20 job interview success
You're a superstar. Your mother
says you are, right? With a little preparation and follow-through, you can prove
it to your future boss.
A job interview can be an
excruciating, painful, stressful and awkward hour. Or it can be pleasant, educational,
enlightening and successful. The experience of that hour is largely determined
by how you spend your time before and after the interview.
and plan that first impression long before you walk in the door. Continue that
excellent impression in the days following, and that job could be yours.
a timeline for your pre-, during and post-interview phases:
1. Get references and letters
of recommendation. Think of three to six professional associates (i.e.,
co-workers, former bosses) who you believe will give you a good recommendation.
Then ask their permission to use them as references. If they say yes, get their
correct title, work address and work phone number. You could also ask them to
take the time to write out a general letter of recommendation for future use.
should be going through life asking for referrals," recommends Marjorie Brody,
author, speaker, trainer and president of Brody Communications Ltd. in Elkins
Park, Pa. "In college, after a successful semester, ask for a letter of recommendation.
Not just professors [but also teaching assistants and employers]."
recommends keeping in touch with people from old jobs. She says, "Create networks
on an ongoing basis."
Research the company. Even before applying, learn all you can about this
particular organization and the field, advises Brody. The interviewer will expect
you to know something about the work you want to be doing, and about the place
where you want to be doing it. It also shows you care -- which does count for
"Your best interviewees are the ones who've done their homework,"
says Brody. "Know who the officers of the company are. There's so much information
out there. Look up the company's Web page." Brody explains that this homework
will show that you are proactive, intelligent and energetic.
will also keep you from wasting your time interviewing for jobs that you either
don't want or are not suited for. Brody adds, "Try to find out as much as possible
what they're looking for to see if you're a good match."
Identify your key skills and accomplishments. Make a
list and be ready to describe your personal and professional strengths, your transferable
skills and your relevant accomplishments. With your research, you have been able
to identify qualities that the company values. Come up with a few personal anecdotes
that illustrate your possession of those qualities.
Practice the interview. Practice makes perfect, and it will give you confidence
and a sense of ease when you're truly in the hot seat at an interview. With a
friend or a career counselor, practice responding with confidence to typical interview
questions. Here are just a few:
has your background influenced what you are today?
do you define success?
the most difficult challenge you've overcome on a job?
do you deal with deadlines?
me something about yourself.
are you leaving your old job?
would you be good for our company?
would you like to be five years from now?
that are clear, concise and truthful," advises Jennifer Maxwell Parkinson, president
of Look Consulting International in New York. "People admire honesty and frankness."
interview books," recommends Brody. "Write out the worst questions that could
be asked. Role-play answering possible questions. The books will give you a list
of questions and also tell you how to respond."
Additionally, you'll want
to have a few questions ready to ask the interviewer. For more on this topic,
5. Check clothing. Make
sure your suit is clean, shirt ironed, and shoes polished. Now's your chance to
check whether your best outfit needs to go to the cleaners or a seamstress for
repairs. If you're going to borrow any clothing from a friend or buy a new pair
of shoes, do it ahead of time so that you can be sure everything fits well.
recommends that you select clothes that are appropriate for the industry and company.
Additionally, she stresses the importance of being comfortable.
sweat pants," she explains. "But make sure the suit, the shoes, the jewelry are
comfortable, so you'll feel pulled together. Then you don't have to think about
it and can focus on the person interviewing you."
Brody agrees, "In an interview,
you want to be attentive to the interviewer. If you're worried about a skirt that's
too tight, you'll be distracted."
6. Test drive.
If you are unsure of the location of the interview, drive there.
This way you can be sure of the building, the time to get there and any parking
7. Call to reconfirm.
Parkinson recommends that when you first make an appointment for an interview
that you ask the name of the secretary or receptionist. Then when you call back
to reconfirm you can refer to them by name. She reminds, "They have a lot of influence."
Prepare clothes. Parkinson says, "Check head to toe
what you're going to be wearing." Also, gather all the things you'll be bringing
to the interview: an extra copy of your resume, references, a portfolio, a pad
of paper, a pen.
9. Watch the weather.
"If the weather's going to be bad, be prepared," adds Parkinson.
Get a good night's sleep. It's a big day -- you'll want
to be fresh and alert.
11. Work it off.
Parkinson suggests exercising earlier in the day if possible, to get your blood
flowing and to release stress.
12. Get to the interview
on time. Arrive 10 minutes early even. No excuses.
Last-minute check. Take a look in your car mirror or in a bathroom mirror
at a location near interview. Fix your lipstick, pull loose hairs off the shoulder
of your jacket, make sure your shirt is properly tucked in and straighten your
Now smile. And check your teeth for any food particles. Yech. OK, now
smile and show your confidence.
Don't forget: Ditch the gum and turn off
your cell phone and/or beeper.
Look confident and busy. More than likely you'll end up in a waiting room
for at least a few minutes. Don't get sloppy -- you are already on. Parkinson
recommends, "Bring something to do -- look busy, even if it's just writing notes
in a book. And don't slouch."
When the interviewer walks in, be ready to
shake hands. "Remember, purses and briefcases in left hand," Brody says.
Pay attention. After all your preparation, the interview will be a snap,
right? Er, sorry, job interviews can still be a little nerve-wracking. Since you
prepared, it won't be nearly as much of a struggle -- but it is vital that you
listen to the interviewer. You may not get exactly the questions you practiced
If you're nervous, Brody has a solution. She says, "When you sit, keep your palms
up. This lowers your blood pressure and air dries the palms."
17. Write it down.
On a pad of paper in your car, write down your impressions of the company and
the interview, and the names of your potential co-workers These notes have three
uses. If you're called for another interview, you can review what was discussed
at the first one, thus preparing even better for the second. Also, if you're offered
a job, you can determine whether you want to work for this company. Finally, you
can learn from any problems or successes you experienced during the interview.
18. Send thank you note.
Thank the interviewer(s) for taking the time to meet with you. This is a polite
gesture -- and a subtle reminder to them of you, says Parkinson.
some key interview issues that came up," advises Brody. She says to write them
"I look forward to hearing from you."
19. Make follow-up call.
If you haven't heard from the company and you are still interested in the job,
make a quick call to the person who interviewed you or the Human Resources department.
See if they are closer to making a decision and when you might expect to hear
from them. Go ahead and tell them how excited you are about the prospect of working
20. Be patient.
You might hear about the job right away. More likely, the company will take some
time to interview candidates and then review them. If you got good vibes from
the interview or the follow-up call, just be patient.
But don't quit your
job search, just because you found what you think will be your dream job. It might
not work out, and waiting before applying somewhere else is going to drag out
your job search. While some companies won't call or write you when the job is
filled -- which is irritating as hell -- others may just be taking their time.
you don't get the job, Brody recommends calling and asking, "I'd like to know
why you chose someone over me." While this may seem embarrassing, Brody says more
than likely they'll answer you because it shows you want to learn.
job interview that does not result in a job need not be a failure. You can learn
from the experience, improving your presentation and concentration for the next