Career Advice - Interview Preparation Name: Date: Review the attached documents: Last-Minute Interview Preparation Six Interview Answers You Need to Get Hired Nonverbal Communications: Escape the Pitfalls Job Interview Tips Log five things you have learned about interviewing that you did not previously know: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Last-Minute Interview Preparation Even if you have less than a day before your job interview, you can outshine the competition with a little interview preparation. The following four tasks will take you about four hours (plus five minutes) to complete, and you'll walk into the interview confident you'll be successful. Conduct Basic Interview Research To prepare for an interview, find out as much as you can beforehand. Call the person who scheduled your interview and ask: Who will you be talking to? Will you meet the manager you'd work for, or will you just talk to HR? What are the interviewer's expectations? What's the dress code? Dress better than suggested. Most times, it's best to wear a professional suit. You'd be amazed how many candidates show up looking like they're going to class, not presenting a professional demeanor. Get directions to the office. Plan to leave early. Keep a phone number to call if you get stuck on the bus or in traffic. If you arrive late and stressed, the interview will not go well. If you don't have a detailed job description, ask for one. That's a five-minute phone call. Learn About the Company Online Do some fast Web research, which will give you something to talk about in addition to the job description. Go to the employer's Web site, or search the Web for information such as: How big is the company in terms of annual sales or employees? What does the company say about its products or services? What recent news (such as a new product, a press release, an interview with the CEO) can you discuss? If the company is public, the boilerplate at the bottom of its press releases will tell you a lot. Basic research should take you about an hour. Think of Some Stories Be ready to answer typical interview questions with a story about yourself. To prepare, write down and memorize three achievement stories. Tell about times you've really felt proud of an achievement at work or school. These stories demonstrate all those hard-to-measure qualities like judgment, initiative, teamwork or leadership. Wherever possible, quantify what you've done, e.g., "increased sales by 20 percent," "cut customer call waiting time in half," "streamlined delivery so that most customers had their job done in two days." By the way, non-work achievement stories are good too; if you volunteer for the local food pantry, write down a time you overcame a big challenge or a crisis there. Achievement stories make you memorable, which is what you want. There's an exercise in Monster Careers: Interviewing called "Mastering the Freestyle Interview," which helps you develop these stories into compelling sales points. Take the time you need -- at least three hours on this task. Pick Your Outfit, and Go to Bed Early Lay out your interview outfit the night before, get a good night's rest, and always get an early start. The last thing you want is to waste all of your interview preparation by arriving flustered and panicked because you couldn't find a parking space. Six Interview Answers You Need to Get Hired During the typical job interview, you'll be asked a lot of questions. But do you really understand what the interviewer needs to know? "Most students have no idea why a recruiter asks a particular question," says Brad Karsh, a former recruiting professional for advertising giant Leo Burnett and current president of career consulting firm Job Bound. "They tend to think it's a competition to outwit the interviewer." The reality is that employers have neither the time nor inclination to play games with you, especially when hiring. Your interviewer is not trying to outguess you -- he's trying to assess your answers to six key questions: Do You Have the Skills to Do the Job? According to Karsh, the employer must first determine whether you have the necessary hard skills for the position, e.g., the programming knowledge for a database administration job or the writing chops to be a newspaper reporter. "By really probing into what the candidate has done in the past, an interviewer can tap into hard skills." But the interviewer is also looking for key soft skills you'll need to succeed in the job and organization, such as the ability to work well on teams or "the requisite common sense to figure things out with some basic training," says Terese Corey Blanck, director of student development at internship company Student Experience and a partner in College to Career, a consulting firm. Do You Fit? "Every organization's first thought is about fit and potentially fit in a certain department," Corey Blanck says. That means the interviewer is trying to pinpoint not only whether you match up well with both the company's and department's activities but also whether you'll complement the talents of your potential coworkers. Do You Understand the Company and Its Purpose? If the organization fits well with your career aspirations, you'll naturally be motivated to do good work there -- and stay more than a month or two, Corey Blanck reasons. "I don't want someone to take the position because it's a job and it fits their skills. I want them to be excited about our mission and what we do." How Do You Stack Up Against the Competition? You're being evaluated in relation to other candidates for the job. In other words, this test is graded on a curve. So the interviewer will constantly be comparing your performance with that of the other candidates'. Do You Have the Right Mind-Set for the Job and Company? "I'm always looking for someone who has a can-do type of attitude," Corey Blanck explains. "I want someone who wants to be challenged and is internally motivated to do well. Corey Blanck points out that an employer can't train for this essential trait. "But you can hire for it. And if you don't, you'll end up with a lower-performing employee." Do You Want the Job? Most employers know better than to believe everyone they interview actually wants the position being offered. They understand some candidates are exploring their options, while others are using an interview with a company they don't care about to hone their interview skills. So you have to prove you really want the job, says Al Pollard, senior college recruiter for Countrywide Financial. "I use the ditch-digger analogy: Many of us can dig ditches, but few are willing to -- and even fewer want to." Nonverbal Communications: Escape the Pitfalls It begins even before you say your first word in an interview. As the interviewer walks toward you to shake hands, an opinion is already being formed. And as you sit waiting to spew out your answers to questions you've prepared for, you are already being judged by your appearance, posture, smile or your nervous look. Look back at speakers or teachers you've listened to. Which ones stand out as memorable? The ones who were more animated and entertaining, or the ones who just gave out information? This is not to say you have to entertain the interviewer -- no jokes required -- but it does mean the conversation should be animated and interactive. If you say you are excited about the prospect of working for this company but don't show any enthusiasm, your message will probably fall flat. So smile, gesture once in a while, show some energy and breathe life into the interview experience. And don't underestimate the value of a smile. In addition to the enthusiasm it expresses to the interviewer, smiling often makes you feel better about yourself. Nonverbal Messages: The Handshake: It's your first encounter with the interviewer. She holds out her hand and receives a limp, damp hand in return -- not a very good beginning. Your handshake should be firm -- not bone-crushing -- and your hand should be dry and warm. Try running cold water on your hands when you first arrive at the interview site. Run warm water if your hands tend to be cold. The insides of your wrists are especially sensitive to temperature control. Your Posture: Stand and sit erect. We're not talking ramrod posture, but show some energy and enthusiasm. A slouching posture looks tired and uncaring. Check yourself out in a mirror or on videotape. Eye Contact: Look the interviewer in the eye. You don't want to stare at her like you're trying to look into her soul, but be sure to make sure your eyes meet frequently. Avoid constantly looking around the room while you are talking, because that can convey nervousness or a lack of confidence with what is being discussed. Your Hands: Gesturing or talking with your hands is very natural, but keep it in moderation. Getting carried away with hand gestures can be distracting. Also, avoid touching your mouth while talking. Watch yourself in a mirror while talking on the phone. Chances are you are probably using some of the same gestures in an interview. Don't Fidget: There is nothing worse than people playing with their hair, clicking pen tops, tapping feet or unconsciously touching parts of the body. Preparing what you have to say is important, but practicing how you will say it is imperative. The nonverbal message can speak louder than the verbal message you're sending. Job Interview Tips Like many career advice experts, Steve Fogarty, staffing partner at Waggener Edstrom, says candidates should research a company thoroughly before an interview. And if the company is a private firm, that's not an excuse to skip doing your homework. Where there's a will, there's a way, and finding a way to gather information on a company "distinguishes the great candidates from the good candidates," says Fogarty. Consider Fogarty's company, a large independent public relations agency. He says that if someone were trying to find out about Waggener Edstrom, the candidate could take a number of steps. In addition to simply visiting the company's Web site, joining a trade organization like the Public Relations Society of America would almost certainly give someone interested in his company exposure to people who work there. Fogarty offers a less conventional method as well: "People might be able to find a press release that one of our PR people has written and contact that person and say, ‘I saw your press release. It looks really good. Would you be open to me asking a few questions? I'm doing research on your company.' That's a way to get information." What else can you do to improve your chances at the interview? Try these tips from Fogarty: Be Concise Interviewees rambling on is one of the most common blunders Fogarty sees. "You really have to listen to the question, and answer the question, and answer it concisely," he says. "So many people can't get this basic thing down. You ask them a question, and they go off on a tangent. They might think you want to hear what they're saying, but they didn't answer your question." Provide Examples It's one thing to say you can do something; it's another to give examples of things you have done. "Come with a toolbox of examples of the work you've done," advises Fogarty. "You should come and anticipate the questions a recruiter's going to ask based on the requirement of the role. Think of recent strong strategic examples of work you've done, then when the question is asked, answer with specifics, not in generalities. You should say, ‘Yes, I've done that before. Here's an example of a time I did that…,' and then come back and ask the recruiter, ‘Did that answer your question?'" Be Honest Somehow, candidates get the impression that a good interview technique is to dance around difficult questions. "If you don't have a skill, just state it. Don't try to cover it up by talking and giving examples that aren't relevant. You're much better off saying you don't have that skill but perhaps you do have some related skills, and you're happy to tell them about that if they like." Keep Your Guard Up According to Fogarty, you can split recruiters into two schools. There are those who are very straight-laced and serious, and candidates had better take the process seriously as well when dealing with them. "Then you have recruiters like me," he says, chuckling. "I'm going to be that candidate's best friend when they call me. My technique is to put them at ease, because I want them to tell me everything, and a lot of candidates mess up in this area. They start to think, ‘Oh, this guy is cool. I can tell him anything.' And then they cross the line." And that can take a candidate out of contention. Remember: Always maintain your professionalism. Ask Great Questions Another of Fogarty's interview tips is to come ready with good questions. He says nothing impresses him more than a really good question that not only shows you've researched the company in general, but also the specific job you're hoping to land in particular. "That makes me go, ‘Wow, this person has really done their homework. They not only know the company, but they know the role.'"
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