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In our “Career Craft” series so far, we’ve focused on the importance of goal setting and professional networking. While these two activities will get your job hunt off to a good start, it’s also critical to know how to handle what is hopefully the next step: an interview for an open position.
While they may feel intimidating, job interviews offer employers the best chance to get to know you as a candidate. More importantly, it’s usually your first chance to demonstrate what type of employee you are. Because of this, it’s critical that you arrive to your interview knowledgeable, prepared and most importantly, relaxed.
It may seem paradoxical to show up in a Zen mood to an interview that has had you on edge for days. However, a relaxed attitude allows professionals to see more of who you are, and also makes the interview process easier for you.
Here are some pointers from interview experts to ensure that your next interview goes smoothly!
Tips for successful interviews
It wouldn’t make sense for us to stress the importance of staying calm if there wasn’t a link with tips to help! Allyson Doyle, writing on the website The Balance that, “Your body language says as much about you as your answers to the questions. Proper preparation will allow you to exude confidence.”
She emphasizes the role of preparation in feeling calm at the interview. She notes that interviewees can stay “in the zone” by taking a moment to regroup/rethink during the interview, if necessary, and by practicing active listening - that is, actually HEARING and PROCESSING what the interviewer is saying before launching into a response.
In addition to preparing for the interview by researching the company, Doyle also writes about the importance of practice and preparing one’s responses. If you have an idea of what you want to say, it’s easier to relax and you won’t be caught off-guard by a question.
“Practice your responses to the typical job interview questions and answers most employers ask,” Doyle writes. “Think of concrete examples you can use to highlight your skills. The easiest way to do this is to make a list of the job requirements, and match them to your experience. Providing evidence of your successes is a great way to promote your candidacy.”
An interview is the first (and sometimes only) chance that employers have to get to know you. A lot of snap judgements will be made, which is why it’s important to ensure that your first impression is a good one.
Randall Hansen writes on his Quintessential Careers site, “A cardinal rule of interviewing is to be polite and offer warm greetings to everyone you meet from the parking attendant to the receptionist to the hiring manager. Employers often are curious how job applicants treat staff members and your job offer could easily be derailed if you’re rude or arrogant to any of the staff. When it’s time for the interview, keep in mind that first impressions the impression interviewers get in the first few seconds of meeting you can make or break an interview.”
Hansen also highlights the importance of dressing for success and arriving prepared by bringing extra copies of your resume. He also notes, “The key to success is the quality and delivery of your responses. Your goal should always be authenticity, responding truthfully to interview questions. At the same time, your goal is to get to the next step, so you’ll want to provide focused responses that showcase your skills, experience, and fit with the job and the employer.”
Finally, and very significantly, Hansen encourages readers to be authentic, upbeat, confident and concise during an interview, and also reminds them about the importance of body language.
“Effective forms of body language include smiling, eye contact, solid posture, active listening, and nodding,” he writes. “Detrimental forms of body language include slouching, looking off in the distance, playing with a pen, fidgeting in a chair, brushing back your hair, touching your face, chewing gum, or mumbling.”
Interviews aren’t just for employers. They’re also used to see if this is truly a company you want to work for or a position you want to take. CNBC reporter Marguerite Ward, after talking to many leadership experts, wrote a useful article tipping off potential employees of the warning signs of a “bad boss” during the interview.
One of the keys to recognizing a bad boss is a bad “gut feeling” during your conversation. There’s usually a reason why those intuitive feelings chime in. According to psychologist Amy Cooper Hakim, an expert on employer-employee relationships, it’s important to pay attention to your gut reaction.
"Go with your gut," she was quoted as saying in the CNBC piece. "If you feel uncomfortable during the interview, there's probably a reason why."
Another bad sign for interviewees is noticing that the company’s employees seem miserable. The “first impressions” aspect of an interview can work both directions, and seeing a grumpy demeanor or lack of motivation in the workplace is a big red flag.
"If [the employees] look miserable or overworked, then it is likely that you may be, too," Hakim says.”
Another red flag in an interview is if your potential boss derides the work of an employee in your presence. If he or she is comfortable remarking bad-mouthing someone else’s work in front of someone he/she has just met, this person will probably feel fine doing the same to you.
"Think about it," Hakim says. "The interview is the time for everyone to be on his or her best behavior. If the boss is acting this way now, how will she act when the honeymoon period is over?"
None of these red flags means you automatically have to turn down the job if you get an offer, but this is your chance to evaluate the workplace you’ll be stepping into before you have a stake in that particular company or unit.
~Katie Woo, communications assistant, ASU Alumni Association