ANATOMY OF AN INTERVIEW
Most job interviews follow a rather predictable pattern of warm-up, information exchange and wrap-up conversations. Before receiving a job offer, you will normally have one or more interviews with an employer. The first might be a screening interview conducted over the phone. Screening interviews are brief, usually lasting 10-20 minutes. During that time, the employer will want you to elaborate on experiences outlined in your resume or application, and will describe their organization and the available position. If the employer is impressed, they will invite you in for a face-to-face interview.
Here are a few thoughts about the three phases you will likely encounter in an interview. Understanding these phases will help you know when to get to the point and when to bring your comments to a close.
During the first minutes of the interview the employer will be forming a first, and perhaps lasting impression of you. Look the person in the eye, offer a firm and confident handshake and dress like you are serious about looking for a job. Some interviewers will take time to set you at ease with small-talk about the weather or your trip to the interview, while others will start the questions right away. This in itself will give you an idea whether the interviewer is ‘all business’ or more casual in their communications.
“Tell me about yourself,” is a normal opening of the formal questioning. At this point, describe your background, skills, and interest in the position. The following information exchange will be the primary part of the interview, and will usually last 15 or more minutes, depending on the requirements of the job and the experience of the applicant. This is where you will be asked the most questions and will learn the most about the employer. Interview questions may address your experience at a previous job, your strengths and weaknesses and your long-range career goals. If you are prepared for the interview, you will be able to present your qualifications effectively as you respond to questions. Always review the position description and your resume before each interview. Be prepared to discuss the points of your education, skills and experience that are a match to what the new employer is seeking.
Near the end of the interview, the employer will probably ask if you have any questions or anything else you would like to add. This is your cue that the interview has moved to the wrap-up stage. At this point you should clarify aspects about the job which are still unclear, or ask when they will be making a hiring decision. Asking questions demonstrates your prior research and interest in the job. If the employer did not offer a written job description, ask them what aspect of the job they consider to be the most important or what specific skills the ideal candidate will bring to the job? If you had not addressed your skills in the areas the employer is seeking, make sure to mention them at this time. Do not ask specific questions about salary or benefits unless the employer discusses the subject first. Use your final moments to thank the employer for their time and to reiterate your interest in the position or to emphasize a key point made earlier.
Because a job interview is a communication process, your skills will become more polished over time. Here are a few tips for successful interviewing:
- Speak clearly and enthusiastically about your experiences and skills. Be professional, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. A smile will tend to relax both you and the interviewer. Be yourself.
- Listen carefully. It is normal to be nervous in an interview, and sometimes multiple part questions are difficult to remember. If you are unsure whether you fully addressed their question, simply ask, “Did I address all parts of your question?”
- Be positive. Employers don’t want to hear a long list of excuses or bad feelings about a previous employer. Focus instead on the facts (briefly) and what you learned from the experience.
- Look the interviewer in the eye, sit up straight with both feet on the floor, control nervous habits such as cracking knuckles, drumming fingers, etc. Remove piercings and smile as you are greeted.
- Arrive 10-15 minutes prior to your scheduled interview.
- Carry a notepad. Bring extra resumes and a list of any questions you may have. It is not usually recommended for the applicant to take notes during an interview. It will give the appearance that the employer does not have your full attention.
- After you leave the interview, write down the names and titles of all your interviewers (check the spelling) while this information is still fresh in your mind. Collecting business cards will make this step easy. Follow up the interview with a thank-you note or letter. This will suggest your attention to detail, and proves you are truly interested in the job.
Looking for a job can be nerve-racking. Knowing what to expect and being prepared will help you do your best and reduce the stress in the interview. For help with this and other job search issues, drop by the One-Stop Job Center at 124 N. Irwin St. in downtown Hanford.