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Preparing for an Interview

The Job Interview

The job interview provides an opportunity for the applicant and the employer to exchange information.  The interview enables the employer to find an employee whose knowledge, skills, and personality traits fit the qualifications for the position.  Job applicants have the opportunity to determine if the position will meet their expectations.

A good resume gets you the interview.  A successful interview gets you the job.

Researching the Company & Position

Do your homework!  The applicant who can express knowledge of the company during the interview is at an advantage.  The following is a guideline for information that should be researched before the interview.

Areas of Research

  • Major competitors
  • Size of company
  • Product line/services
  • Number of employees
  • Organizational structure
  • Union/non-union organization
  • Financial history
  • Major clients
  • Company history
  • Position Details, such as nature of work, job outlook,  salary ranges (Sources:  Occupational Outlook Handbook – http://www.bls.gov/oco/, www.salary.com, www.payscale.com)

Sources to collect information

  • Internet / Company Website – Google.com
  • Chamber of Commerce Directory
  • Newspaper
  • Company Visits
  • Talk to someone who works there
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Dressing for the Interview

For the job interview, strive for a neat and clean appearance.  And if possible know the office environment of the company.  Some companies may where suits while other are more casual.  It is important to dress appropriately for the job you are applying for.  Many times this means dressing in a more conservative fashion than your usual style but one step above what a normal work day dress would look like.

Clothing

Clean and pressed, Conservative in color and pattern
Men: Suit or sport jacket, dress shirt and tie
Women: Suit, skirt and jacket, or business like dress, skirt length below the knee

Shoes

Clean and polished, Conservative style
Women:  Low heel pumps (avoid spike heels, sandals)

Jewelry

Limited in quantity, Conservative style (avoid large flashy items, clinking bracelets, dangling earrings, watches with alarms), Additional Piercings removed

Makeup/Cologne

Apply sparingly, Strive for a natural look

Hair

Washed, Neat and trimmed, Conservative style (avoid hair hanging in your eyes)

Skin

Clean, Tattoos covered

Nails

Clean, Manicured
Women:  Pale polish is acceptable

What to Bring to the Interview

At least 5 copies of your resume

A references page

Letters of recommendation

Copies of certificates, transcripts, or other related documents

Sample of your work, if applicable

Paper and pen

Appointment calendar

Laptop, when presenting multimedia work samples or related projects to your major

Frequently Asked Questions

The following list is a sampling of questions that are often asked during the interview.  Be prepared!  Be honest with answers but realistic too.  Do not tell them something just because you think that’s what they want to hear.

  • Tell me something about yourself (professionally – talk about work, school, etc.)
  • Tell me about your education/work experience.
  • What are your short-term/long-range career goals?
  • Why are you interested in our organization?
  • What is your greatest strength/weakness?
  • What are the most important considerations for you in choosing a job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current job?
  • How do you feel you can contribute to our organization?
  • Are you willing to travel/relocate?
  • In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
  • What led you to choose your college major?
  • What personal characteristics do you feel are necessary to be successful in this position?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • Do you think your grades are a good indication of your academic achievement?
  • What have you learned from participation in extra-curricular activities?
  • Do you have plans for continued study?  An advanced degree?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • Describe two or three accomplishments that have given you personal satisfaction.
  • What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  • What were your favorite/least favorite college courses?
  • Do you have any questions? (Have 2-3 minimum prepared to ask – see below)

Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Asking questions during the job interview is very important.  The nature of your questions can indicate your interest in the job, can help you determine if the job is “right” for you, and can convey your verbal communication skills to the interviewer.  The following is a list of areas that you might ask questions on during the interview.

  • Employee evaluation and promotion practices
  • Company plans for future growth
  • On-the-job training or educational advancement opportunities
  • Hours of employment
  • Advancement opportunities
  • Typical career path in this field
  • Duties of a typical work day
  • Additional information about your qualifications that you can provide
  • About the people with whom you would be working

Interviews are NOT THE TIME to inquire about salary unless the interviewer approaches the subject.  If the interviewer approaches the subject then the topic is fair to ask questions about, otherwise salary is only discussed and negotiable when an offer is made.  If needed you may request time to think about the offer (typically up to one week).

Evaluation Criteria

In addition to education, experience, and technical skills/knowledge, interviewers often evaluate personality traits.  The following are areas that might be evaluated during an interview.

  • Accomplishments – Academic (GPA-type of courses taken), Work Experience (Amount & degree of relevance), Extracurricular Activities (Campus, community)
  • Characteristics – General Appearance (Grooming, Poise, Dress), Mental Alertness (Grasp of Ideas, Responses), Advancement Potential (Leadership, Responsibility), Non-Verbal Communication (Handshake, Eye Contact), Verbal Communication (Clarity, Grammar, Organization of Ideas), Preparation for Interview,
  • Knowledge of Company/Organization and Career Objective

Reasons for NOT getting hired

Listed below are common reasons why applicants are not selected for a position.  Don’t let this happen to you!

  1. 1.  Lack of proper career planning—purposes and goals not defined—needs direction.
  2. 2.  Lack of knowledge of field of specialization—not well qualified—lacks depth.
  3. 3.  Inability to express thoughts clearly and concisely—rambles.
  4. 4.  Insufficient evidence of achievement or capacity to incite action in others.
  5. 5.  Not prepared for the interview—no research on the company—no presentation.
  6. 6.  No real interest in the organization or the industry—merely shopping around.
  7. 7.  Narrow location interest—unwilling to relocate later—inflexible.
  8. 8.  Little interest and enthusiasm—indifferent—bland personality.
  9. 9.  Overbearing—overaggressive—conceited—cocky—aloof—arrogant
  10. 10.  Interested only in the best dollar offer-too money conscious.
  11. 11.  Asks poor questions about the job—little meaning or depth to the questions.
  12. 12.  Unwilling to start at the bottom—expects too much too soon—unrealistic.
  13. 13.  Makes excuses—evasiveness—hedges on unfavorable factors in record.
  14. 14.  No confidence and poise—fails to look interviewer in the eye—immature.
  15. 15.  Poor personal appearance—sloppy dress—lacks sophistication.
  16. 16. Poor academic record
  17. 17. Criticizes previous employers/instructors
  18. 18. Late to interview

Tips for Success

  • Get good directions.  Go find the location the day prior to the interview.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.  You need to be mentally alert for the interview.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Bring a list of references, extra resumes, paper and pen.
  • Go alone and do not take others with you.
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  • Know your resume.
  • Remember and correctly pronounce the name of the interviewer(s).
  • Offer a firm handshake.
  • Speak clearly, use good grammar.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Don’t smoke or chew gum.
  • Listen carefully and answer all questions completely.
  • Focus on your qualifications rather than your need for the job.
  • Do not discuss personal issues.
  • Do not criticize former employers/instructors.
  • Express appreciation for the interview.
  • Follow up the interview with a thank you letter.

A Tip to Feeling More Comfortable in a Professional Interview

Remember: You are interviewing the company as well, make sure they are a good fit for you.  Be prepared!

Partial Source:  C. Randall Powell, Career Planning Today, Fourth Edition, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2000.