Interview Preparation Tips (Part 10 of 20)

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Examrace Placement Series prepares you for the toughest placement exams to top companies.

Interview Tips

  1. Answer Briefly When it comes to talking during an interview, sometimes less is more. As a general rule, you should speak one-third of the time and definitely no more than half of the time. The best interviews have a give-and-take atmosphere. To do this, you need to ask questions and try to draw out your interviewer rather than talking about yourself nonstop. When it, s your turn to speak, don, t hesitate to tout yourself--just remember to stop talking after you do.

  2. It, s OK to Be Nervous Not only is it OK to be nervous about an interview, but it is essential for you to accept how you feel. Telling yourself you should feel differently than you do is unrealistic and just makes you feel bad about yourself. What, s the worst that can happen at an interview? For many, it would be not getting an offer. Did you ever think that maybe the job wasn, t right for you? Try to look at the process as a learning experience.

  3. Emotional Prep Preparing emotionally for the interview is as important as researching the company. The right mood helps you perform at your best. Try these suggestions for preparing emotionally: Get moving--go for a walk, run, exercise, meditate, do yoga, stretch, dance, something--activity gets blood flowing to your brain; sing your favorite song while driving to the interview; repeat an inspirational phrase aloud that, s meaningful for you; or simply remember a time when you felt terrific.

  4. Explain Why You Left Follow these guidelines when interviewers ask, “Why did you leave (or are you seeking to leave) your company?” Succinctly describe the reason for your departure, and don, t go into details unless asked. Provide references to support your reasons for leaving and job performance. Stay with the facts of what happened, what you did, how you felt and what you learned. Then describe how you will handle things differently in the future.

  5. Second Interview Questions Congratulations, you, ve made it to round two of the interview process. What are you likely to face, and what are your best strategies for nabbing the job? Keep these tips in mind as you head toward the finish line. They, ll quiz you to see if you really know your stuff. Here, s where staying awake during class will finally pay off. You, re likely to be introduced to potential coworkers. Try to make a personal connection with each of them. You may be fed. Be ready to display your beautiful table manners and breezy personality. They, re looking for a reason not to like you. This is not the time to get cocky, because there are three other candidates in the wings. At an interview that ends without an offer, try to close the sale by asking, “” What, s the next step in the process? “Follow up with,” What, s the time frame for that? “Interviewers need to know you, re interested in their company. Always ask at least one related question:” When you financed that widget deal in Germany last year, how did you hedge your currency risk?"

  6. Answering Illegal Questions Responding professionally is much more effective than telling the interviewer he, s breaking the law. Even illegal questions pose an opportunity for you to present information about your talents. If you, re asked an illegal question, don, t directly answer it. Deal with the underlying concern, and express your commitment to your career. For example, if an employer asks, How does your spouse feel about your business travel? respond with, I, m fully committed to performing my job well. My career is important to me, and I have a strong support system at home.

  7. Interrogation or Interview? You determine whether you, re interrogated or interviewed. If you don, t ask questions throughout the interview, you force the interviewer to continue to ask you a series of questions. Interviews should resemble meetings where both people ask questions and provide answers. After you respond to a question, ask a question to make sure you, re understood accurately and that you, ve provided enough detail. After responding, ask something like, Did I give you enough detail? Was I clear on that? or Would you like me to elaborate?

  8. Bring Up a Weakness In an interview, bring up a weakness before you, re asked for one. For example, The truth is, I really need to work on my leadership skills. I'm a good worker and totally competent, but sometimes I lack the confidence to stand up and take a leadership position. That candor builds chemistry, helps ensure you, re likely to succeed on the job and differentiates you from typical candidates who hype themselves. It can even land you the job.

  9. Put Up with Rejection? When rejection comes, it may trigger old wounds from past experiences. You may feel hurt, angry or fed up. Instead of being stuck in feeling rejected, take back the power by staying proactive. If you really wanted to work for that particular company, sit down and write a letter, stating how disappointed you were. Remind them of all the positive traits you could bring to the organization. Let them know you are still interested in working for the company if something should change or open up:

  10. Face the Feedback If you ask for feedback from an interviewer, be prepared to hear things that could be upsetting. You should listen carefully, and take notes to refer to--and react to--later. Be gracious about what you, re told. Don, t argue or defend yourself--this is not a chance for a rebuttal. Be sure to thank the interviewer. Then, take the advice and think about changing some techniques to improve on your next interview

  11. Follow the Interviewer During the interview, your interviewer is giving you information that can guide you on how to behave during the meeting. Observe your interviewer, s style, and then pace and match it. Listen to what is being said, and let the interviewer know you, ve been listening by asking good questions and making insightful comments. Answer questions by providing the information asked for. Telling more than needed could be a mistake. Too much information, particularly personal information, should not be discussed during the interview.

  12. Look Better, Feel Better If you want to spruce up your appearance for the interview but can, t afford new clothes, consider altering an outfit you already have by pairing it with a different shirt, tie, blouse or accessory. Even on a tight budget, you can find some real bargains out there. Think about what you need before you go out shopping. Outlet stores and resale shops offer some great treasures. For better or worse, looks can make a difference.

  13. First Comes the Phone Telephone screening is becoming very common as the first step in the interview process so you need to be prepared for the phone to ring at any time. These screenings usually last 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your answers and fit for the job. It, s helpful if you, ve thought about questions likely to be asked during the screening (Why did you/are you leaving your job? What makes you qualified for this position?) and prepared your answers. Tell us what you think about this article.

  14. Be Quiet and Focus One common mistake candidates make when interviewing is talking too much. It, s important to listen to the question asked and answer that question. Keep your answers to two to three minutes at the most. When you limit your time, you tend to stay more focused. It is very easy to stray off the subject and ramble about things irrelevant to the job if your answer is too long. Watch the interviewer, s eyes--if they glaze over, you, ve lost them.

  15. Look Them in the Eyes Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of nonverbal communication and can make a significant difference in how you present yourself. If you look away when speaking to someone, you, re viewed as lacking confidence or interest. If you have a problem looking into your interviewer, s eyes, try looking at the third eye right above and between the eyes.

  16. Be Ready for the Screen Call A telephone screen call can come at any time. Be sure everyone in your household--children, roommates, etc. are aware you may be receiving calls from recruiters and companies. Ask them to answer the phone in a polite, professional manner. While you, re at it, make sure your voice-mail message is professional and upbeat: No music or jokes for the time being--just a straightforward message.

  17. Get the Info Informational interviews are a great way to get leads and information regarding an industry, company or position. It is important that the person you contact understands you, re seeking information--not a job. Be prepared when you ask for an appointment to say what you, re looking for and why you want to talk to this person. At the informational interview, have a prepared list of questions. At the end, ask if the person has any recommendations of others you could speak with:

  18. Know What You Offer Prepare answers for open-ended questions, like, “Tell me about yourself,” by making a list of your skills and traits that match the employer, s requirements. The closer your skills and traits are to the job description, the better chance you have of landing the job. You should leave the interviewer with a clear picture of what you have to offer.

  19. Keeping Time Try to arrive early for the interview, but not too early. Get to the site 20 to 30 minutes early to allow for any surprise disasters. Don, t enter the building until 10 to 15 minutes before your interview. Arriving too early could throw the interviewer, s schedule off and start you off on the wrong foot. Use the time spent sitting in the lobby to get a good feeling for the environment.

  20. Attitude Adjustment It's difficult to remain upbeat in a tough job market. Isolating yourself and waiting for the phone to ring is the worst way to handle negative thoughts. When you start feeling down, take steps to turn your thinking around. Go for a walk, or do something fun. It may be just what you need to feel relaxed and at ease. Getting together with friends and having a support system will help you to laugh and keep going.

  21. Your References For your reference list, you want three to five people and their contact information. Don, t forget to get permission to use your references, names, and while you, re at it, ask how they prefer to be contacted. You should also send them a copy of your resume so they, ll be aware of what you, re saying about yourself.

  22. Waiting by the Phone If the interviewer doesn, t call back after the interview as promised, don, t be surprised--it happens a lot. Waiting for that call is one of the most difficult parts of the interview process. If a week goes by after the decision was supposed to have been made, call and ask if the position is still open. If the answer is yes, ask if you, re still under consideration.

  23. Prove What You Could Do Always put a positive spin on your answers to difficult questions. If you lack a particular skill or don, t know a certain computer program, be sure to emphasize how quickly you learn. Give an example of a time when you were able to get up to speed in a similar situation. Companies are interested in people who can hit the ground running.

  24. Sell Yourself Interviewing is about selling. The product you are selling is you. Give them reasons to buy. Tell them what you can do for them. Emphasize what you can bring to the company, department and position. Convince them that your product is better than the competition, s.

  25. Talking Salary Timing is everything in the interview. Let them bring up the subject of money. If you are asked what your salary expectations are too early in the process, just say you would rather postpone that discussion until you have more information about the position. Ask, Could you tell me the range budgeted for the position?

  26. Ask the Power Questions Great questions to ask early in a job interview: “What are you most hoping to find in the person you hire?” and “What would be my first priorities on the job?” The earlier you can ask these questions, the sooner you can start tailoring your answers to the employer, s priorities. At the end of the interview, ask, “Based on what we, ve talked about today, I feel good about the position. Do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?” Often, that gives you a chance to counter any objections.

  27. What could you do today? Print out the above tip and put it in the briefcase, purse or folder you know you, ll bring to your job interview. While waiting for an interview, review the three questions to remind yourself to ask them.

  28. The World, s Toughest Job Interview Question Here, s a real heart-thumper: Why have you been unemployed so long? You won, t make a great impression by saying, “I wanted to be a full-time parent.” Or worse, “No one would hire me.” What You Could Do Today When asked this question, give a brief answer and then move on to explain that you, re a good fit for the position. For example, “I wanted to be a full-time mom, but I, ve stayed current in the field. Now that my child is older, I, m eager to get back to work. When I saw your ad, I got excited, because I could be of help to you.”

  29. Managing Time in a Job Interview In an effort to try and dig themselves out of trouble, most job interviewees give long answers to hard questions and they give short answers to easy questions. Mistake! That increases the proportion of the interview spent on weak points. What You Could Do Today Rule of thumb: Short answers for hard questions and longer answers for easy ones. Another tip for managing time in a job interview: You want the employer to picture you in the position, especially if your job history is weak, so spend as much time as possible discussing what you, d do in the new job. The mantra: Focus on the future, not the past.

  30. Think of an Interview as a First Date When facing a job interview, the natural tendency is to gird yourself against the onslaught of killer questions and to do everything you can to snow, em. That can be a prescription for failure. You will likely come off as defensive, even disingenuous. Under pressure, job seekers frequently utter turn-off canned phrases such as, “I, m seeking a new challenge,” or, “I believe I, m uniquely qualified for the position.” What You Could Do Today Instead of the Inquisition, think of a job interview as a first date: You, re both trying to figure out if there, s a match. This mindset proffers many advantages. You come off as curious, not desperate, you don, t assume that too-formal, phony-appearing job-seeker persona, you talk about what you want to talk about instead of just passively getting bombarded with the employer, s probes and you, re more likely to ask questions during the interview. Those questions will help you assess if you really want the job, or if the tasks will be annoying and the coworkers dumb? Treat the interview as a first date, and you, ll both be better informed when deciding whether you should hook up. Tell us what you think about this article.

  31. Get to Work! Unemployed? Then your job right now is to find a job. Don, t let personal distractions keep you from putting in the hours necessary to continue your search. Think of this as going to work. Research companies, industries and positions. Knowledge is power, and power gives you confidence--something you, ll need to succeed in interviews.

  32. Ask Your Way into a Better Job

You can, t really tell how good a job is from a want ad. There, s often a gap between the exciting opportunity portrayed in the ad and the actual job.

What You Could Do Today

You can often get the straight scoop about a job by asking the right questions. For example, in the job interview, ask, “What attributes are most needed to succeed in this job?” If the boss says, “We need a real self-starter,” that, s a clue you won, t get much support.

After you, re offered a job but before accepting it, ask a few more questions or even ask permission to talk with your future coworkers. Ask questions like these: What it, s like to work here? What can I expect in pay raises? What kind of training is offered? How, s the boss? Are the products good? How many people have held this position in the past few years? Why did they leave? You may not always get straight answers, but you, ll probably get enough to help you decide if you should take the job.