The Interview Process

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Nov 11, 2010 in , , | 1 Comment

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

Preparation cannot be stressed enough when it comes to interviewing. The more you prepare, the better you will perform face-to-face with an interviewer. Consider these preparations; fully know the content of your resume, dress professionally, know proper responses to interviewers questions, answers to illegal or uncomfortable questions, what to do at the end of the interview, ask for the job, and send a thank you note. If you practice with a Career Specialist in your career center, friend or family member in a mock interview, you will build confidence along with valuable feedback from them about how you might improve.

Know Your Value

What you have put on your resume must be 100% accurate regarding the dates you worked, where you worked, and your position. It is very important you remember what you wrote down highlighting skills, responsibilities, and what you can contribute to the new position. This is your “value” to the employer.  When you can tell a potential employer what you’ve done and how it will benefit them, you will prove to them they should consider hiring you.

The books listed under Resources (on my Edublog) can assist you with action words to describe what you’ve accomplished in your former jobs, or applicable volunteer work. Just remember, you are not exactly listing your job duties, you are listing what you actually accomplished. For example; you were hired to assist your supervisor in the accounting department. One day, you find a transposition of numbers that could have thrown off figures for an upcoming board meeting. It was finding a needle in a haystack, but you did it. Basically, you saved the day! On your resume, you might say that it was your keen eye for detail which enabled the board to receive correct figures, so important corporate decisions could be made.

Dress for Success

Your first impression is what will remain in an interviewers mind. Therefore, it is important you choose what you will wear the day before; make sure it is clean, ironed/pressed and in excellent shape. Your interview attire needs to look professional, not casual. An impression of you is formed within the first few minutes, so make sure it is a positive one.

If you are a female; wear a suit with pants or skirt and blouse, or a dress. The skirt and dress should be at a length that does not go above the top of the knee. The blouse should not reveal cleavage or midsection. Nothing should be too tight, but fit comfortably. Shoes should be professional, nothing too high. Keep your jewelry to a bare minimum along with your perfume. Hair and make-up must be professional, nothing too elaborate–keep it simple. If you have tattoos, make sure to cover them completely. Multiple piercings should be removed.

If you are a male; wear a suit with shirt (tucked in) and matching pants, or dress shirt with slacks and a tie. These should fit properly, nothing baggy or hanging low on your hips. Shoes should be professional, make sure they are shined, no sneakers or flip-flops. If you wear jewelry, keep it to a bare minimum, remove piercings. Tattoos should be covered completely.

For those who feel offended they must cover tattoos, or remove multiple piercings, my suggestion is to read statements by employers who did not hire an applicant based on those expressions of individuality.

Are you strapped for cash and need to buy a professional interview outfit? Try charities that run discount clothing and thrift stores. Many times new clothing, with tags attached, can be bought for a fraction of the cost you’d find in upscale department stores. Usually, clothes are organized so you won’t waste time. You may find accessories, shoes and even a nice briefcase. Always try clothing on, and inspect carefully, before you purchase. Launder or dry clean clothing before you wear them.

Day of the Interview

Make sure you know where you are going and who you will be meeting. Take that information along in a neat folder with an extra copy or two of your resume and references. Leave yourself more than enough time to deal with traffic, parking and weather conditions. Arrive at the company at least 15 minutes before your interview. This gives time to check-in with the receptionist, check your appearance in the restroom and calm yourself before the interview begins.

There are things you never should do in an interview; chew gum, smoke, curse, badmouth a former employer or coworker, or show up late. Turn your cell phone off when you arrive in the employers parking lot. If you forget and it rings in the interview, shut it off and apologize–never take the call.

It is normal to be nervous, but don’t let your nerves control how well you do in the interview. If you prepare, your confidence will show through and feel good about how you perform. Sweaty palms will tell an interviewer you are nervous, so put open hands, palms down, on your lap under the table to keep them dry. When you meet the interviewer, make eye contact, smile and give them a firm handshake while saying your name. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you.

Types of Interviewers

Many interviewers are savvy when asking questions in an interview. They want to understand how you will perform in your new position before they hire you. Asking certain questions, in various ways, enables them find out this information. Sometimes, the questions may deliberately catch an interviewee off guard. The interviewer wants to see how you react. Again, preparation can assist in answering just about any question posed.

We can break interviewer “types” into three categories; Intuitive, Emotional and Technical. If you know the type sitting across from you, it might be easier to understand their questioning.

  • Intuitive-They make decisions based on gut feelings, looking for certain critical traits in candidates.
  • Emotional-They make decisions based on first impressions, personality, appearance, reactions and feelings about the candidate.
  • Technical-They make decisions based on strong skills, experiences, and methodologies.

The Interview

Here are a few basic suggestions:

  1. When you answer a question–think–be sure you are fully aware of what is asked, paying close attention. If unsure, always ask for clarification.
  2. By preparing ahead, you’ll answer with solid facts and confidence, in a minimal amount of time.
  3. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer.
  4. Be aware of posture and body language; sit up straight, lean forward slightly, hands may rest in your lap or lightly folded on a table in front of you.
  5. You will have an opportunity to ask questions, usually at the end of the interview. Ask what the position entails beyond the job description and when they will make a decision. Don’t ask about vacation time or benefits at this point. You don’t want to ask questions pertaining to what you may easily research about the company online.
  6. If you are asked an illegal or uncomfortable question, you must address it, you cannot ignore it. (Resources by Michael Farr provide information on this subject and more, check with your local library or online).
  7. At the conclusion of the interview, don’t forget to tell the interviewer you want the job and look forward to hearing from them. Be sure to ask for the interviewers business card.
  8. After arriving home, immediately write a thank you note to the interviewer and mail it. Some prefer to send an e-mail, which works if the employer is making a decision rather quickly about the position.

©2009 Judy Anne Cavey, who resides in the S.F. Bay Area of California, is a credentialed, certified, higher education instructor who taught Work Experience/Cooperative Education and ESL at three community colleges. She is also a freelance writer and grant writer currently authoring a textbook, has designed other learning programs, and worked with several nonprofits. Her Edublog, “Work Experience”, is a not-for-profit endeavor designed to assist job seekers of all ages.