Tips for a successful interview

Posted May 20, 2012, at 9:15 a.m.

Interview basics

Amie Parker, employment manager at Bates College and a human resources pro, has some broad suggestions to keep in mind for your interview. Some of these tips shouldn’t need to be said, but … yeah. You know.

* Be respectful to everyone you interact with in an organization, on the phone or in writing.

* Ask questions if you are unsure about the interview process.

* Read instructions regarding the application process carefully.

* Do homework! (Learn about the organization, etc.)

* Send thank-you notes to everyone you interview with. (This really does leave an impression, because people rarely do it.)

* Filter, filter, filter. If it’s not relevant to employment, please don’t tell us. It may very well hurt your chances of securing employment.

“Human resource staff are people,” Parker says. “We have been on the other side of the interview table and may very well have family members/friends who are currently unemployed. We do understand how difficult it is. As an HR professional, I see it as my job to treat all applicants with respect. I love my job because I do get to help people through one of the most positive transitions in life – securing a new job with a new organization!”

Before the interview: Tips from the Maine CareerCenter

Be prepared

The best way to prepare yourself for an interview is to research both the company and the position that you are interviewing for. Before arriving, you should know:

* What the company does

* How large it is

* Any recent changes it has undergone

* What role you could play in the organization

Read the job description and responsibilities over and over. Make notes about how your experience and skills fit the position. Think of specific examples from past jobs to illustrate how your skills and experience match the organization’s needs. This will help the employer to actually “see” you in the position.

The salary question: Know what you are worth

During the interview, you may be asked what salary you are seeking. Do not bring up the salary question in the interview unless you are asked. Be prepared to answer the question with a range, and let them know that it is negotiable. They may be asking you this question to determine if you fall within their range; and that information may be used in making their hiring decision. Make sure that you have all of the information you need to determine what salary range you should ask for.

Practice questions

Practice describing your professional characteristics and practice answering common interview questions. By practicing out loud beforehand, when you are not under pressure, you will strengthen your answers during the actual event.

As a starting point, try to respond to the following questions: (When responding, focus on subjects related to your professional life, not your personal life.)

Tell me about yourself.

Why should I hire you?

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Tell me about a difficult decision you made.

What did you like most about your last job?

Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or keep it.

Describe a time when you encountered a work or school-related problem and how you solved it.

Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team.

Questions to ask the interviewer

As a job candidate you also have an obligation to hold up your end of the conversation. You should ask questions that could not be answered through your research of the company or that arose during the interview.

You can ask these questions during the course of the interview or at the end. Interviewers usually end their part by asking if you have any questions.

Be prepared with three to five questions. They can be based on the company or the position. Ask them in an open-ended manner, meaning they cannot be answered by just “yes” or “no.”

For the interview: Tips from the Maine CareerCenter

What to bring

* A neat-looking note pad and pen.

* Copies of your resume and references.

* Samples of work (your portfolio) if appropriate.

* Notes on points you want to make.

* A list of questions you want to ask

What to say

* Try to keep the interview conversational, but let the interviewer lead.

* Show your enthusiasm and self confidence in your body language and tone of voice.

* Don’t exaggerate your skills, but sell yourself.

* Be honest and positive about everything you say, especially about past employers and co-workers.

* Avoid giving vague answers. Give specific examples of what you have done in the past when responding to questions.

* Stop and consider an answer to a difficult or unexpected question. If the question is confusing, ask for clarification.

* If asked about potentially damaging information, such as gaps in work history or prior violations of the law, briefly acknowledge the circumstances and redirect the conversation toward the positive.

* Before you leave, make sure you understand the next step in the hiring process such as additional interviews and a time line for a hiring decision.

* Finally, if the position interests you, express your desire for the job.

After the interview

Thank the interviewer twice. Shake hands. Write a thank-you note within two days of the interview.

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