Accelerated & Professional Studies

Interviewing Techniques

Tips on Interviewing for a Job

A. Prepare for the Interview:
Many people are unprepared for interviewing and therefore are more nervous than they have to be. Think of the interview as a three-step process, and plan the execution of each step. Remember that you have only a short time to convey your experience, potential, and personality. Envision the person with whom you'll be interviewing. Remember that this individual will likely be of a different generation or background. Keep in mind that person may have conservative expectations about your dress and conduct. Dress and act not as if you were with one of your peers, but as someone who may hold you to a higher standard.

Prepare for the different types of interviewers that you may encounter. Often, job applicants are interviewed first by a human resources manager, then by a department manager or direct supervisor. Sometimes two or three of these people conduct the interview together. As a job hunter, your ideal is to get to the person to whom you'd be reporting. Remember that human resources managers often function as "screeners," whose primary role is to weed people out. Some human resources people have only a general knowledge of the available position and are reluctant to describe the people with whom you'd be working most closely.

Before the Interview

  1. Dress properly (to ensure that the interviewer remembers you, not your clothes).
  2. Be on time.
  3. Research the organization - what it does and its projects, future plans, size, and problems. Start with the company's web site and annual report.
  4. Be prepared to ask questions - you're interviewing the employer, too!
  5. Bring resumes and examples of past performance.
  6. Practice your responses. (Role-play interviewing with a friend. Think through your answers aloud while you're driving or in front of the mirror at home. Paraphrase. To show you're a good listener, practice rephrasing in your own words)

During the Interview

  1. Create a positive, initial greeting: Give a firm handshake and display a positive attitude.
  2. Be truthful, but never put yourself down.
  3. Speak distinctly.
  4. Help the interviewer (Explain your experiences and skills. Relate your experiences and skills to the job for which you're interviewing.)
  5. Don't be too serious or too humorous.
  6. Listen carefully and make good eye contact.
  7. Be concise.
  8. Do not oversell yourself.

After the Interview (often neglected but vital steps)

  1. Write down information and discussion points about the organization and the job.
  2. Evaluate your interview; determine how to improve for your next one.
  3. Write follow-up letter(s) or thank you notes.
  4. Follow up with phone calls to determine the status of the hiring decision.

B. Rules of Business Etiquette
To help enhance your chances of making a favorable impression, follow these basic rules:

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Introduce yourself politely to the receptionist and state the first and last name of the individual whom you will be meeting.
  3. If the receptionist offers you coffee, tea or a soft drink, it might be best to politely pass on the offer. You don't want to risk spilling something and making a mess or trying to juggle your resume folder and a cup.
  4. Do not chew gum.
  5. Do not smoke. It is also best not to smoke just before an interview, as many people find the residual smell offensive.
  6. Introduce yourself to the interviewer by clearly stating both your first and last name. Make eye contact and smile.
  7. Say "It's nice to meet you" in your initial greeting.
  8. Address the interviewer as Mr.________ or Ms.________ unless you are asked to do otherwise. Don't assume that if the interviewer calls you by your first name you are both on a first-name basis.
  9. Be willing to make a bit of small talk, possibly about the weather, the traffic on the way to the interview, or about the interviewer's good directions that got you there.
  10. After the interviewer has led you from the reception area to an office or conference room to talk further, do not take a seat until the interviewer motions you to a particular place.
  11. Sit straight and relatively still. Avoid distracting wiggling or jiggling of your hands or legs.
  12. Fold your hands in your lap comfortably or on top of your resume materials. Do not cross your arms over your chest (It will make you appear disagreeable) or spread them across the back of the chair of couch (It will make you appear too relaxed, lazy, or uninterested).
  13. Be attentive when the interviewer speaks. Avoid interrupting, even if the interviewer does most of the talking. Maintain good eye contact with the interviewer.
  14. Don't hesitate to ask for clarification if you don't understand something.
  15. Be positive and upbeat in your remarks.
  16. Avoid complaining about a previous job or employer. Whether or not your remarks are true, you won't appear professional if you harp on these subjects.
  17. Avoid criticizing, contradicting, or disagreeing with the interviewer.
  18. If you are offered a tour of the facility, the interviewer will indicate whether you are to walk ahead or to follow. Women should know that male interviewers may often encourage them to pass through doorways first.
  19. At the end of the meeting, thank the interviewer for his or her time and extend your hand for a strong parting handshake. Don't forget to smile and make eye contact one last time.

C. Dress to Impress
As a job hunter, you need to keep in mind that most people quickly form a first and lasting impression of you. Keep your dress understated, conservative, and neat. If you're unsure about what to wear, a good rule of thumb is to dress slightly better than you would to report to the job every day. For example, at some work places blue jeans are perfectly acceptable garb; you could wear casual slacks to a job interview with such an organization.

How do you determine the dress code in your intended work place? Research. Ask around. If it's a public place, such as a bank or restaurant, drop by and observe. If you're still unsure, a suit in a dark or neutral color is almost always a good choice. Wear something you've worn at least once before, just to be certain that you'll feel comfortable and confident. Of course, avoid anything that looks visibly worn, torn, or wrinkled.

Here are some other details that can leave an interviewer with a poor impression.

Women should avoid:

  1. Long, unkempt hair. Wear it short or tie/braid it back and keep it conservatively styled.
  2. Earrings, bracelets, pinkie rings, or similar jewelry.
  3. Too much perfume.
  4. Low-cut or unbuttoned blouses or any sign of an undergarment (straps or anything that would show through a sheer blouse or skirt). Going braless is a definite no-no. Avoid stomach showing.
  5. Patterned nylons. Plain, sheer hose are best.
  6. Tight, short, or leather or suede skirts.
  7. Lots of ruffles, bows, or fringe. Remember that you want to appear businesslike and professional.
  8. Very high heels, glittery, silver or gold shoes, or open-toed shoes.
  9. Exposed tattoos or body piercing's.

If obtaining professional clothes is a financial impossibility for you, visit Dress For Success. This nonprofit organization helps low-income women make tailored transitions into the work force by providing donated suits to job hunters.

Men Should Avoid:

  1. Long, unkempt hair. Wear it short or tie/braid it back and keep it conservatively styled.
  2. Earrings, bracelets, pinkie rings, or similar jewelry.
  3. Too much aftershave or cologne.
  4. Unbuttoned shirts.
  5. T-Shirts or patterned T-Shirts under dress shirts.
  6. White socks or socks that clash with slacks. Also avoid brown shoes with black slacks or vice versa.
  7. Pants that are way too long or too low.
  8. Novelty ties or leather ties.
  9. Sneakers or sandals.
  10. Exposed tattoos or body piercing's.

It's often helpful to try a "dress rehearsal" the evening before a job interview. First, you'll have an opportunity to find missing buttons or fallen hems while you can still remedy them. Second, you can ask the opinion of a good friend or relative. Your parents might be able to give you a good opinion of what someone in their age group would think. Finally, you'll have the opportunity to see your put-together, professional self and to gain confidence and poise for the interview.

Times are changing and the fashion of your generation is becoming more mainstream and visible in the workplace. However, it is still advised that you play it safe and dress with style by leaning toward conservative to ensure that regardless of the age or background of the interviewer you will be seen as professional.


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