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Mastering the In-Person Job Interview

Man using job interview tips he learned

The interview is the most crucial component of any job search – which is why it can be the most nerve-wracking, even for seasoned veterans. However, it’s important to remember that the interview is as much an opportunity for you to evaluate your potential employer as it is for them to evaluate you. The following are a series of easy-to-follow job interview tips that can help you win the job you want.

Before the job interview

  • Do your homework on the company, its past, its present, and its goals for the future.
  • Know the position, particularly the primary responsibilities and what is expected.
  • Ask questions, such as “Who has been successful and why?”; “Who has failed and why?”; and “Who does the position report to?”
  • Know yourself – your work history, your successes, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Make sure you cite specific examples and explain how that experience can benefit the employer.
  • Practice interviewing with a partner – rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

During the job interview

  • Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Fill out all applications neatly.
  • Be enthusiastic about the position and the company, and respond positively to questions.
  • Stress your successes and achievements; when asked about negative experiences, talk about what you learned from them.
  • Use facts and figures to quantify the confidence others have put in you (e.g., the number of employees you’ve managed, the amount of revenue you’ve helped bring in, etc.).
  • Provide honest and direct, but brief and structured answers.
  • Remain positive about your current or previous job and your reasons for leaving/wanting to leave.

What NOT to do

  • DO NOT make derogatory remarks about previous or present employers.
  • DO NOT bring up salary or benefits.

How to answer tough questions

  • Q: “Why do you want to leave your current job?”
    A: “I’ve enjoyed working there. My coworkers and managers are great people. But I’m interested in taking on additional responsibilities and growing my career. And unfortunately, those opportunities simply don’t exist where I currently am.”
  • Q: “How long would it take you to make a contribution?”
    A: “What do you feel will be the main focus of the position in the first six months?” This answer is a safe one because it ensures you won’t accidentally overpromise. Reinforce that you have the experience to be successful in the position and that it won’t take you long make an impact.

Other tough questions

The following are examples of other common stress questions. There are no standard answers to these, but they’re worth reviewing so you can come up with your own succinct and honest answer key. Remember to put a positive spin on each (such as what you’ve learned or what you would do differently).

  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What qualities have you liked or disliked in past employers?
  • What was the most difficult ethical decision you had to make and what was the result?
  • What don’t/didn’t you like about your job?
  • Describe a time when your work was criticized. How did you react?

Questions you should ask the employer

  • What is your highest priority in the next six months, and how can someone like me help?
  • How would you describe a typical day?
  • What training do you offer?
  • What would you say people like about working here?
  • How do I compare with other qualified candidates?
  • Where do you see the company going in the next several years?

Dress for success

The number one rule when dressing for an interview is to look neat and clean. Keep cologne or perfume to a minimum and don’t wear anything too revealing. Remember that to the employer, your judgment of clothing reflects your judgment in general.

What to do if asked about money

As mentioned above, it’s not a good idea to bring up salary and benefits during a first interview. However, if the employer asks, ballpark your figures according to salary surveys. This shows that you know what your market value is.

Closing the job interview

Before you shake hands and head home:

  • Ask whatever remaining questions you have.
  • Bring up crucial points about yourself that the interviewer hasn’t brought up.
  • Ask about next steps and when they are likely to occur.

Following up

Too many people do not follow up on their job interviews, which is why you’ll stand out when you do. Send a thank you letter or email that:

  • Reinforces your qualifications and excitement.
  • Says things you forgot to say, and corrects things you wish you had said differently.
  • Reaches the recipient within 48 hours of the interview.
  • Is NOT from your current work email account or written on your current employer’s stationary.
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