Preparing For an Interview
A snail mail, e-mail or voice mail has arrived offering you a chance to interview for a job. Excited, you tell your family and friends, though you’re scared stiff. Just the idea of interviewing makes you nervous.
Before you go, learn from the pros: your favorite sitcom or soap-opera star, sports hero or game-show host. Actors and actresses spend hours reading and rehearsing their parts. The end result is usually picture perfection.
Rehearsals build confidence and reduce the chance of stage fright rendering a star tongue-tied or worse. Why should you use their techniques when preparing for an interview? Because these days, getting a job or internship takes more than weaving through books, Internet resources and magazines for tips on dressing for success, preparing a killer resume and the most-frequently asked interview questions. Sometimes, the clincher can be in one of the best-kept secrets of interviewing: the dress rehearsal.
This best-kept secret to preparing for an interview can unlock employment doors for almost anyone. It will work wonders if you are shy, a first-time job holder, or if you have a lisp (as I once did) or other speech challenge that makes you reluctant to speak. Interviewing skills will stick with you through your adult life. Learn them now in high school, use them while looking for a part-time job in college, then brush up on your technique as you interview for your first career move.
Practice makes interviews perfect. I began rehearsing for interviews more than 15 years ago while seeking my first career-related position. Preparing for an interview by using some of my college journalism-class techniques was perfect. It worked; I landed the job. Since then, I have successfully accepted 90 percent of the jobs I have wanted.
Here are some steps preparing for an interview.
Job Interview Tips
1. Study your script. First, develop a resume. Even if you’ve never worked, put together a resume detailing your volunteer activities including church or other religious activities, Boy or Girl Scouts, even your volunteer tutoring. Next, walk through your resume noting the key points of former positions and how they relate to the job for which you will be interviewing. Never lie on a resume; that will only backfire in the end.
2. Dress the part. A play’s dress rehearsal is performed in full garb. This helps in seeing how the clothes will feel as they move about a stage. The morning of your meeting is often too late to handle emergency sewing or clothing switches. Chances are that changes will cause stress that could hinder your interview performance. Girls: change your low-cut top for a simple sweater or basic blouse. Wear a neat skirt or attractive pair of pants; switch from your large hoop earrings to something smaller. Guys: wear a tie if appropriate. Choose dark pants over baggy jeans, and switch your old athletic shoes for a basic dress shoe.
3. Develop a list of possible interview questions and your responses. Perhaps the most intimidating part of an interview is worrying about the questions you will be asked. Jump this hurdle by preparing a list of questions that may be asked, and your responses to them. Perhaps the job you’re seeking requires a skill that either you don’t have (such as specific word-processing skills) or do not perform well. The question might be “What is your skill level on XYZ software?”
Instead of sweating this one, try answering like this: “I have an aptitude for software packages. I believe I would be able to learn XYZ very quickly.” If you love surfing the Internet, but don’t know a clue about word processing, be brave enough to say so. An employer may be willing to invest time in helping you learn these skills.
4. Develop a list of questions you want to ask. Be prepared to ask questions, such as the hours you will work and the company’s expectations. If you’re interviewing for a job in which you’ll be replacing someone else, ask why that person resigned.
5. Practice until it’s perfect. Grab your resume and sample questions, and do a mock interview. First, rehearse walking through your resume, defining your responsibilities and reviewing your answers.
Second, find a mirror and practice in front of it. Practice smiling and making eye contact as you answer questions about yourself, previous employment and school activities. Rehearse pausing; if you talk fast, get tongue-tied when nervous, stutter or have other lingual challenges, pausing is a must. Practicing pausing will force you to slow down and speak more clearly.
Then, find a mock interviewer. Recruit a family member to play both a congenial interviewer who puts you at ease and a interviewer who is pressed for time and appears difficult to please. Practicing interviewing with both extremes will make you better prepared to handle either interviewer — and anyone in between.
6. Work the audience. Your interview will be a tragedy if you don’t remember the basics: arrive on time, shake hands, use eye contact, smile, sit properly, watch your language (drop the slang), ask questions and send a follow-up response. During the actual interview, you may determine that you really want the position. Let the interviewer know that. Then, exit stage right.
Even if you’re hired on the spot, remember to send a “thank you” letter to everyone you met. Chances are that while awaiting a call back, you will wonder whether all your practice was worth it. If it increased your confidence, diminished your stage fright and made you a better-prepared applicant, than it was worth the effort. Even if you didn’t get the job, at least you’ll be ready for your next performance.
Job Interview Tips: Questions & Answers
Practice these tough interviewing questions, and follow our advice for answers.
Q: What do you consider a job like this to entail?
A: “From my experience, such a job entails...” Fill in the blank using words from the advertisement you answered or from your own understanding.
Q: For what salary are you looking?
A: “Based on my experience, qualifications and the requirements of this position, I am seeking a salary in the range of ...” If you give your interviewer a salary range, make sure it is feasible and contains your actual expectations. As a student, you may only be offered minimum wage. But remember, the skills from this job can help you for many years. If you’re asked this question now or in the future, put your answer in terms of the job’s requirements, current pay scale throughout the industry, your current pay or the advertised salary.
Tip: Don’t bring up salary in the first interview.
Q: Why do you want to leave your current position?
A: “I am looking to increase my knowledge of XYZ.” Or: “I’m looking for a position with greater responsibility.” Try not to answer based on money or in terms of personality conflicts with your current boss.
Q: What are your strengths?
A: Answer this in terms of the position or career requirements, not your hobbies. And cover some of the following points: communication and people skills, computer skills, time or project management, team spirit and flexibility.
Q: What are your weaknesses?
A: Answer this as positively as possible.
Q: Where do you plan to be in the next three, five or 10 years?
A: “In the next two years, I plan to have completed college and be in a position of greater responsibility as a meeting planner, perhaps even as a supervisor.” This answer is great if you’re interning at a company and would like to work there after you graduate from high school or college. Always answer this question in terms of personal growth and development consistent with the position for which you are applying.
Preparing for an interview can be stressful. Following these job interview tips will help to to be more relaxed and confident.