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Job Seekers: Preparing For Your Interview - PART ONE

Interviews make many people nervous. You have just a few seconds to make that all important first impression. This has a tendency to make our palms sweat, to make us giggle or act nervous. This is typical and most hiring managers understand a little bit of nervous behavior especially in an economic climate where applicants know there are probably many people vying for the same job. Below is a list of things that can help you be better prepared for your interview and hopefully help calm some of those pre-interview jitters.

1. Make a list of examples. 

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for an interview is make a list of examples of actions you took in the past that will benefit the company for which you will be interviewing. The key is to find what in your past employment history can you draw on to make a positive connection to the position for which you are interviewing. Look at the advertisement to pick out key words as a basis to work off of. Does the ad say “selling”, “managing”, “stocking” ,“customer service” and so forth?  For example; if the advertisement lists selling and you have previous selling experience this gives you the opportunity to say things such as “In my previous position I was the top seller for three months in a row. I have excellent skills in figuring out what the customer wants and then helping them to find just the right thing that they will be happy with. Good customer service is very important to me I want to build a rapport with my customers so they will come back to us the next time they need (product or service).

2. Practice Answering Questions. 

A good interview will flow with each of you asking questions. For this section we will focus on the questions the interviewer will ask you. Questions such as “Tell me about yourself?”, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “Why should I hire you?” are typical interview questions. These questions are the ones that usually trip people up and cause them to say “um” a lot. If you practice how you will answer these questions not only will you make a better impression but you will be less nervous when these questions are asked. It is important to remember that whatever question is asked that you give an honest answer. One simple method to answering questions is the STAR method. S=Situation, T= Task, A=Action, R= Results. After being asked a question give the interviewer an example of a past event by describing the situation such as what your role was, where it took place etc, then describe the task you were performing. Next give details on the action you took and finally the results of that action.

3. Research the company 

Knowing information about the company in which you are interviewing can give you an incredible edge.  It will allow you to take the information you learn about their products or services and incorporate it into your answers. For example if asked “Tell me about yourself” you can answer “I have always wanted to work with a top company that services air conditioners and see that (company name) is in the top ten companies in (location). My expert skill in servicing air conditioners will be a real asset to the excellent service you already provide.” Whether the company is large or small you can use any information to help you on an interview. If it is a small company, where research is limited, focus on whatever service or product they perform. For example if you are applying to a medical office as a billing specialist you could say “I have always wanted to work in the medical field and I know that keeping patient records is an important part of their healthcare.” Be creative on how you incorporate the research into your answers however; refrain from appearing to be excessively flattering when doing this as it may appear insincere. It is important to practice how you want to use this information in your interview.

4. Have current information about the industry 

One of the easiest ways to impress an interviewer is to show you are keeping informed about what is new in your industry. Someone who follows what is happening in their field shows they take their job in that field seriously. Knowing changes in your field can also give you an edge in the interview if you can incorporate this information into answers you give to the interviewer. Something as simple as citing a new trend, can give you an edge in an interview. Caution is needed here as you don’t want to sound like a book report on the industry simply saying “I recently read that (your industry) is working on a new thingamajig. I think this is exciting and I am looking forward to using/marketing/implementing etc it.”
One of the best ways to keep current in your industry is through industry magazines. Most industry magazines are not very expensive and will have the very latest information as well as articles about different companies in that industry. This can give you an even bigger advantage in an interview if you happen to be interviewing at one of those companies or a competitor. Another way to keep abreast of new trends is to join an industry group. You can usually find these groups by searching the Internet or by seeing if the industry magazine has them listed.

5. Make a list of questions for the interviewer

Most people do not know what is appropriate to ask an interview however to know what is going to be expected of you. It is important you get a clear understanding of the job description. Finding out what your exact responsibilities are should be your first question. How will you know if this position is the right fit for you if you do not understand what the job entails? Ask for details such as; will I be working alone or with a team? Will I be required to write daily, weekly, monthly reports on a project? Do I have the authority to order any supplies I may need? Ask specific questions about any aspects of the job you do not understand.

It is important to point out that it is not appropriate to ask about salary or any compensation during the interview. If the interviewer brings up how much you make now, or what you will be looking for in the form of salary a nice way to respond is to deflect the questions by responding “Are you making me a job offer?” If they respond with anything in the affirmative, this changes the conversation from an interview to a hiring meeting. You can also ask what they think the position should be paying giving them the opportunity to offer a salary. 

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