You have caught the employer's attention and they have asked you to come in for an interview. This is your opportunity to show the potential employer who you are and why you are perfect for the job. You can make the most of this opportunity by being prepared, presenting a professional demeanor, and describing your qualifications well.
The CareerCenter offers workshops on interviewing.
Find out about workshops available in your area.
Preparing for an Interview
A good job interview takes preparation. This can be just as important as the interview itself.
The best way to prepare yourself for an interview is to research both the company and the position that you are interviewing for. Before arriving, you should know:
- what the company does
- how large it is
- any recent changes it has undergone
- what role you could play in the organization
You can start your research by finding and reading the company's website. Click on the "About Us" link. Sites often include a history of the company and a description of their products and customers. An annual report is also a great source for information on a company.
Review the job description
Read the job description and responsibilities over and over. Make notes about how your experience and skills fit the position. Think of specific examples from past jobs to illustrate how your skills and experience match the organization's needs. This will help the employer to actually "see" you in the position.
The salary question
Know what you are worth
During the interview, you may be asked what salary you are seeking. Do not bring up the salary question in the interview unless you are asked. Be prepared to answer the question with a range, and let them know that it is negotiable. They may be asking you this question to determine if you fall within their range; and that information may be used in making their hiring decision. Make sure that you have all of the information you need to determine what salary range you should ask for.
Another important step in preparing for an interview is to practice describing your professional characteristics and to practice answering common interview questions. By practicing out loud beforehand when you are not under pressure, you will strengthen your answers during the actual event.
As a starting point, try to respond to the following questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why should I hire you?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Tell me about a difficult decision you made.
- What did you like most about your last job?
- Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or keep it.
- Describe a time when you encountered a work or school-related problem and how you solved it.
- Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team.
- When responding, focus on subjects related to your professional life, not your personal life.
Prepare questions to ask the interviewer
As a job candidate you also have an obligation to hold up your end of the conversation. You should ask questions that could not be answered through your research of the company or that arose during the interview.
You can ask these questions during the course of the interview or at the end. Interviewers usually end their part by asking if you have any questions.
Be prepared with three to five questions. They can be based on the company or the position. Ask them in an open-ended manner, meaning they cannot be answered by just "yes" or "no."
During the Interview
What to bring
- A neat-looking note pad and pen
- Copies of your resume and references
- Samples of work (your portfolio) if appropriate
- Notes on points you want to make
- A list of questions you want to ask
What to say
- Try to keep the interview conversational, but let the interviewer lead.
- Show your enthusiasm and self confidence in your body language and tone of voice.
- Don't exaggerate your skills, but sell yourself.
- Be honest and positive about everything you say, especially about past employers and coworkers.
- Avoid giving vague answers. Give specific examples of what you have done in the past when responding to questions.
- Stop and consider an answer to a difficult or unexpected question. If the question is confusing, ask for clarification.
- If asked about potentially damaging information, such as gaps in work history or prior violations of the law, briefly acknowledge the circumstances and redirect the conversation toward the positive.
- Before you leave, make sure you understand the next step in the hiring process such as additional interviews and a time line for a hiring decision.
- Finally, if the position interests you, express your desire for the job.
After the Interview
Show your appreciation
Thank the interviewer twice
Be sure to thank the interviewer after the interview is over, and before you leave. Shake hands and thank them for the opportunity and their time.
Write a thank-you note within two days of the interview. The thank-you note is most effective when hand-written or typed and mailed through the postal service. An e-mail is also acceptable if you previously communicated with the interviewer in that way. Send the note to each person on the interview committee.
The thank-you note should re-emphasize your interest in the position and remind them of your relevant skills and qualifications. Making the effort to send a note shows initiative and enthusiasm for the job and can give you an edge over other candidates.