you got the interview, now what?
congratulations — you've landed a job interview! in today's market, where every job listing generates unprecedented floods of applicants, being granted an interview is a coup in and of itself. and given the scarcity of interviews, it's crucial that you give each and every one your very best effort.
with the help of five career experts, mainstreet compiled the necessary tools to help you give your best interview, plus some helpful hints on how to land an interview in the first place.
chad mihalick, founder of action sports and outdoor job site, malakye.com recommends that "when you do have an opportunity to schedule an appointment, do not hesitate to respond. you should always be on call - like a doctor! also use the opportunity to ask any pre-game questions you may have - such as who will be present at the interview and what support materials the interviewers might be interested in. develop these questions when you begin your job search."
confirm your appointment
the experts at the dale carnegie institute, which offers professional training services, advise that "recruiters like correspondence that is short and sweet. when the interview is one day away, send an email confirming the appointment. if it is on the phone, make sure you have the right number. if it is in an office, make sure you know the floor and if you need any type of security credentials like a photo id."
how to prepare
in addition to putting together an outfit in which you feel confident and successful, make sure you do your homework on the company you are interviewing with. research it online, follow it on twitter, linkedin and facebook if those options are available. being informed will help you prepare interesting questions beforehand.
[see the 25 weirdest interview questions of 2010]
"one way to stand out in an interview is to ask questions. in addition to the most important basics — when they plan to hire for the position and if they contact all applicants or only those who are hired — my favorite questions to ask the interviewer are: what is a typical week like in this position? what are the opportunities for growth and advancement? be sure to ask for their business card so you have correct contact information for the follow up thank you card," suggests career coach stephanie florman.
what to bring
frances cole-jones, media coach and author of the wow factor, suggests, "bring two copies of your resume. that way when your interviewer doesn't have it in front of him/her, you can hand it to him. yes, it's likely he or she will have misplaced it."
other than your a-game, dale carnegie training suggests bringing a notepad that is large enough to write on but small enough to be handled gracefully. optional items include a list of references from past employment and/or a condensed portfolio of work if these pieces are easily portable.
when to arrive
media coach cole-jones notes that "you are interviewing from three blocks away: you don't know who is in the nearby starbucks, the elevator, etc. you need to be on-site five minutes before. how you greet the receptionist will be noticed. do not talk on the phone or send texts while you are waiting. simply sit and observe."
florman, the career coach, agrees and suggests "arriving to the interview location a half hour early. this gives you time to find parking, use the restroom, make sure your cell phone is turned on silent and to organize your thoughts. once you are there, you can relax. never be late."
questions to prepare for
cole-jones provided these common interview questions with suggestions on how to prepare for them:
q: why do you want to work for us?
have a specific reason based on the company's history, products or reputation. find ways that it intersects with your history and experience.
q: what's your greatest strength/weakness?
tell a story that demonstrates your strength or weakness. don't fall back on useless modifiers like: "people say i'm an amazing leader." as your weakness, identify a strength you take to an extreme: "sometimes i get so caught up in my subject that i give people too much information," for example.
[see the worst (and most common) job interview mistakes]
q: what salary are you looking for?
have a number in mind based on research you can do at the bureau of labor statistics on salaries for similar positions in your area. don't ask: "what are you offering?"
dale carnegie training offers a number of other questions to expect during an interview.
how should you sit, act or just be in your interview? although you'll likely be nervous, try to be yourself, as much as possible. your face-to-face interview is your one opportunity to show the real you to your prospective employer, and may be the key to set you apart from other applicants. also, keep in mind that sometimes the person who is interviewing you might also be nervous. do what you can to feel as comfortable as possible, so you, in turn, can make them feel more comfortable.
in addition, "your body language should exude confidence. a strong, confident handshake goes a very long way. so do smiling, nodding and maintaining eye contact. keep your voice clear and strong," suggests career coach florman.
cole-jones recommends that you sit up and forward in your chair, because no one wants to hire someone who is "too cool for school." also, keep your hands where others can see them. it's hard to trust someone when you can't see their hands.
how to leave the interview
in how to win friends and influence people, dale carnegie wrote that two great ways "to make people like you" are to "smile and remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sounds in any language."
once your interview is done, address the interviewer by name, smile and offer genuine appreciation for the investment of his or her time in your future with the company. you want to leave the interviewer with a compelling impression of yourself, so remember to exude a blend of confidence, composure and dedication.
mihalick of malakye.com thinks what you do after the interview counts a great deal in the employer's impression of you. "when your interview is over, follow up! send a follow up e-mail as soon as possible, a few hours later or the next day are good rules of thumb, regardless of if you think it went well. say thanks, reiterate important points and tell them you're looking forward to finding out more about the next steps."
"e-mails are efficient," says florman, the career coach, "but they are common and do not show great effort. i suggest a hand-written thank you note to follow up from an interview. recap the interview by including the position you applied for, what you liked about the organization, why you would be a great fit for the position, and conclude by thanking them for their time and consideration."
if you haven't landed an interview
your resume needs a polish if you haven't landed an interview. as a career coach, florman has worked with a huge variety of resumes and has found some best practices to follow.
"include keywords that reflect the job posting and personalize the content for each position you are applying for. print the resume on high quality laser paper and keep it to one page. focus on the results you have achieved. leaders achieve results."
resume expert amanda collins goes further. "statistics say a resume gets anywhere from five seconds to a minute or more for executives. you need to make your documents come to life to share your value in an instant."
she says that hiring is kind of like choosing a movie. you make your decision based on a) star power, b) word of mouth or c) the trailer. in evaluating you as an applicant, you may be well known in your industry (point a) or have a strong network of referrals (point b), but if you don't, you need a resume (point c) to really differentiate you from the competition.
your resume should always answer the question, "why should i hire you?"