Every interview is different, but no matter who the employer, what the job title, or what the pay rate, the way you dress for a job interview is one of the most important parts of the interview process.
Tip #1 - Dressing the Part
This first look into job interviews isn’t aimed specifically at engineers. However, it is an important part of any job interview because it can make or break your first impression with the employer.
Every interview is different, but no matter who the employer, what the job title, or what the pay rate, the way you dress for a job interview is one of the most important parts of the interview process.
Each of us wants to maintain some of our individuality during an interview. However, incorporating some of your individual style into your interview attire is not advisable. Instead, when attending an engineering or technical job interview, dressing conservatively is the way to go.
Here are some guidelines for both men and women when dressing for an interview:
• A two-piece suit will be more than enough for most interviews. If you do not own a suit, a shirt and tie worn with dress pants and dress polished shoes is also acceptable.
• When choosing colors for your clothes, try and stick with solid colors and tighter woven fabrics rather than bold and flashy prints or patterns.
• If you like patterns on your ties, stick to something simple and keep away from the busy ones. For larger men, use a Double Windsor knot to minimize a bulky appearance.
• Wear socks that are high enough so that skin is not visible when you sit down.
• Most interviews will require no more than a suit with a knee length skirt and a tailored blouse. If you do not own a suit, a skirt and blouse or dress pants and blouse is perfectly acceptable.
• Try and keep your accessories simple. Wear basic pumps, modest jewelry and only a little bit of makeup help to complete your professional look.
Dressing the part can be pricey if you do not already have a full wardrobe. To keep costs down, try following these tips when shopping for your wardrobe:
• Establish a budget. 50% should be dedicated to the actual clothing, while the other 50% should be used for accessories such as shoes, belts, etc.
• Try and buy clothing that is versatile and can be used with a number of different accessories. Mixing and matching pants, shirts (or skirts and blouses for women) and a jacket can save you a lot of money and keep you looking sharp. Just make sure that all of the colors coordinate well when mixing and matching.
• A versatile navy blue or black jacket can be used with a number of different color shirts or blouses.
• A briefcase or portfolio is a also good idea, as it helps add to your professional look
Before Leaving for the Interview
In addition to your dress attire, your overall appearance, including grooming, is just as important as the clothes you wear. Make sure you check off the following items before heading out to land your dream job:
• Hair is neatly trimmed
• Conservative makeup
• No runs in stockings
• Shoes are polished. You may even want to wear running shoes to the interview and change into your dress shoes before entering the building to prevent your shoes from becoming scuffed along the way
• Do not wear any excessive jewelry. Men should avoid wearing earrings if they have their ears pierced.
• Make sure you are not missing any buttons, your tie is straight, and your outfit is lint free
Tip #2 - Speaking with Your Body - What to Say and What Not to Say
Ok, you’ve completely overhauled your resume to give it that polished and professional look, went shopping for a new outfit, have your shoes all shined up and are now preparing for the interview that will land you your dream job. So how do you convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the job?
When preparing for an interview, most people focus on what questions they expect to be asked and try to come up with intelligent sounding responses for them. This is not to suggest that this practice is not beneficial, but rather that this should only be the starting point of your preparation. You may have heard the expression “it is not what you say, but how you say it.” Truer words have never been spoken when referring to a job interview. While it is important to pay close attention to what your mouth is saying to the interviewer, it is equally, if not more important that you pay attention to what your body is telling them.
In many cases, you have as few as 30 to 60 seconds to make a good impression with the interviewer. There is little room for error. From the moment they lay their eyes on you, interviewers are sizing you up. From what you are wearing, the expression on your face, to how you carry yourself, shake hands and the first words that come out of your mouth, you are constantly under scrutiny. And if you can’t impress in the first minute, the rest of the interview might very well be a complete write-off.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you through the first minute of the interview and beyond, sounding, looking and feeling confident the whole way.
• Psych yourself up before the interview. Look in the mirror to make sure you look like you want to. Giving yourself a pep talk prior to an interview can be the little difference needed to get you over the hump. If you wait until you are called into the interview to fix your tie, it can be too late, and if the interviewer catches a glimpse, the assumption may be that you are not prepared.
• Upon meeting the interviewer, greet them with a firm handshake, while at the same time looking them in the eyes, smiling and introduction yourself with a, "hello, my name is ____. Nice to meet you.” A firm handshake and looking them in the eyes displays self-confidence.
• Sit up straight in the chair. This is a sign of confidence, engagement and admiration. You can even lean in towards the interviewer a bit to show an increased level of interest. Don’t rock in your chair, cross your arms or legs, tap your fingers, slouch or lean towards the door. These are distracting gestures and are signs that you are disengaged and uncomfortable. You are saying that you want the interview to be over as soon as possible. This is not the message you want to convey if you want this job.
• Keep eye contact throughout the interview (without staring) with a smile. Show your continued enthusiasm by occasionally nodding in agreement with what is being said or asked.
• Rub the back of your head or neck. It shows disinterest in what is going on around you. Even if you have an itch or cramp, do your best to avoid reaching for them until the interview is over and you are off the interview premises.
• Touching or rubbing your nose is even worse than the previous statement. It is a sign to the interviewer that you are not being completely honest with them. Misrepresenting yourself should be avoided in any interview at all costs, no matter how great the job is.
• Invade the interviewer’s personal space. Keep a safe distance between you and the interviewer (at least 2 ft.). Sitting too close can make the interviewer feel uncomfortable and take the focus off your conversation.
• Stare off into space. This is a sign that you are trying to distance yourself.
It’s Finally Over
Okay, so you made it through the interview and have done a pretty good job of following the steps above. I guess you’re in the clear, right? Well, not exactly. Remember that firm handshake and eye contact? You’ll have to do that again, except this time, instead of saying, “Hello,” you will thank the interviewer for their time and express once again how interested you are in the job. You may also want to tell them that you’d be more than happy to answer any further questions they might have over the phone or in a follow up interview.
Tip #3 - The Art of Selling Yourself
Interviews are intended to allow employers to find the best candidates for a job by talking through each applicant’s skills, attributes and experiences. This is the opportunity for an employer to determine how your skills distinguish you from other applicants. So if you don’t tell the interviewer what is so great about you, they’ll never know what distinguishes you from the other candidates. On the other hand, nobody likes a cocky or arrogant candidate. So how do you balance these conflicting objectives and make your case without sounding high on yourself?
Here are a few pointers to help you walk this thin line:
What to Talk About
The first thing you should do is review the job posting. You did keep the job posting, right? Okay, maybe keeping jobs postings that you apply for should be the first pointer. A job posting is a good start on what to expect for questions from the interviewer.
When reviewing the job posting, make a list of the preferences and requirements, then go over them and do your best to match them with your own wealth of knowledge, skills and experiences, listing as many examples as you can think of for each preference or requirement. Knowing how your past experiences fit well with a job can make you feel more confident when walking into an interview. This will allow you to portray yourself as somebody who is intelligent, insightful and well prepared.
Aligning yourself with specifics in a job posting is a good start, but you likely have many more experiences from your past that would be of benefit in this new position you are seeking. The best way to sort through your past experiences that are not touched on in the job posting is to do some research on the company conducting the interview. Visit their website, search for news stories and press releases, etc. to give you an idea of what they are all about, and how some of your past experiences would help you do the job better. Remember, the employer is looking for the best candidate for the job. Going beyond the scope of the job posting is a good opportunity to separate you from the other applicants. Only discuss those experiences that are relevant to the job. Yes, it is tough to do, and yes, you may have to leave out what you believe are some of your most impressive accomplishments. But if these skills, accomplishments or experiences have no relevance, it does nothing to help you rise above the other candidates, and could even be interpreted as bragging, which would set you back.
One final thought on drawing on past experiences. Many younger job applicants - like recent college and university graduates for example - tend to limit their discussions on college coursework and projects. This can be a big mistake. Volunteer work, extracurricular activities, fraternities and sororities, as well as work experience in retail, fast-food restaurants and grocery stores can all go a long way in demonstrating you aren’t afraid of hard work or getting your hands dirty.
Tell Some Intriguing Stories
All right, so we have the basics laid out above, but just listing off past experiences and accomplishments makes for a short and rather boring interview. It is now time to take those experiences and accomplishments and prepare stories for each of them. This will help keep the interviewer interested in what you are saying. People are naturally drawn to stories. After all, we all enjoy a good book or movie. These stories allow you, the job candidate, to show the interviewer your skills and knowledge, rather than just tell them and hope they take your word for it. Stories help back up your specific examples.
There are a few benefits over and above those already stated. First, for you as the storyteller, they should be fairly easy to remember as they come from your past. It also allows the interviewer to better assess the skills and knowledge after the interview is over. Finally, it allows you to strut your stuff without bragging. Saying you are a good leader is boastful. Telling a story about how you were a leader in a particular situation is commendable.
Ok, so you sat down and created a list of skills and requirements from the job posting and your own research on the company. And you came up with a few stories that will demonstrate each of them. But what about the other stuff - education, degrees, academic specialties, GPA, etc.? Don’t worry; you need not devise stories about these. Of all things on your resume, these sorts of things should speak for themselves. Interviewers might touch on them, but likely will not spend too much time on them because there are likely hundreds of things that went into your 4.0 GPA. The fact that you have a 4.0 GPA speaks volumes on its own.
That said; don’t be so quick to avoid storytelling in areas that might not seem appropriate at first. For example, just saying you have knowledge of particular software seems pretty straight forward. But it would have a little more impact if you were to tell the interviewer how you used that software to complete a particular task or project.
Remember to keep your stories short and the point. This isn’t a public speaking competition, and the longer you speak does not mean you will receive more consideration for the job. Your best bet is to try to keep each related story to one minute or less.
It is sometimes difficult to come up with stories or examples for use in an interview. Friends, family, coworkers and professors are all great resources for stories about you. Your skills and attributes are often more apparent to those around you than they are to yourself.
Asking for a little help never hurts.
Finally, try and avoid telling employers about skills you don’t have unless directly asked about a particular skill. Of course honesty and integrity are admirable traits, but there is no need to volunteer information about why you might not be good at the job. Stick to the reasons why you would be good at the job. Moreover, be enthusiastic and show how proficient you can be. That’s what employers what to know.
Tip #4 - The Dreaded “Weakness” Interview Question
No matter how confident you are in yourself and your abilities, no matter how much time you’ve spent researching a company or preparing for an interview, and no matter how well things have gone thus far, there is one question that can derail an entire interview – “What is your greatest weakness?”
Few questions are dreaded more by job seekers than this one, as if can be a tricky question to navigate. You want to come across as being genuine in your answer, but you also want to do your best not to draw attention to your negative quality and risk your chances at this job. So what are you supposed to do?
A weakness can be seen as a deficiency to remedy or an area of unfulfilled potential. As such, there is more than one approach you can take at answering the question. No single one is better than the other. It is more of a case of what works best for you.
Turn Your Weakness into a Strength
It’s very cliché, but every cloud does have a silver lining. As is this case, with every negative trait, there is a positive aspect. That being the case, you can always answer the question by putting a positive spin on your negative trait. For example, if you are not a very detailed oriented person, you could say, “I have always been a ‘big picture’ thinker and have to admit that I sometimes miss the smaller details. That is why I always have somebody on my team who is detail-oriented.”
By offering both sides of the coin when speaking about weaknesses, you demonstrate how you work to address this issue.
Tell Them How You’ve Improved on Past Weaknesses
Another approach to this question is to take the previous method a step further. Rather than demonstrate how you are learning to deal with your weakness, why not share with the employer how you overcame a previous weakness? Did public speaking send chills down your spine in your younger years? Maybe a drama class or a communications class allowed you to overcome your fear of speaking in front of a large number of people.
Whatever the previous weakness you overcame was, it can be a useful tool in answering the dreaded question about weaknesses because it shows self-awareness, how you’ve improved on a less-than-desirable trait, and that you are constantly trying to polish your performance.
Refer to a Weakness of Less Importance
All weaknesses are not created equal. Some will go further in determining whether or not you get hired. Even though you are looking to avoid something that is irrelevant to the job, you can still focus on something that is not a core skill set needed for the position. For example, as a computer programmer, your writing skills may not be very important for the position itself. However, admitting that you’ve been working on upgrading your writing skills can be viewed by employers as a sign of self-improvement and can go over very well with them.
Work with What You Have
To each his (or her) own. The above methods are suggestions only. The proper approach depends on this situation itself and the individuals involved. Just remember that focusing on what you’ve done to work on your shortcomings will portray you in a positive light. Sometimes employers are looking to see how well a candidate handles stress or how prepared you are.
Even though there is no one right way to answer this question, there are several wrong ways to approach it.
• Do not provide an answer that is only strength Answers that present you as a “perfectionist” should be avoided. Employers might assume you are exaggerating to get the job, or that you are simply not self-aware enough and won’t work you improve upon your shortcomings.
• Do not say you don’t have any weaknesses Nobody is perfect. You know it, and so does the interviewer. They wouldn’t ask this question if they didn’t expect you to answer it.
• Do not offer an answer that shows a lack of motivation If you state that you are lazy or a procrastinator, red flags will immediately go up to employers.
Tip #5 - Ask Employers Questions That Matter
Have you ever applied for your dream job, only to be hired and find out it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be? Now you’re stuck in a job that you are not happy with. How did this happen? Chances are you did not ask some very important questions during the interview.
Quite often, a job seeker preparing for an interview will spend so much time trying to prove to the interviewer that they are perfect for the job; they don’t spend enough time trying to figure out whether the job, the boss and the company are perfect for them. If you want to find a job that you love, you have to be honest with yourself by ensuring that the environment you will step into is just as fitting for you as you are for it.
As in any relationship, a good employer-employee relationship is based on trust. You want to work for a company you can trust. Trust is something that cannot be earned in a few minutes or days. However, there are some good indicators that a company is trustworthy. You can get an idea of these indicators by raising questions on a number of different topics.
The best example of this would be the company’s core set of values. What are they? How do they guide day-to-day activities? How do they influence decision-making? Good answers should include examples of day-to-day actions of employees based on those values and employee recognition programs that reward employees who demonstrate the values of the company as well as excelling at their job.
Public statements of these values also go a long way in building a level of trust, as the company is telling not only the job searcher, but also the entire world. Displaying company values on hallway walls, business cards, letterhead and websites are good indications that the company is making an effort to communicate its values. Equally important to stating their values are a measurement of how well a company lives up to them. Press releases or newsletters are a good source for these sorts of announcements, so be sure to pick one up and see if the company walks the walk too.
Your Involvement & Contributions
In addition to a trusting company, you want to work for one that keeps you motivated by encouraging you to participate in decision-making and engaging in conversation in goal-setting. To find out what level of involvement you can expect, you can ask about the year’s upcoming goals, if you will be involved in setting personal and team goals, and how your personal goals help to achieve company goals. Good answers will provide examples of open employee feedback on key decision how employees provide input in setting their own goals. Again, the best answers have specific examples as proof.
Investing in Me
The final, and perhaps most important thing you should be looking for in a company is one that invests in you as an individual. Most companies that care about their employees have employees that care about the company. Ask questions that take into account your life outside of work, and how flexible the company is in allowing you to balance your personal life while growing your career. If you are young and are eager to learn from more experienced people, you should also ask about mentoring opportunities from the interviewer or another leader in the company.
The best answers are ones that provide you with not only concrete answers to your questions, but a little enthusiasm to boot. If the person seems genuinely enthused about the professional development programs, the ability to work from home, and numerous mentoring opportunities, then there is probably something to be excited about.
Asking the right questions will provide you with the greatest opportunity of finding a job and employer you are satisfied with. But more importantly, asking the right questions might prevent you from accepting a job that didn’t come as advertised.
Tip #6 - Creating a Work Portfolio
Sometimes, candidates are highly skilled in their area of expertise, but have a little trouble conveying this to prospective employers. A Work Portfolio can help do the talking for you and apart from you the rest of the field. Not many applicants use one, so maybe you should…
What is a Work Portfolio?
A work portfolio is an aid that will give the employer a sense of how your skills, experience and work ethic contributed to a specific project. Portfolios can be in the format of a CD, a slideshow, a website, posters, letters, awards, certificates, recommendations or anything else that helps you show off your skills. As a side note, Work Portfolios not only aid in getting a job, they also can help with getting a raise or promotion.
What Type of Portfolio is Best?
What type of portfolio suits you best really depends on the skills you have and the position you are applying to. It would make no sense for a computer programmer to come in with a paper trail that demonstrates his artistic abilities. However, in the case of a civil engineer, a portfolio of drawings would certainly fit the bill. However, being the 21st Century, all of these drawings might be better demonstrated through the use of a web-based portfolio. It would also mean you have one less thing to remember for the interview.
If you choose to use an online portfolio you may run into problems, such as if there is no computer available to you at the interview. If you plan on using an online portfolio, you might consider bringing your own computer, and even housing the portfolio on the hard drive. If you choose to use an online portfolio make sure that the navigation is simple, any graphics you use load quickly, and that the content speaks to the position at hand.
A Guide to Creating a Portfolio
Starting a portfolio is pretty straightforward. Begin to compile a collection of samples for each interview. As you go from one interview to another, you will likely need different samples to convey your skills for each position. Because of this, your portfolio will continue to grow. Somewhere down the line, you will be able to pick and choose which parts of your portfolio you use on the fly in an interview. This will of course be determined by the questions being asked by the employer. Each particular piece of your portfolio should demonstrate a particular piece of knowledge or skill set you have.
Also, make sure the quality of work is fairly consistent across all works included. Otherwise, the employer might think the portfolio reflects inconsistency in your work, or worse yet, that the work is not your own.
Finally, you might want to include samples from various points in the progression of a project. This gives the employer an idea of your thought process and how you move from one phase of a project to another.
Incorporating your portfolio into the interview is not really any different than answering questions. There is the typical give-and-take of conversation, but rather than just talking about something, you can let the interviewer know you have an example to show. When you are finished answering the question with your visual aid, close the portfolio and wait for the next question.
If you choose to use an online portfolio, make sure you know where everything is. The best way to do so is practice so that when you make the presentation, everything runs smoothly.
Keep presentations of each piece of your portfolio short. Respect the interviewers time and avoid going on and on about everything in your portfolio. Limit presentations only to pertinent information. Finally, never give out originals. You will need these in the future.
A Few Things to Remember
There are a few things to consider when using Work Portfolios. If it is a physical portfolio, you may want to drop it off prior to the interview to give the interviewer some time to review it. Show up early, introduce yourself, and explain that you are dropping off your portfolio for the interviewer to look at prior to your interview. Dress as you would for an interview, and make sure to drop your name.
Perhaps the most important part is that it cannot do all the talking for you. Part of the interview process is meant to give interviewers a sense of how you interact with people. Relying solely on portfolio material could do you more harm than good.
Finally, as with any interview, make sure you follow-up after the interview. When doing so, you can remind the employer of the portfolio pieces you presented so the employer recalls which of the candidates he or she is speaking to.
Tip #7 - The Different Types of Interviews
If you are new to interviews, or it has been some time since you have had one, you may be under the impression that if you’ve seen one, you’ve them all. So you may be in for a big surprise the next time you set foot in a potential employer’s office. Today’s interviews can range from one-on-one conversations to sit down meetings with an HR coordinator to informal informational interviews and even group interviews. And that’s just for starters.
If you want to be successful in all types of job interviews, you must first have a clear understanding of the different interview styles and what is expected of you during each of them.
But no matter what you learn about each particular interview style below, there are some similarities between all of them – anticipate questions, develop your answers and practice makes perfect. Articles such as this one and other can give you guidelines, but you need to learn how to adapt them to yourself so you aren’t giving the employer the same answers as everybody else. And remember to sell yourself, your qualifications and your skills at all times.
The Informational Interview
An informational interview is not a job interview. It is a chance for interested individuals to meet with a professional to gather industry and career information and advice to help determine if the career is worth pursuing. In addition, it allows the individual to begin establishing contacts and a network for future employment opportunities.
Even though these types of interviews are less stressful than regular interviews, you should still come prepared. Here are a few tips for informational interviews:
1. Arrive prepared. You don’t want to waste your time or the employer’s. Do your research in advance and have questions ready about the industry, company, field and the position of the person you are meeting with.
2. When other contacts are given to you, make sure the person is comfortable with you using their name as a reference.
3. When the interview is over, make sure to shake hands and leave your contact info and a resume.
4. Follow up with a thank you note in the next day or two.
Some places are easier to get your foot in the door than others. In some cases, you will have to get by a Human Resources professional before you get to the person who is actually doing the hiring. The purpose of the HR professional is to weed out the duds. But if you can get by them, chances are you will be meeting with a decision maker in the company. When screening, HR professionals are looking for employment gaps and inconsistent information. They may also inquire about salary requirements to see if the company can afford you, or if you are asking for more than you are worth. When asked this question, it is recommended that you stick to a simple answer such as “I would be willing to consider your best offer.”
Screening interviews are also done over the phone. Again, this is a process used to eliminate job seekers based on standard requirements such as experience, education and skill sets. It is good practice when actively seeking a new job to keep a copy of your resume and references by the phone.
some jobs may require a bit of an audition. This is common practice for positions such as computer programming. The purpose is to evaluate your skills on the fly. In an audition interview, you have the unique opportunity to strut your stuff and prove your abilities by demonstrating your knowledge of particular tasks associated with the job. For an audition type interview, you should always:
1. Practice as many possible skills you posses that are requirements for the job prior to the interview.
2. Ask for clarification on anything that is unclear during the exercise. It is better to ask questions that to be doing something incorrectly because you were confused about directions.
In a group interview you will be alongside other candidates. This is your chance to demonstrate your leadership potential, communication skills and how well you work with others. Sometimes, you may even be challenged to solve a problem as a group and be asked to work as a team to solve the problem. This allows those interviewing to help determine if you are reserved, pushy or have a balance between offering and listening to ideas. This is perhaps one of the most overwhelming interviews and is easy to get lost in the rest of the faces.
Here are a few tips to help you stand out:
1. Speak to everybody in the group with respect, regardless of how much they are contributing to the cause. Always be polite even if other people are not.
2. Do your best to avoid power struggles. They will only result in the interviewers forming a negative opinion about you, perhaps one of childishness and inexperience.
Tag Team Interview
As if interviewing with one person wasn’t hard enough, tag team interviews are even more difficult. They have multiple parties interview one person – you. The purpose of the tag team interview is to get insight from others who work in or for the company. They are not only looking for the usual background, education and experience, but how you get along with various members of the team. Here are some tips to help with success:
1. Ask for each person’s business card at the beginning of the meeting. This will help you address them by name when required.
2. Make eye contact with each interviewer and speak to them directly when answering their question.
3. Be prepared to share at least two or three times as many stories as you would with a single interviewer. You are now trying to sell yourself to two or three more people, so you will need to have the appropriate amount of stories.
4. Get a good night sleep. These types of interviews can be very fatiguing.
A mealtime interview, as the name would imply, is an interview set over the course of a meal. They are often used in situations where the position requires a high level of interpersonal skills. A mealtime setting allows them to see how you act in a social setting, as well as your mealtime etiquette. They are not only looking at how you interact with other employees, but also how polite you are to other guests and the serving staff. Here are some tips for a successful mealtime interview:
1. Make sure you order a meal that is easy to eat so you do not have to worry about spilling or splattering food all over your clothes.
2. Watch the interviewer for cues. Do not sit until he or she does, do not order alcohol unless he or she does (even so, only has one). And order something a little less expensive. Do not begin eating until the interviewer does.
3. Do not discuss any dietary restrictions or preferences.
4. Allow the interviewer or others at the table to choose the topics of conversation.
5. Be sure to thank the interviewer for the meal.
A stress interview allows interviewers to see how well you work under pressure. These types of interviews can be a little cruel, but it serves a point. These types of interviews may include a variety of odd behavior, including being held in the waiting room for long periods of time, posing offensive questions, being met with long silence or cold looks, just to name a few. Verbal abuse is also fairly common. All of this just to see if you are able to handle a stressful work environment and company culture. Here are some pointers to help you keep your cool:
1. Stress interviews are meant to test your mental strength, not hurt your feelings. If you can identify when you are in one, it will make it that much easier to shine.
2. Stay focused on expressing your point. Do not let the interviewer shake your confidence or get in your head.
3. Stay calm at all costs and avoid rude responses to rude questions.
A typical interview discusses your skills and how they fit with the job at hand. A behavioral interview is aimed at using your previous behavior to indicate your future performance. You’ve probably heard questions such as, “describe a past work experience where you had to use problem-solving, adaptability or leadership.” They are looking for detailed information on how you have dealt with past experiences. Prior to a behavioral interview, review your resume and generate as many stories as possible based on the information in you interview, and of course practice practice, practice. Keep them short and concise.
If you make it through the first interview, you may very well be called back for another, or even a third. This could happen if employers are having a difficult time deciding between a few candidates, or just to ensure you are the right person for the job. If you get a second or third interview, it is your best chance to solidify your placement within the company. Often you will meet with people higher in the company, so be prepared for high levels of stress. Be as professional as possible and good luck!
Tip #8 - Referencing References
There seem to be a number of factors involved in landing the job. From a good cover letter and resume, to dressing the part for the interview, shaking hands and answering the questions without breaking a sweat, you nailed it all and nothing can stop you from landing your dream job. Oh wait, of course there is. One of the most often overlooked parts of an interview – References.
Yes, Employers Call References
Applicants seem to be under the impression that reference checks are a thing of the past and are no longer needed. This is a serious mistake. Employers still view reference checks as a vital part of the hiring process. Employers use reference checks to verify much of the information you presented to them in the interview. Upon calling references, employers can verify that you possess a degree or diploma, are indeed the hardworking, intelligent person you say you are, and have not acted unprofessionally in your previous jobs.
A conversation with a reference can provide employers some insight into an applicant’s personality as well. Some applicants are hired, only for the employer to find out they act differently than in the interview. References can provide some insight into your day-to-day mindset and if and how it affects the work environment and other employees.
References can be any one of a wide range of people. They can be a past co-worker, supervisor, client or customer. They can sometimes even be personal acquaintances. Choosing the right ones can be the difference between getting hired and continuing your job search.
When selecting references, you want to choose those who will be able to distinguish you from other candidates. You want people that can comment positively on your work habits, quality of work, promptness and overall achievement in that job, as well as your personal qualities such as your sense of humor, how seriously you took the job or how well you dealt with stress.
Signs of Bad References
Some applicants disregard references so much that it is fairly obvious to the hiring manager that the applicant is a “bad apple.” Omitting all superiors from references is one obvious sign that this applicant could be trouble in the future. They could be trying to hide past incidents of unfavorable departures or just bad work ethic.
Another easy one to detect is mistakes or omissions of contact information of references. For example, an incorrect telephone number, listing cell phones numbers only, or just listing names without job titles or contact information. Most companies are aware of these tactics and won’t fall for them.
The final sign of a bad reference is when a reference seems surprised to be listed as a reference. If the reference is surprised to be a reference, they probably shouldn’t make your list. This point also serves as an introduction to the next section.
Call Your References
You should always call the people on your list to let them know that you are using them as references. This will help you avoid the “sign of a bad reference” noted above. Calling them not only keeps you in touch with your reference, but also allows you to get a feel as to whether the reference will portray you in a positive light to the employer. You might want to try prepping the reference a little. You should share with them the company, the job title, and skills and duties. This will help them draw parallels with some of the things you did in their organization, and enable them to reassure the employer that you can add value in your new position.
Tip #9 - More Questions to Ask Employers
In a previous article we focused on asking employers “questions that matter.” In that article, we focused on areas of questions that would help you determine if you and the employer were compatible. This article is an extension to that, listing specific questions you can ask that will not only provide you with more information about the company in general, but the position itself and how it fits into the rest of the organization.
Company Related Questions
• Are there any new products (or services) in the development stage?
• Is this company growing? At what rate?
• Do you have plans for expansion?
• Is your company environmentally conscious? In what ways?
• Is your company involved in the community?
• How is a career with your company better than with your competition?
• What is the largest problem facing this department and its staff?
• What do you and/or your employees like best about working for this company?
• Where does this position fit into the organizational structure hierarchy?
• Does your company encourage further education, help pay for or allow flexible work schedules to accommodate those continuing their education?
• How often are performance reviews given? How formal are they?
• Are salary adjustments geared to the cost of living or job performance?
• What is the usual promotional time frame?
• How long is the probationary period?
• Once the probation period is complete, what benefits would I receive?
• Once the probation period is completed, how much decision-making authority will I haven?
• When a position becomes available, do you fill them from outside or promote from within first?Role Related
• Is this a new position or am I replacing someone? Is there a lot of turnover in this position?
• What are some of the qualities you looking for in the perfect candidate?
• What skills would the ideal candidate posseess?
• What are some of the first assignments I might expect should I
• Is there any travel involved in this position?
• Is the work more individual based or team oriented?
• Who was the last person that filled this position, what made them successful at it, where are they today, may I contact them, how?
Work Environment Related
• What characteristics do successful employees in this company share?
• Are creativity and individuality encouraged in the workplace?
• Do you offer flextime or telecommuting?
• Will I have the opportunity to work on special projects?
This is by no means a complete list of questions. There are many more that might be more company or industry specific, depending on what job you are applying for. You can also think of follow-up questions to some of the above that have not been listed. Many of these questions may get answered throughout the course of an interview. It is good practice to bring a long list of questions like this to your interview and check them off as the interviewer addresses them. At the end of the interview, any questions that remain unanswered are a good place to start. You should also have a pen and some blank paper handy so you can jot down any other questions that might come to mind during the onterview.
Tip #10 - Post-Interview Self-Evaulation
Most interviews make you feel like the interviewer is putting you under a microscope. In this article, we suggest you put yourself under a microscope following an interview to evaluate your own performance. If you find there are some areas where you fell short, improve them prior to your next interview. Doing this after each interview will improve your performance over time.
How do I evaluate myself?
Evaluating yourself doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require you to be honest. Start with the basics. When was the interview scheduled? Were you on time? Were you dressed appropriately when compared to the interviewer and other employees you might have seen? Were you prepared with adequate research about the company? Did you sit up straight, fidget with your shirt or tie, or twiddle your fingers? If you answer no to any of these questions, these are areas you can improve in the future.
So what about going beyond the basics? Write down as much as you can remember about the interview. What questions were asked, what were your responses, and which questions made you feel uncomfortable? If you found yourself feeling uncomfortable or rambling on to particular questions, it is an indication that you were not prepared for the question, or did not have an appropriate answer. Be prepared for the next time this question is asked. Chances are if one employer asked the question in the past, another employer will ask you the same question in the future.
The last areas to think about are personal to the individual being interviewed. Do you feel like you discussed everything that you wanted to and shared all the relevant information? If not, make a note of it. Most employers provide you an opportunity at the beginning of the interview to tell them a bit about yourself. If an area you want to discuss continually gets overlooked, this would be a good time to bring the subject up. This is also true of the opportunity for the interviewee to ask questions at the conclusion of the interview.
Finally, how do you feel about the company and position? Is this the job you envisioned when you applied for it? If not, then maybe you are applying for the wrong types of jobs. If you continually conduct post-interview evaluations, your confidence will continue to grow, both your verbal and non-verbal communication skills will improve, and you will learn a considerable amount more about “who you are.”