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The Interview

The single most crucial part of the job hunt process is the formal interview. During the interview, both parties see if they like each other and how they can satisfy each other's needs. Not only will you be letting the employer know about your best qualities, you will be attempting to gain a clearer concept of the employer and the position available. Now is the time to sell yourself!

The good interview is a well prepared presentation and it requires skilled communication, whether the interview is a face-to-face or phone meeting. Rarely do you get a second chance in an interview. From the moment you greet the interviewer(s) until you say good-bye, you will want to create a favorable impression. Making a formal, personal presentation of your knowledge, attitudes and skills as related to the job you are seeking means preparing with research and practice.

A good interviewer will be attempting to evaluate those qualities you have that are not revealed in your resume or cover letter: what motivates you, what kind of personality you have, what you value, whether you are a leader, what your ambitions are, how well you communicate, how much career planning you have really done, etc. The interview will be a test of preparation and your ability to communicate it.

Before the Interview

The path to performing well in a job interview is preparation and there are a number of things you should do before the interview begins.

Research the Job and the Organization: The more information you have about a prospective employer, the better prepared you will be during the interview. You can use the Internet and CAPE resources to find the following information about a potential employer:

  • Description and location of position for which you are applying.
  • Major duties of the position.
  • Minimum requirements for the position.
  • Age, growth history, and anticipated growth of organization.
  • Products or services of organization.
  • Current problems of organization (chief competitors).
  • Location and number of plants, offices, and stores of organization.
  • Parent company and subsidiaries of organization.
  • Salary range.
  • Recent related items in the news.

Self-Assessment: It is also important to assess your own strengths and weaknesses as a candidate for employment. Before going to an interview, you should be able to identify your relevant skills, qualifications, and other characteristics related to the position. You should be able to demonstrate how your experience, training and activities qualify you for the job. Be able to answer the question, "Why should I hire you?"

Verify the Particulars: When you are setting up an appointment for an interview, be sure to find out the exact time and location of the interview, and the interviewer(s) name(s) and title(s). You should also make sure that you know exactly how to get to the interview location, how long it will take you to get there, where you are supposed to park, and what building entrance you should use. You will want to avoid being late for a job interview, so plan to arrive five to fifteen minutes early.

Practice your Answers: Prepare by reviewing the list of frequently asked interview questions. You should practice answering them aloud with a friend, or schedule a mock interview at the CAPE.

Dress Appropriately: You are not only being evaluated by what you say in an interview, but how you present yourself. Dressing professionally is essential for creating a favorable impression.

During The Interview

The Structure of the Interview

Some job interviews may be conducted one-on-one, but many times there will be two or more interviewers. The format of each job interview may vary, but most interviews have several phases:

The interviewer and candidate usually engage in a bit of small talk to establish some rapport. The interviewer will usually extend his/her hand for a handshake. Be sure yours is firm, not too weak or too strong. Remember, you are being evaluated from the moment the interviewer sees you. Although this first phase is often light and casual, don't underestimate its importance. People form a first impression and make sure that yours is both positive and favorable.

Background Analysis
Once the ice has been broken the interviewer will normally shift the conversation to questions about your background, often using your resume as the starting point. The purpose here is to gain information about your skills, qualifications, experience, education, and extra-curricular activities. In addition, an employer will be attempting to reach some judgments as to your attitude, self-confidence, ability to communicate, and how you handle yourself.

Matching Candidate To Position
After the interviewer has the background information, they will begin to match your qualifications and the kind of person you are with the position for which they are recruiting.

Normally, you will be given the opportunity to ask questions or comment on what the interviewer has told you. Although the best questions are usually those that directly follow up on what has been discussed in the interview, you should have some questions in mind that you wish to ask. The interviewer will usually indicate through some verbal or non-verbal action when the interview is over. As a general rule, the more interested the interviewer is in you, the more certain they will be that you understand the next step. However, if the interviewer says nothing, you need to clarify the next steps. It's important to maintain your enthusiasm in the last moments of an interview. Try to briefly summarize the key points brought out in the interview and the procedures to follow. This will give the interviewer an opportunity to verify or correct your assessment of the interview and will provide assurance that there is no misunderstanding.

Answering Interview Questions

Non-verbal communication: In an interview, how you present yourself is just as important as what you say. Your posture, eye contact, grooming, facial expression, and what you do with your hands when you speak. Communicate a message about yourself to the employer.

Stay positive: Maintain a positive, confident attitude. Be honest when you are asked about weaknesses or past failures and avoid making excuses or blaming others. Focus on what you learned from the experience or what steps you are taking to improve yourself.

Stay focused: Give clear, direct, well-organized answers to the interviewer’s questions. Focus on making a presentation of your skills and abilities as a candidate for the job. Do not ramble.

Illustrate your answers: Keep your answers brief and on point, but don’t just give "yes" and "no" responses. Create a "word picture" for the interviewer by illustrating your personal qualities and strongest abilities with examples from your past. Try to address any underlying questions you think the employer might have about your suitability for the job.

Ask questions when indicated: Prepare at least 4 - 6 questions to ask the interviewer. Never say you don’t have any!

Be yourself: Try to relax and be yourself. Don’t present an image of someone you think they want because it won’t be genuine.

After The Interview

Following the interview you will want some kind of decision about your standing with the organization, even if it is a rejection. A few organizations will send a rejection letter, while other organizations are negligent about letting you know anything. Whatever the case, there are a few things you should do after the interview:

Thank-you Letter:
It is a good practice to send the interviewer a thank-you letter within two days after the interview, thanking them for their time and consideration. Consider including the following in your letter:

  • Remind the employer of the interview and the qualifications you possess which are especially significant to the position.
  • Accent and emphasize a specific point which was well-received by the employer during the interview process.
  • Share your afterthoughts as a way of supplying important information which was left out of the interview.
  • Communicate your continued interest in the position and that you would like to work for the organization.

Be sure to get the correct name, title, and address of the interviewer(s), so that you know how to address your letter. You may want to ask for his/her business card at the end of the interview. Check out this sample format for a follow-up letter.

Send Requested Materials:
Provide any references, credentials, transcripts, or other materials requested by the interviewer as soon as possible after the interview.

Follow up:
If you get no response from the thank-you letter, or if the date has passed when the employer was supposed to contact you, don't hesitate to contact the organization again with a phone call or email. Above all, let them know of your continuing interest in them. Even if the organization has no opening for you now, there is always a chance something will become available later.


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