The wrong move can cost you the job! You've worked hard to get to the interview stage. You passed the cover letter and resume screening process...maybe even a few telephone interviews.
Now its time for the face to face interview with the employer itself. Any number of items can go wrong but you have to be in control and must have confidence. Go into an interview with the feeling that you are going to impress them so much that they will have to make you an offer.
The interview is the most stressful part of the job hunt for many people because now they can't hide behind the cover letter and resume. The real face to face human connection between possible employer and job candidate takes place. But for starters if you simply follow these 13 tips below, you are on your way to interviews with results.
A big part of a successful interview is avoiding simple mistakes. Mistakes are deadly to the job seeker and easy to avoid if you are prepared.
These are the most common interview mistakes - and their antidotes.
- Arriving late. Get directions from the interviewer - or a map. Wear a watch and leave home early. If the worst happens and you can't make it on time, call the interviewer and arrange to reschedule.
- Dressing wrong. You make your greatest impact on the interviewer in the first 17 seconds - an impression you want to make powerfully positive. Dress right in a conservative suit, subdued colors, little jewelry (but real gold, or silver, or pearls), low heels (polished) and everything clean and neat. Hygiene includes combed hair, brushed teeth, deodorant and low-key scent. Check everything the night before, again before walking out the door and once again in the restroom just before the interview.
- Play zombie. OK, you're nervous. But you can still smile, right? And make eye contact, yes? Sit up, focus on the interviewer, and start responding. Enthusiasm is what the interviewer wants to see.
- No smoking, no gum, no drinking. This is all comfort stuff for you, and none of it helps you here. Employers are more likely to hire non-smokers. At a lunch or dinner interview, others may order drinks. You best not.
- Research failure. The interview is not the time for research. Find out the company's products and services, annual sales, structure and other key information from the Internet, the public library, professional magazines or from former employees. Show that you are interested in working for the prospective employer by demonstrating knowledge about the company.
- Can't articulate your own strengths and weaknesses. Only you can recognize your most valuable strengths and most hurtful weaknesses. Be able to specify your major strengths. Your weaknesses, if such must come up, should only be turned around to positives.
- Winging the interview. Practice! Get a friend, a list of interview questions and a tape recorder and conduct an interview rehearsal. Include a presentation or demonstration if that will be part of the real interview. Start with introducing yourself and go all through an interview to saying good-bye. Write out any answers you have difficulty with, and practice until your delivery is smooth (but not slick).
- Talk, Talk, Talk. Rambling, interrupting the interviewer and answering to a simple question with a fifteen-minute reply - all of these can be avoided if you've thought through and practiced what you want to communicate. Good answers are to the point and usually shorter.
- Failure to connect yourself to the job offered. The job description details the company's needs - you connect your experiences, your talents and your strengths to the description. It answers the essential reasons for the interview - "How my education/experience/talents/strengths fit your needs and why I can do this job for you."
- Not asking questions - and asking too many. Use your research to develop a set of questions that will tell you whether this is the job and the company for you. This will help you limit and focus your questions. But don't overpower the interviewer with questions about details that really won't count in the long run.
- Bad-mouth anyone. Not just your present employer, or former employer, or the competition. You don't want to look like a complainer.
- Asking about compensation and /or benefits too soon. Wait for the interviewer to bring up these issues - after the discussion of your qualifications and the company's needs and wants.
- Failure to ask for the job. When the interviewer indicates the interview is over, convey your interest in the job and ask what the next step is.
- Confusing an Interview with an Interrogation. Most candidates expect to be interrogated. An interrogation occurs when one person asks all the questions and the other gives the answers. An interview is a business conversation in which both people ask and respond to questions. Candidates who expect to be interrogated avoid asking questions, leaving the interviewer in the role of reluctant interrogator.
- Making a So-Called Weakness Seem Positive. Interviewers frequently ask candidates, "What are your weaknesses?" Conventional interview wisdom dictates that you highlight a weakness like "I'm a perfectionist," and turn it into a positive. Interviewers are not impressed, because they've probably heard the same answer a hundred times. If you are asked this question, highlight a skill that you wish to improve upon and describe what you are doing to enhance your skill in this area. Interviewers don't care what your weaknesses are. They want to see how you handle the question and what your answer indicates about you.
- Failing to Ask Questions. Every interview concludes with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. The worst thing to say is that you have no questions. Having no questions prepared indicates you are not interested and not prepared. Interviewers are more impressed by the questions you ask than the selling points you try to make. Before each interview, make a list of five questions you will ask. “I think a good question is, ‘Can you tell me about your career?'” says Kent Kirch, director of global recruiting at Deloitte. “Everybody likes to talk about themselves, so you're probably pretty safe asking that question.”
- Researching the Company But Not Yourself. Candidates intellectually prepare by researching the company. Most job seekers do not research themselves by taking inventory of their experience, knowledge and skills. Formulating a talent inventory prepares you to immediately respond to any question about your experience. You must be prepared to discuss any part of your background. Creating your talent inventory refreshes your memory and helps you immediately remember experiences you would otherwise have forgotten during the interview.
- Leaving Your Cell Phone On. We may live in a wired, always-available society, but a ringing cell phone is not appropriate for an interview. Turn it off before you enter the company.
- Waiting for a Call. Time is your enemy after the interview. After you send a thank-you email and note to every interviewer, follow up a couple of days later with either a question or additional information. Contact the person who can hire you -- not the HR department. HR is famous for not returning calls. Additional information can be details about your talents, a recent competitor's press release or industry trends. Your intention is to keep everyone's memory of you fresh.
- Cut the puffy stuff. You want to promote yourself, I know. But too much puff is a huge turnoff to employers. The key to presenting yourself as accomplished yet modest is to introduce all self-promoting topics with an air of humble gratitude, even mild bewilderment. "I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I won the Nobel prize. "If, instead, you start every sentence with something like: "After I beat out two other guys for the VP spot, and then blew away the goals and made the last guy look like a turkey, well, you could say I became the Golden Boy," you need not finish. The interviewer will be jotting "not in this lifetime" on his little pad of paper. By the way, there are certain initials that can follow your name on your résumé: M.D., PhD, and JD are among the most common. There are certain technical and professional designations that can sit up there, too: CPA, SPHR, and CFA are some of them. Also, PMP for project manager, and lots of others.MBA is not one of them. An MBA is something you have, not something you are. Including MBA in your title is excessive self-promotion. Those three initials will help you every bit as much down in the body of your résumé (under Education, duh) as they would next to your name at the top. Now that you have these hints, you should be unstoppable. Just remember the four P's: No puff, no pacing, no palling around, and no personal info. What did I forget? Oh, yes -- no three-piece suits and no Taz. Now go get 'em!
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