Before the interview:
Your success in the interview can depend on the interviewer’s first impression of you. Your appearance undoubtedly influences how you are perceived. By dressing appropriately, you will outwardly project your confidence, competence and credibility.
Your total appearance should be professional and suitable to the job. Look neat, clean and well groomed. Choose industry-appropriate clothing in a classic style. If you are uncertain about what to wear to an interview, a safe rule of thumb is to favor the conservative end of the spectrum.
Know where the interview is located and how long it will take to get there.
Allow time for traffic, parking and last minute distractions. Arrive at least 15 minutes early (but no earlier) so you can feel calm and relaxed when the interview begins.
Bring two or three copies of your resume and references.
These are useful when completing an employment application or to give to the interviewer(s) at the conclusion of the interview, if asked. Also, bring a pad of paper and a pen for any notes you may wish to make during or immediately after the interview.
Turn off your cell phone!
During the interview:
Remember, your interview starts when you enter the building. When you shake hands, include eye contact and a smile. Handshakes should be firm but not aggressive; try matching the grip of the interviewer.
Watch the interviewer for clues about how the interview is progressing.
Is the interviewer’s face and body language telling you that your answers are too long, not detailed enough, too detailed, etc.? If in doubt, ask the interviewer if more or fewer details are needed. If the interviewer becomes silent, look for the reason. Is the interviewer finding your answers too brief and waiting for you to elaborate more in order to get a better sense of who you are?
Find the delicate balance between listening and talking.
Do not be afraid to ask clarifying questions about the interviewer’s questions. Listen well so that you can identify opportunities to link your qualifications to the position. Take time to formulate your thoughts before answering a tough question and be as clear and concise as you can in your answers.
Anticipate the unexpected.
You may be asked an unexpected question; try to determine why it is being asked. If you need more time to think, it’s okay to say “That’s a good question; I would like to take a moment to think about it.”
Always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job.
You may have other irons in the fire but you want to demonstrate your sincere interest in this position.
Be aware of your non-verbal behavior.
Maintain good eye contact. Pay attention to your posture, facial expressions and hand gestures.
Dealing with Illegal or Inappropriate Interview Questions
An inappropriate question is one which is not relevant to your professional qualifications.
The interviewer may or may not be asking intentionally illegal or inappropriate questions. There are a couple of ways in which you may respond to them.
- Read into the purpose of the question, i.e. "If you are asking me if I can travel or work some weekends, I can".
- Let them know you want to give helpful information about your qualifications but are having difficulty understanding how the question relates to the specific job requirements.
In handling this type of question, remain professional and tactful but protect your rights as a candidate. If you believe that the interviewer is asking these questions purposefully, you may choose to end the interview and/or inform the head of human resources at the interviewer's company.
After the Interview
It is time to evaluate your interview and send a follow-up thank you.
Evaluate your interview
After each interview it is helpful to reflect on what occurred. This type of analysis is intended to be constructive and helpful for the next time. Use the interview as a learning experience, evaluate it and make your own notes right after it. Think about your performance and the ways you can improve for your next interview.
- What questions were asked?
- What questions did you wish you had answered differently?
- Did you present your qualifications in the best manner possible, giving appropriate examples as evidence?
- Did you emphasize how your skills are related to the role?
- Did you talk too much? Too little?
- What questions do you wish you had asked the interviewer?
- What changes can you make for your next interview?
You might want to take this evaluation a step further to determine “Is this the right job for me?”
- How well do you understand this position and organization?
- Did you find out enough about the role to make a knowledgeable decision?
- What are the employer’s needs and concerns in filling this position?
- How well do you appear to fit the employer’s needs?
- What do you like about this position?
- What do you think you might not like? Do you need to investigate those further?
In today’s competitive job market, little things such as writing thank you letters can make a big difference.
After an interview, a thank you should be sent to all the people with whom you interviewed. A thank you letter can be a formal written letter, a handwritten note or an email.
Sample Thank You Letter
Donald J. Honest
123 A Street
Anytown, CA 00000
December 10, 2009
Mr. Robert Goad
Human Resources Director
Help People Associates
234 Samaritan Lane
Anytown, CA 00000
Dear Mr. Goad:
Thank you for the opportunity to interview yesterday for the Youth Services position available with your agency. I am very interested in joining your organization and I know that I have the communication and management skills necessary to make a valuable contribution.
As you pointed out in the interview, the ability to communicate effectively with young people from a wide variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds is an essential requirement of the position. I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate that in my current position, I plan and schedule wellness and leadership development activities for a diverse population of adolescents. These experiences allowed me to develop both my management and cross-cultural communication skills.
Once again, let me state that I am very interested in the Youth Services position and am confident about the contribution I could make at your agency. I look forward to exploring the opportunity further with you. If any additional information is needed, or if I many help in anyway, please give me a call. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Donald J. Honest