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)

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)

Answer Interview Questions Flawlessly

Interview questions 2The ability to interview well is a skill that will take you far in your job search.  Even when you are lacking some of the requirements, if you perform well at the interview, the employer may still view you as the best fit for the job.  The key to your success lies in preparation.  If you, like most job seekers, just go the interview hoping for the best, you will probably be disappointed.  You need to have a plan of attack:

Understand the employer.  Do your research and try to put yourself in the employer’s shoes.  What type of person are they seeking for this role?  Which technical skills and soft skills would be important to them?  From their perspective, what type of candidate would be attractive?

Stay focused.  There is nothing more annoying to an interviewer than a candidate that talks on and on without actually answering the question.  Keep the question at the top of mind and make sure that you address it completely.  Don’t waste the interviewer’s time by going off on a tangent.

Provide examples.  The worst thing you can do at an interview is provide vague and general statements, such as ‘I have excellent leadership skills’ or ‘I am strong in customer service.’  These statements are lame because every candidate makes them and really it is just your opinion.  Instead, use detailed examples to demonstrate the points that you are making.  For example, you could show that your customer service skills are strong by providing the results of a survey that indicates that 95% of your customers were ‘very satisfied’ with your service.

Practice.  Find some common interview questions and practice them with a trusted colleague or friend.  Ask for feedback and make notes on how you can improve.  Identify the key soft skills for the position and practice providing examples that indicate that you are strong in those areas.

When you are heading out to a job interview, people will often wish you, ‘good luck!”, but the reality is that luck has nothing to do with it.  If you are well prepared and you remain focused, that is all the ‘luck’ you need!

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

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What Happens at the Second Interview?

You were called for a second interview!  Congratulations!  You are a serious contender for the job.  However, your work isn’t done yet.  You are now competing with the most qualified candidates and the employer is carefully evaluating your level of fit for both the organization and the job.  Here are some tips that will help you turn that second interview into an offer:

You will meet with different people.  When hiring new candidates, most managers like to give several different people the opportunity to weigh-in on the decision.  This makes it more likely that the new employee will be embraced by the rest of the team.  Be prepared to be interviewed by senior level managers, members of the team, and by staff from within and outside of the department.  Make sure that you give everyone who interviews you the same level of consideration; you never know who might have the manager’s ear.

You may be tested. 

Usually by the time you get to the second interview, the employer has already determined that all of the candidates have the required technical skills for the job.  Now they are just trying to find the right fit.  At this point in the selection process, it is common for the interviewer to ask you to complete a test that assesses your skills, intelligence and personality.  While it isn’t possible to prepare for these tests, you can set yourself up for success by getting a good night sleep the night before.

You will need to delve deeper.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself answering the same question more than once.  In order to truly evaluate your level of expertise, the interviewer is going to want a detailed description of your related skills and experience.  It might help to write down a few examples ahead of time so that you don’t have to come up with them on the spot.

They may communicate their concerns.

Each candidate possesses strengths and weaknesses for the position.  If you’re lucky, the interviewer will let you know of any concerns that they have about hiring you.  Put yourself in their position; what might be holding the employer back from making you an offer?  The interviewer may communicate these concerns by asking you a lot of questions about a particular topic; sometimes you have to read between the lines.

You may be negotiating salary and benefits.

The second interview is often when the employer begins the salary conversation.  The employer needs to know if you would be willing to accept the salary that they are able to offer.  Take the time to do your salary research ahead of time and have a range in mind.

When you’re at the interview, don’t forget to pay attention to whether or not this is a job that you would actually want.  Would you be happy working here day after day?  While it’s great to get an offer, you need to find a job that will satisfy you for at least a few years.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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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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