Interviewing Skills: Turning an Interview into a Job

By | Sep 9, 2009

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This post is a continuation of my So You’ve Been Laid Off series.

So, your killer resume has resulted in the interview.  Now it’s make or break time.  Nothing else matters.  When you walk in the door for an interview you are starting off at zero.  The only thing that matters to that employer now is how you come off in the interview.

First Impressions

Remember, you can never make a new first impression.  If you mess this up, you’ll be in for an uphill battle for the rest of the interview.

  • Dress for Success – Always, always, always dress up for an interview.  If you have one, wear a suit, but whatever you wear your clothes should be clean, pressed, and well fitting.  Women should wear stockings; men should wear ties.  Hair should be clean and neatly groomed (as should facial hair, gentlemen, so trim those mustaches and beards, and keep a beard brush in your bathroom to keep your facial hair neat).  Makeup should be subtle and not overdone, and the same goes for perfume.  Even if the company has a casual dress code, you should dress up.  I interviewed at a software company that had a casual dress code, but as usual I wore my nice suit for the interview.  Later, after I was hired, my boss gave me his interview file to send letters to those who weren’t selected.  He had commented on every one’s dress.  Mine was “neat and professional, appropriate dress”.  Others were not so complimentary, including comments of “too casual for interview”.  Remember, dress counts!
  • Give a Firm Handshake – Practice your handshake.  Find a friend to help you out and practice.  No one likes a limp handshake, but at the same time, we don’t like our fingers squeezed in a vice.  A firm handshake denotes confidence.
  • Make Eye Contact – When you greet someone, always make eye contact.  Again, practice this with a friend.  If you are uncomfortable making eye contact, practice looking at the bridge of the person’s nose.  It looks like you’re making eye contact even if you aren’t.  People automatically tend to distrust those who don’t make eye contact, so this is an important first impression.

Preparation

Interview Questions

Wow…I could write several posts just on this topic.  Instead, I’m going to give you some links to sites with good tips for answering interview questions.  The most important thing is to prepare your answers in advance and, again, practice, practice, practice.

Research

Take the time to look up the company you are interviewing with on the internet.  Find out what they do and how they do it as well as any struggles they appear to be having.  Be able to answer not only what you know about the company, but why you want to work for them in particular.

Practice

There’s that word again.  Practice.  The more you practice interviewing, the more confident you will be in the interview.  And you know what the best practice for interviewing is?  Interviews!  Even if you don’t want a particular job, go to the interview anyway.  Real world practice is the best way to hone your interview skills.  You don’t have to take the job if it’s offered, you just want the interview practice.

Another way to get practice is to get an interviewing buddy.  Find a friend who is also job hunting, and practice interviewing together.  Switch back and forth between interviewer and interviewee, and critique each others performances.  Acting as interviewer will give you insight into what your potential interviewers will see and be looking for.

If you have a video camera, get someone to video you in a practice interview so you can critique yourself.  You’ll want to watch your facial expressions especially, as well as any nervous habits you may have so you know how they come across to a potential interviewer.

One Last Resource

I found the book Interviews for Dummies to be hugely helpful in learning some crucial interviewing skills.  It helps not only in preparing for your interview, but also has some great tips for negotiating salaries.  If you can find a copy, I highly recommend reading it.

Remember, the interview is your very last chance to impress a potential employer.  Don’t blow it through lack of practice!

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