The job interviewing process can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t done it in awhile. How do you approach it in a positive way and get the interviewer excited about you?
First of all, keep in mind that when you’re called in for an interview, you’re already ahead of many other applicants. Your prospective employer has decided that you have the general credentials he or she is looking for. The purpose of the interview is, for starters, to see how presentable you are and how well you communicate, as well as to determine more specifics of how well your qualifications fit what they’re looking for. It’s also to conduct the Jeffrey Dahmer test – in other words, they want to make sure you’re not bonkers. Unless you are, in fact, bonkers, you have a good chance at getting a job offer (unless you’re applying for a position in advertising, in which case being bonkers would probably be to your advantage).
A job interview is kind of like a first date. It’s best to be yourself, but not to the point of parading all your neuroses right up front. It’s about balance – you do want to make a good impression, but the main point is to determine compatibility. Is the job and general environment of the organization a good match with your experience, talents, and goals? Consider how well the job fits you and vice versa – you are interviewing them too.
With this in mind, you do need to make a good impression. Smile, don’t fidget, make eye contact, make sure there aren’t any stains on your suit from lunch. Approach the interview with a positive and optimistic attitude (without, of course, ascending to heights of grinning idiocy). Don’t badmouth a previous job, even if it was the most horrifying experience of your life. Show interest. Sit up, lean forward, ask questions – but wait for them to bring up salary and benefits. Some good questions to ask : What are your priorities for this position, and how does that fit into the long-range goals of the organization? What qualities do you feel are most important to be successful in this position? How would success in this job be measured? Don’t snooze during the “let me tell you about the company” part of the interview – make the effort to listen even if the interviewer drones
on interminably and your eyes are beginning to glaze over. You don’t want to miss important information, or ask questions
that were already answered. Focus on your strengths. What are your strongest assets – creativity, technical knowledge, communication abilities? Communicate to the interviewer how the job matches your talents and goals.
Prepare. Do your research. Find out everything you can about the organization – Google them, peruse their website, look at sites like Hoover’s and various other company directories, or guidestar.org for non-profits. If you have a job description, make sure you are prepared to answer questions about everything on it. If you need to brush up on anything related to the position, do it before the interview! Practice answering questions the interviewer is likely to ask, like what your primary responsibilities were in previous jobs, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what qualifies you for the position, etc. Unless you are an actor auditioning for a part, don’t make stuff up.
Ask when the interviewer will be making a decision. If the interviewer says a week, don’t call to follow up before then, and
don’t call more than once unless they ask you to call back – no stalking allowed. Send a brief (not more than one page) thank-you letter to follow up immediately after the interview, though – thanks for meeting with me about the whatever position; I feel that my blah blah blah skills and experience are a good match with the qualifications you’re looking for, etc.
Remember, interviewing is a skill you can develop with practice. Use every interview to learn for the next one, and have fun. After all, interviewing is a valid excuse for talking about how great you are, so enjoy it!