Interviewing takes practice. You can compare an interview to a sales call. You are the product. There is no one better to make this sale. You have to practice your sales pitch. To be most effective, it's crucial that you market your product (yourself) according to the needs of your intended market (potential employers).
If you have taken the proper steps of preparation, your interview should be no problem. Mental fear of the unknown is often what produces nervousness, practice interviews reduces this reaction.
It is important to research the company as well as the position prior to the interview. The interviewer will be impressed by your interest and motivation and you will be better prepared to explain what you can do for the company. It is a good idea to search for information regarding office locations, products and services, customers, competitors, philosophy, history, recent news and financial information including salary and stock information. Knowing specifics about the company and position shows how truly interested you are in the position.
Prepare yourself by practicing with common questions. It is best to rehearse interviewing with a counselor or friend. By practicing actual questions you will be more comfortable. However, do not practice to the point that you simply recall the answers that you have prepared. Practice interviews are a good time to tape yourself so that you can check diction, articulation, tempo and body language. These are things that you do unconsciously so having someone point them out to you can help sharpen your interviewing skills.
First impressions are key to a good interview. Dress professionally and comfortably. If in doubt, dress conservatively. For women it is suggested that they wear a simple business suit, sensible pumps, be moderate with make-up and perfume, wear simple jewelry, and hair and fingernails should be well groomed. For men it is suggested that they wear a clean ironed shirt and conservative tie, simple jacket or business suit, polished shoes, clean shaven or facial hair neatly trimmed, hair and fingernails should be well groomed, and use cologne or after-shave sparingly.
Bring with you several copy of your resume, a list of references if applicable, a copy of your transcripts if new graduate, and any work samples. Also bring a pen and paper to write down any information you need to remember. Do not take notes during your interview.
Make sure that you arrive to the interview on time. Most employers suggest that you arrive to the interview no more than 15 minutes early; you do not want to be loitering in their waiting area. This is where many applicants let their guard down. Arriving early however gives you some time to mentally prepare yourself for the interview.
Relax; think of the interview as a conversation, not an interrogation. Many times, the interviewer is just as nervous as you are. Focus on controlling your breathing. Taking deep slow breaths has a calming affect on your body; it slows the heart rate and decreases perspiration. Non-verbal cues are just as important as non-verbal cues. Demonstrate self-confidence, make eye contact, be conscious of your posture, gestures, and pay attention to personal space. Answer questions with a clear voice. Remember to listen or you will miss cues on what the interviewer feels important, in many cases the interviewer will lead you and you will be able to tailor your questions to what the company is focusing on.
Avoid negative body language. Signs of nervousness include touching your face frequently, gnawing your lip, forced smiles, swaying your foot or leg, folding your arms, slouching, and tossing your hair. Do not interrupt the interviewer. Two minutes is a good response time to a question. This is where your preparation pays off.
When the interviewer asks if you have any questions this is your chance to show them you have done your homework. Questions should cover information about the company and the position that you could not find in your own research. Ask specific details about the position, such as functions, responsibilities, who you would work with, and who you would report to on a daily basis. End the interview with a handshake and a thank you. Reiterate your interest in the position at this time and ask when you can expect a decision or can contact the interviewer in regards to the status. If you are not contacted it is standard to follow up with a phone call within a week of the interview.
The first five minutes of your interview is the most important. The interviewer has already noted critical aspects of your background like dress, grooming, handshake, personal presence, eye contact, articulation, and most importantly your personality. Your GPA, course work, and work experience are what got you to the interview, but these other factors are what will bring you to the next level. Do not expect the interviewer to magically decide where you fit in the work world; it is your job to tell the interviewer.
Contributed by: Shannon Broderick
Public Relations Associate, CPAmerica International, Inc.