PREPARATION FOR THE INTERVIEW: View videos
Before the Interview
During the Interview
After the Interview
INTRODUCTION The interview is the last step of the hiring process–and the most important. It offers both you and the employer the opportunity to meet one another, exchange information and arrive at tentative conclusions about “hiring” one another.
The interview is a two-way process or 20%/80%. You will be offering 80% of the conversation and the employer will be talking 20% of the time.
You evaluate the employer while he/she evaluates you. Since there is no one way of interviewing, you will have to develop your own style. In the short amount of time that you will spend with potential employer, you will either be screened in or screened out, so you must present yourself in a positive, enthusiastic manner.
The interview gives the employer the opportunity to meet you in person and to evaluate the “total” you. This includes your attitude, appearance, personality, confidence, knowledge about yourself, and knowledge about the organization, as well as basic ability to do the job.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW (The interview starts long before you appear in the interviewer’s office.)
- Analyze your strengths and weaknesses and know exactly what you want to say and do not want to say during the interview.
- Evaluate problem areas in your record and be prepared to offer a strong case for these during the interview, if necessary. Do not volunteer negative information about yourself or a former employment situation.
- Write out answers to possible questions from the interviewer, as a practice activity. Do a mock interview with a staff member at Career Services in the Bagley House, a friend, or relative.
- Review your education, experience, skills, interests, and abilities.
- Be prepared to offer examples related to your skills
- Speak with friends, family, teachers, (former) employers, etc.
- Consult a career counselor at Career Services.
Know the organization and job for which you are applying. Here is a list of considerations:
- Review the job title and description and seek clarification.
- Visit the organization’s website or contact the organization for a more complete description if necessary.
- Arrange an Information Interview with someone who has the job or a similar one.
- Spend a “day on the job” observing someone actually doing the job.
- Find out who you would work for and ask questions of him or her.
- Research the organization to become familiar with its reputation, work environment, “culture,” problems, and prospects.
- Talk to people who would know about the organization, such as job incumbents, former employees, family and friends, faculty, alumni, etc
Thoroughly research the organization to impress those with whom you meet and allow more time for you to tell your story and discuss specifics of the position. Some of the information you will want to know includes:
- Product line or service – be able to explain what the organization does
- Size of organization
- Location of facilities
- Structure of organization – by product line, function, past, current & potential growth
- Types of clients
- Potential markets, products, services
- Price of products or services
- Present price of stock
- Structure of assets
- Who the competition is
- Name of recruiter
- Training provisions
- Relocation policies
- Length of time in assignments
- Recent items in the news
- Others you know in the organization
It is also important to research issues, trends, problems, and jargon of the field. Such information can be obtained from people in the field, organization literature, public and career libraries, trade journals, newsletters, business magazines, and directories. Prepare a list of well-researched questions for the interviewer.
PREPARING QUESTIONS Prepare questions you will ask during the interview.
- How does the job/department fit in the organization?
- What type of formal or informal training is given?
- How would I advance? What “career paths” are available?
- How is job performance measured?
- What is the salary? (Usually not asked during the first interview.)
Write out your answers for about ten of the most important ones. The two major types of questions to expect are:
- Why are you interested in/what do you know about our company?
- What can you offer us/why should we hire you?
- Have a friend or family member (or Career Services staff member) ask you some of the questions and give you constructive feedback on your answers.
- Audiotape or videotape yourself.
- Schedule a Mock Interview with a Career Services counselor.
Make certain of the interview date, time, and location.
- Write these down on your appointment calendar along with the interviewer’s name and phone number.
- Allow plenty of time to get to the interview location.
Look your best for the interview, conforming to the organization’s standards whenever possible (check a company manual).
- Check out http://www.plymouth.edu/career/video/index.html
- Be conservative in your dress when in doubt.
- Make a “trial run” in new clothes so you’ll be more comfortable.
- Trim your hair, have shoes repaired and shined, etc.
- Bring a pen and paper, extra resume, etc.
- Do your best to find out the name, role, and level of responsibility of each individual with whom you are to meet.
- Know exactly how to get to the organization and be prepared to arrive early and stay late. Don’t schedule other things that will have you “clock watching.”
- Dress to project an image of confidence and success; your total appearance should be appropriate to the job.
- Prepare to bring additional materials to the interview such as copies of your resume, a list of references, samples of your work, or transcripts.
Before the interview you should have considered WHAT you want to communicate and HOW you are going to communicate.
What you will want to communicate are:
- personal qualities
- functional skills,
- special areas of knowledge that relate to the particular interviewer or organization.
- Your attitude
- nonverbal behaviors
- verbal responses indicate how you communicate those personal attributes and background facts
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Your first task will be to help build rapport with the interviewer(s). The characteristics of building rapport involve your (1) attitude and (2) nonverbal and (3) verbal behaviors.
- Your attitude should be one of openness or sensitivity to interviewer’s style and a feeling of mutual responsibility for creating a comfortable atmosphere, establishing a common ground. You should be thinking positively. (If you don’t think you are the best candidate for the job, how can you hope to convince the employer you are?)
- The nonverbal behaviors that contribute to rapport are: dress and posture, eye contact, handshake, voice level, and gestures.
- The verbal behaviors contributing to rapport building include: courteous observations, initiation of discussion, disclosure of personal qualities.
Be aware of your body language, how you communicate non-verbally. You will want to convey sincerity, a dedication to achievement, confidence and a high energy level. These attributes are communicated through your attitude and actions as well as through your verbal responses.
Congruence between the nonverbal and verbal messages is very important to an effective interview. The nonverbal behaviors that are important in an interview include:
- Eye contact that should be open and direct when listening, asking and responding to questions.
- Eye contact is usually broken when concentrating or reflecting on what you want to say or what was said.
- Posture that should be well balanced, erect, relaxed, straight on and open. Know your nervous habits and practice controlling them.
- Hands which should be used in a relaxed way for animation, communicating excitement, interest.
- Facial expression which coveys your sincerity and can add to or detract from your words.
- Voice tone that should be firm, warm, well modulated and relaxed.
- Timing which involves your use of silence, and comfort with pauses.
- Active listening which affects how you respond and communicates your interest. This is difficult when you’re nervous-so concentrate!
How you communicate verbally involves your ability to:
- use active verbs.
- use concrete examples.
- be concise and complete.
- summarize and make transitions
- be positive and “own” what you have done and what you know.
Your knowledge of what contributes to a “strong answer” also contributes to effectiveness. A strong answer does not create more questions than it answers. The components of a strong answer include:
- Backing up a statement with a specific example.
- Sharing your role (the challenges and accomplishments).
- Sharing the outcome or solution.
- Summarizing to emphasize your strengths.
Strong answers can also be described as frank, open, thoughtful, complete, concise (complete your thoughts efficiently-know when to stop) and “uncanned”.
“Check in” and confirm the interview time and pronunciation of the interviewer’s name if necessary.
- Take your lead from the interviewer as far as introductions are concerned: use clear speech and a firm handshake. Do not smoke or chew gum even if invited to do so.
- Show enthusiasm for the interview and job (even if it’s not your first choice!) by maintaining sufficient eye contact, varying your tone of voice appropriately, being clear and concise in your answers and questions, and by maintaining good posture.
- In answering questions, give a general answer (“I believe my analytical ability is my greatest strength”); be more specific (“That is, I try to keep people informed of what’s going on”); and finally, give an example or two (“When I was President of my fraternity I established our first newsletter and held weekly meetings with each committee chair”).
- Be ready for unusual questions or approaches and don’t let them throw you. If an interviewer says, “Okay, begin…,” be ready to tell about your interest in the job and organization, to highlight your abilities and relevant experiences, and to ask appropriate questions. If you’re given a hypothetical situation/problem and asked how you would handle it, take a moment to think about similar situations you’ve heard about or been in and then answer as best as you can.
Be ready to ask questions from your prepared list. Techniques for asking good questions begin with the use of who, what, when, where, why, and how. Questions should be developed ahead of time and should reflect the amount of research you have done rather than your lack of research. Refer to the list of “questions to ask” to help you develop your own list.
Salary questions are usually inappropriate in the first interview. However, you should research the salary range for the job/field ahead of time, consider how much the job is worth to you, and recognize that the pay raise structure of an organization is just as important as the entry level rate in assessing an offer.
Be alert to and evaluate management style, organizational structure, turnover, job responsibilities and growth potential, work atmosphere, staff/supervisor and coworker relationships.
At the close of the interview, bring up any of your positive points that you may not have been able to cover earlier and ask the interviewer for feedback, both in terms of your suitability for the position and how you handled the interview. (Then use this information to improve.) If really interested, ask for the job.
At the end of the interview set parameters for the next contact.
- State positive feeling-”I’m very interested. When may I expect to hear from you?”
- “What is the next step in the process?”
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
- Write the interviewer a brief thank-you letter, expressing your interest in the position and covering any points you were unable to make in the interview. Ask for a second interview (or the job!) if you’re really interested.
- Keep trying! Learn from your experience and improve next time.
- Use the interview as a learning experience. Take notes on what you would like to improve after you leave the room.
- Send a follow-up letter to thank the interviewer, and stress points in your background that qualify you for the position.
- If you are not contacted within the specified time, call to restate your interest.
- It is usually best not to accept a job offer on the spot; state your interest and appreciation for the offer and request a reasonable amount of time to consider it, e.g. two days, one week at the most.
- Be sure to evaluate all aspects of the job before accepting it rather than afterward. Once you have accepted a position, your commitment is considered binding by the employer.
- If you do not get the job, you may want to ask the interviewer for some constructive criticism or recommendations for future interviews. If you are consistently passed over for positions, try to identify potential problems; then seek guidance for improvement.