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Employment Interviewing:
Seizing the Opportunity and the Job

... Continued From Previous Page

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On the day of the interview, give yourself plenty of time to get ready for and travel to the interview. Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. (Some career counselors suggest making a rest tun to the interview sire in advance re familiarize yourself with the travel route.)

Consider carrying a briefcase to the interview. In addition to giving you a professional look, a briefcase serves a function: it gives portability to things you'll want at the interview. These include a pen and paper to record important information, such as the proper spelling of the interviewer's name and the time and date of followup interviews; copies of your r?sum? or application and references; and examples of your work, such as writing samples.

Butterflies. Most people are nervous when interviewing. But remember: You have been asked to interview for the job because the employer believes you could be right for it. The interview is your chance to confirm that belief and establish rapport.

To reduce nervousness, interviewers recommend getting a good night's sleep and maintaining your usual morning routine-if you never eat breakfast, for example, don't cat a hearty morning meal on interview day. They also recommend calling to mind some of your happiest memories or proudest moments before arriving for the interview.

And they remind jobseekers that each opening you interview for is not the only one that exists. More than one company recruits for jobs. If one interview doesn't go well, another will.

First impressions. The interview begins the moment you arrive. Everyone you meet, from the receptionist to the hiring manager, will form an impression of you. To ensure the impression is positive, remember that your words and mannerisms will affect the image you project. When greeting people, smile warmly and shake hands. Make eye contact and maintain good posture. Don't create a negative impression by using slang, chewing gum, smoking cigarettes, or giving curt, oneword answers.

Interviewers suggest rehearsing with a career counselor or friend to gain confidence and poise. The goal is to become comfortable speaking about yourself, your training and experience, and your career goals.

Standard politeness is important in an interview because the interviewer knows very little about you. To be safe, never use the interviewer's first name unless you are invited to do so, and don't sit down until the interviewer does.

Responding to questions. After introductions, the interviewer will probably explain the job in more detail, discuss the company, or initiate friendly conversation. The interviewer will then ask questions to try re gauge how well you would fill the position.

When responding to the interviewer, avoid giving vague answers such as, "I want to work with people" (or animals, or cars, or whatever the job entails). Instead, describe the specific ways you want to work with them. You might also give examples of how you have successfully done so in the past. Focus on your strengths, but always tell the truth.

Responding to interview questions allows you to describe your best work-related characteristics.

Many employers use resumes as guides, asking for additional details during the interview. In addition to finding out more information, they may be trying to see how well you can communicate your work to others.

Some interviewers ask questions about real-life job situations. For example, they might ask candidates for a retail job how they would handle customer complaints.

Rather than trying to stay in control, let the interviewer direct the session. Listen attentively, and be sure to answer the question asked. Watch the interviewer's mannerisms for clues about whether to elaborate or keep your responses short.

Some jobseekers are so focused on specific answers, they forget to relax and connect with the interviewer. An interview should be conversational. However, that does not mean you are expected to speak without pause. You should stop to consider an answer before responding to difficult or unexpected questions. And if a question is confusing, ask for clarification.

Turning the tables. At some point, usually toward the end of the interview, you will have the opportunity to ask your own questions. This is your chance to find out more about the company. After all, you may have to decide if you want to work there. Some questions you might want to ask include:

  • Who would supervise me?
  • Can you describe a typical assignment?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement?
    How do you train employees?
  • What do you like most about working for this company?

An interview is not the time to inquire about salary or benefits. You don't want to seem more interested in financial rewards than in contributing to the company. If asked about salary requirements, try to convey flexibility. The best time to discuss earnings is after you have been offered the job.

Before leaving the interview, make sure you understand the next step in the hiring process. Find out whether there will be another round of interviews, whether you should provide additional information, and when a hiring decision will be made.

Finally, be sure to thank the interviewer. And if you are interested in the job, say so.

"Fuzzy Slipper" Interviews

For some interviews, what you wear makes no difference at all. Many employers conduct preliminary interviews over the telephone. This arrangement gives employers an opportunity to find the best prospects before investing time, effort, and, in some cases, expense in arranging a face-to-face interview.

Telephone interviews are especially common for jobs that are out of State, attract many applications, or require a good telephone demeanor. A phone interview is similar to a traditional interview, but it poses special challenges.

If your phone has a call-waiting feature, consider disabling it the day of the interview. You do not want to put the interviewer on hold, and persistent callwaiting beeps are distracting. Take advantage of being on your home turf by having your resume, pen, paper, appointment calendar, notes, and reminders within easy reach.

Remember to speak clearly and listen attentively, just as you would if you were meeting with the interviewer in person. Even though no one can see you, your voice betrays attitudes and confidence; sometimes, sitting up straight can help project enthusiasm over the phone.

At the end of the interview, express your willingness to speak with the employer in person. This is important, because most employers prefer to meet with a potential employee face to face before hiring.

Following Up

Even after the interview is over, your task is not complete. Secure a good impression by sending a thank you letter to the interviewer. It is best to send the letter within 2 days of the interview, but any time is better than none.

Thank you letters should be brief --less than one page-and may be handwritten or typed. Their purpose is to express your appreciation for the interviewer's time and to reiterate your interest in the job.

Send a thank you letter within 2 days of the interview.

Most thank you letters have three main paragraphs.

  • The first paragraph is your chance to thank the interviewer for meeting with you and to show enthusiasm for the job. Some suggest refreshing the interviewer's memory by mentioning the date of the interview and the position for which you applied.

  • The second paragraph is for you to briefly reiterate a few skills that make you well suited for the job. You might also mention a topic from the interview that was especially interesting to you. Also, include any important information you forgot to mention during the interview.

  • The third paragraph is where you thank the interviewer again, give your phone number, and state that you look forward to hearing from him or her.

Write or type the letter on solid white, off-white, or gray stationary. Use a stan-dard business format. Put a colon after the interviewer's name and a space after each paragraph. And don't forget to sign your first and last name.

Many employers say an e-mailed thank you letter is acceptable if e-mail correspondence was exchanged between the interviewer and the candidate. Other-wise, an e-mail message should not substitute for standard mail in most situations.

Address the letter to the person who interviewed you, and make sure to spell his or her name correctly. If a group interviewed you, write either to each person you spoke with or to the person who led and coordinated the interview, mentioning the other people you met.

Finally, be sure to proofread the letter, and ask someone else to proofread it for you, too. Interviewers tell tales of misspelled, misused words written in thank you letters that tarnish the image of an otherwise impressive candidate. As you write your thank you note, remind yourself that you might be writing to your next supervisor.

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