How to Interview Effectively
The interview is one of the most important
parts of the job search process. It gives both you and the employer an
opportunity to exchange information to determine whether you are a good match
for the position and for the company. The interview should be regarded as a
focused business conversation. Use this time to learn more about what the
employer's needs are, and express what you can do to meet those needs. In many
cases, you will interview twice for a position -- once in a brief screening
overview, and once in a meeting specifically focused on the job opening.
A job interview is a systematic, purposeful
conversation. Your goal is to show the employer that you have the skills,
background, and ability to do the job and that you can successfully fit into the
company and its culture. It is also your opportunity to gather information about
the job, the company, and future career opportunities to determine whether the
job and the company are right for you.
Most employers do not hire on the basis of
qualifications alone -- personality, confidence, enthusiasm, a positive outlook,
and excellent communication skills weigh in heavily on the selection process.
After your cover letter and résumé, the
interview is your best opportunity to impress the employer. You can accomplish
this by using effective interviewing skills. The best way to do this is to:
- prepare a brief presentation of your
- thoughtful answers to potential
- well researched questions about the
- develop an effective strategy to market
Also consider what the job has to offer so that
you can discuss it with the employer.
Remember that interviewing is a skill as well,
and becomes easier with practice. Most American Job Centers have workshops in
Interviewing Skills designed to help you improve in this area.
It is very important to prepare for the
interview by researching the job opening and the company. You can accomplish
this in some of the following ways:
- request company materials, such as an
annual report or job descriptions;
- use library or career center
- ask friends, teachers or colleagues
about the company; or
- look at the company's home page on the
Internet (if they have one).
If you have researched the job opening, then
you will be able to show the employer specifically how your qualifications meet
the job requirements.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Prepare clear, concise answers to the questions found in the
interview questions section. Practice your answers with a friend or
in front of a mirror. Ask for constructive feedback on your performance.
Try to avoid using phrases such as "you know ... ", and "like ... " And,
try not to sound as if you're scripting every answer. The most
successful candidates are those that practice the most.
The more you know, the better. Try to find out when the
interview is scheduled, what to expect, how long you will be
there, and whether you will be speaking to one person or more.
early, approximately 5-10 minutes. If you are not sure where the
company is, call ahead for exact directions. Leave some extra
time for unexpected delays such as traffic, parking, etc. If you
are running late, let someone know immediately. Leave some extra
time to re-read your résumé, settle down, and be ready for the
Dress For Success!
Dress appropriately based on the environment of the job opening.
If you will be working in an office or other business
environment, wear a professional business suit; if you will be
working in a more relaxed environment (such as a warehouse or a
manufacturing environment) neat and clean pants, shirts, skirts,
and dresses are acceptable. Women should avoid wearing too much
jewelry or make-up, and men should avoid dressing too flashy or
wearing too much cologne. Remember that you want to make a good
Carry a notepad to jot things down (but don't be preoccupied with taking
notes during the interview). Bring extra copies of your résumé, and have
names, addresses, and telephone numbers of references (in case the
employer asks). And, it's always a good idea to have a list of questions
for the employer.
Volunteering relevant information about yourself will make the interviewing
process easier on you. Think about how you want to present yourself (experience,
education, skills, etc.). Review your résumé to see what the employer might
consider strengths or weaknesses. Think about how you can answer difficult
questions accurately and positively.
The interview gives the employer the chance to get to know you. While
you do want to sell yourself, answer each question with an honest
Keep It Positive
Never say anything negative about past experiences or employers. Always try to
say something positive about the experience. Try to be enthusiastic -- if
you are very interested in the job, let the employer know it.
One of the best ways to show your interest in the job is to research the
company beforehand. Ask questions about its products and services. Also
ask questions that build on your interview discussion. This will
demonstrate that not only are you interested, but that you are paying
close attention to the employer. Insightful comments on what the
employer says can take you far. At the end of the interview, it is
permissible to ask when you might hear from the employer.
Don't Discuss Salary
Do not bring up the issue of salary during the first interview. Rather, try to
find out as much as you can about general salary levels of the company
beforehand. If the employer asks about your salary expectations, try to give a
Take time after the interview to jot down anything that comes to mind that might
influence your decision of whether or not to accept the position. Examples are
your impressions, and any remaining questions. This is especially helpful in
keeping track of facts about each employer if you are interviewing with several
Always write a thank you note to the employer within 48 hours of the
interview, even if you are not interested in the job, or if the
interview was unproductive. It is important to let the employer know
that you appreciate the time that was spent with you. Refer to the
section on thank you letters
for more information.