Acing the interview

Acing the interview

Acing the interview

A great interview, and ultimately winning the job, depends as much on your attitude and personality as it does on your skills and qualifications.

The interviewer already knows from your resume that you have the basic qualifications for the job. Your primary goal for the interview is to demonstrate that you have the full range of characteristics that will make you successful in the position  In general, employers look for certain traits, such as are you: Capable, Confident, Dependable, Enthusiastic, Flexible, Persistent, and/or Resourceful? To determine if you have these qualities, the interviewer will assess every aspect of what you say and how you behave from the moment you walk through the door until you leave. This assessment includes the substance of your answers to his or her questions as well as numerous non-verbal cues. Such non-verbal cues include your facial expressions, posture, dress and appearance, eye contact, and demeanor. The following are some key points for a successful interview:

Getting Ready. Get a good night’s sleep and give yourself plenty of time to get ready for the interview.  When choosing what to wear, consider that it is better to be overdressed for your interview than underdressed, even if you know that the working environment is casual. Similarly, be sure to be neat, clean and well-groomed. Refrain from perfume, cologne, large jewelry, or revealing clothing.  Plan on arriving 10-15 minutes early. If you are driving to the interview, know the directions and where you will park, and be sure to factor in traffic. If you are taking public transportation, know the route, schedules, and fares ahead of time. Bring along a notepad and pen, extra copies of your resume, and the notes from your preparation.

First Impressions. Smile. Use a firm, but not crushing, handshake. Maintain good eye contact, without staring. Make a point to remember the names of everyone you meet and write them down so that you can follow up with a thank you note later. Follow the lead of the interviewer. Be polite to everyone you meet.  Even the receptionist at the front desk may be asked how you behaved when you arrived. Listen attentively and take notes of key points.

Brag Appropriately. An interview is not the time for modesty. Tell the interviewer about the accomplishments you are most proud of, what you have learned from them, and how they relate to the job you are applying for. Ideally, you will have several accomplishments from previous work experience that you are prepared to discuss, but you may also discuss accomplishments from your education or personal life if they are appropriate to the situation.

Emphasize the Positive. You should always describe your experiences in a positive way. Explain for the interviewer what your strengths are, including technical skills and personal qualities. If you have faced challenges in the past, how did you overcome them and what have you learned from them. Describe how you stay motivated to do your best work. Avoid being negative about anything, especially past employers. If you need to discuss a bad experience, describe it as a learning experience.  If you need to discuss a weakness, describe how you work to improve in that area.

Be Prepared for Common Questions. The following are examples of common interview questions.  Consider creating flashcards to help you prepare. There are many resources on-line or in your local library to help you think through how to answer any number of specific questions. Whatever you are asked, take a few moments to consider your response carefully, provide examples, and answer in a way that makes you a more attractive future employee.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you interested in working for this company?
  • Tell me about your education.
  • Why have you chosen this particular field?
  • Describe your best/worst boss.
  • What interests you most/least?
  • What is your major weakness?
  • Give an example of how you have solved a problem.
  • What are your strengths?
  • How do others describe you?
  • What do you consider your best accomplishment in your last job?
  • Where do you see yourself in three years?
  • Think about something you consider a failure in your life, and tell me why you think it happened.
  • How do you think you will fit into this operation?
  • If you were hired, what ideas/talents could you contribute to the position or our company?
  • Give an example where you showed leadership and initiative.
  • Give an example of when you were able to contribute to a team project.
  • What have you done to develop or change in the last few years?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Ask Thoughtful Questions. The following are examples of common questions you may ask the interviewer. You may follow-up the answers to reassure the interviewer that you are up to the job and excited about the opportunity.

  • Why is this position vacant?
  • What have your most successful candidates brought to the company?
  • What challenges is the company currently facing?
  • How do you retain your top talent?
  • Why do you work for this company?
  • What are the responsibilities and accountabilities of this position?
  • Please describe an average day on this job.
  • What aspects of this job would you like to see performed better?
  • What are the key challenges or problems of this position?
  • Where can I go from here, assuming that I meet/exceed the job responsibilities?
  • How would you describe the ideal candidate?
  • What are the employer's short- and long-range objectives?
  • What are some outside influences that affect company growth?
  • Where does the company excel? What are its limitations?
  • When and how will I be evaluated?
  • What are the performance standards?
  • With whom would I be working?
  • Who would be my supervisor?
  • Who would I supervise?
  • What is the department's environment like?
  • When will you make the hiring decision?

Illegal Questions. The following are examples of questions that an interviewer should not ask during a job interview. If you are asked, you may politely decline to answer.

  • What is or was your spouse's name or line of work?
  • Have you ever filed a Workers' Compensation claim or been injured on the job?
  • Do you have any physical conditions that would prevent you from performing the job?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • What is your hair/eye color?
  • What is your height/weight?
  • Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what condition?
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? If so, for what condition?
  • How many days were you absent from work because of illness last year?
  • Are you taking any prescribed drugs?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?

Discussing Salary. In general, it is best to avoid discussing money, benefits, or vacation time during the interview. This discussion is best left until you receive an offer, as you want to keep the focus on why the employer should hire you. If the interviewer asks about your salary needs directly, you can provide a salary range or the salary from your previous job.