A job interview is your showcase for
merchandising your talents. During the interview an employer judges your qualifications,
appearance, and general fitness for the job opening. It is your opportunity to convince
the employer that you can make a real contribution.
Equally important, it gives you a chance to appraise the job, the employer, and the
firm. It enables you to decide if the job meets your career needs and interests and
whether the employer is of the type and caliber you want to work for.
Before each interview, though, you should assume that the job you are applying for is
precisely the one you want - because it may be. To present your qualifications most
advantageously, you will need to prepare in advance. You should have the needed papers
ready and the necessary information about yourself firmly in mind; and you should know how
to act at the interview to make it an effective device for selling your skills.
Preparing for the interview
- Assemble all the papers that you may need. The
main item will be your background and work experience inventory. It contains all the facts
and figures you could possibly be asked - either in filling in the job application form,
or in the job interview. Don't forget to take copies of your resume, even though you may
have already submitted one. Take your recent school records and military separation
papers. If your work is the sort you can show in an interview, (such as technical
drawings, artwork, publications, or procedures), take along a few samples. Be careful not
to leave your only copy of something, as it could get lost.
- Learn all you can about the company where you are going for an interview - its product
or service, standing in the industry, number and kinds of jobs available, and hiring
- Know what you have to offer, what education and training you have had, what work you
have done, and what you can do. Review your inventory.
- Know what kind of job you want and why you want to work for the firm where you are
- Bring along the names, addresses, and business affiliations of three persons (not
relatives) who are familiar with your work and character. If you are a recent graduate,
you can list your teachers. Ask references for permission to use their names.
- As you are filling in the job application be aware that it in itself offers an
excellent opportunity to convince an employer that you are a valuable person to hire. It
is not only a chance to describe your accomplishments but it also shows how clearly you
can think and write, and how well you can present important details.
- Learn the area salary scale for the type of work you are seeking. If you have the
required skill and experience, don't hesitate to state your salary expectations in filling
in the application blank. On the other hand, if for any reason you don't want to commit
yourself then, simply write "Open" in the space for salary desired. If asked,
say you prefer to wait until the job interview to discuss salary. Never take anyone with
you to the interview.
- Allow as much uninterrupted time for the interview as may be required. (For example, do
not park your car in a limited-time space.) Dress conservatively. Avoid either too formal
or too casual attire.
You and the interview
- Be pleasant and friendly but businesslike.
- Let the employer control the interview. Your answers should be frank and brief but
complete, without rambling. Avoid dogmatic statements.
- Be flexible and willing but give the employer a clear idea of your job preferences.
- Stress your qualifications without exaggeration. The employer's questions or statements
will indicate the type of person wanted. Use these clues in presenting your
qualifications. For example, if you are being interviewed for an engineering position and
the employer mentions that the job will require some customer contact work, use this clue
to emphasize any work, experience, or courses you have had in this kind of skill.
- If you have not sent your resume in advance, present it or your work records,
references, personal data, work samples, or other materials to support your statements
when the employer requests them.
- In discussing your previous jobs and work situations, avoid criticizing former
employers or fellow workers.
- Don't discuss your personal, domestic, or financial problems unless you are
specifically asked. Answer only what relates to the job.
- Dont be in a hurry to ask questions unless the employer invites them. But don't
be afraid to ask what you need to know. If the employer offers you a job, be sure you
understand exactly what your duties will be. Also find out what opportunities for
advancement will be open. A definite understanding about the nature of your job will avoid
future disappointment for either you or your employer.
- Be prepared to state the salary you want, but not until the employer has introduced the
subject. Be realistic in discussing salary. But don't sell yourself short. If the employer
does not definitely offer you a job or indicate when you will hear about it, ask when you
may call to learn the decision. If the employer asks you to call or return for another
interview, make a note of the time, date, and place.
- Thank the employer for the interview. If the firm cannot use you, ask about other
employers who may need a person with your qualifications.
Many firms require a psychological test, or a series of such tests, as part of the
application procedure. The tests most commonly used are those that indicate intelligence
or general aptitude. In addition, some firms use tests that give them information on
specific aptitudes, personality traits, and interest patterns.
If you are a recent school graduate, you are probably used to taking tests. But if you
have been away from school for some years, you may be apprehensive about the testing
process. You may fear that your test scores will not reflect your real ability to do a
job. Don't let tests scare you off. None of the commonly used tests require advance
preparation; you need not feel concerned over not having "crammed" the night
Many tests have time limits. When they do, you will be told how much time you will
have. listen carefully to the instructions you receive. If you do not clearly understand
what you are expected to do, be sure to ask questions. The time for questions, however, is
before the test begins. If the test is timed, seconds lost in asking questions after it
starts could seriously affect your score. After your start the test, work steadily and
carefully. Do not light a cigarette or do anything else that interrupts your work. In
taking most tests, you should not spend too much time on any one question; instead come
back to difficult or time-consuming ones after you complete the others.
Once the test is over, do not reproach yourself for not doing better. If the test is
well constructed, you probably would make a similar score if you took it again. Remember;
too, that employers do not regard your score as an infallible measure of your abilities -
but as only one indication of them.
After the Interview
Make each interview a learning experience. After one is over, carefully analyze what
went on by asking yourself questions such as these:
- What points did I make that seemed to interest the employer?
- Did I present my qualifications well?
- Did I overlook any that are pertinent to the job?
- Did I pass up any clues that might indicate the best ways to "sell" myself?
- Did I learn all that I needed to know about the job I was trying to get? Or did I forget
or hesitate to ask about aspects that are important to me?
- Did I talk too much? Did I talk too little?
- Was I too tense? Or too relaxed?
- Was what I wore appropriate?
- Was I too aggressive? Not aggressive enough?
Based on your answers, draw up a list of specific ways you can improve performance in
your next interview.
Count on the fact that your skill in this crucial phase of the job search process has
been steadily improving.
If you plan carefully and keep up your enthusiasm you will eventually succeed in
"merchandising your job talents "- landing a job that uses your abilities and
pay you well.