By Sharon Armstrong
Career Coach and Author
The Essential HR Handbook and The Essential Performance Review Handbook
Do you know anyone who’s having a hard time finding a job right now?
Don’t we all!
Some job seekers are getting interviews, but are having a hard time turning them into solid offers of employment. In many cases, that’s because the candidate has not prepared sufficiently for the all-important interview.
An interview is the single most important hurdle in your job search. How you plan for the interview ahead of time will go a long way toward determining its outcome. The key to an effective interview is to separate yourself from the crowd by exceeding the interviewer’s expectations. Only then will you be invited to continue in the selection process and eventually receive an offer.
The interview is your opportunity to communicate the value you can add to an organization. You need to sell yourself effectively. To do that, you need to match the position requirements with your own set of skills, accomplishments, and personal qualities. Know exactly what you have to offer your prospective employer. Then research, prepare, and practice!
“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross,” said Aristotle, “there lies your vocation.”
But never forget that the interview process is a two-way street. While the interviewer is checking you out to determine if you are a good fit for the job, you should be deciding if the employer is a good match for you. Which means you don’t just answer questions in an interview, you ask them, too.
Here’s some helpful information in a checklist format to help you plan for that all-important meeting. Customize these reminders to your own situation and use them to nail the interview and land the job:
- Visit the company website and get informed about the organization, its services, and/or products.
- Know something about the interviewers, if possible.
- Practice common interview questions. (Be prepared to answer “conflict”-type questions.)
- Be prepared to ask questions. (You’ll get high marks for any substantive question … questions about the organization, the future of the organization, your role, the value you can add, how you can work effectively with your boss, etc.)
- Bring extra copies of your resume and reference list.
- Get a good night’s sleep!
- Dress appropriately.
- Arrive a little early.
- Be polite and professional as soon as you walk in the door.
- Practice direct eye-contact
- Give good “accomplishment” answers
- Be yourself
- Be truthful
- Stay positive
- Demonstrate integrity
- Smile easily and warmly
- Ask questions
- Show enthusiasm
- Let the interviewer know that you’ve reviewed the organization’s website and what you learned.
After an Interview:
- Send a follow-up letter promptly after every interview!
- Create a pros/cons list—do you really want this job? Why? Why not?
- Critique your performance.
- Contact your references to let them know they may be contacted by your potential employer.
What 100 interview questions are you likely to be asked? Click here to find out.
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About Sharon Armstrong
Sharon Armstrong has more than 20 years of experience as a Human Resources consultant, trainer, and career counselor. Since launching her own consulting business in 1998, Sharon Armstrong and Associates, she has consulted with many large corporations and small businesses. She has facilitated training, completed HR projects, and provided career transition services for a wide variety of clients in the profit and nonprofit sectors.
Armstrong received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine and her master’s degree in Counseling from George Washington University. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR).
Armstrong is the co-author of a humor book, published by Random House entitled, “Heeling the Canine Within: The Dog’s Self-Help Companion,” in 1998. Career Press published her first business book, “Stress-Free Performance Appraisals: Turn Your Most Painful Management Duty Into a Powerful Motivational Tool,” in July 2003. “The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional” was published in August 2008. Her most recent book, “The Essential Performance Review Handbook,” was published in spring 2010.