How to Prepare for an Interview

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You have finally got an interview and it feels amazing!  Just getting to this stage in the hiring process is a huge accomplishment.  Allow yourself a quick victory dance and then get back to work.  You want to find a way to turn this interview into a job offer and the key is in your preparation.  Here are some tips that will help you set yourself up for success:

Do Your Research.  Research is one of the most important things to do to prepare for an interview.  You need to research the industry so that you have an understanding of the labour market needs and environmental factors that are impacting your industry.  You also want to be aware of trends and buzz words so that you can demonstrate that your industry knowledge is current.  After that, you should take some time to do company research.  Read through the company’s website to get an idea of exactly what the company does as well as its values, mission, and organizational culture.  Search for news about the company so that you can see what the company has been doing.  Candidates who have done their research almost always perform better at the interview.

Analyze.  The next step is to analyze the job description to see how your skills and experience measure up.  Make a list of the requirements of the job and put a check mark next to any of the requirements that you possess.  Make a list of the job responsibilities and put a check mark next to any tasks that you have done in previous jobs.  This will give you a strong understanding of the position and it will help you identify your strengths which you can then highlight in the interview.

Practice.  To perform well at the job interview, you need to practice.  That means making a list of questions that they may ask and actually answering them out loud.  You can find lists online of questions that are commonly asked at interviews.  Since you have taken the time to analyze the requirements and responsibilities of the job, you have an idea of the skills and experience that are most relevant to the position.  Practice answering questions in a way that demonstrates that you possess these skills.  You can do a practice interview with a family member, friend, networking contact, or even an employment counsellor at an employment centre like Tropicana Employment Centre.  If possible, make a video of the practice interview so that you can watch yourself and identify areas where you can improve.

Plan.  Now that you are all ready to impress at your interview, you need to figure out how to get there.  You may even want to try a ‘dry run’ where you go to the location of the interview at the same time of day so that you have an idea of how long it takes to get there.  You can also lay out the clothes you will wear and pack your briefcase ahead of time.  When you invest time in planning, you decrease the chance of having last minute emergencies on the day of the interview.

Being well prepared makes you more confident, which makes it more likely that you will impress the employer.  Give yourself the best possible opportunity to perform well at the interview and it won’t be long before you have a job offer.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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5 Things You Should NEVER Wear to a Job Interview

ID-100304960If you want to get the job, you had better look the part.  We all hate to admit it, but the truth is that if you show up for an interview with an unprofessional appearance, you will likely lose the opportunity before you even answer the first question.  When you are getting ready for your next interview, here are five things you should NOT be putting on!

Bright Stand-Out Colours.  You want to stand out at your interview, but not because of your bright orange shirt.  Choose a colour that is flattering, professional, and not overly distracting.

Clothes that Don’t Fit.  Clothing that doesn’t fit you properly will always make you look sloppy.  If it’s too big, it’s extremely unflattering and if it’s too small it just looks uncomfortable.  Take a few hours to go through your closet and if it doesn’t fit you, give it away.

Wrinkled or Stained Clothes.  Once you have professional clothes that fit you well, you need to take care of it.  That means keeping it clean, getting rid of stains, and making sure that all of your clothing is properly pressed.  If you show up for an interview in a shirt that you picked up off of your bedroom floor, that is exactly the impression you will make.

Too much cologne or perfume.  You never want the interviewer to smell you before they see you.  While wearing a light scent it acceptable, your fragrance should not be overpowering.  Also, be considerate of the fact that some people are allergic to fragrance and many workplaces are now scent free. 

Dirty or Casual Shoes. How many times have you heard someone say that they judge people based on their shoes?  A professional appearance is all about the details and your shoes are a big part of that.  Don’t wear flip-flops, sandals, sneakers, or any other shoes that would be perceived as too casual.  Stick with professional shoes and make sure that they are clean and polished.

When you are getting ready for an interview, your goal should be to make a good first impression so that you have the opportunity to wow them with your skills.  You don’t have to be dressed to walk a runway, just a professional appearance and a warm smile is all you need to start off on the right foot.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Aleksa at freedigitalphotos.net)

How to Dress for a Job Interview

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When you consider that employers form an impression of you within seconds, it is clear that your appearance counts.  That means that it is important to carefully consider what you wear to your interview.  When you have a professional appearance, the employer will be less focused on what you are wearing and more focused on what you are saying.

Choose clothes that are appropriate for the workplace.  The clothing that you choose to wear at your interview can reveal whether or not you would be a good fit for the organizational culture.  If it is a company that is very focused on image and appearance, you may want to include some high fashion into your wardrobe.  However, if the company is more conservative, your clothing should reflect that.  Regardless of what you wear, it is essential that you look professional.

Don’t try to stand out too much.  You do not want to stand out at an interview because of your appearance.  You want the employer to recognize that you are dressed professionally and be impressed by your skills and fit for the job.  If you wear loud colours, too much jewellery, or have wacky hair, they will be so distracted by how you look that they won’t even be thinking about the position.

Be clean and well-groomed.  If you do nothing else when getting ready for an interview, have a shower, brush your teeth, and wear deodorant.  Almost all employers will be turned off by a candidate who appears to be unclean.

Be mindful of what you are carrying.  Some candidates spend a lot of time picking out their outfit and then show up to an interview with their papers in a plastic bag.  Keep in mind that the employer will be looking at the whole picture, which includes whatever is in your hands.  Put your resumes, notes, and networking cards into a professional briefcase and make sure that it’s neat.  You don’t want to be telling an employer how organized you are only to open your briefcase and have paper spill everywhere.

While it is true that the employer will make a hiring decision based on your skills and experience, you cannot afford to ignore how you look.  Yes, hiring managers are seeking a candidate who is the right fit for the job, but don’t forget that they are also looking for someone who will represent their company well.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Make an Impression in 30 Seconds

ID-100192673When you go to a job interview, the interviewer makes a lot of judgements about you before you even open your mouth.  The impression that you make on the interviewer when you walk through the door can set the tone for the whole interview.  Here are some tips to help you impress the interviewer in the first 30 seconds:

Don’t be late.  It is hard to recover from being late to an interview.  It gives the immediate impression that you are unprofessional and no matter how great you perform at the interview, some employers will never see past it.  Aim to be about 15 minutes early so that you can do a quick mirror check and relax before the interview gets started.

Clean yourself up.  If you do nothing else before your interview, at least make sure that you are clean and groomed.  That means taking a shower, brushing your hair, shaving, brushing your teeth, and using deodorant.  Poor hygiene will be a deal breaker with most employers.

Dress professionally.  Interviewers will pay attention to how you dress to determine whether or not you will fit in with the organizational culture.  Aim to dress slightly more formal than you would if you were actually working at the company.  Pay attention to the details like making sure that your clothes are pressed and your shoes are polished.

Smile.  You’ve shown up to the interview on time and you look great.  The next step is to win them over with your sparkling personality.  Smiling is an effective way to break down barriers and put people at ease.  When you smile at an interview it makes people like you and want to work with you.

Get a good handshake.  In the Canadian workplace, a good handshake is still important.  It contributes to the impression that the employer forms about your confidence and your professionalism.  Your handshake should be firm and it should be combined with good eye contact.  If you are unsure about your handshake, practice it on your friends and networking contacts to get feedback.

Just getting an interview is an accomplishment in itself.  You don’t want to lose the opportunity in the first 30 seconds.  With the right preparation you can present yourself in a way that keeps the employer’s attention on your skills and on how you would be the perfect fit for the job.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Master Isolated Images)

How to Zero In on a Company’s Organizational Culture

ID-100144712Every company is different.  Each organization has its own customs and values that will significantly impact the experience that you would have as an employee.  If you are applying for a position at a particular company, it is a good idea for you to learn about the organizational culture.  This information can help you position yourself as an excellent candidate for the role, but more importantly it can help you determine whether or not you would be happy working at this company.  Here are some strategies that will help you get a strong understanding of the culture at any organization:

Talk to employees.  People are your best source of information when it comes to corporate culture.  See if there are any current or past employees of the company within your network.  If not, then reach out to people on social media.  Ask them how they would describe the company, what the company values, and what it’s like to work there.  You might be surprised by how candid employees are willing to be.  If possible, try to speak to a few different people so that you get a more balanced perspective.

Check out the company website.  You can learn a lot about a company by what they post on their website.  What do they say their values are?  How are they distinguishing themselves from their competitors?  Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter can be even more revealing of a company’s culture since it is updated more frequently and less time is spent revising it.  Read everything that the company puts out online and see what type of ‘feel’ you get from the organization.  Since organizational culture is usually an intangible quality, you need to trust your gut when you’re making these types of assessments.

Show up early to the interview.  Come fifteen minutes before your interview and spend some time sitting in the lobby.  Open your eyes and pay attention to what you see.  How are the employees dressed?  How do they interact with each other?  Do they seem engaged?  Bored? Intimidated?  Do they behave professionally?  Does the workplace seem clean and organized?  How is it decorated?  All of this information can help paint a picture of the organization’s culture.

Ask questions at the interview.  By asking questions about the company culture at the interview, you can get valuable information while at the same time present yourself as an engaged employee.  Let them know that the organization’s values are important to you and ask them about the company’s priorities over the next few years, how decisions are made and communicated, and how the employees work together.  Most managers are proud of their company’s values and would be happy to answer your questions.

While organizational culture may seem unimportant when stacked up against salary, you should not ignore it.  Organizational culture will impact how you feel when you’re at work and how successful you can be at the company.  While it’s true that you can do well at any company, when you find an organization that aligns with who you are and what you stand for, you can make magic happen!

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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Perform Well at a Group Interview

You spent hours customizing your resume and submitted your application.  You finally got the interview call, but are shocked to learn that you have been invited to a group interview!  Group interviews can be even more intimidating because you are face-to-face with your competition and you have to find a way to stand out.  If you are a shy person, the group adds a whole other level of stress to the interview process.  Here are some tips that will help you perform well at a group interview and make the employer want to get to know you even better!

Don’t talk too much.  Remember that it is a group interview.  You want to make your voice heard, but you shouldn’t dominate the conversation.  Be considerate and give other people the opportunity to speak.

Pay attention to your appearance.  You are standing right next to your competition, so you need to look good.  Dress professionally and be clean and well-groomed.  You may want to wear something a little distinctive to make you stand out, but keep it subtle and don’t let it become a distraction.  You want the employer to be focused on what you are saying, not what you are wearing.

Don’t be a wallflower.  It’s a subtle balance; you don’t want to overshadow others, but you shouldn’t fade into the background either.  Wait until you have something of value to contribute and speak up with a loud and clear voice.

Be nice to the other candidates.  Play nicely.  Yes, they are your competition, but they could also be your future coworkers.  Also, the employer is likely going to be evaluating you on your interpersonal skills.  Demonstrate through your behaviour that you would be a positive addition to their team.

Watch your body language.  Since you won’t be given as much time to speak as you would at an individual job interview, the employer will be evaluating your body language.  Are you sitting straight?  Are you making good eye contact?  Do you appear engaged and interested in what they are saying?  Remember, you can communicate a lot without even opening your mouth.

As with individual interviews, the employer is looking for the best fit for the job.  Don’t get distracted by the group.  Just be yourself, be professional, and let the employer see what you have to offer.  Good luck!

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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I Have Two Interviews at the Same Time!

When you’re looking for a job, crazy things can happen.  Since you’re dealing with a lot of different people and they all need answers quickly, it is not uncommon for job seekers to find that they’ve scheduled themselves for two interviews at the same time.  So what do you do if you find yourself in this awkward situation?  Here are some questions to consider:

Which job is most important to you?  Sometimes you need to prioritize one position over the other.  Of the two, which one do you really want?  At the end of the day, you might need to risk one for a shot at the other.

When were the interviews scheduled?  Try to be reasonable when deciding which interview to attend.  For example, if one interview was scheduled two weeks ago, then it makes sense to prioritize it over an interview that was scheduled just last night.  If the employer is inviting you to an interview at the last minute, they will be more likely to understand if you need to reschedule.

Which job are you most likely to get?  Are you more qualified for one position than you are for the other?  Do you have a contact at one of the companies that might give you better odds?  It’s a good idea to favour the position that you actually have a good chance of getting.

The worst thing that you can do is be late for one of the interviews or miss it altogether.  Not only can that destroy your chances of ever getting a job with that company, but it could also damage your reputation.  You need to try to reschedule one of the interviews.  Here are some tips that might help you salvage the opportunity:

Be flexible.  When rescheduling an interview that you’re not able to attend, you need to be as flexible as possible.  If you aren’t able to make it to more than one of the times that the employer suggests, they will begin to doubt both your commitment and your availability.

Be apologetic.  Keep in mind that you are competing against candidates who have completely opened up their schedule for this employer.  Since it is inconvenient for the employer to reschedule your interview and it is easy for them to discard your application to focus on other qualified (and more available) candidates, it is a good idea for you to apologize and let them know that you appreciate them making an effort to find a time that works for you.

When it rains, it pours.  While this situation is stressful, the fact that two employers have invited you for an interview is a good sign.  Show them that you’re the best fit for the job and an offer should be around the corner.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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