Believe it or not, interviewers want to hire you. Careful preparation and effective communication have a strong influence on the outcome of the interview. This article directs you through the process that leads to successful interviews.
- The advantages of advance preparation for interviews are numerous. Naturally, if you know what you want to say ahead of time, you can usually articulate it more effectively.
- The first step in your preparation is to identify your skills, interests, and career goals before you arrive at the interview. A comfortable self-knowledge will help you answer the interviewer’s questions about your goals and desired direction within that organization.
- The next step is to study your prospective employer. The purpose of research is to learn about the company’s services, or products, the number of employees, the financial situation, competitors, problems, the management style and employee benefits. You also need to scope out specific employers to determine if they are the kind of organization where you would like to be employed.
- Impressions are formed during the first two to six minutes of the interview. Thus, what you wear can affect your chances. Dress should be appropriate for the organization with which you are interviewing. You should aim to convey an image of professionalism, authority, and competence.
- You may wish to carry a briefcase or a professional-looking notebook with your questions written in advance. It is often helpful to take a portfolio to a job interview. This folder of materials adds to your credibility. Generally, a portfolio includes additional resumes and letters of reference. You may also want to include videotapes, writing samples, special reports or even photographs of your work as appropriate. Used appropriately, a portfolio can put you ahead of other job candidates and make the difference in getting a job offer!
- Finally, be aware that interviewer types vary widely, through most can be categorized as either directive or nondirective. There are several excellent books which offer tips on interviewing including Knock ‘Em Dead: With Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions and How You Really Get Hired.
- Always allow ample travel time in order to be punctual. You should arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the interview.
- After you have informed the receptionist of your arrival, select a chair that will allow you to sit upright and alert. While you are waiting, read any organizational literature that is available.
During the Interview
- Expect to be nervous at the outset. Interviews most often begin with what’s called an “open-ended icebreaker” – the interviewer’s invitation to “tell me about yourself.” If you anticipate a lead-in opener, you will have ready answers and should find yourself beginning to relax.
- First interviews normally take about an hour (although most campus interviews last 30 minutes), during which time that candidate’s accomplishments are reviewed. Generally 30% of the time is spent on the applicant and 70% on the organization and the vacant position. Under the best circumstances, you should leave the interviewer with the impression that you can do the job. Often, however, you won’t know whether you want the job until you’ve met with the company representative for the second interview.
- During a second interview, the time ratio changes to 50 per cent on the applicant and 50 per cent on the vacant position. This will be a more detailed session in which the candidate can ask pointed questions about the specifics of the job. Interviewer and candidate communicate both verbally and nonverbally. To build a good rapport you should speak clearly, listen closely, and show by gestures and facial expressions that you are receptive to the interviewer’s thoughts and questions.
- In answering questions, pause to give yourself time to compose an answer that is concise and thoughtful.
- If you feel you haven’t communicated your reply clearly, try again until you are sure that your message has been received correctly.
- Feel free to refer to your notes in answering questions. Listening to the interviewer is as essential as speaking honestly and forthrightly about your abilities.
- Concentrate on what is said rather than how you are doing, and you will most likely create a good impression.
- Listening to the interviewer’s questions and statements will help you formulate your responses and obtain a better understanding of the organization’s views and work environment.
- The interviewer may give you the first sign that the interview is coming to a close when he or she asks if you have any further questions.
- At this point, you should ask questions that will reflect both the insight you’ve gained from the interview and your professional values. Be careful not to ask something the interviewer answered earlier, although this is the perfect time to ask for clarification on anything you’re not sure you understood.
- You might choose to bring up one or two additional strengths or skills that further match you to the organization – again, brief statements only.
- If, by the close of the interview, it has not been mentioned when a decision will be made on the selection of a candidate, ask the interviewer directly. Establish a date for your next communication.
- Thank the interviewer, shake hands, and make your exit. On the way out, thank the secretary or receptionist.
- Promptly send a thank-you letter.
Many employers are well-trained to interview potential employees. Others, however, may not be skilled in the art of interviewing. Maintain your professionalism and use effective interviewing techniques, whatever the skill level of the interviewer. Interviewers adopt different techniques for each interview and it is valuable for the job seeker to recognize these styles in preparation for interviews.
- Directed – A directed interview has a definite structure. The interviewer will usually have an agenda and a list of specific questions.
- Nondirected – A nondirected interview tends to be less structured. The interviewer may ask broad, general questions and not take charge of the interview. The applicant is nonverbally encouraged to present qualifications.
- Stress – A stress-styled interview is not as common as other interview styles. It is used to determine how the applicant reacts under pressure. There are many possible forms of stress interviews, which may include timed and problem-solving tasks.
- Group – A group interview is one where several candidates are interviewed at once. This style is often used to determine how candidates interact as team members, or may be used if the organization hires in large numbers.
- Board – A board-style interview involves more than one interviewer questioning a candidate. While similar to the directed interview, it is necessary to establish rapport with each interviewer.Direct eye contact is extremely important.
Whatever the interview situation or style, remember to:
- Be articulate.
- Demonstrate confidence.
- Avoid “yes” or “no” responses.
- Show enthusiasm.
- Respond to nonverbal cues such as nodding and smiling.
- Avoid excessive mannerisms and fidgeting.
- Avoid bringing up negative information about past job experiences, co-workers, or former employers.
- Always present the best of your background or qualifications.
The Second Interview
As part of the hiring process, a second interview is usually held. It’s the final step before a job offer or rejection is given. The first interview is generally a screening interview, even when it is held at the employer’s facilities. The second interview is usually conducted with supervisors under whom the applicant will be working.
Although the second visit is an invitation from the employer, it is a good idea to confirm in writing, before the interview, the details of the arrangements which have probably been made over the phone. For example, “per our conversation, I will visit with you at your Chicago office on January 25. I will arrive at O’Hare on Flight #1632 at 10:30 a.m., and I plan to meet you at the airport.”
- Length – The second interview is frequently much longer, sometimes lasting a half to a whole day.
- Place – It is ideally conducted at the employment location. If an organization has several locations the second interview will usually be with the supervisor at the location of the vacancy.
- What happens? – Most of the time, you are given a tour of the work environment and an opportunity to talk with one or more supervisors and future fellow workers. Some organizations handle most of the arrangements; others expect the applicants to arrange motel, plane tickets, etc. All organizations expect you to handle some of the arrangements, so don’t appear helpless.
It is a good idea to ask several questions when the offer of a long distance visit is extended. While most organizations require receipts only for travel and rooms, it is wise to obtain receipts for meals and any other related expenses in the event that they are needed.
As to how much to spend for meals and other expenses, the best advice is that of moderation.
- Who pays? – Most organizations in the business and industry sector pay for any expenses, but most governmental and educational organizations do not. A second interview is frequently required, however, by governmental and educational organizations before hiring can take place.
- Evaluation – Throughout the second interview, evaluation will be taking place. Each person who meets you, even through an informal introduction, will evaluate you for hiring purposes.
- Salary – In some cases, salary will be discussed at the second interview. More frequently, organizations wait until the designated notification date to extend offer letters with the salary and starting date or, unfortunately, to issue the rejection letter.
A final word on the second interview–take plenty of resumes. Most of the paperwork will already be available to the staff, but some firms are not that well organized. It is impressive to see that an applicant is so well prepared as to have extra resumes. Don’t offer resumes, though, unless asked.
Be sure to write a thank-you note to your interviewer. If you have met with more than one person, which is fairly standard during the second interview, send a thank-you note to each person .
- This letter is an opportunity to add any important information in support of your application that you may have neglected to mention or emphasize in the interview.
- If you do not hear from the employer by the specified notification date, feel free to call the organization and ask about the status of your application.
Interviewing is a two-way exchange of information to determine a fit between the employer and the candidate. It is important, therefore, that the candidate prepare to answer and ask questions during a job interview.
The Outcome and Your Response
Some offers are made in writing by the firm with a starting date and salary commitment. Most are made over the phone or in the second interview.
- It is always necessary to respond in writing to an offer. In accepting, send a letter as soon as possible. If the offer being accepted was made over the phone or verbally in the interview, repeat the offer in writing as it was understood.
- You may receive an offer while waiting to hear from other firms. Delays may be gained by asking the employer making the first offer whether a time extension is possible.
- If you are going to refuse an offer, do so promptly. Use good public relations when refusing an offer because you might find yourself wanting to work for that firm in the future. In addition, your new organization might be doing business with that firm, and you will be meeting many of the same people.
Types of Questions Students Might Want to Ask at the Second Interview
- Further clarification on what might be the initial assignment.
- What are organizational relationships of this department to the rest of XYZ Corporation?
- How would you describe the work environment here?
- How would you describe the professional environment here?
- What types of performance appraisal would I have?
- When are salary reviews scheduled?
- Based on what?
- Performance, experience, cost of living?
- What are the plans for the future of my potential department and XYZ Corporation?
- Have you had layoffs or cost-reduction programs recently? What was the problem? Were the employees assisted in finding new jobs?
- What degree of interdepartmental or interplant contact is there in this job? What are the transfer possibilities?
- What background and training do the department heads and their assistants have?
- What functional area has been the major supplier of top management people?
- From where were the graduates hired during the last two years?
- What are your policies concerning benefits (vacation, pension, insurance, and so on)?
- Is there a tuition refund plan? What is covered in relocation reimbursement?
- How much travel might there be in this job?
- How long are the typical assignments?
Rating the Employer
- Does the organization meet its obligation in terms of verbal agreements, travel, and other expenses incurred in the employment procedure?
- Does the employer seem to operate efficiently and properly, as far as you can judge from correspondence, plant facilities, and personnel?
- As you talked with the various echelons within the organization during your plant visit and interviewing process, did the people you met represent the kind of persons you would like to work with for five, ten, or twenty years?
- Does there seem to be a great deal of dynamics within the organization, or do the employees seem to be lethargic and going through the motions?
- Does the prospective employer seem to have a salary schedule that is competitive?
- Does the employer have a philosophy of operation that fits with your expectations and life-style?
- Does the organization seem to be highly structured, or does it seem to pay off on ability and individual progressiveness?
- Does the organization seem to be fundamentally sound from a financial point of view?
- Is the working environment one you would enjoy?
- Is the location geographically right for you?
- Does the community represent the type of community where you would like to live?
- Do the job and organization fit your interests and qualifications, and provide potential satisfaction for your expectations and lifestyle?
Some Questions to Ask “Veterans” of the Second Interview
- What advice would you give to someone planning a second interview?
- What surprised you most about your second interview experience?
- What will you do differently next time around?
- What was the trickiest aspect of the second interview process?
- How was the second interview different from an initial interview?
- What type of communications did you have with employers prior to the day of your interview?
- How did you handle expenses for your trip?
- Who did you speak with on the second interview?
- Did you meet with your campus interviewer at the second interview?
- What preparations did you make for the second interview?
The Career Center has several other resources to assist job seekers with interview techniques, including “Successful Interviewing,” a PowerPoint workshop. Check the schedule at the Center for details. Also, plan to view one of our videotapes on interviewing, pick up our interview handouts, and review the many books on interviewing strategies housed in the Career Resource Library.
Practice Makes Perfect
The best way to learn how to interview is to practice, practice, PRACTICE. For many individuals, talking about themselves is a difficult task. Practicing your answers, approach and questions for the employer will increase your confidence.
If you anticipate difficulties with the interview process, consider arranging a ‘mock’ or videotaped practice interview. Call (207) 581-1359 to set one up. A staff member will interview you, videotape the interview, and critique it with you. This experience will enable you to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses in the interview, give you a valuable practice session, and help you turn your interviews into offers.