Interview Skills and Tips


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This was part of a series of classes given to job seekers at Austin Public Library in Spring 2010.

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  • SARA   Hello, welcome to the Interview Tips and Skills Workshop hosted by APL. I'm Sara, this is Carol, Sheri & Elly
  • SARA Today we are going to talk with you about the interview process, from how to prepare, to doing the interview with confidence, and how to follow up after an interview. If you have questions any time during our presentation, please feel free to interrupt us so that you can get your answer right away. If you would prefer not to, just write your question down on a post it, which we have left at your table and we will collect them to answer them anonymously at the end. You also have a brochure handout, containing some of the information we are sharing today and a worksheet, that we will prompt you to use throughout this workshop. There is also a notes section on the worksheet for your own use, which you can take home if you like. Don't worry about the computers today, we won't be using them for this workshop. And now Elly will share some ideas about preparing for your interview.
  • ELLY   Interviews can be nerve-wracking, but with a little preparation, you can insure that you'll be ready for pretty much anything that they may throw at you. Interviewers are looking for the perfect candidate, and you are looking for the perfect job, so with a little preparation, rehearsal, exploration, and planning, you will be able to demonstrate with confidence why you are the perfect candidate for the job.
  • ELLY   You've sent out your resumes, and probably, in the current economy LOTS of resumes, but you've gotten an interview, but there are a few things you need to do to prepare What? Original Job Posting Skills they want Your Resume What are your skills Why? You're probably sending out lots of resumes, make sure you know which one you're interviewing for. Getting into the mindset of selling yourself can be difficult, so start now.  How will your experience and skills match what your potential employer is looking for?
  • ELLY   Interviewers will tend to ask the same questions, and you can find lists of these on the internet or in books about interviewing like those listed on the back of your handout Some of these common questions include:  Tell me about yourself, why would this job be a good fit for you? etc.   For example, you will want to think about and rehearse how you would answer an interviewer who asked about your greatest strengths and weaknesses? These are two of those common questions, if you have an answer ready, and if you practice those answers, you'll be able to answer with confidence.   EXERCISE: Take 1 minute to write your own answer. Think about some questions for your potential employer before your interview. What sort of training do they provide? What would a typical day at work look like?   You'll sound in control and knowledgeable.
  • SARA   Now you have entered the Explore stage of the pre interview process. This is where you will be doing research about the organization and the person who will be interviewing you. You can check out your potential employers online or literature they publish like brochures. Also, ask your friends and family what they know about the organization. This kind of research will help you see what they do and where their organization is headed. When you are called for an interview, try to find out who you'll be interviewing with and their position, if you can do that politely. See if you can find out any information about them individually, check the company's website or do a google search, maybe one of them has been recently promoted? what professional organizations do they belong to, or where did they work before. We have recommended a lot of internet research to you. If you are not comfortable doing this on your own, the librarians here teach classes on using the internet, the Workforce Solutions Career Centers provide computer help, or you may even have someone in your family who can help you   All of this research will help you develop those questions for the interviewer that Elly mentioned.    EXERCISE: take one minute to think of your own questions for your potential future employer. we do this because knowing more about where you'll be interviewing and who you'll be interviewing with will prepare you to ask knowledgeable questions and also, give you a window into what you may be getting yourself into.
  • SARA Plan out what you'll be wearing and how you'll get to the interview. Dress for the job you want, look as professional as possible, make sure your clothes are pressed and clean without holes or stains. You cannot over dress for an interview, it will impress the interviewer if you are dressed well. You do not have to buy a suit if you don't own one, but slacks or a conservative skirt and button down collared shirt is great. Cover tattoos if possible and go easy on the perfume or cologne. ladies, try not to wear anything too revealing and make sure your makeup is understated and natural looking. Some of the resources listed on the back of your brochure discuss dressing for the interview as well. Make sure you have reliable transportation and that you know how to get there and how long it will take. You can do a trial run by driving to the interview site a day or two before hand. If you're taking the bus, make sure you give yourself plenty of time for missed connections or late drivers FInally, although you should be on time or early, try not to be more than 10 minutes early for an interview. By eliminating these potential stressors beforehand, You'll be on time, and well dressed, and you can stroll in with confidence.   And now Sheri will  give you some tips to keep in mind during your interview.
  • So - it is interview day. You have followed all of the steps that Elly and Sara laid out to get you prepared for the actual interview and you have arrived on time and are ready. You are nervous, but you are ready. It is ok to be nervous. Everyone is. Just don't say this in the interview. First and foremost remember to breathe. I would suggest taking three deep breaths before entering the building. You can also do this and start getting yourself in the right mindset as you ride the bus, park your car, or walk to the interview.   The second most important thing to remember is that unless you already know the interviewer for some reason that you are a blank slate to this person. This is why we chose the blank chalkboard for our image on this slide. Being a blank slate is a good thing and you have a rare opportunity to present your very best self to the person interviewing you. Forget about any past interview experiences - especially any bad ones. Think positive.
  • photo by thinkpanama - flickr - cc clip art by First thing to remember is to shake hands - firmly, but not too firm and sit up straight during the interview - your posture conveys a lot about yourself and sitting up straight shows that you are confident. Introduce yourself - this usually goes along with the handshake, but you might have an interview with more than one person and an additional interviewer might come in late. Make sure that you speak clearly and with enthusiasm, but not too much as you don't want to seem hyper or agitated. Also, if you haven't done it yet, do one last check to make sure that your cell phone is silenced or turned off (vibrate does not work either), even if you need to say excuse me as you dig it out of a pocket. You need to make sure to do this BEFORE you begin the formal part of the interview. It is better to do this before you enter the interview room and not have to fumble with your phone. But if you need to check, the interviewer will know that you value this time more than any phone call. Make sure that your body posture and face shows that you are interested in what the interviewer is saying. As you sit up straight, lean in slightly toward the interviewer - this shows interest. Also, try not to let your mind drift during the interview. You might have a child sick at home, or you might think about how you might have more fully answered a question or be wondering about and planning your next answer. It is really important to listen to the interviewer and follow where the interview and conversation is going. Always look your employer in the eye - especially while they are speaking to you. It shows that you are interested and confident. It is normal to look away briefly while you compose an answer, but make sure to look at the interviewer when you answer the question. Looking away might indicate that you are not telling the truth. Of course there are may be cultural differences it is important to be aware of if you are interviewing in a different country. But in the United States we value eye contact during conversations very highly. And though I haven't said it yet - smile.
  • Hopefully the interviewer will start off by asking some of the standard questions and you will have rehearsed your answers. Answer naturally - not like you are reading a script or something that you memorized.   A time will probably come in the interview when they ask you a question you are not prepared for. Take a moment and think about your answer. If you need to ask the interviewer to repeat the question that's ok. Drink a sip of water if you need another moment. However, (and this is a little off subject) I wouldn't recommend accepting an offer of coffee or tea. You will be nervous (as everyone is) and spilling coffee or tea on yourself  would be very embarrassing. Ask questions about the company. This shows that you are interested in them and what they do. However, one question NOT to ask is "So what does the company do?" As Elly and Sara both mentioned you need to do your homework ahead of time. Make sure that the questions you ask do not have answers in their literature or on their website. You can use the information in those places to ask more about the company. Another important point is - Do not ask about salary now - wait until you are offered the job before you bring up wages or salary. If the interviewer asks what your salary requiement is say something along the lines of "I'm sure we can come to a mutually agreeable figure if you offer me the position". If they keep pressing you on salary, you can give them a range. This is where doing research on the field and area where you are applying as well as the company is helpful. You can say something along the lines of "I understand that in this region, people working in *** (these types of positions) make between XXXX & XXXX" or (again, if pressed) you could say "I would like to match or exceed my present rate (or what I made on my last job if you are unemployed)". But again, remember, YOU are not to bring up this question, these responses are only if you are forced to answer the question, the best answer is always something along the lines of "I'm sure we can come to a mutually agreeable amount when you offer me the position." Also, as Elly mentioned earlier, keep a positive spin on all your answers. Think about what you wrote down earlier in answering "what are your weaknesses" ahead of time and turn these into positives. If you are asked about a bad job experience turn it into a learning experience. Make sure not to speak badly about a prior employer - even if you had an awful experience. If the interview question is phrased in a negative way, make sure that you put a positive spin on your answer and that the last words are positive. This can be a really hard thing so we're going to take a moment and give you some practice. The last question on your worksheet is: EXERCISE: Tell me about a time you were faced with a difficult work situation.    Go ahead and take a minute to think about situation where you experienced a difficulty in a past job. You don't have to put the positive spin on it right now, but if you have time you can start to do this as well.    So now that you've taken a few minutes, we wanted to see if you had any questions for us. If not, I'll pass it off to Carol.
  • Sheri   So - as we have all probably experienced, you don't always get the job that you applied for, especially in this economy. As Carol mentioned, it is really important to be polite and civil with the company, even if they don't offer you the job. There are many reasons why you might not have gotten the position and you want to continue to leave a good impression. It is good to say at this point in communicating with the employer that you hope they would keep you in mind for future positions. If you have left a good impression, they will probably do that.  If you feel comfortable, now is a good time to get feedback. Ask, again politely, if they are able to let you know why it was that you weren't chosen and if there are things they can suggest that you work on or if there are skills that you need to gain that would make you more competitive as a candidate in the future. This also shows that you are able to take criticism and are willing to improve. Perhaps right after the interview you took notes on questions that you that you were asked but felt you weren't prepared for. If you didn't, now is a good time to go over those sorts of things and think about improvements to your answers. It is very common to think of a better answer to a question a few hours or days later.    Keep practicing your responses to questions since we all know that practice makes perfect.    And finally, it is really easy to get discouraged and feel rejected. Do what you can to maintain confidence and know that you would be a wonderful addition to a workplace. Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for a pep talk when you are feeling discouraged. They may mention things about your personality and work habits that could come in handy in future interviews.   Perhaps now would be a good time to explore some of the other resources that exist right here in the library and that are available to you.
  • SARA   The library has a lot of resources to help you prepare for your interview. The Resume Maker database, available on any of the library's computers, has a Virtual Interview section to help you practice your interview skills. You can also search the library's catalog to find ebooks you can read online, real books you can check out, audio books and videos about interviewing. I have a few items here that you are welcome to look at after the workshop. I'll be returning them today, so they will be available for you to check out. If you find any materials that are already checked out, remember that you can place a hold on materials so that when they are returned they will be held for you.
  • Image - Stefan Baudy - CC   Sara That is the end of your presentation, but we will take some time now to answer your post it note questions, or if you have any you'd like to ask, please do. Thanks you so much, and Good luck with your interviews!
  • Interview Skills and Tips

    1. 1. April 20, 2010 Sara Arnold-Garza, Carol Close, Sheri Miklaski, & Elly Stevens Interviewing Skills and Tips Workshop
    2. 2. Interviewing Skills and Tips 1) How to Prepare for your Interview 2) How to Interview with Confidence 3) How to Follow-Up After the Interview
    3. 3. P R E P Before the Interview... Prepare Rehearse Explore Plan
    4. 4. P REPARE Review the job posting. Know your skills.
    5. 5. R EHEARSE Practice answering common questions.    Prepare questions for your interviewer.
    6. 6. E XPLORE Research the organization.   Find out more about your interviewers.
    7. 7. P LAN What will you wear? Where will your interview be?
    8. 8.   During the Interview...
    9. 9. S M I L E <ul><ul><li>Shake hands and sit up straight </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure your cell phone is off </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Introduce yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look interested </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Eye contact </li></ul></ul>...During the Interview
    10. 10. T A L K <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Take a moment if you need it </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask questions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Leave the salary question for later on </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep answers positive </li></ul></ul>...During the Interview
    11. 11.    Keep it Professional     <ul><ul><li>Answer THE question </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don't volunteer personal information </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Highlight your skills and strengths </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12.    Interview Practice     Elly and Sara will model the tips we just gave you in a mock interview. Questions?
    13. 13. A F T E R <ul><ul><li>Always be courteous </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow up with the interview contact </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Thank them with a thank you note </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Express interest in the job again </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Remain calm and confident </li></ul></ul>...After the Interview
    14. 14. If you didn't get the job... Always be polite and civil. Ask them to keep you in mind for any future positions. Get some feedback. Next time... Make improvements. Practice makes perfect. Maintain confidence.
    15. 15. Interviewing Resources  At the library... ResumeMaker Database Set up a free account to create professional resumes, and practice your interview skills with a Virtual Interview. Fearless Interviewing: How to Win the Job by Communicating with Confidence Marky Stein, 2003. Faulk Central Library - 658.31124 ST  Interview Skills that Win the Job: Simple Techniques for Answering All the Tough Questions Michael Spiropoulos, 2005. Faulk Central Library - 650.144 SP
    16. 16. Q UESTIONS?