Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ace Your Interview!

Interviews can be extremely stressful and overwhelming experience for many, whether you are interviewing for your first job, haven’t interviewed in a long time, or a confident interviewer. But they don’t have to be. Consider the following recommendations to give your best interview and present yourself as the candidate of choice to the interviewer.

1. Start off strong
            Make sure that you have directions to the location, and leave plenty of time to get there. Arrive at the interview location early – 10 to 15 minutes before the appointed time. Use this time to put the final polish on your appearance and be calm when you walk through the door. (You should not be putting your final touches and becoming calm in the office. Find a bathroom or outside of the company building to do this.) Greet everyone with a smile and firm handshake.

2. Don’t assume anything
            Assume that the interviewer knows nothing about you and your resume/cover letter. If you assume the person knows what you have to offer, you will miss opportunities to present yourself as the strongest candidate. When you greet the interviewer, offer a copy of your resume. The person may already have your resume in hand and decline, but it shows that you came prepared.

3. It doesn’t have to be about your paid experience
            Internships or volunteer positions can provide the opportunities you need to gain experience and demonstrate interest. When discussing your skills, experiences and accomplishments, don’t hesitate to use relevant anecdotes from all facets of your life. Even classroom activities, such as group projects, can provide good examples of how you can contribute.

4. When answering questions
            When it comes to interviewing, the key word is relevance. You always want to respond to questions in the most relevant way. Don’t tell your life story if the person asks about your background. Instead, mention only those experiences, skills and other qualifications that would apply to the job or organization. Be sure you listen to the entire question before answering, and ensure you are concrete and concise in your replies. Whenever possible, demonstrate your knowledge of the organization by noting similarities between your background and the job or the employer.
Never answer questions in a negative fashion, such as saying something bad about your current job, supervisor or organization. If you don’t have experience in a specific area, don’t lie, be defensive or apologize. Remember, you’re being interviewed, so you have enough of what the employer wants. Instead, talk about how you’re a fast learner and give a specific example, or offer ideas of how you would tackle the challenge.

5. Know how to answer the challenging questions
            Certain questions pose problems for everyone, even if they are expected. Questions such as, “tell me about yourself, what is your greatest weakness and where do you see yourself in five years,” should all be expected and prepared for. Make sure you have prepared answers to these questions in advance, and also be able to tailor your answer in response to what you learn during the interview and what key aspects or skills become highlighted in the interview.  My personal favorite question to ask someone is "What is the most significant accomplishment you have had (in your career, in the last year, in school, in your current role, etc..)?  The answer shows me what you think is important and gives me an idea of what you bring to the table.

6. Be Yourself
            The best recommendation for an interview is to be authentic. You want to be positive and enthusiastic, but your words also need to sound natural. If you’re not being yourself, you won’t know if you’re the right fit. Remember, you also want to decide whether you fit in there just as important for the potential employers to decide.
Remain professional throughout the interview. Turn off your cell phone, and stay focused on the interview and interviewer. Expect an interview to go for an hour, and make sure you have nothing scheduled right after the interview, so that if the interview continues or you are asked to complete paperwork, you have the time to do so. And don’t forget to SMILE and stay POSITIVE!!

Until next time, much career success your way!!

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