How do I prepare for an interview?
An employer will often interview several qualified applicants for a job. An interview can be a simple, informal meeting between you and your potential employer, or it can be a formal interview between you and a group of people with set questions. To prepare, learn about interviews according to four steps:
Step 1) Planning
When you are contacted to schedule an interview, you can ask if there will be a test as part of the interview process. You can also ask how many people will be at the interview.
When you prepare for an interview, plan and rehearse answers to potential interview questions. It may be useful to memorize your training, skills and experience, and be ready to answer questions on what you did and how you did it.
Libraries and bookstores also have books with possible interview questions.
Confirm the scheduled interview time and arrive early. Find out ahead of time where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Drive or travel the route a day or two ahead, at the same time of day as you will on the day of the interview. Set aside at least an hour for the interview.
Step 2) Interview materials
Carry a folder or envelope to the interview that contains:
- A copy of your résumé for each interviewer.
- Copies of your reference list.
- Paper and a pen, so you can write down the interviewer's name, the time of any future interview, or other information you might need later.
- Copies of letters of recommendation, if you have any.
Step 3) Interview
Here are some suggestions to help you succeed in an interview.
- Greet the interviewer or panel members. Introduce yourself and shake hands firmly. Smile. A sincere smile will help to put you, and the interviewer, at ease. Stand until you are invited to sit down.
- Let the interviewer or panel members take the lead and set the tone. Make eye contact, and answer the questions in a firm, clear, confident voice. Relax and sit naturally. Be prepared to tell the interviewer more about your education, training and skills, work experience, and the personality traits that make you right for the job.
- Ask for more explanation if you do not understand a question. It is better to ask for clarification than to answer inappropriately.
- During the interview, you may be asked if you have any questions. This is where the research completed in step 3 of the section How do I apply for a job? will be useful. Prepare a couple of questions that show you are informed about the company. Ask for more information about the position for which you are being interviewed.
Step 4) After the interview
After an interview, you may wait days or weeks to hear if you were successful. What can you do in the meantime?
- Write a letter to the interviewers: Thank the interviewers for taking the time to interview you. Restate your interest in the job and remind them of your qualifications. If possible, mail or e-mail the letter the same day as your interview.
- Go over the interview in your mind (Reflection): Consider what parts went well and did not, what you feel worked and what did not, what you would say or do differently the next time. This will help you learn from each interview.
- Follow-up call: If the employer is supposed to call you on a certain day, be available to take the call. If you are not called at the specified time, make a follow-up call. If you agreed to call the employer back, be sure to do it on the agreed-upon day. If you did not make any arrangements, and you have not heard from the employer in about two weeks, call to find out the status of the hiring process.
- Ask questions: If you find out you did not get the job, you can ask why. "Can you tell me what would have made me a better candidate for the position?" Ask if the employer knows of any other job openings in your line of work. Always thank the employer or personnel manager for considering you. Be professional and polite. Even if you do not get the job, you never know when the employer may be hiring again.
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