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Strategies for Success
 

General Resources: Interviewing Techniques

You may be presenting your portfolio to a professor, director of education, director of the center for prior learning, a prospective employer, a supervisor, a supervising teacher, for a promotion or tenure committee. Many times the best-qualified person is not hired for the job. Just as the résumé is important for opening the door, the job interview is critical for putting your best foot forward and clearly articulating why you are the best person for the job.



Be on Time

Make certain you write down the date and time of your interview. A good first impression is important and can be lasting. If you arrive late, you have already said a great deal about yourself. Make certain you know where you are going and the time of the interview and allow time for parking and other preliminaries.


Be Professional

Don't ramble, or talk too much about your personal life. For example, "Tell me about yourself" is not an invitation to discuss your personal life. Direct your answer to the job. Also, never bad-mouth your former employer. This is unprofessional and says more about you than about them.


Avoid Being Too Familiar

Familiarity can be a barrier to a professional interview. Never call anyone by a first name unless you are asked to. Know the name, title, and the pronunciation of the interviewer's name and don't sit down until the interviewer does.

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Answer Questions Fully

Be clear, concise, and direct. Even if the interviewer is easygoing and friendly, remember why you are there.


Dress Appropriately

Since nonverbal communication is 90 percent of communication, dressing inappropriately is a barrier that you can avoid. Every job is different, and you should wear clothing that is appropriate for the job you are applying for. In most situations, you will be safe if you wear clean, pressed, conservative business clothes in a neutral color. Pay special attention to grooming. Keep make-up light and wear very little jewelry. Make certain your nails and hair are clean, trimmed, and neat. Don't carry a large purse, backpack, books, coat, or hat. Leave extra clothing in an outside office, and simply carry a pad of paper and pen. You should, however, carry extra copies of your résumé and letters of references in a small folder.


Be prepared

Show that you have knowledge about the company. What product does it make? How is it doing? What is the competition? Always refer to the company when you give examples: "I understand that your sportswear doubled in sales last year. According to current retail journals, this is just the beginning of a new trend. It may be interesting to market your exercise clothes as the new action clothes for sports and casual wear."

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Find Out About The Position Before You Interview

Ask the personnel office to send you a job description. What do you think the company is looking for in the position you are applying for? You will likely be asked the common question, "Why are you interested in this job?" Be prepared to answer with a reference to the company. A sample answer: "Your store has opened up several new chains in the last two years, so I believe that there is an opportunity in your organization and that I have the necessary skills and personal qualities to make a contribution."


Relate Your Experiences to the Job

Use every question as an opportunity to show how the skills you have relate to the job. Use examples of school, previous jobs, internships, volunteer work, leadership in clubs, and experiences growing up to indicate that you have the personal qualities, aptitude, and skills needed at this new job. You want to get the point across that you are hard working, honest, dependable, loyal, a team player, and mature. You might mention holding demanding part-time jobs while going to school, working in the family business, being president of your business club, or handling the high-pressured job of working in customer services at a department store during Christmas vacations.


Be Honest

Don't overstate your accomplishments or grade point average or exaggerate your experience. While it is important to be confident and stress your strengths, it is equally important to your sense of integrity to always be honest. Dishonesty always catches up with you, and sooner or later, someone will verify your background.

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Focus on What You Can Do for the Company

Don't ask about benefits, salary, or vacations until you are offered the job. This implies a "what can this company do for me" attitude. Be careful about appearing arrogant or displaying a know-it-all attitude. You are there to show how you can contribute to the organization. Don't appear to be too eager to move up through the company or suggest that you are more interested in just gaining experience than in contributing to the company.


Be Poised and Relaxed

Avoid nervous habits such as tapping your pencil, playing with your hair, or covering your mouth with your hand. Watch such turn-off language as, 'you know,' 'ah,' 'stuff like that.' . Don't smoke, chew gum, fidget, or bite your nails. Most career development centers or public speaking classes will videotape you while being interviewed. It is excellent experience, and you can really spot annoying personal habits.


Maintain Good Eye Contact

Look people in the eye and speak with confidence. Your eyes reveal much about you; use them to show interest, confidence, poise, and sincerity. Relax and take a deep breath. You are relating to another person, not giving a speech to a large crowd. Look at the interviewer, and watch for body cues that indicate understanding and rapport. Use other nonverbal techniques to reinforce your confidence, such as a firm handshake.

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Practice Interviewing

Like any skill, the more you practice the better you will be. Consider videotaping a practice interview. Most campuses have this service available through the career center or media department. It is also very helpful to practice being interviewed by a friend. Rehearse questions and be prepared. Make certain that you communicate your skills, abilities, and talents. Answer questions directly and relate the skills that you have learned. Expect open-ended questions such as, "What are your strengths?" "What are your weaknesses?" "Tell me about your best work experience," and "What are your career goals?" Decide in advance what information and skills are pertinent to the job and reveal your strengths. For example, "I learned to get along with a variety of people when I worked for the park service."


Close the Interview on a Positive Note

Thank the interviewer for his or her time, shake hands, and say that you are looking forward to hearing from him or her. If you had an exceptionally pleasant interview, you may consider sending a personal, handwritten thank-you note.


Follow Up With a Letter

Following up on details is critical for your job search. A follow-up letter is especially important. It serves as a reminder for the interviewer and an opportunity for you to thank the interviewer for the meeting and a chance to make a positive comment about the job opening and the company. Writing thank-you notes and letters demonstrates that you have good manners and business etiquette and that you are organized.

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Self-Assessment Exercises
Writing a Résumé
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