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Job Search Help for Ex-Offenders
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Interview tips

Interviews are a chance for an employer to learn more about you. They are also your chance to learn about the company.

Take time to prepare for your interview. Practice what you'll say. Plan what you will wear and how you will get to the interview. These activities will help you be confident during each interview. Your confidence will make a good impression.

Start by looking at a list of common interview questions. You'll find the link in the Resources box at the bottom of this page. You can practice and write out answers to these questions in advance. This will make your interview go much smoother—and show the employer that you're prepared.

Read on for tips to help you prepare for an interview.

In advance

Make a list of questions you would like to ask during the interview. Pick questions about the job and the company that will show your interest. Look at the company's website and write up questions to learn more about what you read. Avoid asking about pay and benefits. If you are offered a job, that is the time to discuss them.

Example questions are:

  • What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
  • What are the most important qualities you look for in employees?
  • Is training available in this position?
  • What equipment or software do you use?
  • What are the organization's priorities for the next few years?

Also, practice interview skills. Ask about a free interview workshop at your local American Job Center and do a mock job interview there to practice and get feedback to improve.

The day of the interview

  • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. You might need to fill out paperwork before the interview.
  • Go by yourself. If a friend or relative drives you, have them wait in the car or pick you up later.
  • Dress in a manner appropriate to the job. Good personal grooming makes a positive impression.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Bring your sense of humor and smile.

What to bring to an interview

  • Extra copies of your resume, your references. If you need them for your work, bring a portfolio with work samples. Carry them in a folder or case.
  • Papers you need to complete your application, including copies of work licenses, your driving record (if required), and your social security or immigration cards.
  • A pen and notebook to write down information.
  • Questions for you to ask during the interview.

During the interview

  • Display confidence. Shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first. Maintain eye contact. Be friendly.
  • Let the interviewer start the dialogue.
  • Listen carefully. It is OK to take time to think before you answer.
  • Accept questions openly, even the hard ones.
  • Give honest, direct answers.
  • If you don't understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or clarified. You don't have to rush, but you don't want to appear indecisive.
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