tips for job
In a labor market where there are many
qualified candidates competing for the same position, how you do on the
interview can often determine whether you get the job.
Table of Contents
There are several different types of
interviews which you may encounter. You probably won't know in advance which
type you will be facing. Below are some descriptions of the different types of
interviews and what you can expect in each of them.
- Screening Interview
A preliminary interview either in person or by phone, in which a company
representative determines whether you have the basic qualifications to warrant a
- Structured Interview
In a structured interview, the interviewer explores certain
predetermined areas using questions which have been written in advance. The
interviewer has a written description of the experience, skills, and personality
traits of an ideal candidate. Your experience and skills are compared to
specific job tasks. This type of interview is very common and most traditional
interviews are based on this format.
- Unstructured Interview
Although the interviewer is given a written description of the ideal
candidate, in the unstructured interview, the interviewer is not given
instructions on what specific areas to cover.
- Multiple Interviews
Multiple interviews are commonly used with professional jobs. This
approach involves a series of interviews in which you meet individually with
various representatives of the organization. In the initial interview, the
representative usually attempts to get basic information on your skills and
abilities. In subsequent interviews, the focus is on how you would perform the
job in relation to the company's goals and objectives. After the interviews are
completed, the interviewers meet and pool their information about your
qualifications for the job. A variation on this approach involves a series of
interviews in which unsuitable candidates are screened out at each succeeding
- Stress Interview
The interviewer intentionally attempts to upset you to see how you react
under pressure. You may be asked questions that make you uncomfortable or you
may be interrupted when you are speaking. Although it is uncommon for an entire
interview to be conducted under stress conditions, it is common for the
interviewer to incorporate stress questions as a part of a traditional
interview. Examples of common stress questions are given later in this document.
- Targeted Interview
Although similar to the structured interview, the areas covered are much
more limited. Key qualifications for success on the job are identified and
relevant questions are prepared in advance.
- Situational Interview
Situations are set up which simulate common problems you may encounter
on the job. Your responses to these situations are measured against
pre-determined standards. This approach is often used as one part of a
traditional interview rather than as an entire interview format.
- Group Interview
You may be interviewed by two or more company representatives
simultaneously. Sometimes, one of the interviewers is designated to ask stress
questions to see how you respond under pressure. A variation on this format is
for two or more company representatives to interview a group of candidates at
the same time.
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The interview strategies discussed
below can be used effectively in any type of interview you may encounter.
Before the Interview
Prepare in advance. The better prepared
you are, the less anxious you will be and the greater your chances for success.
It's important to make a good impression
from the moment you enter the reception area. Greet the receptionist cordially
and try to appear confident. You never know what influence the receptionist has
with your interviewer. With a little small talk, you may get some helpful
information about the interviewer and the job opening. If you are asked to fill
out an application while you're waiting, be sure to fill it out completely.
- Role play. Find someone to role play
the interview with you. This person should be someone with whom you feel
comfortable and with whom you can discuss your weaknesses freely. The person
should be objective and knowledgeable, perhaps a business associate.
- Use a mirror or video camera when
you role play to see what kind of image you project.
- Assess your interviewing skills.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Work on correcting your weaknesses,
such as speaking rapidly, talking too loudly or softly and nervous habits
such as shaking hands or inappropriate facial expressions.
- Learn the questions that are
commonly asked and prepare answers to them. Practice giving answers which
are brief but thorough.
- Decide what questions you would like
to ask and practice politely interjecting them at different points in the
- Evaluate your strengths. Evaluate
your skills, abilities, and education as they relate to the type of job you
- Practice tailoring your answers to
show how you meet the company's needs, if you have details about the
specific job before the interview.
- Assess your over-all appearance.
Find out what clothing is appropriate for your industry. Although some
industries such as fashion and advertising are more stylish, acceptable
attire for most industries is conservative.
- Have several sets of appropriate
clothing available since you may have several interviews over a few days.
- Your clothes should be clean and
pressed, and your shoes polished.
- Make sure your hair is neat, your
nails clean, and you are generally well groomed.
- Research the company. The more you
know about the company and the job you are applying for, the better you will
do in the interview. Get as much information as you can before the
- Have extra copies of your résumé
available to take on the interview. The interviewer may ask you for extra
- Make sure you bring along the same
version of your résumé that you originally sent the company. You can also
refer to your résumé to complete applications that ask for job history
information (e.g., dates of employment, names of former employers and their
telephone numbers, job responsibilities, and accomplishments).
- Arrive early at the interview. Plan
to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Give yourself time to find a rest room so
you can check your appearance.
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During the Interview
The job interview is usually a two way
discussion between you and a prospective employer. The interviewer is attempting
to determine whether you have what the company needs, and you are attempting to
determine if you would accept the job if offered. Both of you will be trying to
get as much information as possible in order to make those decisions.
The interview that you are most likely
to face is a structured interview with a traditional format. It usually consists
of three phases. The introductory phase covers the greeting, small talk, and an
overview of which areas will be discussed during the interview. The middle phase
is a question and answer period. The interviewer asks most of the questions, but
you are given an opportunity to ask questions as well. The closing phase gives
you an opportunity to ask any final questions you might have, cover any
important points that haven't been discussed, and get information about the next
step in the process.
This phase is very important. You want
to make a good first impression and, if possible, get additional information you
need about the job and the company.
- Make a good impression. You
only have a few seconds to create a positive first impression which can
influence the rest of the interview and even determine whether you get the
job. The interviewer's first impression of you is based mainly on non-verbal
clues. The interviewer is assessing your over-all appearance and demeanor.
When greeting the interviewer, be certain your handshake is firm and that
you make eye contact. Wait for the interviewer to signal you before you sit
down. Once seated, your body language is very important in conveying a
positive impression. Find a comfortable position so that you don't appear
tense. Lean forward slightly and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
This posture shows that you are interested in what is being said. Smile
naturally at appropriate times. Show that you are open and receptive by
keeping your arms and legs uncrossed. Avoid keeping your briefcase or your
handbag on your lap. Pace your movements so that they are not too fast or
too slow. Try to appear relaxed and confident.
- Get the information you need.
If you weren't able to get complete information about the job and the
company in advance, you should try to get it as early as possible in the
interview. Be sure to prepare your questions in advance.
Knowing the following things will allow
you to present those strengths and abilities that the employer wants:
- Why does the company need someone in
- Exactly what would they expect of
- Are they looking for traditional or
innovative solutions to problems?
- When to ask questions.
The problem with a traditional interview structure is that your chance to
ask questions occurs late in the interview. How can you get the information
you need early in the process without making the interviewer feel that you
are taking control? Deciding exactly when to ask your questions is the
tricky part. Timing is everything. You may have to make a decision based on
intuition and your first impressions of the interviewer. Does the
interviewer seem comfortable or nervous, soft spoken or forceful, formal or
casual? These signals will help you to judge the best time to ask your
questions. The sooner you ask the questions, the less likely you are to
disrupt the interviewer's agenda. However, if you ask questions too early,
the interviewer may feel you are trying to control the interview. Try asking
questions right after the greeting and small talk. Since most interviewers
like to set the tone of the interview and maintain initial control, always
phrase your questions in a way that leaves control with the interviewer.
Perhaps say, "Would you mind telling me a little more about the job so
that I can focus on the information that would be most important to the
company?" If there is no job opening but you are trying to
develop one or you need more information about the company, try saying,
"Could you tell me a little more about where the company is going so I
can focus on those areas of my background that are most relevant?" You
may want to wait until the interviewer has given an overview of what will be
discussed. This overview may answer some of your questions or may provide
some details that you can use to ask additional questions. Once the middle
phase of the interview has begun, you may find it more difficult to ask
During this phase of the interview, you
will be asked many questions about your work experience, skills, education,
activities, and interests. You are being assessed on how you will perform the
job in relation to the company objectives.
All your responses should be concise. Use
specific examples to illustrate your point whenever possible. Although your
responses should be prepared in advance so that they are well phrased and
effective, be sure they do not sound rehearsed. Remember that your responses
must always be adapted to the present interview. Incorporate any information you
obtained earlier in the interview with the responses you had prepared in advance
and then answer in a way that is appropriate to the question.
Below are frequently asked questions
and some suggested responses:
Give a specific example to illustrate
You might try to get the interviewer to
give you additional information about the company by saying that you are very
interested in learning more about the company objectives. This will help you to
focus your response on relevant areas.
- "What do you hope to be
doing five years from now?"
- "I hope I will still be
working here and have increased my level of responsibility based on my
performance and abilities."
- "Why have you been out of
work for so long?" (A stress question)
- "I spent some time
re-evaluating my past experience and the current job market to see what
direction I wanted to take".
- "I had some offers but I'm
not just looking for another job; I'm looking for a career."
- "What do you know about our
company? Why do you want to work here?" This
is where your research on the company will come in handy.
- "You are a small/large firm
and a leading force in the local/national economy"
- "Your company is a leader
in your field and growing."
- "Your company has a
- "What is your greatest
a specific illustration from your previous or current job where you saved
the company money or helped increase their profits. If you have just
graduated from college, try to find some accomplishment from your school
work, part-time jobs, or extra-curricular activities.
- "Why should we hire
you?" (A stress question) Highlight your background based on the
company's current needs. Recap your qualifications keeping the interviewer's
job description in mind. If you don't have much experience, talk about how
your education and training prepared you for this job.
- "Why do you want to make a
- "I want to develop my
- "The opportunities in my
present company are limited."
- "Tell me about a problem you
had in your last job and how you resolved it." The
employer wants to assess your analytical skills and see if you are a team
player. Select a problem from your last job and explain how you solved it.
Some Questions You Should Ask
- "What are the company's current
- "Could you give me a more
detailed job description?"
- "Why is this position
- "Are there opportunities for
- "To whom would I report?"
During the closing phase of an
interview, you will be asked whether you have any other questions. Ask any
relevant question that has not yet been answered. Highlight any of your
strengths that have not been discussed. If another interview is to be scheduled,
get the necessary information. If this is the final interview, find out when the
decision is to be made and when you can call. Thank the interviewer by name and
- Be sincere and direct
- Be attentive and polite
- Ask relevant questions
- Answer questions concisely
- Use specific examples to illustrate
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- Try to control the entire interview
- Bring up salary, benefits or working
- Be too serious
- Let your depression or
- Make negative comments about anyone
or anything, including former employers
- Look at your watch
- Take extensive notes
After the Interview
You are not finished yet. It is important to assess the interview shortly after
it is concluded. Following your interview you should:
Everyone knows that a thank you letter
should be sent after an interview, but very few people actually send one. Make
sure you are one of those few. It could give you the edge.
- Write down the name and title (be
sure the spelling is correct) of the interviewer
- Review what the job entails and
record what the next step will be
- Note your reactions to the
interview; include what went well and what went poorly
- Assess what you learned from the
experience and how you can improve your performance in future interviews
- Make sure you send a thank you note
within 24 hours; your thank you note should:
- Be hand-written only if you have a
very good handwriting; most people type thank you notes
- Be on good quality paper
- Be simple and brief
- Express your appreciation for the
- Show enthusiasm for the job
- Get across that you want the job and
can do it
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- Phone follow-up. If you were not
told during the interview when a hiring decision will be made, call after
one week. At that time, if you learn that the decision has not been made,
find out whether you are still under consideration for the job. Ask if there
are any other questions the interviewer might have about your qualifications
and offer to come in for another interview if necessary. Reiterate that you
are very interested in the job. If you learn that you did not get the job,
try to find out why. You might also inquire whether the interviewer can
think of anyone else who might be able to use someone with your abilities,
either in another department or at another company. If you are offered the
job, you have to decide whether you want it. If you are not sure, thank the
employer and ask for several days to think about it. Ask any other questions
you might need answered to help you with the decision. If you know you want
the job and have all the information you need, accept the job with thanks
and get the details on when you start. Ask whether the employer will be
sending a letter of confirmation, as it is best to have the offer in
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During an interview, you
may be asked some questions that are considered illegal. It is illegal for an
interviewer to ask you questions related to sex, age, race, religion, national
origin, or marital status, or to delve into your personal life for information
that is not job-related. What can you do if you are asked an illegal question?
Take a moment to evaluate the situation. Ask yourself questions like:
Then respond in a way that is comfortable
for you. If you decide to answer the question, be succinct and try to move the
conversation back to an examination of your skills and abilities as quickly as
possible. For example, if asked about your age, you might reply, "I'm in my
forties, and I have a wealth of experience that would be an asset to your
company." If you are not sure whether you want to answer the question,
first ask for a clarification of how this question relates to your
qualifications for the job. You may decide to answer if there is a reasonable
- How uncomfortable has this question
made me feel?
- Does the interviewer seem unaware
that the question is illegal?
- Is this interviewer going to be my
If you feel there is no justification
for the question, you might say that you do not see the relationship between the
question and your qualifications for the job and you prefer not to answer it.
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In the final analysis, the employer
will hire someone who has the abilities and talents which fulfill their needs.
It is up to you to demonstrate at the interview that you are the person they
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YOUR COMPENSATION PACKAGE
Do not discuss your specific
compensation package, especially salary, with the employer until you have been
offered the job and you think it is an offer you should seriously consider.
During salary negotiations, you are not only talking about your monetary salary
but your entire compensation package. This includes vacation time, sick leave,
health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits the company may
offer. Your base salary and performance-based raises are probably the most
negotiable parts of your compensation package. However, many companies do have a
cafeteria approach to benefits where you select from a number of benefit options
based on a total monetary cost. In other words, the company will spend a certain
amount of money on each employee for benefits, and employees have some
flexibility on which benefit options they select. For example, employees with
children might select child care reimbursement benefits, while employees
interested in going back to school might choose tuition reimbursement. When
negotiating your compensation package, it is important to keep in mind the total
Make sure you consider all benefits the
company has to offer, not just salary. Before you begin negotiating your
compensation, decide which benefits are most important to you, so you are ready
to talk to the employer.
Like other parts of the job search
process, the key to salary negotiations is preparation. It is very important for
you to do your research before you begin salary negotiations. In order to
determine the salary you are willing to accept, investigate the salary range
that someone with your skills and experience can expect to receive.
How do you find salary information?
The Negotiation Meeting
- The Library – Your
local library should have a number of references to use to find out the
salary ranges for the occupation which you are considering. The reference
librarian can provide assistance in locating salary information resources.
Some reference books include:
- State and Metropolitan Area
Data Book – Published by the U.S. Department of Commerce; compiles
statistical data from many public and private agencies; includes
unemployment rates, rate of employment growth, and population growth for
every state; presents a vast amount of data on employment and income for
metropolitan areas across the country
- White Collar Pay: Private
Goods-Producing Industries – Produced by the U.S. Department of
Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics; good source of salary information for
white collar jobs
- AMS Office, Professional and
Data Processing Salaries Report (Administrative Management Society,
Washington, D.C.) – Salary distributions for 40 different
occupations, many of which are professional; subdivided by company size,
type of business, region of the country and by 41 different metropolitan
- American Salaries and Wages
Survey (Gale Research, Detroit) – Provides detailed information on
salaries and wages for thousands of jobs; data is subdivided geographically;
gives cost-of-living data for selected areas, which is very helpful in
determining what the salary differences really mean; provides information on
number of people employed in each occupation, along with projected changes
- American Almanac of Jobs and
Salaries (Avon Books, NY) – Information on wages for specific
occupations and job groups, many of which are professional and white collar;
presents trends in employment and wages
- Professional associations
– Conduct salary surveys both nationally and regionally; provides
salary/compensation information received from membership
- Your network – Talk
to colleagues in your professional network; talk about salary ranges
- Job Search Centers –
Can be found in schools, libraries, community centers, or as part of
federal, state, or local government programs; frequently keep salary
- Your past experience
– Think about your past salary; your previous salary is a starting point
for salary negotiation if the position you are applying for does not
dramatically differ from your former position
Once you have a good feeling for the
type of salary and benefits you are willing to accept, it's time to negotiate
with the company. Don't sell yourself short during these negotiations. Usually,
when a company is ready to make you an offer they have invested a lot of time
and money in their search for a qualified employee. You don't want to be overly
aggressive with the employer, but you do want to receive a fair compensation
package. If the employer makes you an offer that does not seem equitable,
discuss your concerns with the employer. Present your concerns about the
benefits package in a constructive, non-threatening manner. Focus on the reasons
why you have concerns, as opposed to making general statements about what you
think you deserve.
For example, it won't be productive to
simply state, "I must have more money." It would be more productive to
explain that the company's offer is less than you were making previously and you
would like them to match your previous salary. In most situations employers do
have some flexibility in what they can offer an applicant. They might be able to
offer you more money or compensate you with additional benefits (e.g., more
vacation leave). Some companies can offer a signing bonus to compensate for
other weaknesses in their compensation package.
When you are considering the offer,
make sure you are taking the entire benefits package into account. Sometimes
excellent benefits can compensate for a lower salary. If you really want the
job, but the offer still seems low after negotiations, see if the employer will
consider a salary review three to six months from your starting date. Usually,
you don't have to make a decision about the offer immediately. Ask the employer
for a couple of days so you can carefully consider the position and the offer.
If you do come to an agreement with the
employer, find out when you can expect to receive the offer in writing. It is
very important to get the official offer documented. An official letter usually
means that the management at the company has approved your acceptance of their
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Tips For Job Seekers