during an interview. The young accountant replied that he saw himself as the comptroller of a large corporation. In other words, “I’m just using your firm to teach me and then after you spend your resources training me, I will leave to go work for someone else.” Needless to say, he was not offered a position with the CPA firm. They know that 75% of the people they hire will leave within 10 years, but they do not want to hire someone who comes in with that plan.
· What skills do you have that would benefit our company? (If your skills are not exactly those that the company may have requested, you can point out the skills you have that would be valuable to any company. Examples of these skills are: your ability to plan and execute long-term projects, your ability to organize information into usable data, your ability to research complicated issues, or your ability to work well with a team.) If your skills are not perfect for this particular company, you can mention how quickly you were able to adapt and learn in other situations. Again, be prepared with specific examples in case you are asked to elaborate.
. Why did you leave your last job? (This is not an opening to speak badly of your former employer. There is almost always a way of wording the explanation so that you do not sound like a “problem employee” and your former employer does not sound like an undesirable company.) As unfair as it may seem, there is almost no time when you should say something bad about your former employer. You can talk about the lack of potential for upward mobility, the fact that your job responsibilities changed to the point that it no longer fit into your career plan, your need to move to be closer to your aging parents, the need to reduce travel time, your need for a more challenging job, or anything else that does not get into personalities or other conflicts. If you were fired for cause, you may want to be up front about it, explain the circumstances and accept responsibility for your actions. Practice your answers to this question with someone who has interview experience. However, don’t lie. If you can’t say anything positive about your former employer, don’t say anything. It could come back to haunt you.
IMPORTANT INTERVIEW TIPS:
Arrive a little early. If you arrive about fifteen minutes before the scheduled interview time, you will have time to collect your thoughts, wipe the perspiration from your hands, and scan the lobby for current company information. You will also show your interviewer that you value his or her time.
Do your homework. Know the interviewer’s name and how to pronounce it (including proper title: Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.). Know the company’s major products or services, the organization of the company (divisions, parent company, etc.), current business news about the company and the company’s major customers and competitors. You can learn most or all of this information from the company’s website, annual report or company literature.
Bring a Spare Copy of Your Resume in a Briefcase or Folder. This demonstrates that you are prepared. It also gives the interviewer something to take notes on.
Expect to Spend Some Time Developing Rapport. Personal chemistry is a main ingredient in the hiring process. Try to relax and become comfortable with the interviewer.
Watch Your Non-Verbal Communication. Maintain an open body posture and appropriate eye contact. Seat yourself at a reasonable distance from the other person. Smile.
Don’t Be Embarrassed by Nervousness. Interviewers are human, and they often become nervous, too. In fact, nervousness is a good sign – it shows that you are taking the interview seriously. Avoid nervous mannerisms such as tapping your fingers, feet, playing with pens, etc.
Body language is powerful! Good eye contact, a warm, natural smile and a firm handshake can help you overcome nervousness, develop a personal rapport and present a confident image.
Don’t Play Comedian or Try to Entertain the Interviewer. It is important to be personable, but do not overdo it.
Don’t Exaggerate or Lie. You might be tempted to embellish your achievements in the interview, but it will come back to haunt you on the job!
Follow the Interviewer’s Lead. Don’t try to take over the interview. Stick to the main subject at hand, but do not dwell too long on one point. It is better to deal with many questions rather than just one or two in-depth questions, unless that’s where the interviewer leads you.
Be Prepared For Personal Questions, Even Some Inappropriate Ones. Anticipate how you will handle personal questions without blowing your cool. Some interviewers may not be aware of what they can and cannot legally ask you. Be sure you understand the question. It is okay to ask for clarification.
Emphasize the Positive. Be frank and honest, but never apologize for lack of experience or weaknesses. You can be self-confident without being overconfident or flippant. If you are new to the job market, your lack of experience has one very positive feature: you do not have to “unlearn” bad habits or different practices learned from previous employers. Many employers like the idea that you can be taught their individual company procedures without needing to get rid of other training first.
Wait for an Offer to Bring Up Salary. Let the interviewer bring up this subject. Often salary and benefits are not discussed at all on the first interview. Even though everyone knows that salary is important, you do not want to give the impression that it is the only consideration. If it is, you can be easily lured away be a competitor offering a slightly higher salary. The interviewer needs to see that you are interested in the other aspects of the job like the potential for growth, learning or the challenge of the position.
Don’t be Afraid to Think Before You Speak. Use silence and intentional pause to your advantage. Time is occasionally needed to think and to reflect. The interviewer will respect you for taking a questions seriously enough to give it a moment or two of consideration before answering.
Emphasize What You Can Do For The Organization. This means emphasizing your transferable skills. However, be careful not to reveal trade secrets from a previous employer. Employers are concerned most with what you can do for them. Focus on your ability to tackle new situations, your communication skills, interpersonal abilities, analytical thinking talents, and other skills developed while in college or in previous positions.
Don’t give “Prepared Answers”. Most employers know a these stock answers when they hear them. This is a good reason to use interview question / answer guide as just that – guides. If your answers are not personalized to your situation, they will sound forced and unnatural. You might be surprised to learn how often interviewers hear the phrase, “I really like working with people.” The phrase is used so often that it has lost it’s meaning!
NEVER Speak Badly about a Former Employer. If there were problems with previous experiences, try to put your answers in the positive rather than the negative. If you slight a former employer, the interviewer may assume that you will someday do the same to him or her.
Watch Your Grammar and Your Manners. Employers are interested in candidates who can express themselves properly. Even if you have to slow down to correct yourself — do it! Use slang expressions very sparingly. If your knowledge of rules of etiquette are rusty, take a “refresher course” from a knowledgeable friend.
Be Prepared to Ask Questions. Almost all interviewers will ask if you have any questions. You should have some ready and should have at least one that is related to the conversation you have just completed. This demonstrates that you are both prepared and interested. Your questions should be related to details about the company and should be based on the information you learned from the homework you have done (see Tip #2). You should not ask questions like “How long to I have to wait before I can take a vacation?” Save those what’s-in-it-for-me questions for later.
Use Telephone Interviews. If you are applying for jobs in places in other states, you can suggest a short telephone interview. Even a preliminary telephone interview can help you assess whether or not it would be worth your time and expense to travel for a personal interview.
Don’t Expect an Immediate Job Offer. Offers usually follow the interview, a few weeks later. If you are offered the position on the spot, it is appropriate for you to ask for one or two days to think about the offer before responding.
Be Careful With the Closing. Do not linger. End quickly and courteously. Thank your interviewer for the interview. Smile.
Be Yourself! You do not want to get hired on the basis of something you are not. You want to be hired for who you are!