Suppose you have an interview coming up for a dream job. Naturally, you want to do well.
Specifically, though, how do you prepare for this job interview so that you handle yourself with confidence, communicate effectively, and present your best self from your first contact to winning the position?
You may already know there are several types of interviews: the initial screening, second interview, panel interview, and group interview. It helps to have knowledge of each so that you can be fully prepared. Following are some obvious and not-so-obvious strategies to help you succeed.
Passing the initial screening
Whether your first contact takes place at a career fair or by phone, remember that what you don’t say can be just as revealing as what you do say. The screener can be a recruiter or company representative who is evaluating your credentials, education, goals, and likeability toward matching the qualifications of the position and company culture.
If the meeting takes place in person, make sure you are dressed appropriately. Use body language that indicates you are interested and paying attention. Take several copies of your resume with you. If by phone, keep your tone positive and think about the language you use. Put a mirror in front of you and smile while you talk. It comes through in your voice.
Enunciate your words and speak at a reasonable pace. Above all, be honest.
In the dialogue, identify the general job characteristics that are important to you and why. Explain how your qualifications are a good fit for the position. If you can do so using an example showing you’ve done your homework or have a related experience, it makes you sound stronger.
On to the second interview
First, always be prepared with another 2-3 copies of your resume.
Build rapport by shaking hands, smiling, keeping eye contact, and listening. Make sure you have studied the job description and can address all its details. Knowing this helps you navigate the interview toward answering those points and explaining how your traits and skills contribute.
Additionally, do your homework on the company and its current events. Familiarity with current events helps you ask pertinent questions and shows genuine interest. At this juncture, the idea is not only to stay in the running but also to advance to the lead.
The challenge here comes from the interviewer’s use of open-ended questions. Many questions can be anticipated but some cannot. Searching the web to find examples of standard questions to use for practice is one option. However, this same technique is available to everyone else with a computer who is vying for the position you want. A smart interviewer will quickly discern canned answers and may even eliminate you from consideration.
So, how do you stand out as an individual? Be a storyteller. Use the STAR technique (Situation or Task, Action and Result) When you study the standard questions on the web, choose a personal professional experience. Describe the situation or problem, tell what action you took, and relate the outcome to the original question.
Handling a panel interview
A panel may conduct the second interview, which is when two or more people from different departments of the company share the interview. Usually, a lead interviewer introduces panel members. Each panel member may ask questions relevant to departmental concerns or interests. Remember that the above second interview strategies still apply.
Making a connection with each panel member is very important. Take out a pad and pen and write down names in the order of the seating arrangement. It is also appropriate to ask for business cards and lay them out in front of you. Discerning titles and functions of each panel member is helpful in identifying how to respond.
While answers to questions should be addressed to the whole panel, start eye contact with the person who initially asked the question.
Panel members are typically looking for strengths and weaknesses, but don’t become too hung up on group dynamics because there may be frequent interruptions as members may duck in or out. So, be prepared for possible breaks in your concentration.
At the conclusion, ask, “What other information would you like?” Make eye contact with each person as you wait for a response.
Acing the group interview
For this style of interview, candidates may be divided into groups, and groups may be required to join in a simulated work exercise or problem-solving session. Interviewers are interested in observing each candidate’s interaction and communication dynamics to determine abilities, competencies, and teamwork. Plus, there is added tension because of toe-to-toe competition with those in your group.
Again, many of the above strategies still apply, especially doing your homework. In addition, have a self-introduction sound-byte that will make a standout first impression. Don’t forget to be mindful of your body language and facial expressions. Convey respect for and interest in each person involved in the interview.
Be alert and listen attentively, not only to the questions you are asked, but also to your peers’ answers. You don’t want to appear as a bully by dominating the group, but it is good to be the first one to answer occasionally. Consider, too, that when you support others’ statements, you appear to be a team player as well as a supportive leader. Ask insightful, intelligent questions, but not until the interviewer asks for them. Never interrupt him/her.
Regardless of which interview phase you are in, finish every interview with a thank you. Verbalize your thanks on the spot, of course, but also follow up with a written or emailed thank you.
Looking for a new job? Nissen Staffing Continuum can help you put your best interviewing effort forward. We consult with you to help you find the right fit with your job goals. Contact us to discuss how we may help you.