Presenting Yourself Successfully – Before, During & After Your Job Interview
Before Your Job Interview:
• Learn all you can about the company or organization; learn as much as you can so that your questions are sophisticated and knowledgeable during the interview. Employers expect you to arrive knowing background information about the organization. If you don’t, you look like you’re not really interested in the job. You have to be able to answer the critical question of why you would like to work for that employer — and not sound like you would take any job. Research helps you formulate intelligent and appropriate questions to ask in your interview.
• Be prepared to answer and ask questions. (see our sample questions)
• Prepare your clothes for your interview, making sure they are business-like, clean, pressed and conservative; make sure your hair and nails trimmed and clean. Your attire should be noticed as being appropriate and well-fitting, but it should not take center stage. When in doubt, always dress more professionally rather than more casually. Dressing nicely and appropriately is a compliment to the person you meet, so if in doubt, err on the side of dressing better than you might need to. A two-piece matched suit is always the best choice for both men and women, in navy, gray or black.
• Prepare papers for your interview, including extra copies of your resume, job reference lists, reference letters, legal pad for taking notes, and any other information that you may wish to have with you.
During Your Job Interview:
• Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Don’t take any chances that you might be even one minute late. If necessary, arrive 30 minutes early and wait in your car.
• Treat all people you encounter with professionalism and kindness. That receptionist or secretary or maintenance man may offer his or her opinion of you to the boss. It will count.
• Don’t let the employer’s casual approach cause you to drop your manners or professionalism. You should maintain a professional image. Don’t address the interviewer by his or her first name unless you are invited to.
• Don’t chew gum or smell like smoke. Don’t take cell phone calls during an interview. If you carry a cell phone, turn it off during the interview to be sure it doesn’t ring.
• Don’t ever interrupt the interviewer, even if you are anxious and enthusiastic about answering the question.
• Be aware of your non-verbal behaviors – sit straight, smile as often as you can, maintain eye contact but don’t stare the interviewer down, lean forward but not invading the interviewer’s space. Sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting and slouching.
• Don’t be shy or self-effacing. You want to be enthusiastic, confident and energetic, but not aggressive, pushy or egotistic. That fine line is important. If you find yourself trying to hard to sell yourself, you are probably crossing the line. Instead, pull back, be confident and reassuring and calm.
• Don’t make negative comments about previous employers or professors (or others).
• Listen very carefully to each question you are asked and give thoughtful, to-the-point and honest answers. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question. It is OK to take a few moments of silence to gather your thoughts before answering. Try not to “beat around the bush” or take a long time to give the answer the interviewer is seeking.
• Make sure you understand the employer’s next step in the hiring process; know when and from whom you should expect to hear next. Know what action you are expected to take next, if any. Always thank the interviewer for his or her time at the close of the interview and establish a follow-up plan.
• When the interviewer concludes the interview, offer a firm handshake and make eye contact. Depart gracefully.
After the Interview:
• After the interview, make notes right away so you don’t forget critical details.
• If you are working with a search firm or recruiter, call that recruiter immediately while the facts of the interview are fresh on your mind. The recruiter will want to know what you thought went well and what you may have concerns about.
• Always send a thank you letter to the interviewer immediately. If there were several people that interviewed you, send them each a thank you note. It is good to keep the letter short but to also reiterate your interest in the position and your confidence in your qualifications.
• Don’t call the employer back immediately. If the employer said they would have a decision in a week, it is OK to call them in a week, again to thank them for the interview and reiterate your interest.
• If you receive word that another candidate was chosen, you may also send a follow-up letter to that employer, again thanking him or her for the opportunity to interview for the position. Let them know that should another or similar position open in the future, you would love to have the opportunity to interview again.
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