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Landing a job can be a difficult task in itself. First, you need to determine which direction to take your career and then you need to find the appropriate job openings. From there you need to tailor your resume to speak directly to each opening, and then you need patience.

Soon enough, you will receive notices that potential employers are curious. They want to interview you. You'll thus need to have your interview skills intact so that you can wow them and receive an offer. This means that you’ll need to know how to handle the interview process.

Resources for Before and After College

Study Typical Interview Questions

To prepare, a good first step is to review and study some typical interview questions. When the responses are fresh in your mind, you can communicate them smoothly and with confidence.

Here are a few to work with:

  • Why are you leaving your present position?
  • What was the toughest situation you ever faced in your previous job?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What are some of your greatest strengths?
  • What are some of your biggest weaknesses?
  • What do you like most about your career?
  • How do you feel about traveling for this position?
  • Describe a situation in which you demonstrated leadership.
  • What area of your professional life needs the most improvement?
  • What drew you to our company?
  • Are you a team player?

If you have a close friend or family member who is willing, share your responses with them and be open to their feedback. You might expand the list with job-specific questions about some technical aspects of the job. You might even discover unused skills that you should sharpen.

Learn All You Can

When you sit down for an interview, you will be all the more impressive if you have done your homework. Find out everything you can about the company, the industry, and even your interviewer. You can learn a lot using online tools such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and the company website. It will also be helpful to research whether the company or industry has been in the news.

You can also search for the company in job search websites. You can learn a lot about a company's present state by making good use of these tools. Since it's likely that they will research you by using any available information, you should do the same.

Know Your Rights

Not every question is a good question. Before you set out to interview, review the law regarding what is appropriate and inappropriate in a job interview. For instance, any discriminatory language regarding race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender is forbidden. You should also be alert to privacy issues regarding questions related to family, drinking or drug use habits, your arrest record, and the status of your military discharge.

However, you should be aware that, though employers have tight restrictions regarding what is and is not appropriate, recruiters are not always held to the same standards.

Prepare Questions

Make sure you have questions prepared for your interviewer. This shows that you are engaged with the interview process, and that you have a keen interest in both the job and the company. If you are in a phone interview, have your list handy. Below are a few good questions to ask. However, be certain to create a custom list for each potential employer.

  • Can you describe where my position falls in the overall workflow of the department?
  • What does a typical day look like in your workplace?
  • How large is the department?
  • Are you hiring to grow the company or department, or are you filling vacated positions?
  • What will be my biggest challenges?
  • Is there anything from my resume or our conversation that I can elaborate on?

Bring Extra Resumes

Even though the majority of the job search process is conducted via electronic media, it's still wise to carry extra printed copies of your resume. Use your best judgment but bring at least two or three extra copies. You should also have a pdf copy of your resume prepared and ready to quickly email.

The same applies to any portfolio materials that might illustrate your skills and experience. If you are a designer or graphic artist, for instance, strive to have at least one extra copy of your representative work handy. Then, be prepared to email a presentation or a web link as well.

Dress Appropriately

Knowing what passes for proper attire can be tricky these days. Not every workplace is as formal as in years past and some informal workplaces are more or less so than others. Indeed, it is possible to overdress for an interview. The last thing you want is to show up in a full suit when your interviewer is wearing a hoodie and jeans.

If you have been in the industry for a few years, you probably have a good idea of what is acceptable and appropriate. The accounting sector, for instance, is bound to be more formal than most tech startups. However, don't leave anything to chance. It is not out of line to ask about dress code when scheduling the interview. If you still have questions, you can call the office and ask the receptionist to describe typical office attire. You can also learn a lot by perusing the company website. Take note of how the employees are dressed for their photos and seek to dress accordingly.

Show Up Early

An old adage says that 15 minutes early is on-time and on-time is late. Thus, try to shoot for arrival at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled meeting. This will help you account for any difficulties with traffic, locating the building, or finding parking. If you can enter the reception area 15 minutes early, you will make a good impression.

You can even search the area and see if there are any coffee shops nearby. If you can, consider spending a bit of time prior to the interview doing final preparations so that you arrive to the interview completely ready.

Be Grateful

Make sure you thank the interviewer both upon meeting and then at the conclusion of your meeting. Even if you realize that the position is not a good fit, you can always express your gratitude for the opportunity to discuss the position and the company. After all, the interviewer is likely a colleague that you might meet later.

If you have a good feeling about the job and/or your interview, make extra certain that you express your gratitude. You should also follow up with a nice card or even a simple email to thank the interviewer for your time. Include a short note that reminds them of something you discussed, if only the position itself.

You and the Interviewer Should be Working Together

Sometimes attitude and approach are keys to success. With that in mind, consider your interview to be a sort of fact-finding mission. You and the interviewer share similar goals – you both wish to fill a position with the very best candidate. If you know that you're that person, that should become more evident with each question. However, you might not be that person. It’s possible that you leave the interview with no interest in the position whatsoever. When you enter the interview with a spirit of collaboration, you might find the interview valuable regardless of its outcome.

Engage and Communicate

Communication is key in interviews. We all need to work on our listening skills and that goes double for when we're interviewing. Practice listening to others in your daily life. Then, when you are in the interview, make special efforts to be quiet and listen to every word of a question. If the question seems unclear, or to demonstrate your listening skill, repeat the question as part of your answer.

Nonverbal communication is also a large part of interview success. Maintain appropriate eye contact, shake hands with your interviewer, and nod to indicate that you are listening. You don’t want it to seem that you are uninterested in what the interviewer is saying, even if you have no trouble listening while watching a bird outside the window.

Don’t Badmouth Your Current/Previous Employer

Nobody likes a sourpuss and that certainly applies in an interview. Though your employer may have acted in the wrong, including breaking employment laws, you should refrain from speaking ill of them. That is because you might be perceived as a malcontent or as some sort of a liability.

If you are coming from a negative workplace environment, consider your interview as an opportunity to start fresh. If your former (or current) employer becomes a topic of conversation, highlight positive aspects of your tenure with that firm. This might even help you digest what is, otherwise, a rather bitter pill.

Don’t Worry if You Don’t Know

You might not know the answer to every question. That's okay. The most important thing in that situation is to offer a satisfactory response, if not the correct answer. For instance, the interviewer might ask about a very technical aspect of your field that you don't often encounter. You might answer that you don't have the answer immediately at hand, but you know which resources to use that will elicit a solution.

Above all, you should avoid becoming flustered or embarrassed when you can't answer every question. In fact, the interviewer might be trying to stump you to see how you respond to such situations.

Ask for the Job

It is a very important part of the communication process to demonstrate to your future employer that you are interested and want to move the hiring process forward. In order to do this, you need to ask for the job, also known as closing the sale. A few tips and subtle ways you can do this is by asking open ended closing questions. A few examples would be: I am very interested in this position, what are the next steps from here?, I really think this is a great fit for my abilities, what is the next step? etc. These are just some overview ideas to help you get started.

Get Their Email Addresses

At the end of your interview, make sure you pass a personal calling card to your interviewers and make sure you also receive their contact information. You want to end with the best impression possible. After all, even if their position isn't the best fit, they might soon be hiring for a job that is perfect. With that in mind, you should follow up from the interview with a pleasant thank-you note to express your gratitude.