Money & Career

How to have a successful job interview

By: Barbara Moses, Ph.D.

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

How to have a successful job interview

By: Barbara Moses, Ph.D.
Successful interview strategies
They have called. You really want this work. Use the following five interview strategies to make you shine. After it is over, you decide if it is still your great work.

Establish a connection
Put yourself and the interviewer at ease. Build rapport. Start with an icebreaker, such as, "what a fabulous view," or, "I really like your artwork." Act natural.

Two candidates were shortlisted for an engineering position. On paper, Sophie was better qualified. In the interview, she was poised and polished and handled every question skillfully. She never paused to think, however, launching straight into reply mode. Her answers sounded scripted. It was like interviewing a robot. The other candidate, Jim, was less poised. He was nervous, but really wanted the job. He spoke with a lot of "ums" and "ahs," often saying, "Let me think about that for a moment." His answers sounded thoughtful and genuine. The interviewer could see this was someone he would like to work with. Guess who got the job?

Be an expert
Offer advice on an issue the interviewer has not thought of. For example, do the reporting relationships, structure, or scope of the role make sense? Do you have experience to share that shows a different way of thinking about the work? Are there challenges or trends that have not been considered? Offer suggestions generously. Your ideas will show your special qualifications. Sound thoughtful, not "know-it-all" or judgmental.

Be an equal
Speak to the interviewer as if you were a colleague or consultant, without sounding presumptuous. Ask about reporting relationships and where the position would fit in the hierarchy. Ask about challenges facing the organization. This creates an egalitarian exchange between you and the employer and sends the message, "I could be a member of your team." It also is a subtle way of showing your expertise.

Audition the employer
Once you have established that you are an ideal candidate, ask questions about the work environment, organizational culture, and challenges of the role. A useful line of questioning is: "Will I be replacing someone in this position? What happened to the previous incumbent?" If the previous holder of the job was fired, try to find out why.

Also ask questions that address issues that are important to your needs. If you are a lifestyler, for example, ask about flexibility of work hours. If you are a personal developer, ask about money spent on training. You know what you want from an employer, so query items important to you. If they are clearly interested in you, ask for a meeting with future staff or team members.

Know when it is over
Take your cue from the interviewer. They may say, "That is all the questions I have," or look at their watch, or start shuffling their papers. Close by summarizing your special assets. Restate your interest in the work. Ask the interviewer how long they think the decision-making process will be, what the next steps are, and when you will hear back. Ask if it is okay to call them in a few weeks if you have not heard from them. Thank them for their time. Shake hands as you leave.

Page 1 of 3 - Read page 2 to find out what to do after the interview

Excerpted from What Next?, copyright 2009 Barbara Moses/DK Publishing. Used by permission of DK Publishing.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. What to wear
Not sure about what to wear ? Imagine you were delivering an important presentation to management in this organization. You would want to feel comfortable but look great. What would you wear? Dress appropriately for the culture. Is it hip? Conservative? Freewheeling? What is the industry sector? Choose accordingly.

If in doubt, dress more conservatively. However, if the dress code requires clothes that make you feel ill, you probably do not want to work there anyway. If you are still not sure, you can also ask the recruiter about the dress code.

Face the panel
Public-sector organizations often use panel interviews. You need to impress each member. Make initial eye contact with the person asking the question, then with the rest, as you would in a presentation. (Refer to members by name if you can.)

The interviewer
If you have been working for one employer for a long time or are relatively new to the employment market, you may make certain assumptions about the interviewer's skill, job knowledge, and comfort level. Skilled interviewees know that the interviewer may be uncomfortable with the interview process. The interviewer may not have been trained to ask good questions, or they may have a limited understanding of the work role and challenges associated with the role. And no, most interviewers do not want to see you squirm. (If they do, you probably do not want to work there.)

Decode the corporate culture
How are people dressed? How do they interact with each other? What kinds of conversations do you overhear? Look at everything around you – the artwork, furniture, and office aesthetics. What is the organization or department communicating about itself? Does it say, "I'm big and arrogant?" "Creative and freewheeling?" "Struggling but having fun?" Consider, for example, the difference between a department housed in the basement where everyone looks depressed and one where clerical staff sit by windows and you hear a lot of laughter.

Note to lifestylers: Check out the number of cars in the parking lot at 8:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M.

After the interview
The interview is not really over when it is over. That is when you assess how it went – as a way of preparing for the next one, at the same company or somewhere new.

Record your own assessment of how the interview went as soon as possible. Is there information to be gleaned to improve in future interviews? Make notes about your impressions of the organization. And do not forget to send a brief thank-you note. Summarize how you can make a great contribution.

Managing your references
What former colleagues, staff, or bosses say about your skills and work style can play a critical role in determining whether you get the offer.

• Identify three or four people who can talk positively about your "style," skills, strengths, and accomplishments relevant to the work. As well as previous bosses, consider more senior managers to whom you did not report directly, current and/or former co-workers, external consultants, and, if you are just starting out, professors.

• Sound them out as references. Are they willing? Will they say good things? How will they answer the question about weaknesses? Outline the position and key points you would like them to communicate about your skills. Update referees you have not spoken to in a while on your career progress and goals.

• If the employer has a policy of not giving references because they do not want to be exposed to legal liability, is there a former employee of that organization who can give you a reference instead?

• If you need a reference from a former boss you did not get along with well, approach them and say: "I know we had our differences, but I would appreciate it if you would be willing to talk about what I achieved in…"

Page 2 of 3 - Read page 3 to find out what not to do during an interview

Excerpted from What Next?, copyright 2009 Barbara Moses/DK Publishing. Used by permission of DK Publishing.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.Your body language, voice, dress, and general deportment communicate volumes about who you are. The interviewer will respond as much to how you say it as to what you say.

• Arrive on time. Bring extra copies of your resume in case the interviewers do not have them. Create a strong and respectful impression as soon as you arrive in reception. Yes, it is true: receptionists are often asked for their impressions of the candidate.
• Shake hands. Make eye contact. Smile.
• Sit straight, but be natural. Avoid irritating mannerisms, such as cracking your knuckles or drumming your fingers. Demonstrate energy and enthusiasm.
• Call the interviewer Mr., Ms., or Mrs. unless told otherwise. Use the interviewer's name from time to time.
• Be an attentive listener. Nod in agreement. (Resist the temptation to jump in and speak before the interviewer is finished.) Demonstrate active listening by occasionally rephrasing what has been said: "So you're looking for someone with experience in…"
• Be consistent in all of your messages about yourself, including dress. Determine ahead of time the message you want to leave behind. Coordinate the verbal content of your message with your personal presentation to ensure the messages are consistent with your desired impression.
• Read how the interview is going. Watch for signs of boredom or restlessness. Do not be afraid to ask, "Is this what you were interested in hearing?"
• Relax. Think of this as an interesting exchange. If you are nervous, do not worry about it – it will only increase your anxiety and interfere with your ability to understand the questions. Interviewers understand. It is human to be nervous.

• Be afraid to take initiative in the interview or to offer more information than you were asked for.
• Worry too much about trick questions. Most interviewers will be interested in hearing about you rather than playing games. Take their questions at face value.
• Raise the subject of compensation. Let the interviewer bring it up. If you are asked about salary expectations, give a general range such as mid-60s, as opposed to $64,000. Or "I'm looking for a competitive salary but it's not my major driver."
• Assume that the interviewer has studied your resume in detail.

Page 3 of 3

Excerpted from What Next?, copyright 2009 Barbara Moses/DK Publishing. Used by permission of DK Publishing.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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Money & Career

How to have a successful job interview