Brother Ron Barnes
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Secrets of a Successful Job Interview
CONGRATULATIONS! Your resume has gotten the attention of the company you want to work for and they have invited you to come in for an interview. This is exactly what it was supposed to do. Now comes the most critical part of the whole job search. You will actually be face to face with the person who can hire you. Here's how you control the interview so that it results in a job offer.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
A job interview is where you and the employer get to know each other. The employer wants to know more about your qualifications and talents. He also wants to discover any problems you may have adapting to the job. He also wants to provide you with more informastion about the position, pay and benefits, the organization and other information.
You want to know a few things yourself. You want to know if you are going to enjoy working for this employer. You want to know about the job and your compensation. You want to know whether this is a stable and supportive organization. So you and the employer have a lot to learn about each other.
Get a head start by doing some research on your prospective employer. Employers are very impressed by applicants who know about the company before the interview. It shows you care about your career as much as the company cares about having good employees. It also shows you are interested in this job, not just searching for anybody who will give you a paycheck. This puts you in a much more powerful position and creates an atmosphere of mutual respect. It is also possible that your research may convince you that you don't want to work for these people after all.
There are several good places to research employers on the Internet. The Job Hunter's Bible has very good links to sites you can use to research companies. The site also has a wealth of other information to help you use the Internet to find and land your dream job.
If you are planning to work for a government agency, check them out through your state's website. Learn about their mission, organization, budget and other useful information. While you are there, stop by the Secretary of State's office in your state. That's where all of the nonprofit organizations have to register. If you are planning to work for a nonprofit organization, this is where you can find out about their history, organization and other useful information.
After doing your homework, you should have several questions to ask the employer. If you can't think of any, Virginia Tech has a very good resource with a long list of possible questions.
CASE THE JOINT
A day or two before your interview, go to the company and observe it from across the street or as a customer. This will accomplish several things.
1. You now know how to get to your appointment and know how long it will take you to get there. You may even find a parking place. This helps you to plan your schedule for the day of the interview.
2. You can observe the people who work there already. What are they wearing? Is the atmosphere tense or relaxed? Do the employees seem like people you will enjoy working with?
3. Which products and services does the business focus on? By observing what gets the most space, equipment and manpower, you may be able to learn which parts of the company to focus your questions on. While you are there, ask for some of the organization's promotional literature. This will tell you about new developments and products as well as other information which will bring you to the job interview confident and knowledgable.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
The reason many people get nervous during job interviews is fear of the unknown. To avoid this, review possible interview questions before the day of the interview. You can find a very good website with hundreds of interview questions at Job-Interview.Net. You can also find out about illegal questions they can't ask such as information about your family. The site also has a complete career guide and several mock interviews for various jobs.
Take your list of questions and practice answering them before the interview. You might have a family member play the role of interviewer and do a dress rehearsal. Now there is nothing to worry about. You know the questions and already have good answers ready. You walk into the interview proud and confident, not shaky and insecure. This attitude alone will be very helpful to you in the interview.
RUN ON "LOMBARDI TIME"
The late Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time, used to say, "If you're not fifteen minutes early, you're late". If your appointment is for 10:00, show up at 9:45. This will give you a few minutes to compose your thoughts, organize your questions for the interview and check your appearance.
You also want to allow time for the unexpected. People have flat tires and car trouble all the time. But you want to make a good first impression on the employer. You want the employer to think of you as a person with good work habits, not a person with a good excuse. You can find people with a good excuse on any street corner. You will not find them in the executive offices.
Plan ahead for the day of the interview. If you have already visited the employer as we discussed above, you will know how to get there and where to park. Make sure your car has plenty of gas and is otherwise in good shape. Organize your questions and any other material such as resumes, references, portfolios, etc. Make sure your clothes are ready.
Have a backup plan for waking up. I know it sounds silly but with your luck, you will have a power failure while you are sleeping the night before the interview. You wake up at 9:00 to find the clock flashing 12-12-12 at you and realize you have a 9:00 interview. You might have a mechanical clock as a backup. You could ask somebody to call you a few minutes after your wake-up time. The important thing is to show the employer he is getting a solution, not more problems.
BLEND IN WITH THE NATIVES
When you visited the employer, you noticed what the employees wear to work. Show up for your job interview looking like somebody who has worked for this company for many years. Employers want people who will be easy to assimilate into the organization. You do not want to give the impression of being an "oddball".
Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage and the people in it merely players". We each play many parts. At various times, you may be somebody's spouse, parent, child, neighbor, employee, supervisor or customer. Each of these roles requires different mental attitudes and costumes. You would not dress for work the way you would dress for a weekend of water skiing. When you prepare your clothes for the job interview, ask yourself, "What part am I dressed for?".
Some people are offended by this because they think they have the right to be themselves and should not pretend to be somebody else. This is true. But the employer also has the right to accept or reject you. Remember the Golden Rule:
THE ONE WHO HAS THE GOLD MAKES THE RULE
If you want the employer's gold, you are going to have to play by his rules.
TAKE PITY ON THE INTERVIEWER
Most applicants are nervous during a job interview. They believe that they are under pressure to make the right impression and any mistake will result in a loss of opportunity. There is a lot of truth to this. But you should realize that the person interviewing you is under a lot of pressure too. He will be judged by his superiors on the performance of the people he recommends. So you need to help him feel easier about recommending you for employment.
Concentrating your attentions on the company and the job will be very helpful in doing this. Focus your comments on those areas which will convince the interviewer that you will be an asset to the company, a pleasure to work with and easy for him to train.
There is an interesting side effect to this philosophy. While you are focusing your attention on putting the interviewer at ease, you will be more relaxed. This will help you to give more natural, confident answers to the interviewer's questions and will help to assure that the interview reaches a positive conclusion.
You will probably be one of many people interviewed for a job. Obviously, you want to make yourself stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of being hired. One way to do this is to follow up on the interview.
A phone call or postcard the next day to let the interviewer know how you enjoyed the interview and are looking forward to working with him is an excellent way to do this. Do not do anything elaborate, like sending gifts or flowers. This will make the interviewer uncomfortable and have a negative effect on your career. A simple note or phone call is all that's needed. And don't forget his secretary. Remember what we said about not forgetting the "little" people.
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