How to Succeed in a Job Interview
By Bob Larson, CPC
Okay, so you've finally secured an interview with the company you've always wanted to work for - a well-admired company with excellent benefits, a reputation for treating its employees very well, and a convenient location from your home. Now all you have to do is make a strong impression with the person interviewing you so that your interview will lead to your getting hired. What steps can you take to help you succeed?
Richard Nelson Bolles devoted 11 pages to the subject of conducting a successful job interview in his marvelous book, "What Color Is Your Parachute?" We've included some highlights here covering a variety of recommendations, which Bolles says will increase your chances of getting hired early on in the interview process.
The first thing you should do before going on the interview, Bolles says, is to research the organization. This, he says, will put you ahead (in the employers mind) of other people they talk to. Go to the company's web site and read all of the information offered. Also check the Internet or go to your local library for help in locating newspaper articles or other information about the organization. Finally, ask all of your friends if they know anyone who is working there, or used to work there. If they do, ask them to please put you in touch with them.
You want to become familiar with the organization's history, purposes and goals, Bolles says. If you come in, and have done your homework, this immediately makes you stand out from other job-hunters, and dramatically speeds up your chances of being offered a job.
Don't Hog the Interview
When you actually get to the company, Bolles recommends, do not hog the interview. Studies reveal that, generally speaking, the people who get hired are those who mix speaking and listening fifty-fifty. Studies have also shown that when it is your turn to speak, you should not speak more than two minutes at a time, if you want to make the best impression. In fact, Bolles says, a good answer to an employer's question sometimes only takes twenty seconds to give.
Stay focused on what you can do for the employer, rather than on what the employer can do for you, Bolles advises. You want the employer to see you as a potential Resource Person for the organization, rather than as simply a Job Beggar. You want to come across as a problem-solver, rather than one who simply keeps busy.
Also, Bolles suggests, think of what a bad employee would do, in the position you are asking for - come in late, take to much time off, follow his or her own agenda, instead of the employer's, etc. Then emphasize how much you're the very opposite; your sole goal is to increase the organization's effectiveness and service and bottom line. During the course of the interview, he adds, you need to make it clear that you are there in order to make an oral proposal, followed hopefully by a written proposal, of what you can do for them, to help them with their problems. You will see immediately what a switch this is from the way most job-hunters approach an employer! Most companies want a resource person, and a problem-solver.
Illustrate Your Skills
Bolles advises to be sure to illustrate in the interview whatever it is you claim will be true of you, once hired. For example, if you claim you are very thorough in all of your work, be sure to be thorough in the way you have researched the organization ahead of time. Employers know this simple truth: most people job-hunt the way they live their lives. Also, try to think of some way to bring evidence of your skills to the interview through samples of your work. Employers most prefer to hire from within, or to hire someone whose work he or she has seen. By bringing evidence of your work you are following the employer's preferred strategy.
Another key point Bolles makes is to never speak badly of your previous employer(s). Badmouthing a previous employer only makes this employer worry that were they to hire you, you would end up badmouthing them.
And finally, Bolles emphasizes, every evening after an interview sit down and write a thank you note to each person you saw that day. This means not only employers, but also secretaries, receptionists or anyone else who gave you a friendly helping hand. Use the thank-you note to underline anything that was discussed during the interview, or to add anything you left out that was important, he adds.
The thank-you note is crucial. If you want to stand out from others applying for the same job, if you want to speed up your getting hired, send thank-you notes to everyone you met there that day, he says. And treat every employer with courtesy, even if it seems they can offer you no job. If you made a good impression with them, they may be able to refer you to someone who can.