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12 Job Interview Tips (plus enter for a chance to win*!)

Posted by Claire | Monday November 19, 20129 comments

You've written a killer resume, scoured the job postings, and worked your professional contacts. Now you've been invited to an in-person interview... are you ready?

Take confidence in the fact that being offered an interview in the first place says that the company is already seriously interested in your skills, so all you need to do is close the sale.  Here are 12 tips to try:

#1: Know The Company

Don't be the candidate who has no ready answer to the question "What attracts you to our company?" Your reasons may be Big Picture ideas, but be prepared with specific comments about how working with that company fits into your dreams for the future. Check out their website, Facebook page, or recent news stories, paying special attention to industry awards the company or your interviewer have received. This also demonstrates your attention to detail and shows your commitment to this job, not just any job.

#2: Put Your Best Breath Forward

Though you're probably not going to be sitting kissing distance from your future employer in the interview, bad breath hanging in the air from jittery nerves is not the impression you want to leave. And it's not just bad breath you should consider: think about all of the germ-laden objects you've put in your mouth today, from chewed pencil ends to eating food with your hands after handling money and transit tokens, car keys and debit cards. In fact, a recent survey by the makers of LISTERINE® mouthwash found that 86% of Canadians overestimate the effectiveness of simple toothbrushing alone (it actually only cleans about 25% of your mouth), so adding an antiseptic rinse like LISTERINE® to your routine not only gives you fresher breath but also a healthier mouth. One less worry for today!

#3: Be Punctual

Obviously you should never be late for a job interview, but if you are caught in an unforeseeable delay (no, rush hour traffic is not an adequate excuse) you must call in as soon as possible. Simply showing up 10 minutes late immediately demonstrates your lack of time management skills and respect for the interviewer's time.

On the flip side, do not arrive more than 10 minutes early. It places an implied pressure on your interviewer to rearrange his or her schedule to accommodate you, so kill time at a coffee shop around the corner instead.

#4: Waiting Room Etiquette

Know that the reception staff is watching you and will likely be asked about their first impressions. Do not chew gum, drink beverages (accidental spills or coffee breath, hmm?), text, or listen to your iPod. Turn your phone's ringer and stash it out of site so you won't be tempted to take or make a call or text during the interview. You can afford to delay your best friend's breathless "date from hell" recap until the interview is over.

#5: Dress For Success

How you dress for the interview can be very telling. If you look like you've put no effort into your appearance, your interviewer may assume you aren't serious about the position.

"I once had someone show up for an interview with a wrinkled, untucked shirt and hair all over the place. I instantly knew I could never put her in front of a client so the interview was over before it began," says Ali de Bold, co-founder of ChickAdvisor.

#6: Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts

These days, you should expect that companies will check out your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. Anything from listing your political and religious leanings to posting potentially inappropriate pictures or bashing a former workplace can have an impact on that critical first impression. Don't forget about missed opportunities too: make sure your education profile is up to date and any industry or civic awards you've received are listed.

Spring-cleaning your profile or restricting public access should be done before you start your job search, since a potential employer might check your pages at any point during the vetting process.

#7: Study Your Personal Work History

Don't assume you will remember every relevant detail under pressure!  Take time to prepare your answers so that you don't hem and haw in front of your interviewer, potentially forgetting to mention positive details. Under what circumstances did you leave previous jobs? What were your start and end dates (month/year)? What did you learn/which skills did you develop at specific jobs?

#8: Gaps In Your Resume

Be prepared to explain holes in your resume rather than trying to dodge or make excuses.  Family planning, international travel, and charity work all can build essential skills you bring to the job, such as time management, ability to adapt, team mindset, etc. You might be surprised how many employers respect such choices instead of scorning them!

#9: Think More, Talk Less

Rather than rambling on, keep your answers short and concise. It's okay to ask for a moment to consider your response. Pay close attention to your interviewer's questions so that you can give them exactly the answer they are looking for.

Avoid slang or self-deprecating jokes since this can backfire. Do not dominate the conversation, interrupt, or get sidetracked talking about irrelevant things; let your interviewer lead the discussion. A certain amount of small talk is acceptable at the beginning, but watch for verbal and nonverbal cues to see when it's time to talk turkey.

#10: Tame Tricky Questions

Speaking of those awkward moments, be prepared for certain standard questions almost every employer will ask. They are not just being polite: they are looking for poise under pressure and intelligent answers.

(a) "Tell me about yourself"

...is a common opening question, and one that many candidates stumble over. Have a ready answer for this one so that you can showcase your strengths on your own terms rather than forcing the interviewer to draw them out of you. Be modest but honest, giving praise where praise is due (including yourself and former coworkers). This is a sales pitch, and the product you are selling is your expertise so keep your answer relevant to the job.

(b) "What are your weaknesses?"

This is an opportunity to demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow. Don't be afraid of the question but have an answer ready that is not apologetic or self-abasing.  Saying you have no weaknesses is a bad idea, because that's not the truth, is it?

(c) "Tell me how you manage negative situations in the workplace."

No one has been fortunate enough to never have had conflict in the workplace (unless this is your first job), so think of this as an opportunity to demonstrate your maturity and strengths even if some of your workplace conflicts have been ugly. Be careful that your negative comments are respectful and justified. No prospective employer will hire you if they suspect you'll maliciously gossip about them to others.

(d) "Why do you want to work for us?"

The wrong answer is "to pay my bills". The correct answer should relate to the company specifically (see point #1 above). Know what your long-term goals are and be prepared to explain how this job will help you fulfill them.

#11: Ask Questions of Your Own

Many interviewers will ask you if you have any questions of your own.  Having no response to this isn't ideal.  Even one simple question like, "Can you describe what a typical work day would be like for this position?" makes you look more prepared and demonstrates your enthusiasm for the position. 

Asking about your new salary is debatable, and so it's best to leave that question until your second interview when you know the company is ready to offer you the position.

#12: How to Follow Up

Naturally you're eager to know if you landed the job, and employers understand this.  When following up with your contact post-interview, use a thank-you note as a way of acknowledging the time they set aside to meet with you.  This way you're not just another candidate pestering for a status update.

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Good luck!

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on June 18, 2015  Griechux  35,540 said:

Great tips!

on November 26, 2012  mamaluv  STAFF said:

UPDATE: The winners for our "That's A Mouthful" contest have been selected.

Congratulations to jsantos, Kagoory, KaranRanu, kiwigirl, lindsaycyr, pinnkels, MidnightKiss, Sharon67, sparrow, and Vivid! Please check your emails to confirm your win :)

on November 26, 2012  Lynn hall  3,007 said:

great advice:)

on November 22, 2012  Racenhawk  2,689 said:

great advice

on November 21, 2012  nscott84  4,013 said:

And never take the drink/water they offer. Drinks are hardly on standby and will take unnecessary time to retrieve. They are also viewed as a distraction.

on November 19, 2012  fredamans  12,217 said:

Great tips, though you would think they would be common sense.

on November 19, 2012  takoda  28,648 said:

Great tips Claire, I especially like the one about cleaning up their social media sites. I've been telling my boy's this since their fist day on line and try to drill it into their heads all the time. More and more company's look at this and it definitely can cost you a job. After all it is a reflection of your true self.

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