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Interviewee Steps for Success – Research Paper


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This research paper was written by me in the Effective Managerial Communications class with Dr. Nelson at the University of Washington Tacoma.

Published in: Career, Business
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Interviewee Steps for Success – Research Paper

  1. 1. Interviewee Steps for Success Submitted by: German Brynza Submitted to: Undergraduate Students Date Submitted: Dec. 14, 2009
  2. 2. Table of Contents
  3. 3. Executive Summary As an undergraduate student, one of the primary objectives of going to school is to attain a dream job. Attaining a dream job does not just take a piece of paper with a name on it; it takes effort in excelling an interview to convince the interviewers that he/she is the best candidate for that job. As an undergrad student, attempts maybe have been already made to get the job that seemed to be the best of the best and with a high pay, but in return receiving a “I’m sorry, but you were not the candidate we were looking for. Good luck in your job hunt!” statement. Why does this happen? Is there something different to be done? This paper is designed to educate any undergraduate student to follow a guideline, consisting of: before an interview, participation in an interview, and after an interview in which all will successfully lead them towards their next interview with the intention of attaining their dream job. In writing this paper, various sources were attained from different authors in order to construct a credible and reliable sum of information. The information attained from Chaney and Martin (2007) in their book The Essential Guide to Business Etiquette was concisely used throughout all of the three steps because they provide useful and credible information. The information used from Fox (2008) in her book Business Etiquette for Dummies was briefly used in the first step, before an interview because she provided useful and relevant information to support and understand the information more clearly. The information gathered from Virginia Tech Career Services (2009) have significantly produced essential information in guiding an interviewee in attire and thank you letters and follow-up procedures which were found on their website documents called: Interview Attire and Thank-You / Follow-up Letters. The first section of the paper explains the steps to be taken before an interview. The three major steps which are critical in preparing for any job interview are: organizational research, personal appearance preparation, and rehearsal. It is very important to research the organization because finding out different information on the company, career field, or even the interviewer will aware any interviewee in choosing how to act and communicate. The first impression is very important for any interviewee; therefore, learning how to create a pleasing personal appearance through attire, accessories, and grooming will leave a lasting memory. The final step is to perform a rehearsal to get a feel for potential questions and know how to answer them because it will increase confidence in the actual interview. The second section of the paper explains the procedures and guidelines during an interview. The three foremost steps to be implemented are: positive non-verbal communication, proper social skills, and avoiding inappropriate behavior. It is important to perform positive non-verbal communication such as eye contact, hand shake, nodding, and smiling because these characteristics are another form of communication between the interviewer and the interviewee. In order to perform proper social skills, the interviewee must learn to be careful and know how to answer questions properly to not get caught in one’s own words. The last is step is to avoid inappropriate behavior in which is very important because some interviewees go to the extreme to get the job that nonetheless, should be avoided. The third section of the paper explains the final steps to follow after an interview. By sending a thank you letter and following-up with the interviewer, an interviewee completes the final segments of the interview process, in which are very important approaches. When writing a thank you letter, the interviewee must understand what to include in a thank you letter, how to write it, and how to send because it creates a professional approach towards appreciating the interviewer. When following up, it is essential for an interviewee to understand when, how, and why it is important to follow-up because it demonstrates continuous interest in the position.
  4. 4. One of the greatest challenges for an undergraduate student is to achieve his/her dream job. Working hard in classes, studying hours for midterms and finals, and burning out to get the bachelor’s degree can be difficult but beneficial in the long run. Either a student is in process of earning his/her degree or has completed it, will be applying to various jobs and trying to attain the dream job. Some students have failed to achieve that dream job even though they encompass a bachelor’s degree, but there is more to than a piece of paper that gets people the job. The three important procedures to follow to be successful in any job interview are to follow the steps in this paper: before an interview, participation in the interview, and after the interview. This paper is designed to educate undergraduate students how to apply this procedure towards their next interview with the intention of attaining their dream job. The primary objective of this paper is to provide a guideline for undergraduate students to follow and to understand that it takes supplementary effort and hard work to attain the job he/she wants. Undergraduate students that pursue this guideline will be the successful interviewees at the end of the day. Before an Interview Attaining a job can be strenuous and stressful and preparing for a job interview could just help increase an interviewee’s confidence and control. Because receiving a job is not as simple as just arriving to an interview; the interviewee must place effort in preparing for the interview. Three ways to successfully be prepared for an interview are to: research the organization, prepare one’s appearance, and to rehearse oneself. Organizational Research The first step to successfully be prepared for the interview is to obtain background knowledge on the organization. The minimal steps to be taken are to research the company, the career field, and the employer. In doing so, interviewees better perceive the company’s operations. Research the Company. A good place to initiate the research of a company can be from the its websites and annual reports. The company’s website provides much information on different features
  5. 5. of the company’s daily performance, such as services they provide and the diversified types of industries they do business with. Furthermore, annual reports provide much useful information about the financial position of the company’s present and past positions and could also aware the interviewee of the pay or benefits to be received (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg. 4). In finding out various types of information, the interviewee could increment his/her background knowledge on the things that he/she will be engaged in if hired. It is essential to understand the company because sometimes employers question their interviewees if they know anything about the company. By doing his/her homework, it demonstrates the preparation and interest for the company (Fox, 2008, Ch. 24). Research the Career Field. Applying for a job requires knowledge about the job characteristics and duties. Although some companies provide the objectives and the qualifications of the job position, they do not fully explicate the general characteristics and job duties of an accountant or a human resources manager, as an example (Boston College Career Center, 2007). To clearly demonstrate this, an example could be that an accounting student is in an interview with an employer from an accounting firm who asks a question regarding the difference between pubic, private, and governmental accounting. Although this company is a public accounting firm, this question demonstrates the interviewee knows what he/she is applying for and the difference between various policies, issues, and sectors of his/her career. Research the Interviewer. Many of the bigger companies comprise publications, press, and contact information that provide supplementary information about the interviewers. By inclining in research about the interviewer, the interviewee understands more of who they are and what they do, which allows the interviewee to be more vigilant of who they might be speaking to. “Interviewers are always impressed when you have conducted your research thoroughly and can ask informed, intelligent questions about the organization and the job” (Boston College Career Center, 2007).
  6. 6. Impressing the employer with background information about the company is pretty remarkable, but preparing for personal appearance is also important because it determines the employer’s first impression. Therefore, the interviewee must learn how to establish that memorable first impression. Personal Appearance Preparation The second step in the preparation for the interview is personal appearance. In preparing for the personal appearance, the three most important aspects that enhance the professionalism in an individual and seize the attention of the hiring officials are: attire, accessories, and grooming. Attire. The way an individual looks, can alter the whole mindset of another; therefore, four significant components should be fulfilled: dark basic suit, well-shined shoes, dress shirt and a tie (men), or tailored blouse (women). When selecting a suit, one should not go to a store and spend hundreds of dollars to highly astound someone. Instead, a dark basic suit is suitable and is still recommended by numerous hiring officials. Next, shoes must be in good repair and well-shined to show the interviewee’s cleanliness and credibility (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg. 4). In picking out a dress shirt (for men) or tailored blouse (for women), men should wear a white or light blue shirt with a tie that matches the shirt and suit, and women should wear a gray, black, or navy colored blouse (Virginia Tech Career Services, 2009, Aug. 7). Accessories. Accessories should be limited to a minimum to keep it simple and professional. Bounded leather portfolios are highly preferable and women should limit their purses from being too big and should match their shoes. Items to include in a bounded leather portfolio should be: several copies of resumes, list of references, and a list of questions for the employer (Billett, 2004). Furthermore, necklaces, earrings and nose rings might be part of someone’s normal wear, but it is not desirable to wear them as they are not considered acceptable by numerous employers (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg. 4). Grooming. The first impression is vastly important and yet employers say they don’t make their decision based on first impression, it still influences their decisions. Looking professionally and being clean can alter the outcome of the interview because it could augment the interviewee’s
  7. 7. confidence level, therefore, performing better. To leave a positive impression, the interviewee’s hair should be clean and neat, no missing buttons on the shirt, clean fingernails, no odors on clothes, no excess use of cologne, and no smell of smoke (Virginia Tech Career Services, 2009, Aug. 7). Unkempt nails and outdated hair can convey a negative impression on the employer and therefore failing the interviewee (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg. 4). It is highly imperative to show up to an interview reflecting a professional look and a good appearance, but it is also necessary to stand out when communicating with the interviewer. Answering questions the right way and with confidence demonstrates the interviewee’s attentiveness and readiness, therefore, it takes practice. Rehearsal The third step in preparation for the interview is rehearsal. In any sport or game that individuals participate in, it took them practice to surpass the difficulties and challenges to become where they are today, professionals. In relation to sports and games, an interviewee must rehearse him/herself in answering questions in order to limit difficulties and challenges such as anxiety. Questions. In reducing anxiety, part of the preparation involves creating a list of potential questions that interviewers commonly ask. Some of these questions include: “Tell me about yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why do you want this job? Why should we hire you” (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg. 5)? Although there are many more popular questions that can be found on various sites such as, these are some of the most common ones. Answers. After creating a list of potential questions, practice answering them as if it was an actual interview. When practicing, it would be helpful if someone else could be in the position of the interviewer to experience the situation in reality. In answering questions, the interviewee will know what to expect and will amplify self-confidence in answering them on the day of the interview. In summary, preparing for the interview is an important factor in order for an interviewee to be successful. The three important topics that were touched on in the preparation of an interview were: organizational research, attire, and rehearsal. In preparing for these things, the interviewee gains
  8. 8. confidence, control, and limits anxiety. By attaining these things, the interviewee should be successful in the interview itself. Participation in the Interview Getting an interview is a good step to put one’s foot in the door, therefore, it is important to value this opportunity and to leave a lasting experience. Because there are many applicants and being selected to be an interviewee is not very easy, interviewees should grasp this opportunity to show who they really are. The three ways to leave a lasting memory for the employer are to use: positive non- verbal communication, proper social skills, and to avoid any inappropriate behavior. Non-Verbal Communication First, communication is generally thought as verbally speaking to individuals, however, there are also non-verbal communication signs and gestures that are used to communicate. Different non- verbal communication tools include: hand shake, eye contact, nodding, and more that take place when meeting the interviewer and during the interview. Meeting the Interviewer. When meeting the interviewer, offering a firm handshake and keeping eye contact is very important. In performing a firm handshake and keeping eye contact, the interviewee shows assertiveness and leadership. Next, follow the interviewer to his/her office and wait to sit down until the interviewer says to. Because the interview does not usually start right away, listen attentively and remember important things the interviewer says. During the Interview. Different behaviors that indicate the interviewee is listening include: responding to questions, nodding periodically, eye contact, and smiling occasionally when appropriate. In responding to questions, answer in an organized manner to not skip back and forth or to mention anything extra. In the meantime, the interviewee should nod periodically, show eye contact, and smile occasionally to show that the interviewer is being listened to and the interviewee is into the discussion with interest (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg. 6).
  9. 9. By understanding the different types of non-verbal communication tools, it is also important to know how to respond to various questions. Being socially competent might not just get someone a job, but will also benefit an individual further throughout his/her career. Proper Social Skills The second step to be successful in the duration of the interview is to use proper social skills. Knowing how to ask and answer questions properly allows the interviewee to not get caught by his/her own words, but instead taking the right approach into answering various questions, including positive and negative characteristics. Positive Characteristics. As the interview takes charge and the interviewer begins with “Tell me about yourself” statement, the interviewee’s responsibility is to lay out positive characteristics, or strengths, in an organized manner. Every characteristic that the interviewee describes should be accompanied by positive real life examples of how the characteristic applies to them. For example, if dependency is on the list, the interviewee should illustrate how group members were dependent on him/her to turn in a group project on the due date. Negative Characteristics. When the “What are your weaknesses?” question comes up, it seems like the hardest question of them all. Because all humans have strengths and weaknesses, the way to excel this question is to acknowledge weaknesses that are least related to the job performance. For example, when answering this question, characteristics to include could be: perfectionist and very- detail oriented. These characteristics seem to be weaknesses but can be viewed as positive characteristics by some employers, creating a win-win situation (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg.6). By learning different ways to be competent in non-verbal communication and the proper way to socialize throughout the interview, it is also important to remember how to act. Although there have been various incidents that employers have experienced, but learning how to avoid inappropriate behaviors allows any interviewee to not to fall for the same mistake.
  10. 10. Avoiding Inappropriate Behavior The final step to formulate a seamless interview would be to avoid inappropriate behavior. As there are numerous inappropriate behaviors that should be avoided, the three most common ones are: excessively nervous, not honest or too forthcoming, and acting desperate. Excessively Nervous. Having some anxiety is perfectly normal, but some interviewees take nervousness to the extreme. When CareerBuilder surveyed more than 850 hiring officials, about 70% of them reported that they experienced bizarre behaviors from their applicants. Different examples of nervousness to be considered inappropriate are: giggling, babbling, and even forgetting what position the applicant applied for. Although these are moderate experiences, some extreme nervousness to be avoided are: wetting oneself or vomiting (Morsch, 2007). Not Honest or too Forthcoming. Different problems arise when honesty is an issue. Whenever and interviewer asks questions, it is important for the interviewee to be honest and not lie. For example, if the minimum age requirement to be employed is 16 and the applicant is 15, the applicant must answer truthfully if the question of age comes up. However, being too truthful or forthcoming is not a suggested approach. For example, if the interviewer asks “Why do you want this job?” the interviewee’s answer should not be “Because I want the 30% discount.” Being too honest or not honest enough applicants have a higher degree of not receiving the job. Acting Desperate. Although there are many incentives from a job, such as money, benefits, and insurance, the interviewee should not express inappropriate behavior such as acting desperate. From the hiring managers’ past experience, applicants took many desperate measures to get the job, which included: gifts, money, shine the shoes of the hiring manager, and even sex in return for a job offer (Morsch, 2007). These types of behaviors should be avoided as they are unethical and diminish the self-value of the interviewee. In summary, when participating in an interview, the interviewer should be aware of three aspects: non-verbal communication, proper social skills, and avoiding inappropriate behavior. In
  11. 11. learning about how to prepare for an interview and how to proceed throughout the interview, the interviewee must learn how to proceed after an interview as the final objective. After an Interview After the interview is over, much of the anxiety is relieved, but there are still two last important steps to perform: a thank you letter and a follow-up. By performing these last two steps, it is a way to remind the interviewer about the interviewee’s qualifications and the interview experience, therefore increasing the chances of receiving the job. Thank You Letter The first step to do right after an interview is to send a thank you letter within 24 hours of the interview. In sending a thank you letter to the interviewer, the interviewee appreciates the time and opportunity of an interview. Before writing a thank you letter, the interviewee should be informed three important approaches about the letter which are: what to include, how to write it, and how to send it. A sample thank you letter can be found in Appendix A. What to Include. The three important things to include in a thank you letter are to: reiterate one’s expertise, address unresolved points, and highlight one’s successes (School of Human Ecology, n.d.). If the interviewer mentioned issues, challenges, or specific needs for the company, the interviewee should restate his/her expertise and demonstrate how he/she can meet those needs. If there were unresolved points or just ran out of time, including finishing thoughts would be a good place to include in the letter. Lastly, if the interviewer mentioned what consists of the qualified candidate, the thank you letter is a great place to remind the interviewer how one meets or exceeds those qualifications. How to Write It. When writing a thank you letter, the three ways to make the interviewer remember their interviewees is to: personalize it, express enthusiasm, and write clearly and concisely. Because there are various applicants and many who write thank you letters as well, the interviewee should personalize it in a unique way by mentioning things that are most memorable to the interviewer.
  12. 12. In addition, when writing the thank you letter, express enthusiasm because it shows interest in the company and the position. Lastly, writing in a clear and concise manner allows the reader to understand the writer and is not perplexed by the flowery and longwinded letter (School of Human Ecology, n.d.). How to Send It. Once the thank you letter is complete, there are three preferable options to send it: hard copy, hand written or email (Virginia Tech Career Services, 2009, Sept. 16). Sending the thank you letter in a hard copy is the most formal and always appropriate for interviews. If the interviewee decides to hand write the letter, it shows a more personal approach towards the message. Thank you letters sent by email are usually appropriate when the contact expressed his/her preference for email. By submitting a thank you letter to the interviewer, the interviewee shows gratitude, respect, and continual interest in the job. Although it is imperative to send a thank you letter, it is also important to follow-up to continue showing interest in the job offer and to debrief the outcome or decision of the employer. Follow-Up The second step to perform after the interview is to follow-up with the employer. In order to perform a successful follow-up phone call or email message, the interviewee should know at least three factors in implementing it: when, how, and why. When & How. When following up with the interview, it is appropriate to do so within two weeks of the interview. When performing a follow-up, it is preferable to use email or telephone to contact the employer because it shows the applicant’s continual interest in the job they applied for (Chaney, & Martin, 2007, pg. 8). Reaching the employer too soon shows that the applicant is too desperate and bothersome, and reaching the employer too late shows the lack of interest in the position. Therefore, it is important to contact the employer at the right time and not too often because it is aggravating otherwise.
  13. 13. Why. It is important to follow-up with any job interview because it shows the employer that the interviewee is putting effort into receiving the job and greatly cares about it. Because job positions usually have many applicants, the follow-up email or phone call helps the employer remember who is calling, the skills the person possesses, and how they could fit into the company (CVTips, n.d.). By understanding the process and the importance of exploiting a follow-up with the employer, the interviewee is in the line of sight, or not forgotten by the interviewee. Also, a follow-up and sending a thank you letter can greatly influence the final decision as they do create positive perceptions about an individual. To sum it all up, this paper demonstrates that undergraduate students need to follow extra steps in order to be successful in an interview. When preparing for an interview, one must take the time to research the organization, prepare their personal appearance and practice potential questions and answers that could be asked by an interviewee. In performing these functions, the student will gain self-confidence and will be ready to undertake the interview. When the interview is underway, it is important to act professionally and appropriately. The three things that helps maintain this proper etiquette during the interview are: non-verbal communication, proper social skills, and avoiding inappropriate behaviors. Selected for an interview is quite a competition, but leaving a good impression at the interview is more important. In the closure of an interview, it is imperative for the interviewee to send a thank you letter within 24 hours as it does show appreciation and care. The final step to wrap up the whole interview process is to follow-up with the interviewer within two weeks to show continual interest. All these steps and guidelines (before an interview, participation in an interview, and after an interview) that are mentioned in this paper will help any undergraduate student be successful in any job interview. Nonetheless, won’t it be worth it to put some effort and hard work, like students usually do into writing research papers or studying for finals, to try to get a dream job? Yet again, that is why students go to school for…
  14. 14. Appendix A1 “General Thank You Letter Sample Dear Mr. Weatherby, Thank you for taking th eime to discuss the insurance broker position at Wisconsin Investments, Inc., with me. After meeting with you and observing the company’s operations, I am further convinced that my background and skills coincide well with your needs. I really appreciate that you took so much time to acquaint me with the company. It is no wonder that Wisconsin Investments retains its employees for so long. I feel I could learn a great deal from you and would certainly enjoy working with you. In addition to my qualifications and experience, I will bring excellent work habits and judgment to this position. With the countless demands on your time, I am sure that you require people who can be trusted to carry out their responsibilities with minimal supervision. I look forward, Mr. Weatherby, to hearing from you concerning your hiring decision. Again, thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely, John Oakley” 1 (School of Human Ecology, n.d.)
  15. 15. References Billett, D. (2004). 4 tips on dressing for a job interview. Men’s Fashion & Grooming. Retrieved on Dec. 10, 2009 from website: Boston College Career Center. (2007, Aug. 19). Research before your interview. Retrieved on Dec. 10, 2009 from Boston College website: Chaney, L.H., & Martin, J.S.C. (2007, Sept. 30). The essential guide to business etiquette. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. Pg. 1-8. CVTips. (n.d.). The importance of following up. Received on Dec. 11, 2009 from CVTips website: Fox, S. (2008). Business etiquette for dummies. For Dummies. Ch. 24. Morsch, L. (2007, Sept. 24). Weirdest interview behavior. CareerBuilder. Retrieved on Dec. 11, 2009 from CareerBuilder website: Weirdest-Interview-Behavior/? ArticleID=502&cbRecursionCnt=1&cbsid=0f1093f82fa94a7dbc8490fd0d98b0ae-313853889- VB-4&ns_siteid=ns_us_g_behavior_during_inter_ School of Human Ecology. (n.d.). How to write a thank you letter. Retrieved on Dec. 11, 2009 from The University of Wisconsin website: Virginia Tech Career Services. (2009, Sept. 16). Thank-you / follow-up letters. Retrieved on Dec. 11, 2009 from Virginia Tech website: Virginia Tech Career Services. (2009, Aug. 7). Interview attire. Retrieved on Dec. 10, 2009 from Virginia Tech website: