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Interview Skills

Do

  • Give a firm handshake
  • Be polite
  • Ask relevant questions
  • Answer questions concisely
  • Use specific examples to illustrate points
  • Send a "Thank you" letter or email to the interviewer after your interview.

Don't

  • Try to control the interview
  • Bring up salary or benefits
  • Be too serious or nervous
  • Let your discouragement show
  • Look at your watch or the clock repeatedly

Below are some frequently asked questions and tips on answering them:

"Tell me about yourself"

Briefly describe your professional experience and background. The interviewer is looking to learn about who you are in the context of work. Answering this gives the interviewer insight into how you may fit into the organization. Don't talk about personal information, such as marriage status, children, etc. If you are unsure what information the interviewer is interested in, you could ask, "Are there any areas in particular you'd like to know about?"

"What is your biggest weakness?"

Choose something that is not a major flaw or negative characteristic - you don't want to shock the interviewer or make them think you are not a good candidate for the job. Most importantly, don't just say something negative about yourself and leave it at that - turn it into a positive! Describe how you were able to overcome this weakness and a positive way the situation turned out. Show that you have grown as a person, and how that slightly negative characteristic is now a positive attribute that you can bring to this new position. Whenever possible, use specific situations from your previous job to illustrate your point.

"What is your biggest strength?"

This is not an opportunity to brag. Instead, you need to describe why you are the best person for the job. Give a specific example of your strength, what it has helped you accomplish in past work roles, and how it will be beneficial to your performance if you get this job.

"Where do you hope to be five years from now?"

Bottom line, the interviewer wants to know that you want to work for them. They don't want to hear that you plan on going to another company or field of work. Even if you do plan on keeping your options open, this may turn the interviewer off. Instead, focus your answer on new skills you hope to learn and master, and how you plan to use them in order to benefit the business' goals.

"What is your greatest accomplishment?"

Be sure to give specific examples from previous jobs, such saving the company money, helping increase profits, completing an important project, etc. Try to use numbers to quantify your answer whenever possible. This gives the interviewer a better understanding of this accomplishment. If you just graduated from college, describe an accomplishment from your school work, part-time job, internship or extra - curricular activities.

"Why do you want to work for this company?"

This is where your research on the company will be helpful. Perhaps they are innovative in a specific field and that is what makes you want to join the team? What are their goals, and how can your skills and past experiences help achieve them? Give specific reasons, don't speak in generalities.

Be sure to also review our "Behavioral Interviewing" Information on the next tab.

What is behavioral interviewing? In behavioral interviewing, you are asked how you behaved or responded in past work situations. You must reply by giving examples.

Why do interviewers use behavioral interviewing? Past behavior often predicts future performance. By explaining how you behaved in past work situations, you will give the interviewer an understanding of how you may perform and behave in the future.

Preparation:

  • Review the job description. Think about the skills you may need for that position and any problems that could be common in that role. Have an idea of how you would handle such problems.
  • Prepare some answers for the Sample Questions below. There is no need to memorize your answers, but be familiar with examples from your work history and points you want to highlight to the interviewer.
  • Think of situations that you had to respond to in previous roles. Prepare some examples of how you problem solved, dealt with a difficult task, and any memorable accomplishments you have had in previous work situations.

Sample questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work under pressure.
  • Give me an example of when you had to resolve conflict in the workplace.
  • Have you ever had to make a decision that was unpopular? Please describe how you implemented it.
  • What do you do when your schedule is interrupted? Give an example of how you handle it.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your communication skills to influence someone's opinion.
  • Can you provide me with an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree?
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.

During the interview

When answering behavioral interview questions, be sure your answer includes:

  • The situation
  • Steps you took to address or respond to the situation
  • The tasks that needed to be completed
  • The results of the situation

If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification.

Telephone Interview

This interview saves the employer time by finding out certain information up front. They may ask about employment objective, education or required skills. It usually takes place in your home, so keep your resume handy and refer to it as needed.

In-Person Interview

This is used to verify the jobseeker's qualifications for the position and to get an impression of the jobseeker's attitude, interest and professional style.

Selection Interview

This is usually conducted by the decision maker. You may be invited back to speak with the same person and/or with other managers or work group members. Your ability to establish rapport and present yourself as the right person for the position is critical.

Work Sample Interview

This gives you an opportunity to "show your talents." It could be the chance for an artist to display his/her portfolio, or a sales representative may be asked to make a presentation.

Peer Group Interview

This is an opportunity for you to meet and talk with your prospective coworkers. Just as in other interviews, the peer group will be evaluating you and determining how you would fit in.

Group/Panel Interview

This usually consists of three or more people, all asking questions. Direct your answer to the individual asking the question, but try to maintain some eye contact with the other members of the group.

Luncheon Interview

This may be used to see how well you would handle yourself in a social situation. This may include the hiring manager, a human resources member and one or more peer employees. You may want to choose something off the menu that is easy to eat so you can answer questions and pay attention to the conversation.

Video Conference Interview

Employers today use video conferences to conduct meetings or carry out other aspects of their business. Conducting an interview using a video conference enables an employer to save travel costs and still have a "person-to-person" interview. If the thought of facing a camera during an interview makes you uneasy, practice before a video camera or a mirror.

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