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Tips on Interviewing for a Job

Step 1 - Prepare for the Interview

When an appointment is made for an interview, it is imperative that you be fully prepared for it. There are three things you MUST do to be properly prepared:

  • Know the employer
  • Know yourself
  • Know how to communicate effectively

Know the Employer

Do some research and learn as much as possible about the organization, agency, or institution with which you are interviewing. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does the organization make or what type of service does it provide?
  • What is the size of the organization?
  • What is its organizational structure?
  • How much potential for advancement is there within the organization?
  • How does the position you are applying for fit within the whole organization?
  • Who are the organization's officers and administrators?
  • What are their backgrounds?
  • What are the organization's guiding philosophies or principles?

You may be able to find answers to these types of questions through a company's web site or at your local library or career center. This kind of research can be very valuable to you during an interview. It will increase your self-confidence and may impress the interviewer because you had enough interest in their organization to learn about it.

Know Yourself

Who are you and what do you want to do?

That's a simple question, but it's one for which you should be thoroughly prepared. Before you attend an interview, know what you have to offer a potential employer. Evaluate yourself in terms of your strengths and how you could translate those strengths into skills that are required in the position for which you are interviewing. It is also important to know your weaknesses. If you are required to describe your weaknesses, do not elaborate on them. Emphasize how you compensate for them and how you would apply this on the job.

Be prepared to tell an employer why you should be hired for a particular position. Be ready to talk about your career objectives, your long and short range goals, and your interests. Study your resume and be familiar with your educational and work background. Practice describing how your hobbies or volunteer activities serve as examples of skills in leadership and responsibility. With many applicants for the same job, it will be up to you to convince an interviewer that you are the best choice.

Communicate Effectively

Even though you may know yourself and the organization with which you are interviewing, unless you are able to communicate your knowledge clearly and concisely, your interview will not be impressive. You must be able to express yourself to the interviewer.

The best way to improve your communication skills is to practice "role-play" before the interview. Ask a friend, your spouse, a roommate, or your blind services counselor to help you practice by simulating an interview. Use the "50 Questions" as a guide and make sure you are critiqued on the strength of your voice and eye contact.

Another suggestion for role-play might be to get together with people who are also preparing for interviews. You could learn a lot by critiquing different approaches and it might also be a good way to boost each other's morale.

Do not try to memorize what you will say. Let your answers flow naturally. If you come across like you have a speech prepared, your interview will be less effective.

You will probably be nervous during the interview. Concentrate on what is being asked and respond appropriately. Many people make their voices monotone in an attempt to sound more professional. It does not work! You should speak in a normal tone and don't speak too softly.

Step 2: Attend the Interview

Be On Time

It is better to be a few minutes early than even one minute late for an interview. Interviewers have a busy schedule, and if you are late, it will cut down the amount of time allotted to you. More importantly, you will make a bad impression. If you must depend on public transportation, work with your transportation provider to find the best route or schedule that will get you to the interview location ahead of time.

Dress Appropriately

If you are seeking a professional position, you must look like a professional. Dress as others do in the same profession. Remember, your first impression is a lasting one. Women should wear a simple tailored suit or dress, conservative nail polish and lipstick, a neat hairdo, and should leave flashy earrings at home. Perfume and makeup should be used in moderation. Men should wear a clean, pressed, conservative suit with a shirt and tie that are not flashy. Shoes should be shined and plain shocks should be worn.  Hair should be neat and trimmed. Long hair and extremely long side burns are out. Have clean, trimmed nails and avoid flashy jewelry and watches.

Know what to expect

There are many different kinds of interviews and it is important to ask ahead of time what kind of interview you will be expected to participate in. The interview situation can vary from a one-to-one contact between you and an employee of the organization (personnel officer, department manager, etc.), to a panel composed of several different employees representing various levels or functions. The situation can also vary from a single interview with an organization representative to a sequence of several interviews on a given day. Remember, you need to respond and actively participate in each interview. Don't assume that what you told the first interviewer will be communicated to others in the organization. 

Performance interviewing (or in-basket interviewing) is another situation in which you might find yourself. In this case, you will be asked to perform tasks which your potential job will entail in a limited amount of time. Mistakes are expected; the employer is concerned about the way you handle yourself. If you will require adaptive technology for any part of the interview, communicate that need to the employer beforehand. Your blind services counselor may be able to help you and the employer prepare for the interview in a way that maintains fairness for all parties involved.

Break The Ice

Interviews are unpredictable and no two are alike. A lot depends upon how the interviewer controls the interview and how you respond to that control. At the beginning, interviewers usually try to make you as comfortable as possible. Usually they will greet you with a hand shake and small talk. Then they may start off with basic questions from your resume. Since this information is familiar to you, the situation should become less tense and you should be ready when the interviewer starts to ask more specific questions about your skills and experience.

Answer Questions

After the introductory questions, the interviewer will usually get right to the point. Some typical questions are:

  1. So, could you tell me about yourself?
  2. How does this job with our organization meet your career objectives?
  3. What contributions would you make to our organization?

From this type of questioning, the interviewer will be able to tell whether you are just looking for a job by using a shotgun approach or whether you have spent some time in self-appraisal and are trying to meet your needs through selective interviewing. The interviewer will be assessing some of the reasons or motivations for your actions and activities as well as your "style." While a resume provides the facts, the interview provides the "why's and "how's."

During an interview, the most important thing to remember is to be honest. The interviewer will not be able to evaluate you fairly if you attempt to con them. Telling an interviewer what you think they want to hear is not the purpose of an interview. If you try to con the interviewer and they are onto your game, the chance of being invited for a second interview is slim.

Be prepared to back up what you say. According to interviewers, too many applicants make statements that they are unable to prove. If you state that you have certain skills and abilities, be prepared to cite specific incidents where you have used or demonstrated them.

In some interviews, there might be some stress questions thrown in so that the interviewer can see how you think and react under pressure. Stress questions are usually problem-solving questions for which there are no right or wrong answers.

Handle salary questions

One question you should be ready to address is salary expectations. It is proper on your resume not to mention salary. You can even leave it open on your application form. But in an interview, you might be asked to state a figure. Know what the starting salary is for someone of your qualifications in a position similar to the one for which you are applying.

Resources such as e-choices and salary.com can give you some idea of what your salary range might be. By knowing the rate beforehand, you can be realistic in your terms. Candidates whose expectations are too high might price themselves right out of a job. If your expectations are too low, the interviewer might not consider you an ambitious person, and might not give you further consideration. Another possibility is that they might hire you at a lower rate with no chance of negotiating a higher figure. Generally, however, it is recommended that candidates allow employers to address salary. Never ask about vacation time or retirement. These are not work-related activities. If the employer brings up the subject, you could ask for more information regarding fringe benefits.

Ask Questions

Towards the end of the interview, most employers will offer you the opportunity to (and expect you to) ask them questions. If you have done your pre-interviewing research, then you should have prepared some intelligent questions in advance. Here are some examples:

  1. What kind of training do you provide and how long is the training period?
  2. What is the normal progression of a trainee over the first few years?
  3. How much travel is involved in this position?
  4. Do you provide tuition reimbursement for continuing education?
  5. What options do I have in selecting (or accepting) assignments?
  6. What staff development programs are available after the initial training?

It will also be helpful to prepare questions concerning the organization's markets, methods, and projected plans. Ask them not only as they will affect you, but for general information. Interviewers will be impressed by your interest in the organization.

During the interview, you should be sensitive to signs that the interview has run its course. Interviews end in different ways. Some interviewers might discuss tasks they have to complete for the day and this might be a cue to you that the interview is nearing an end. Some interviewers act more bluntly by standing up, holding out their hand, and thanking you for attending. Most employer representatives, however, expect you to sense the proper time to leave on the basis of subtle indications like a drop in vocal inflection.

When the interview is over, thank the interviewer for taking time to talk with you. Re-emphasize your interest in the position and your appreciation for being considered. This is important, since many candidates mistakenly assume that interviewers sense their interest.

If the interviewer does not definitely offer you a job (this is very rarely done in the initial interview) or indicate when you will hear from them, ask them to estimate a date when a decision might be made for further job interviewing or for an actual offer. This is important because even though the interviewer is interested in you, they may wait until someone more qualified is found. If you get a deadline date, it is less likely that you will be left hanging. If the interviewer is impressed with your performance, you will probably be invited to visit the organization, meet with other personnel, and go through more extensive screening. It is usually after this second interview that a job offer will be given. The main purpose of an initial interview is to qualify you for a follow-up.

Step 3: Follow-up the Interview

Write a follow-up letter

As you close the interview, ask the interviewer for a card and then write them a letter. Instead of simply sending a plain thank you note, make sure you tell the interviewer that you are still interested in the position.  Review some of your qualifications that were discussed in the interview to refresh their memory. You may also want to include a question that you forgot to ask in the interview. If you get a quick reply, this might be an indication that there is interest in you as a candidate. Be sure to respond quickly with the thank you note. If time is short, an email can substitute for a traditional letter.

Learn from the experience

As soon as possible after the interview, write down what you have learned. Ask yourself:

  • What points did I make that seemed to interest the employer?
  • Did I present my qualifications well?
  • Did I talk too much or too little?
  • Was I too tense? Was I too assertive? Not assertive enough?

Fifty Commonly Asked Interview Questions

Interviewing for a job is a job in and of itself. You can be better prepared if you know what types of questions might be asked. Here are the 50 most commonly asked interview questions that aren't job related. Be sure to also think of possible questions and answers that may be in your area of expertise.

  1. What are your long range and short range goals and objectives, when and why did you establish these goals, and how are you preparing yourself to achieve them?
  2. What specific goals, other than those related to your occupation, have you established for yourself for the next 10 years?
  3. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  4. What do you really want to do in life?
  5. What are your long range career objectives?
  6. How do you plan to achieve your career goals?
  7. What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
  8. What do you expect to be earning in five years?
  9. Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?
  10. Which is more important to you, the money or the type of job?
  11. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  12. How would you describe yourself?
  13. How do you think a friend or professor who knows you well would describe you?
  14. What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  15. How has your college experience prepared you for a business career?
  16. Why should I hire you?
  17. What qualifications do you have that make you think that you will be successful in this field?
  18. How do you determine or evaluate success?
  19. What do you think it takes to be successful in an organization like ours?
  20. In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our organization?
  21. What qualities should a successful manager possess?
  22. Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and those reporting to him or her.
  23. What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
  24. Describe your most rewarding college experience.
  25. If you were hiring a graduate for this position, what qualities would you look for?
  26. Why did you select your college or university?
  27. What led you to choose your field of major study?
  28. What college subjects did you like best? Why?
  29. What college subjects did you like least? Why?
  30. If you could do so, how would you plan your academic study differently? Why?
  31. What changes would you make in your college or university ? Why?
  32. Do you have plans for continued study? An advanced degree?
  33. Do you think that your grades are a good indication of your academic achievement?
  34. What have you learned from participation in extra-curricular activities?
  35. In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
  36. How do you work under pressure?
  37. In what part-time or summer jobs have you been most interested? Why?
  38. How would you describe the ideal job for you following graduation?
  39. Why did you decide to seek a position with this organization?
  40. What do you know about our organization?
  41. What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
  42. Are you seeking employment in a organization of a certain size? Why?
  43. What criteria are you using to evaluate the employer for whom you hope to work?
  44. Do you have a geographical preference? Why?
  45. Will you relocate? Does relocation bother you?
  46. Are you willing to travel?
  47. Are you willing to spend at least six months as a trainee?
  48. Why do you think you might like to live in the community in which our organization is located?
  49. What major problem have you encountered and how did you deal with it?
  50. What have you learned from your mistakes?

Source: The Endicott Report: Trends in Employment of College and University Graduates in Business and Industry (29th Annual Report), by Frank S. Endicott.