Interviewing can be an anxious and stressful experience, but it doesn't have to be. If you're well prepared, and you understand how to make a solid, positive first impression, you can turn any interview into a pleasant, fruitful experience. To help make that task a little easier, we offer you a few bits of practical advice based on what works in the real world.
BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW
Do your research Learn as much as possible about the company you'll be interviewing with, and know as much about the position as you can. EC&A will give you a great deal of key information about the company and just what they're looking for. But you need to do your homework, too. If the company has retail outlets in your area, visit one. If they produce software products, look them over. Talk to people who know the company, explore the business section of the library to get information about the industry, the company and its management. Look over annual and quarterly reports and check the trade publications for the latest information available. The more you know going in, the more informed and intelligent you will seem.
Prepare a list of questions to ask them It's only natural for you to have some questions about the position for which your interviewing. Be ready to ask them. Put together a list of 10-15 questions. You won't likely need to ask every one of them, since much of the information may be covered in the interview process itself. But you should be prepared to find out the specifics, like why the last person left, or what are the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly expectations of the job, or what are the significant challenges you would face in the position. We'll be happy to help you prepare your questions.
Practice, practice, practice (50 TOUGH INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ) Much of what will be asked in your interview will be fairly obvious ahead of time. Practice your answers to tough questions you're likely to be asked. Practice your responses, either alone or with someone you can trust to give you an honest, candid reaction. EC&A often serves as a sounding board to help candidates determine the best approach to those key questions. You'll need to make an honest assessment of your experience and employment history and be prepared to deal directly with both your strengths and weaknesses. We can help you frame your responses to emphasize the positive and to focus on the specific qualities the company you're about to interview with is looking for.
Dress professionally Make sure your first impression is a good one by looking professional and confident. Even when the corporate culture is more casual, it doesn't hurt to be the best dressed person in the room during an interview. This is the time to be conservative in dress, not trendy or hip. For a man, it's best to wear a dark suit with a white shirt and a contrasting tie, polished shoes and dark socks. For a woman, the best choice is a dark, skirted suit or tailored dress with a matching jacket,with neutral hose and simple pumps. A conservative hair style, with clean, neat fingernails is most appropriate, and makeup and jewelry should be minimal.
Arrive fashionably early You should be at your destination and have reported to the receptionist well before the interview. Fifteen minutes early is a good rule of thumb. To make sure you don't arrive at the last minute, go over your travel route in advance, even drive it once to test the route so you are absolutely confident you know how long it will take.
Smile at everyone A pleasant demeanor can go a long way toward making a good impression, and it will probably release a little of the tension for you as well. By the time you arrive for your interview you will likely have spoken to the receptionist at least twice, and now is the time to reinforce any rapport you have with him or her. In any case, this is your opportunity to put your best face forward. Remember, every person you meet here is a potential co-worker.
DURING YOUR INTERVIEW
Make the first ten minutes count The first ten minutes sets the tone of the entire interview. You can help make sure it's a tone that works to your advantage. State everything as a positive, and display genuine enthusiasm. That shows you are interested, energetic and confident.
Maintain a friendly, professional demeanor Be accessible and open, but always professional. Listen carefully to the questions being asked, and make relevant, concise responses. Stay on course with your answers, and provide specific examples whenever appropriate to reinforce the points your making.
Bring resumes Bring along some extra resumes, in a folder, with your name on the label. They will have use for them if and when the process goes to the next step, and it makes the point that you're organized and prepared.
Ask permission to take notes It implies that you are very interested in the position and the company, and it shows clearly that you are well organized, detail oriented and thorough.
Answer questions confidently Even the toughest questions can be handled with poise and confidence. Don't try to hide weaknesses in your experience or difficult relationships in your work history. Never dwell on the negative, and put a positive, but honest spin on things. In describing even the worst experience you've had, you can emphasize what you have learned from it, as opposed to that awful things happened. Remember no one is perfect, and that goes for job candidates, too. You need to make the most of what you have, and a positive approach will help immeasurably.
Tell your "story" The most effective way to relate your experience and expertise is to tell it in story form. Try to create a picture of your experience, your abilities in working with others and your focus on teamwork, results, problem-solving -- whatever qualities the job you're interviewing for requires. Talk about your experience and expectations in terms of what you "feel" and what you "think." The more your interviewers feel they are dealing with a person, instead of facts on a resume, the better.
Interview them Ask key questions. By asking them to describe the position your applying for, you'll learn their priorities, and you'll have some clues about which points on your resume to emphasize. Ask them about the first two or three projects you'll be involved with. Ask about their goals for the person in this position. This is what you prepared your list of questions for.
Closing the interview Now is the time to be candid, but polite. If you like what you heard in the interview, let them know that. Reiterate how you can contribute to their organization and how you can help them meet their stated goals. Let them know how you think you would fit in with the corporate culture, and how interested you are in the position, now that you know more about it. Ask them what's next. This let's them know that you're interested enough to want a second interview, or to go to the next step. Leave the room on an upbeat, friendly, comfortable note. You may have just made some new friends and colleagues.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Call us Let us know how the interview went. We will be in contact with the company you interviewed with, and they'll want to know your reaction. Also, we can help you decide what your next step ought to be, and help you evaluate the interview, since we're always a bit more objective than you can be.
Write a follow-up note A simple thank-you letter is appropriate and reinforces your interest in the company and the position. It also gives you the opportunity to provide a paragraph on anything you might have forgotten to say during the interview, or to mention ideas you might have thought of since that will help your case and reinforce your enthusiasm for the job.
Continue to follow the company If they are interested in you, you're likely to be called back for further interviews. Stay prepared. Keep up with your research on the company.