Most of us face employment interviews in our careers. While there are no foolproof methods to "pass" the interview, there are some things that will help you on your way. If the interview allows preparation, read & understand the many publications that can help you. Rehearsing an interview with friend(s) can be useful, particularly if your rehearsals are done as close as possible to the real situation:, with aids, games, unprepared expectations that may be required just before the main interview, etc.
Find out the interview situation if you can: how many are on the interview panel, whether this interview will be one of several this time, how long will the session be. Also, do your homework about travel to the interview site so you know exact travel time. If you are going to an unfamiliar area, it is good to drive the route the day before - preferably at the same time of day.
Make a Good Impression
This is crucial. Be psychologically prepared, like an athlete at peak performance: not sleepy nor too-relaxed, but not over-aroused. Properly finish with your food/ drink/ toiletry-needs. Exercise your face, mouth, body and voice before the interview session, to get yourself in peak readiness.
Dress appropriately for the type of job you applying to. Wear sensible shoes, and carry a suitable handbag or briefcase. It is important to look professional, and to give the impression that you will fit in to the work atmosphere. If you look out of place, people will assume you are out of place, and form a negative opinion of you. Wearing heavy colognes or perfume is a no-no. Many people are sensitive or allergic to perfumes and are distracted when exposed to them. Introduce yourself before sitting down and be sure to shake the interviewer's hand if he or she extends it. There will be generally less than three interviewers in a panel. Remember their names and use them along the course of the interview. This would reflect well on your ability to get along with people. Avoid flirting, or being too serious, or too playful.
The outfit that you wear to an interview at a garage is certainly different from what you would wear to a business office. No matter where you are applying, however, it is important to remember that as a new applicant, you should definitely be dressed just as well or better than any of the current employees. You should dress well to set yourself apart. The better you appear, the better the hiring manager's opinion of you will be.
The interview is an opportunity for the hiring manager to learn about you, but it is also a good opportunity for you to learn more about the company. Do not hesitate to ask questions that you are unsure of. Do ask what the salary is like. Do ask about the benefits. Do ask about the environment, and the management, and even the food (if they serve food on the premises). At the interview, you might realize that you don't want to work for this company in the first place.
Answer all questions honestly and precisely. Avoid rambling or guessing. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. Do not short-sell yourself. If the employer asks you about your own positive and negative qualities, do not go overboard while describing the negative qualities. One negative quality is enough per interview session. Avoid cracking jokes, unless you are auditioning to be a stand-up comedian. If you've done your homework well, answering questions will be a breeze.
Keep your answers short and engaging.
Practice answering all kinds of interview questions. Every answer should be no shorter than 5 seconds and no longer than 30 seconds unless it includes a story. If it does include a story, try to keep the answer to less than 2 minutes. The only exception is a question that asks you to set up a scenario and how you dealt with it. E.g. “Tell me about a time you led a team and overcame internal obstacles.” This will take more time, but keep it entertaining and focussed on the core of the question.
Structure of a Job Interview
Before receiving a job offer from an employer, you will typically have a series of interviews. The first interview is a screening interview conducted either over the phone or at the employer's office. On-campus interviews are considered screening interviews. Screening interviews are brief, usually lasting 30-60 minutes. During that time, the employer will want you to elaborate on experiences and skills outlined in your resume.
Many employers use the screening interview as a chance to describe the organization and the 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. The second interview is longer, lasting anywhere from two hours to a whole day. It could include a variety of questions, some form of testing, lunch or dinner, a 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 organization's culture and environment, job responsibilities, and have enough information to decide on a job offer - if one is extended.
- The Warm-Up
- Each interview follows a rather predictable 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, lasting, impression of you. The way you greet the employer, the firmness of your handshake, and the way you are dressed, will all be a part of this initial impression. An interviewer may begin by asking common-ground questions about shared interests, the weather, or your travel to the interview. Some interviewers might start by saying "Tell me about yourself." This is an opening for you to briefly and concisely describe your background, skills, and interest in the position.
- The Information Exchange
- The information exchange will be the primary part of the interview. This 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 business degree?" 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 emphasize your qualifications effectively as you respond to each question. By practicing for interviews, you will gain confidence and have more polished answers.
- The Wrap-up
- Eventually the employer will probably say, "Do you have any questions?" This is your cue that the interview is moving to the wrap-up stage. Always ask questions. This demonstrates your 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); questions to clarify information the employer has presented; a question regarding the employer's use of new technology or practices related 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.