The following guest post was written by Kathy Clark, an MBA who is passionate about helping small business owners see their vision come to life by creating infrastructures that support business development and growth through strategic customer focus. She is the founder of TheThrivingSmallBusiness.com.
With the economy in slow growth, and unemployment maintaining the highest level in years, job candidates need to be astute and ready for those rare and valuable job interviews. Job applicants may send out dozens of resumes, fill out hundreds of online applications on job sites and get no response. Because of this it is easy to get complacent and neglect the important job interview preparation when it comes.
I have a friend who stepped down from a high level executive assistant job and said there were 140 applicants within the first 24 hours that the job was posted. What this means is that the employer has the upper hand and can be very selective. They will hold out for the cream of the crop because there are so many candidates to choose from. So what are some things you can do to prepare for the interview?
Job Interviewing Do’s
- Do Study the job description and reflect on your experience and skills that would make you a good fit for the job. Spending some time just thinking about what you’ve done in the past can make current memories of how you added value to prior positions.
- Do Jot down and focus on key accomplishments you had with prior employers. Make a list of things you did that helped move the organization forward. For example, think of a time you offered a good idea that was implemented and either streamlined a process or added value to a product or service. By writing these things down ahead of time you will benefit from having them fresh in your memory when you are interviewed.
- Do Research the organization. With the internet, information resources are endless so find out as much as you can about the company. Be prepared to ask questions about the organization’s history, current position and strategy for the future. You want to make sure this is a viable organization.
- Do Dress appropriately. This seems like a “no duh” but not everyone understands the importance of proper grooming and dressing for an interview. Dress appropriately for the job. For example if you are interviewing for a position in an office setting, wear professional clothes. If you’re interviewing to work in a blue collar position, wear nice attire that would be appropriate for that position. For example, a welding shop would not expect a tie and jacket but khakis and a collared shirt would be appropriate. Use mouthwash and mints to ensure you have fresh breath!
- Do Show up a few minutes early so you have plenty of time to find where you are going and have a moment to get acclimated to the environment.
- Do make a good first impression. The first impression is lasting so offer a firm hand shake and look the interviewer in the eye. Speak loudly, clearly and make good eye contact. The interviewer understands that candidates are nervous by nature but push yourself and try to overcome the inner tension you are feeling.
- Do ask questions about the organization based on the research you have done. Ask about the culture and general work environment. Ask about the person whose job you will be filling and why they left. You want to find out if they were promoted or if they left for other reasons. The last thing you want is to jump into a position that has inherent issues.
- Do answer all questions honestly and positively. One question that I always ask is “tell me about your boss, what you liked and disliked”. This can be a can of worms but offers a lot of information about how an employee responds to leadership. Even if you left on bad terms with a former boss, share the positive aspects of the relationship.
- Do share as much information and detail about yourself and your job history as possible. There is always information that a resume or application doesn’t have space for so offer the hidden treasures of your talent. Be articulate when you answer questions but don’t talk so much that the interviewer can’t get a word in.
- Do thank the interviewer and express your hopes to hear from them soon. Give a good handshake, big smile and eye contact as you depart.
- Do follow up with a thank you note. This may not seem to be that big of a deal but it is sometimes that which separates two very close candidates. Write a short note thanking the person for the interview. Add a line or two about your interest in the job. Wait a week or two and follow up with the interviewer about the status of the job. Ask to be kept informed of the hiring process. This communicates that you are still interested and should allow for you to be notified if someone else is hired for the position so you can move one.
Job Interviewing Don’ts
- Don’t have your cell phone on anything but vibrate during the interview. If it vibrates, ignore it and don’t pull it out of your pocket or purse.
- Don’t ask questions about comp and benefits – at least not initially. This will come as the relationship develops. Focus on getting past the first round of screening.
- Don’t say negative things about past bosses, co-workers or employers.
- Don’t chomp on gum during the interview.
- Don’t ask the interviewer personal questions.
- Don’t allow confidence to turn into cockiness.
- Don’t tell the interviewer all your personal problems and the reason you need a job. You don’t want to be hired because you are pitied but because you are competent and the right person for the job.
- Don’t make blanket statements about possible pay and your minimum salary requirement. No matter what comes up, even if it is well below what you would want to make, say you will think about it. Your goal is to get in the door, prove yourself and increase your value corresponding to that.
- Don’t make blanket statements about what you won’t do for the job. For example, don’t make a blanket statement that you can’t ever work weekends.
12 Common Interview Questions I Often Ask Candidates
- Tell me why you are interested in working at ABC Company?
- Tell me about a time you offered an idea that improved the way the organization does business.
- Tell me about a time you had conflict with an employee and how you resolved it.
- Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer (internal or external) and how you resolved their issue.
- Tell me what you like about your boss.
- Tell me what you dislike about your boss.
- If I asked your boss to describe you as an employee, what would he/she say?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your personal goals?
- What are your professional goals?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Practice answering these questions with a friend just to practice speaking the answers out loud.
If you prepare good articulate answers to these questions, focus on the do’s and stay away from the don’ts you’ll be well prepared for that job interview. Good luck!
Do you have any other tips or advice for those headed to a job interview?
Photo by Mista Boos