15 job interview success tips
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.
Prepare 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.
Here's how to prepare before, on
and after your job interview.
Days before . . .
Get references and letters
Think of three to six professionals -- such as a teacher, guidance
counselor, neighbor or former boss -- 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.
Go through life asking for referrals, recommends
Marjorie Brody, author, speaker, trainer and president of Brody
Communications Ltd. in Elkins Park, Pa. After a successful semester,
ask for a letter of recommendation. Not just from teachers, but
also teaching assistants.
Learn all you can about the company and its business 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 counts for something.
"Your best interviewees are the ones who've
done their homework," says Brody. This shows that you are proactive,
intelligent and energetic.
This research 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."
your key skills and accomplishments
Make a list and be ready to describe your strengths, skills and
relevant accomplishments. With your research, you can identify qualities
that the company values. Come up with a few personal examples that
show you possess those qualities.
Practice makes perfect, and it will give you confidence when you're
truly in the hot seat at an interview. With a friend, practice responding
to typical interview questions. Here are just a few:
- How has your background influenced what
you are today?
- How do you define success?
- What's the most difficult challenge you've
overcome on a job?
do you deal with deadlines?
- Tell me something about yourself.
- Why are you leaving your old job?
- Why would you be good for our company?
- Where would you like to be five years from
"Have answers that are clear, concise and
truthful," advises Jennifer Maxwell Parkinson, president of
Look Consulting International in New York. "People admire honesty
Additionally, you'll want to have a few questions
ready to ask the interviewer. For more on this topic, read "Got
If you are unsure of where to go for the interview, drive there
ahead of time. This way you can be sure of the building, the time
to get there and any parking difficulties.
The day before . . .
Check head to toe what you're going to be wearing. Make sure your
clothes are clean, pressed and nice-fitting. Select clothes that
are appropriate for the industry and company. What looks hot on
the gym floor is not right in an office setting.
"Don't wear sweat pants," Parkinson
explains. "But make sure the clothes, 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
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."
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 and a pen.
When you first make an appointment for an interview be sure to ask
the name of the secretary or receptionist, says Parkinson. Then
when you call back to reconfirm you can refer to them by name. "They
have a lot of influence," she says.
a good night's sleep
It's a big day -- you'll want to be fresh and alert.
The day of the interview . . .
to the interview on time
Arrive 10 minutes early even. No excuses.
Take a look in your car mirror or in a bathroom mirror at a location
near the interview. Fix your lipstick, pull loose hairs off the
shoulder of your jacket, make sure your shirt is properly tucked
in and straighten your tie.
Now smile. And check your teeth for any food
particles. Yuck. OK, now smile and show your confidence.
Don't forget: Ditch the gum and turn off your
cell phone and beeper.
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 notebooks in left hand,"
After all your preparation, the interview will be a snap, right?
Actually, job interviews can still be a little nerve-wracking. Since
you prepared, it won't be nearly as much of a struggle -- but it's
vital that you listen to the interviewer. You may not get exactly
the questions you practiced but variations.
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."
The days after . . .
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. Send it the day after your interview.
End your note with "I look forward to hearing
from you," advises Brody.
If you haven't heard from the company and you're 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
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.
If you don't get the job, call and ask, "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.
A job interview that does not result in a job
isn't a failure. You can learn from the experience, improving your
interview skills for the next time.