Prepare for Important Job Interviews

Job Interview Strategies: Job interviews can be terrifying. The best way to deal with your nerves is to prepare for your interview in advance so that there are no surprises when you arrive. If you have a handle on what might happen before you walk in the door, you will be more self-confident and more likely to get a second interview, or hopefully, a job offer.

As you are sending out your resumes and cover letters, think about your body language and how you present yourself. How do you handle yourself when you are nervous? Do you tug your hair, pull at your clothes, or start talking a little too loudly? Do you jabber a little when you are thinking instead of just being quiet? Do you shift around in your chair? Interviewers notice all of these “nervous tics” and may judge you negatively for them, particularly if you are going to interface with the company’s clientele. Most of these nervous habits can be controlled with a little effort and practice. For example, one way of keeping your hands still is to simply decide to keep them folded on the desk or table in front of you unless you are using them to emphasize an important point.

There are many standard questions that you might be asked when going on an interview. It is a wise idea to prepare answers for them in advance. Some common questions include:
1. Why do you want to leave your current company?
2. What are you looking for in a new company?
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
4. Where do you want to be in five years?
5. What do you like the most about your current position?
6. What do you like the least?
7. What would you do if a customer asked you for information about a business that they are in competition with?
8. Have you ever been fired from a job before?

Practice your answers until you are confident, particularly the ones that make you feel a little uncomfortable. Find a way to be positive about your negatives. For example, you might reply to the “biggest weakness” question by answering that something like “Impatience is my biggest weakness, but I am impatient with myself as well. My impatience motivates me to work harder to get things done.” Do not ever say anything derogatory about the company you work for or your managers. Instead of telling your interviewer that your current manager is a lazy jerk who takes credit for all of your ideas and you want to get out before you commit murder or hari-kari, you can state that you are looking for a manager who wants to develop talent, and grow employees as you both help the company reach, and hopefully exceed, its goals. These days, there is not as much stigma attached to having been fired or laid off as in the past due to the economic upheavals of the last few years. Be as positive as you can, as general as you can, and do not lie. For example, if you were fired, you might say that management was taking the company into a different direction and you both decided that it was a good time to part ways. The point is, keep it general, keep it neutral if not positive, and do not offer too much information. You do not want to talk yourself into a hole.

What kind of information should you ask when you are on the phone setting up your interview? Besides getting the address of the business and setting the time that you are going to meet, clarify the name and title of the person or persons with whom you will be meeting. If you can, find out why they selected your resume so that you have some clues as to what they are looking for in a candidate. Also, inquire about approximately how much time your interview or interviews will last so that you can set aside adequate time. If they do not automatically offer to send you an annual report or any business handouts that they have, ask them to mail you or email you information about the company.

Now your real work begins. If you can, drive to the business location in advance. You should do this for several reasons. First, you want to make sure that you know how to get there without trouble on the day of your interview. Second, you want to check out the company in advance. Is the location safe? Does the company maintain its grounds? Do the people that are coming and going seem to be appropriately dressed and carry themselves in a professional manner? These things are all helpful to know in advance.

In addition to any information that you were able to get from the business, start researching. Look up their website. Find out if there is any additional information about them that might help you either online or in the Business Section in the Reference area at your local library. At the minimum, you should know what the business does, how long it has been in existence, and how large it is. If the company is publicly traded, check on its stock. If the company is privately held, you might want to consider purchasing a Dun & Bradstreet report to check on the financial health of the business. The more you know, the more confident you will feel not only about the interview, but the possibility of working for a new company.

It is time to go for your interview. Bring a note pad and several extra resumes in case you have an extra interviewer sit in your meeting that you were not expecting. Allow extra time for traffic and plan to arrive a little early, about ten minutes. Some interviewers consider candidates who arrive extremely early as desperate. But, it is better to be too early and sit in your car for a while than to be even one minute late. When you walk in the door, introduce yourself to the receptionist. The receptionist is your new best friend. If he or she is not too busy, ask a few questions about working for the company. You may find out some useful information, and sometimes a receptionist will be asked his or her opinion of the candidates. You never know; the receptionist may be the daughter of the President of the company.

During your interview, remember that it is not just the company that is going to have to make a decision, you will too, if they offer you a position. Since you want to know as much about the position and the people that you will be working with as possible, be prepared to ask questions such as:
1. How long have you been working for this company?
2. What do you like the best about working here?
3. What are the job requirements for this position?
4. What kind of characteristics do you want the person you hire to have?
5. What are the biggest challenges going to be for me if I work here?

Maintain eye contact as much as possible. Ask if you can take notes and do so, even if you think that you will remember everything. Taking notes is a sign of interest. If the conversation strays into personal areas, try to get the interviewer to talk more than you do. People like to talk about themselves. They may end up liking you, too, because you are easy to talk with.

Before you finish your interview, ask what the next step in the hiring process is going to be. Hopefully, they will ask you in for another interview or give you some sort of indication of how you stand. If they say they will contact you within a week with a decision and you do not hear from them, call them after about a week and a half to let them know that you are still interested. Make sure you thank them for their time and interest.

You are almost finished with the interviewing process. It is very important to send a “thank you” letter via mail or email. This is your opportunity to reiterate your strengths and to put any weaknesses that you felt came out in the interview in a more positive light. Close your letter by thanking them again and telling them that you are looking forward to hearing from them soon.

Interviewing is a necessary evil when looking for a new job. If you prepare yourself in advance, you will be more comfortable and confident and will be more likely to get an offer. Good luck in your new position.

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