Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Prepare for Your Next Interview

1. Determine their goals for the position. This should come up during your research into the company and into the position. If possible, talk to others who work for the company. If you are unclear on this point, include it in the questions you ask at the interview itself and be prepared to incorporate it into your answer.

2. Show you have the skills needed for the job. Based on the goals you have identified in step one, determine how your skills and experience support those goals. If necessary, refer back to your "60-second commercial" for a list of skills you possess.

3. Articulate shared values. Again, this should come up in your research. Look at the company’s mission statement and regular business practices. Explain why these are in line with your own values and goals.

4. State your interest in the position. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity to work for this company and/or within a certain team. Be sure that the interviewer is clear about the fact that you want this job.

The most important aspect of this exercise is to make you comfortable in identifying and articulating the skills you possess. Even with a prepared answer, it is important to be flexible within the script itself. You may need to modify the specifics based on the situation.

If an important issue comes up during the interview, be prepared to adapt your answer accordingly. For instance, if the interviewer stresses the need for a certain skill, you will want to address that, even if it was not one of the skills that you included in your original script.

What Employers Want

While many jobs require a unique set of skills, there is a pretty standard set of qualities that most employers want in an employee. Increase your chances of landing the job you want by highlighting your "soft" skills as well as your technical skills in the interview. Employers look for a variety of strengths, including:

Communication: You can communicate clearly and concisely both verbally and in writing. You recognize that communication is a two-way street and are able to listen and interpret effectively, as well.

Leadership: You take the lead and assume the responsibility to get things done. You don't have to be a manager to be a leader; it is a valuable skill in any job.

Problem-Solving: You can analyze and identify a problem and develop effective solutions. You explore new and innovative ideas in addition to tried-and-true solutions.

Confidence: You know and like yourself. You recognize your strengths and know what you can accomplish.

Flexibility: You can "roll with the punches". You adapt easily to new situations and are open to new ideas.

Energy: You are a hard worker. You are willing to put the time and effort into accomplishing your objectives.

Identify your skills and recognize their value

Tell me about yourself.
That is usually one of the first things that an employer will say in an interview. What he/she is really asking is what qualifies you for this position. Your response will set the tone for the rest of the interview, so your best bet is to prepare your answer in advance.

Think of your answer as a 60-second commercial in which you sell yourself. Know the job description for the position you are going for and tailor your comments to match. Your script may vary slightly depending on the position, but the foundation will always be based on your skills.

Assess yourself.
The first step in composing your commercial is self-assessment. To get started, it may help to review your resume. Look at the jobs that you have held and decide what skills you used for each.

Make a list of at least ten of your strengths and skills. Use active words that reflect what you have done. Include both job specific skills, such as your ability to use a computer, and your "soft" skills, such as your ability to organize or your attention to detail.

Evaluate how each of your skills will be useful to the position you are seeking. Decide which seem most relevant. Write them down. These will be the basis of your commercial.

Compose your message.
Now, you are ready to put your commercial together. It will help to write down exactly what you want to say, so that you can practice and be sure not to miss any major points.

Start with a brief introduction of yourself. Include your name and your usual line of work. Then, state what position you are seeking. This part may vary depending on the interview. Next, you will get into your skills. Start with your job skills and work into your "soft" skills.

Sell your experience.
Employers are interested in what you have done. Use action words to tell them. They are clear, concise and direct – all strengths that impress employers in an interview. Strong words include:


Know the value of your skills.
Salary negotiation usually won't be an issue until a job offer has been made. However, it is important that you know the standard pay range for the position you are seeking. Consider where you fit in that range based on your skills. When the time comes to discuss salary, present your case. You may say something like "With the education and experience I bring, I would expect to start at the higher end of that scale."

Remember, your skills and experience are the basis of your negotiations. The employer is not interested in your personal finances or the number of children you are trying to support. It’s not about what you "need", but about what your skills are worth and why.

Preparation is key to a successful interview

Does the idea of going to a job interview make you feel a little queasy? Many people find that it is the hardest part of the hiring process. But it doesn’t have to be. The more you prepare and practice, the more comfortable you will feel. Increase your odds of landing the job you want by brushing up on your interview skills.

Prepare before you go.
Find out all you can about the company before you go to the interview. Understand the products that they produce and/or the services that they provide. It’s also good to know who the customers are and who the major competitors are.

Practice makes perfect.
It will also make you feel more confident and relaxed. So, practice your answers to common questions. Make a list of questions to ask, too. Almost all interviewers will ask if you have questions. This is a great opportunity for you to show that you have done your homework and have put some thought into your questions

Make a great impression.
The interview is your chance to show that you are the best person for the job. Your application or resume has already exhibited that you are qualified. Now it ’s up to you to show how your skills and experience match this position and this company.

The employer will be looking and listening to determine if you are a good fit. He/she will be looking for a number of different qualities, in addition to the skills that you possess. To make the best impression, dress appropriately; sell your strengths; arrive early, by about 10-15 minutes; be enthusiastic; shake hands firmly; be an active listener; sit up straight and maintain eye contact; ask questions.

Say "thank you".
After the interview, follow up with a thank-you note. This is a chance for you to restate your interest and how you can benefit the company. Your best bet is to try to time it so that the note gets there before the hiring decision is made. You should also follow up with a phone call if you don’t hear back from the

Look your best at your next job interview

When you go to a job interview, you want to convey that you are professional and ready to go to work. That doesn't mean you always have to wear a formal business suit, but it does mean that you should always look your best.

When choosing your outfit, follow these guidelines to make the best impression:

-Wear clean, neatly pressed clothes.

-Avoid anything tight-fitting or clingy.

-Select a dress or skirt that is no more than two inches above your knee.

-Select pants that are the appropriate length. Your pants should cover the ankle, but not drag under the heel of your shoes.

-Select a tie that, when knotted, reaches the middle of your belt buckle.

-Clean and polish your shoes. Before your interview, double-check that they are free of mud, debris, and scuffs.

-Avoid too much jewelry and too many accessories.

-Remember that it is usually better to be over- dressed, rather than too casual, when you go to an interview.

Clothing is not the only aspect of appearance that is important; it is equally vital that you be clean and well groomed:

-Take a shower or bath.
-Avoid fragrances entirely.
-Brush your hair and teeth.
-Clean your fingernails.
-Avoid alcohol, onions and garlic, both that day and the day before.

Create Great Cover Letters

Your cover letter tells an employer a lot about you, good or bad. Think of it as a sales pitch. It’s primary purpose is to show why your skills and background are a perfect match for the position for which you're applying. It is not the place to present all of your experience, that should already be showcased in your resume.

As your first opportunity to make a great impression, a well-written letter shows that you are serious about your job search. Highlight one or two of your skills or accomplishments that show that you are the right person for this position.

While there is no set format or template, here are some more tips for creating a letter that employers will read:

Keep it brief. Cover letters rarely need to be longer than one page. You can usually sum it up in about four paragraphs:

1. Introduce yourself and explain why you’re writing.

2. Lay out your key skills and accomplishments.

3. Explain why you want to work for the company.

4. Thank the reader, invite him/her to contact you and lay out your follow-up plans.

Personalize. Avoid generic greetings such as "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam". Address your letter to a specific person, and make sure the spelling is correct.

Sell your skills. Don’t just rehash your resume. Highlight the skills that are most relevant. Illustrate how they relate to the position.

Clarity is key. Be very direct; write clearly and concisely. Don’t make the reader have to work to figure out why you’re writing or speculate at how your skills match the position.

Be proactive. State how you can be reached and give specific information about your plans for follow-up. Once you've said it, do it; follow through.

Review, review, review. Always take the time to review your letter. Double-check for typos; don’t rely on spell-check. If you have time, ask a friend or colleague to look it over as well. Make your changes and review again.

Ask the right Questions While Applying for a Job

When you interview for a job, you are also interviewing the company to see if you want to work there. Most interviewers understand this and will ask if you have any questions. Be prepared to ask four or five relevant questions, such as:

*What are the primary duties of this position?

*What do you consider the most important skills or traits for someone in this position?

*How would you describe a typical day in this position?

*What is the standard schedule for this position?

*Why are you looking to fill this position?

*How would you describe your management style?

*What are the short and long-term goals for this position?

*Do you expect significant organizational changes in the near future?

*What are the prospects for advancement in this position?

*What are the next steps in the hiring process?