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Interview & Workplace Tips
Interview Tips

Understanding how to best prepare for and follow up on interviews is critical to your career success. At different times in your life, you may interview with a teacher or professor, a prospective employer, a supervisor, or a promotion or tenure committee. Just as having an excellent résumé is vital for opening the door, interviewing skills are critical for putting your best foot forward and seizing the opportunity to clearly articulate why you are the best person for the job.

Dress Appropriately
Be on Time
Be Poised and Relaxed
Maintain Good Eye Contact
Convey Maturity
Avoid Being Too Familiar
Be Professional
Answer Questions Fully
Be Prepared
Know Your Company
Find Out About the Position Before You Interview
Relate Your Experiences to the Job
Focus on What You Can Do for the Company
Stress Your Skills
Be Honest
Exude a Positive Attitude
Practice Interviewing
Close the Interview on a Positive Note
Follow Up with a Letter


Dress Appropriately

You will never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Nonverbal communication is 90 percent of communication, so dressing appropriately is of the utmost importance. Every job is different, and you should wear clothing that is appropriate for the job for which you are applying. In most situations, you will be safe if you wear clean, pressed, conservative business clothes in neutral colors. Pay special attention to grooming. Keep make-up light and wear very little jewelry. Make certain your nails and hair are clean, trimmed, and neat. Don't carry a large purse, backpack, books, or coat. Simply carry a pad of paper, a pen, and extra copies of your résumé and letters of reference in a small folder.


Be on Time

Make certain you write down the date and time of your interview. A good first impression is important and lasting. If you arrive late, you have already said a great deal about yourself. Make certain you know where you are going and the time of the interview and allow time for parking and other preliminaries.


Be Poised and Relaxed

Avoid nervous habits such as tapping your pencil, playing with your hair, or covering your mouth with your hand. Avoid littering your speech with verbal clutter such as "you know," "um," and "like." Don't smoke, chew gum, fidget, or bite your nails. Most career development centers or public speaking classes will videotape you while being interviewed. It is excellent experience, and you can identify any annoying or distracting personal habits.

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Maintain Good Eye Contact

Look your interviewer in the eye and speak with confidence. Your eyes reveal much about you; use them to show interest, confidence, poise, and sincerity. Relax and take a deep breath. You are relating to another person, not giving a speech to a large crowd. Look at the interviewer, and watch for body cues that indicate understanding and rapport. Use other nonverbal techniques to reinforce your confidence, such as a firm handshake and poised demeanor.


Convey Maturity
Interviewers evaluate maturity by observing your ability to remain poised in different situations throughout the interview. Exhibit the ability to tolerate differences of opinion. Give examples of how you have assumed responsibility with little supervision. Employers greatly value maturity in their workers, because mature workers are less disruptive, require less training, and are more productive and successful than immature workers.


Avoid Being Too Familiar

Familiarity can be a barrier to a professional interview. Never call anyone by a first name unless you are asked to do so. Know the name, title, and the pronunciation of the interviewer's name and don't sit down until the interviewer does.

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Be Professional

Reliability, an excellent appearance, and proper business manners are all part of professionalism. Don't ramble, or talk too much about your personal life. For example, "Tell me about yourself" is not an invitation to discuss your personal life. Also, never bad-mouth your former employer. This is unprofessional and says more about you than about them.


Answer Questions Fully

Be clear, concise, and direct. Even if the interviewer is easygoing and friendly, remember why you are there.


Be Prepared

Successful interviews are the result of good preparation. Preparation will give you the information you need, and, more importantly, the confidence to succeed.

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Know Your Company

Your ability to convince an employer that you understand and are interested in the field you are interviewing to enter is important. Show that you have knowledge about the company and the industry. What products or services does the company offer? How is it doing? What is the competition? Demonstrate your understanding of the company: "I understand that your sportswear doubled in sales last year. According to current retail journals, this is in response to the company's marketing of its exercise clothes as the new action clothes for sports and casual wear."


Find Out About The Position Before You Interview

Ask the personnel office to send you a job description. Use information from the job description to determine what the company is looking for in applicants for the position. You will likely be asked the common question, "Why are you interested in this job?" Be prepared to answer with a reference to the company. A sample answer: "Your store has opened up several new branches in the last two years, so I believe that there is great opportunity in your organization. I also feel that I have the necessary skills and personal qualities to make a contribution."


Relate Your Experiences to the Job

Use every question as an opportunity to show how the skills you have relate to the job. Use examples of school, previous jobs, internships, volunteer work, leadership in clubs, and experiences growing up to indicate that you have the personal qualities, aptitude, and skills needed at this new job. You want to get the point across that you are hard working, honest, dependable, loyal, a team player, and mature. You might mention holding demanding part-time jobs while going to school, working in the family business, being president of your business club, or handling the high-pressured job of working in customer service at a department store during Christmas vacations.

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Focus on What You Can Do for the Company

Don't ask about benefits, salary, or vacations until you are offered the job. This implies a "what can this company do for me" attitude. Be careful about appearing arrogant or displaying a know-it-all attitude. You are there to show how you can contribute to the organization.


Stress Your Skills

When considering job applicants, employers look for both job-specific skills and general workplace skills. Job-specific skills are the skills necessary to do the particular job, such as balancing a budget or programming a computer. General workplace skills are transferable from school to job and from job to job. These transferable foundation skills include communication skills, listening skills, problem solving skills, technology skills, decision making skills, organizing skills, planning skills, teamwork skills, social skills, and adaptability skills. All jobs require general workplace skills; not all jobs require fully developed job-specific skills. If the employer offers on-the-job training, you may only need to demonstrate that you have the basic skills required to start the job.

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Be Honest

Don't overstate your accomplishments or grade point average or exaggerate your experience. Many employers verify the background of promising applicants. While it is important to be confident and stress your strengths, it is equally important to your sense of integrity to always be honest. If you haven't had a particular kind of experience, say so, but also indicate your willingness to learn new skills.


Exude a Positive Attitude

Employers want people who believe in themselves and their skills, who want to work, who want to work for them, and who have a positive attitude. An interviewee with a positive attitude conveys poise, self-confidence, decisiveness, and has a tendency to be more extroverted. Employers usually choose candidates who are enthusiastic about their lives and their careers, because people perform best when they're doing what they like to do. One step toward developing a positive, enthusiastic outlook is to surround yourself with supportive, positive people.

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Practice Interviewing

Like any skill, the more you practice the better you will be. Consider videotaping a practice interview. Most campuses have this service available through the career center or media department. It is also very helpful to practice being interviewed by a friend. Rehearse questions and be prepared. Make certain that you communicate your skills, abilities, and talents. Answer questions directly and relate the skills that you have learned. Expect open-ended questions such as, "What are your strengths?" "What are your weaknesses?" "Tell me about your best work experience," and "What are your career goals?" Decide in advance what information and skills are pertinent to the job and reveal your strengths. For example, "I learned to get along with a variety of people when I worked for the park service."


Close the Interview on a Positive Note

Follow-up begins as you end your interview. If it is unclear to you what will happen next, ask. If an employer asks you to take initiative in any way, do it! The employer may be testing your interest in the company. Thank the interviewer for his or her time, shake hands, and say that you are looking forward to hearing from him or her.


Follow Up With a Letter

Following up on details is critical for your job search. A follow-up letter is especially important. It serves as a reminder for the interviewer and an opportunity for you to thank the interviewer for the meeting and a chance to make a positive comment about the job opening and the company. Writing thank-you notes and letters demonstrates that you have good manners and business etiquette and that you are organized. If you had an exceptionally pleasant interview, you may consider sending a personal, handwritten thank-you note.

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