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Interviewing: Tips, Suggestions, Resources...

Lately, most of my appointments have revolved around preparing for interviews. We all know those people who interview and get lots of offers (which at one time in my life, that was me!) and then there is the rest of the world (which now includes me) who sometimes have several interviews and then get that one lucky job offer.

We all ask, “what is that makes these people who get lots of job offers different?� “What do they do that makes them impress the interviewers pretty much every time they have an interview?� The answers, from my perspective, are below...

1. Let them know you want the job. So many times, people interview really well for a position and are perfectly qualified, but leave the interview with the interviewers not that sure that they even want the job. Those people that let it be known, even simply by saying, "I really want this job", are often considered to be top candidates because everyone wants to work with someone who wants to be at work. A closely qualified candidate who really wants the job will usually get the position over the person who is most qualified by doesn’t seem too interested because the employer wants to hire some who sees the opportunity as just that: an opportunity (and not just a paycheck). Make sure before you leave every interview that you clearly indicate that you are very interested in this position and that you consider to be a great opportunity.

2. Research and preparation. This comes in three forms -- the company, the position, and your own resume and cover letter. My husband and I go back and forth on this: he never prepares for interviews where as I probably over prepare (yes, I spent two weeks once prepping for an interview! – I don’t recommend or condone this at all!) But it does take time to be adequately prepared for an interview – and trust, this shows when you meet with the interviewers. Even if you don’t have all the answers to the questions, the other information that you can supplement your experiences can make a huge difference.

--You should read the entire website of the organization over and any other literature that you can find so that you know as much as you can about the organization. You need to be prepared for that question, "What do you know about our organization" even if they don't ask it (because if you are, you can weave that information into the rest of your interview). Consider searching for the organization and seeing what they are up to in the news and on the internet – not just what their website says they are all about. And, its good to ask other people what they know about the organization or if they know of people who work there now or have in the past. If you can talk to them, they can often provide information that’s not readily available to the public.

--Review the job description and requirements. You should know this information through and through because it helps you tailor your answers. Its shocking to me how many people come in and want to talk about a job they applied for and how to prepare for it and they don't really know what the position entails (which also means to me that they didn't tailor their resume and/or cover letter at all). Being very familiar with the position description will help you in answering your questions accurately.

-- Review your resume and cover letter so that you know what have you said you have done. In an interview, they may ask you to work through your resume and share about your experiences and you want to be sure that you are consistent about what you've written (and the same for your cover letter). Reviewing your resume with the job description in mind will also help you tailor your answers about your experiences to what they are looking for. This will also help you to know what to elaborate on that you may have left off of your resume for space reasons.

3. Practice, practice, practice. Seriously, practicing interviewing questions makes ALL the difference in the world. If you can sit down and go over general and specific interview questions and either outline the answers or practice them out loud with a friend or by yourself, this will make a ton of difference. It’s good to think about answers to interview questions, but actually taking the time to practice answers out loud really does make a difference.

So what questions should you be using for practice? There are a couple resources for you to use -- and of course, you can do an internet search for "interview questions" and find a wide array to go from. My personal favorite is...

Job Interview Questions by Quint Careers - This database has 109 questions to go over that cover a wide range of soft/transferable skills, behavioral interviewing, and will really help you to reflect on questions regarding yoru preferred work, supervisory, and environment styles and methods.

The SI Careers Wiki - Interview Questions Resources for all SI Specializations -- This is a compilation that I've been putting together -- and since its a WIKI, you can add information too - on questions for the different specializations at SI. A wide range of questions that are tailored to LIS, ARM, HCI, etc that will make you think about what they are looking for.

When answering questions, you should keep the STAR approach in mind.

S/T - Situation or Task
Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.

A - Action you took
Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.

R- Results you achieved
What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

Use examples from internships, classes and school projects, activities, team participation, community service, hobbies and work experience -- anything really -- as examples of your past behavior. In addition, you may use examples of special accomplishments, whether personal or professional, such as scoring the winning touchdown, being elected president of your Greek organization, winning a prize for your artwork, surfing a big wave, or raising money for charity. Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers always impress employers. Remember that many behavioral questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations; you'll need to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or -- better yet, those that had positive outcomes. (Taken from Wayne State University Career Services).

On a side note, it’s important to go over lots of interview questions because you never know what they are going to ask you. But, by going over a set of questions like the 109 Quint Careers questions, you will put together a nice collection of stories and experiences that will transfer to other questions that you may get asked.

Remember that interviewing is really only you telling stories about yourself. No one else know else knows these stories better than you do and there is no reason that with a little preparation and practice and enthusiasm, you can't be the one getting all the job offers. Oh, and don't forget to send a thank you!

Contact me if you want to go over interviews questions… I’m more than happy to help you develop answers to questions and to put together a strategy of how to best approach your next interview.

Posted by kkowatch at April 24, 2008 11:00 AM


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Posted by: muthuscv@gmail.com at February 3, 2009 06:09 AM

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