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Preparing For Your Job Interview: What You Need To Know To Be Successful


In the limited time an interviewer has with you, their mission is to know you and assess your worth, especially in relationship to the other candidates interviewed. Asking you questions is the way they accomplish that mission.

You’ll be asked to tell the interviewer about yourself, your qualifications (especially as they pertain to the specific opening), your professional background, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses, and your goals. So the first step is to know yourself. Be prepared to talk about your skills, competencies, qualifications and accomplishments. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Explore the goals you have for yourself – both current and future.

Especially know how to convey the value you bring to the table – the strengths, unique gifts and marketable assets that are distinctly yours. Know your value proposition; it describes your worth. It is what uniquely defines you, and differentiates you from the crowd. If you want to stand out in the huge ocean of candidates that represents your competition, you need to become fluent in this arena.

You may also be asked why you left your previous position. This is where the interview can get a bit tricky. How you answer this question can make or break your chances. No matter how challenging your supervisor was or how grueling the workload or the sixty-hour weeks were, you must frame your response in a positive light. If you left your previous employment because you were downsized, that's ok. That's happened quite a bit in the past few years. If you resigned, be very careful how you state this. Your attitude can enhance or end your chances. Be honest, and be sure to indicate your desire for stability as an overriding factor.   

Keep in mind that while your answers will help the interviewer assess your skills for the position at hand, it’s how you respond that more importantly determines your overall fit with the company. Personality is ninety percent of the battle. You may answer a question factually, but your attitude might tell them no.  On the other hand, it’s far better to establish a rapport with your interviewer than to answer every question correctly. A skill can always be taught, but when was the last time you successfully altered someone’s personality?  

Find out everything you can about the interviewer’s quirks and traits. Are they confrontational or laid back, serious or informal, friendly or stern? What is their position within the company, and how long have they been employed there? Are they the decision-maker and therefore in a position to make you an offer? They may simply be a screen, filtering out all the non-viable candidates from further review by higher-ups. If they are a screen, try and discover upon whose shoulders the hiring responsibility falls.

You need to learn as much as you can about the position for which you are interviewing. Why does the position exist – are you replacing someone or is this a new position created because of company growth? If you are replacing someone, is it because they retired, resigned or were terminated?  Understand the fundamental responsibilities of the position, especially in relationship to similar positions you have held in the past. Know what possibilities exist for your growth within the position and the company.

Research the company, using Google, Dunn & Bradstreet, Hoover's, Standard and Poors, or any of the other sources of corporate information. Who are its competitors in the marketplace and what percentage of the market do they own? Are their processes state of the art and at the cutting edge of technology? Are they a public company or privately held? If public, how are they perceived by investment advisors, what is their earnings track and how has their stock performed? If a privately held company, is it a family-run business with non-family members being in the minority? That would be ok; however, it could affect your chances for future promotions and growth.

Know the industry. The company might be at the forefront in terms of their processes, sales and marketing efforts, and growth, but its industry may be on its way out. If you see a delicious-looking apple growing on a dying tree, you might hesitate before pulling it off and taking a bite.

Do your research in all these areas so you can be well-prepared. Get on the Internet and find out everything you can. Make phone calls. Make sure you know all there is to know, so that you will go to your interview with great confidence and self-assurance.

Come to the interview dressed appropriately. Establish a comfort level early in the interview and maintain that rapport throughout. The initial handshake must be firm but not gripping. Eye contact is critical throughout the interview. How you sit in your chair and shift your posture can make or break your effectiveness. Remember, you’re there to sell yourself, so be sure to ask for the offer before the interview is over. Fully armed, you can ask all the right questions and come away a success.

Copyright © 2005 TopDog Group All rights reserved.

About the Author

David Richter is a recognized authority in career coaching. His extensive knowledge and experience gained from many years in recruitment, outplacement and career management has allowed David to formulate powerful strategies anyone can use to secure interviews and receive offers. David holds Masters in both Engineering and Counseling Psychology. Visit: http://www.procareercoach.com


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