PASSING THE INTERVIEW
How to Interview Effectively:
The Job Interview:
The job interview is a strategic conversation with a purpose.
Your goal is to persuade the employer that you have the skills, background,
and ability to do the job and that you can comfortably fit into his/her
organization. At the same interview, you should also be gathering information
about the job, future career opportunities and the organization to determine
if the position and work environment are right for you.
The Interview Structure:
Before receiving a job offer, you will typically have a series of
interviews with an employer. The first interview is a screening interview
that could be conducted over the phone or at the place of employment. On-campus
interviews are also considered screening interviews. Screening interviews
are rather brief, usually lasting 30-60 minutes. During that time, the
employer will want you to elaborate on experiences outlined in your resume
or application, and will describe the organization and available position.
If the employer is impressed with your performance in this interview, you
will be invited to a second (and perhaps third or fourth) interview.
You can strongly influence the interview outcome if you realize that
an interview is not an objective process in which the employer offers the
job to the best candidate based on merit alone. But rather, an interview
is a highly subjective encounter in which the interviewer offers the job
to the qualified person whom he/she likes best. Personality, confidence,
enthusiasm, a positive outlook and excellent interpersonal and communication
skills count heavily.
One key to success is to use every means at your disposal to develop
effective interviewing skills: selective presentation of your background,
thoughtful answers to interview questions, well researched questions about
the organization, and an effective strategy to market yourself. There is
no magic to interviewing: it is a skill that can be learned and improved
upon with practice. The Career Center offers the regularly scheduled workshop,
Effective Interviewing, and individual videotaped mock interviews for skill
practice which can be scheduled with career consultants by appointment.
The Resource Room also has excellent books and videotapes on interviewing.
A second key to success is careful research about the job and the organization,
agency, or company with whom you are having the interview. You can request
printed materials such as annual reports from the employer in advance or
use library resources. You should also talk with your contacts in the organization
or use your personal network to discover the names of current employees
you might call prior to the interview. Knowing about the job will help
you prepare a list of your qualifications so that you can show, point by
point, why you are the best candidate. Knowing about the employer will
help you prepare an interview strategy and appropriate questions and points
to emphasize. To further assist you, the Career Center offers workshops
on techniques for researching organizations.
The second interview process is longer, lasting anywhere from two hours
to a whole day. It could include testing, lunch or dinner, a facility tour,
as well as a series of interviews with various employees. You should come
away from the second interview with a thorough understanding of the work
environment and job responsibilities and have enough information to decide
on a job offer should one be extended.
No matter what the time length is or the sequence of scheduling, the
interview is normally devided into the following three phases, The "Warm-up",
The "Information exchange", and The "Wrap-up".
Each interview follows a rather predictable communication pattern
of "warm-up," "information exchange," and "wrap-up" conversations. During
the first few minutes of the interview (the "warm-up"), an employer will
be formulating a first, and perhaps lasting, impression of you. How you
greet the employer, the firmness of your handshake, the way you are groomed
and dressed, will all be a part of this initial impression. To help you
feel at ease, a practiced interviewer might ask "common-ground" questions
about shared interests or acquaintances, or your travel to the interview.
Some interviewers might start by saying, "Tell me about yourself," an opening
for you to concisely describe your background, skills, and interest in
The information exchange will be the primary part of the interview.
It is when you will be asked the most questions and learn the most about
the employer. In screening interviews, many employers will spend more time
describing their opportunities than asking you specific questions. The
reverse will be true in second interviews. Interview questions may range
from "Why did you choose to pursue a degree in ...?" and "Describe the
job you had last summer" to "What are your strengths/weaknesses?" and "What
are your long-range career goals?" If you are prepared for the interview,
you will be able to promote your qualifications effectively as you respond
to questions. With practice, you will gain confidence and become more polished
in your presentation.
The "Information exchange"
Eventually the employer will probably say, "Do you have any questions?"
This is the cue that the interview is moving to the "wrap-up" stage. Always
ask questions because this demonstrates your prior research and interest
in the job. Your questions might be direct, logistical questions such as,
"When can I expect to hear from you?" (if that has not been discussed);
a question to clarify information the employer has presented; a question
regarding the employer's use of new technology or practices relate to the
career field; or a question to assess the culture and direction of the
organization such as "Where is this organization headed in the next five
years?" or "Why do you like working for this organization?" Do not ask
specific questions about salary or benefits unless the employer broaches
the subject first. The employer may also ask you if you have anything else
you would like to add or say. Again, it's best to have a response. You
can use this opportunity to thank the employer for the interview, summarize
your qualifications and reiterate your interest in the position. If you
want to add information or emphasize a point made earlier, you can do that,
too. This last impression is almost as important as the first impression
and will add to the substance discussed during the information exchange.
Because a job interview is a communication process, your skills will
become more polished over time. It is helpful to remember the following:
Speak clearly and enthusiastically about your experiences and skills.
Be professional, but don't be afraid to let your personality shine through.
Most of all be yourself.
Listen carefully. During the interview you may be given hints by the
interviewer that can tip you on what the job entails and what characteristics
they are looking for in prospects. You will want to remember what
you learn about the job, and you will certainly want to answer the question
that was asked.
Be positive. Employers do not want to hear a litany of excuses or bad
feelings about a negative experience. If you are asked about a low grade,
a sudden job change, or a weakness in your background, don't be defensive.
Focus instead on the facts ( briefly) and emphasize what you learned from
Pay attention to your nonverbal behavior. Look the interviewer in
the eye, sit up straight with both feet on the floor, control nervous habits
(cracking knuckles, drumming fingers, etc.), and smile as you are greeted.
Don't be afraid of short pauses. You may need a few seconds to formulate
an answer. The interviewer may need time to formulate an appropriate question.
It is not necessary to fill up every second with conversation.
Be prepared to market your skills and experiences as they relate to
the job described. Work at positioning yourself in the mind of the employer
as a person with a particular set of skills and attributes. Employers have
problems that need to be solved by employees with particular skills; work
to describe your qualifications appropriately.
Plan to arrive for your interview 10-15 minutes prior to the appointed
time. Arriving too early confuses the employer and creates an awkward situation.
By the same token, arriving late creates a bad first impression. Ask for
directions when making arrangements for the interview.
Carry a portfolio notepad or at the very least a manila file folder
labeled with the employer's name.
Bring extra resumes and a list of questions you need answered. You
may refer to your list of questions to be sure you've gathered the information
you need to make a decision. Do not be preoccupied with taking notes during
In many career fields, the lunch or dinner included during the interview
day is not only employer hospitality, but a significant part of the interview
process. Brush up on your etiquette and carry your share of the conversation
during the meal. Often social skills are part of the hiring decision.
After the interview, take time to write down the names and titles (check
spelling) of all your interviewers, your impressions, remaining questions
and information learned. If you are interviewing regularly, this will help
you keep employers and circumstances clearly defined.
Follow up the interview with a thank-you letter. Employers regard
this as evidence of your attention to detail, as well as an indication
of your final interest in the position.
Effectively Negotiating Salary Packages:
Part of the job search process can include salary negotiation. This
may begin or occur sometime during the interview process so come prepared
to address compensation. With a basic knowledge of negotiating skills,
your anxiety will be reduced and your success rate for negotiating will
increase. There are several ways to make the process of salary negotiating
effective. Start by taking a good look at your own salary requirements
as well as developing an understanding of what your skills are worth in
the current employment market. Use federal, state and local employment
resources to help select a salary range for your skills and experience
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