Preparing for job interviews

Job interviews are your chance to make a good first impression, learn more about your potential employer, and set yourself apart from the competition. Here are some tips for projecting a positive, professional image at your next interview:

Getting ready

  • Be informed. Review the company’s Web site. Search online and in print for information about the company and general industry trends.
  • On the day of the interview, look neat and businesslike. Even if the employees of the company dress casually, most job search experts recommend that you dress up for an interview unless specifically asked not to. For both men and women, a two-piece matched suit in a conservative color, fabric, and style is often suggested as the best and safest choice.

On arrival

  • Arrive about 10 minutes early to fill out the application neatly and in detail.
  • Treat the receptionist respectfully.
  • Remember that the first minute sets the tone for the whole interview. While all of the candidates may be able to handle the questions, the winning candidate is often one who shows self-confidence, maturity, a sense of humor, and warmth.

During the interview

  • Greet the boss with a firm handshake, eye contact, and a smile. Researchers have found that people who make new friends easily tend to make frequent eye contact during conversation. If you keep the majority of your focus on the other person — looking at their eyes and face, smiling and nodding as you talk — people will get the sense that you are really paying attention to them… and they’ll enjoy talking with you!
  • Speak clearly, listen closely, and show interest.
  • Ask about the job and listen carefully to each duty mentioned.
  • Give short, direct answers focusing on what you can do for the company. Describe how your experience and training match the position. Give examples.
  • Many job interviewers ask candidates to give examples of situations where they have taken initiative — i.e., times when they found a way to solve a problem or done something positive without being asked. Be prepared; think ahead about good examples you can give.
  • Ask questions about the company’s goals and the abilities needed for the job.
  • Discuss salary only after the employer mentions a figure. Many job search experts suggest that you write “Open” in the space for “Desired Salary” on a job application — and only discuss salary at an interview after the employer names an amount.
  • End the interview with an appreciative “thank you.”

Follow-up tips

  • Get a business card from the employer and send a personal thank you note. Reconfirm your interest and why you’d be an asset to the company.
  • If you don’t hear from the employer after a week or so, consider following-up with an email or call to express your continued interest.