Ten Tips To Boost Your Interview Skills

 
Even the smartest and most qualified job seekers need to prepare for job interviews. Why, you ask? Interviewing is a learned skill, and there are no second chances to make a great first impression. So study these 10 strategies to enhance your interview skills.

Practice Good Nonverbal Communication

It's about demonstrating confidence: standing straight, making eye contact and connecting with a good, firm handshake. That first nonverbal impression can be a great beginning -- or quick ending -- to your interview.

Dress for the Job or Company

Today's casual dress codes do not give you permission to dress as "they" do when you interview. It is important to look professional and well-groomed. Whether you wear a suit or something less formal depends on the company culture and the position you are seeking. If possible, call to find out about the company dress code before the interview.

Listen

From the very beginning of the interview, your interviewer is giving you information, either directly or indirectly. If you are not hearing it, you are missing a major opportunity. Good communication skills include listening and letting the person know you heard what was said. Observe your interviewer, and match that style and pace.

Don't Talk Too Much

Telling the interviewer more than he needs to know could be a fatal mistake. When you have not prepared ahead of time, you may ramble when answering interview questions, sometimes talking yourself right out of the job. Prepare for the interview by reading through the job posting, matching your skills with the position's requirements and relating only that information.

Don't Be Too Familiar

The interview is a professional meeting to talk business. This is not about making a new friend. Your level of familiarity should mimic the interviewer's demeanor. It is important to bring energy and enthusiasm to the interview and to ask questions, but do not overstep your place as a candidate looking for a job.

Use Appropriate Language

It's a given that you should use professional language during the interview. Be aware of any inappropriate slang words or references to age, race, religion, politics or sexual orientation -- these topics could send you out the door very quickly.

Don't Be Cocky

Attitude plays a key role in your interview success. There is a fine balance between confidence, professionalism and modesty. Even if you're putting on a performance to demonstrate your ability, overconfidence is as bad, if not worse, as being too reserved.

Take Care to Answer the Questions

When an interviewer asks for an example of a time when you did something, he is seeking a sample of your past behavior. If you fail to relate a specific example, you not only don't answer the question, but you also miss an opportunity to prove your ability and talk about your skills.

Ask Questions

When asked if they have any questions, most candidates answer, "No." Wrong answer. Part of knowing how to interview is being ready to ask questions to demonstrate an interest in what goes on in the company. Asking questions also gives you the opportunity to find out if this is the right place for you. The best questions come from listening to what you're asked during the interview and asking for additional information.

Don't Appear Desperate

When you interview with the "please, please hire me" approach, you appear desperate and less confident. Maintain the three C's during the interview: cool, calm and confident. You know you can do the job; make sure the interviewer believes you can, too.

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This is another broad question that can take you down the wrong road unless you've done some thinking ahead of time. This question is purely about selling yourself. Think of yourself as the product. Why should the customer buy?

The Wrong Track

Spencer answers by saying, "Because I need and want a job." That's nice, but the bottom line here is, "What can you do for us?"

Mariana says, "I'm a hard worker and really want to work for this company." The majority of people think of themselves as hard workers -- and why this company?

The Right Track

Tom's answer to this question is, "Because I'm a good fit for the position." Getting warmer, but more details, please.

Sharon answers, "I have what it takes to solve problems and do the job." This is the best answer so far. Expand on this, and you've got it.

Develop a Sales Statement

The more detail you give, the better your answer will be. This is not a time to talk about what you want. Rather, it is a time to summarize your accomplishments and relate what makes you unique.

Product Inventory Exercise

The bottom line of this question is, "What can you do for this company?"

Start by looking at the job description or posting. What is the employer stressing as requirements of the job? What will it take to get the job done? Make a list of those requirements.

Next, do an inventory to determine what you have to offer as a fit for those requirements. Think of two or three key qualities you have to offer that match those the employer is seeking. Don't underestimate personal traits that make you unique; your energy, personality type, working style and people skills are all very relevant to any job.

The Sales Pitch: You Are the Solution

From the list of requirements, match what you have to offer and merge the two into a summary statement. This is your sales pitch. It should be no more than two minutes long and should stress the traits that make you unique and a good match for the job.

Example: "From our conversations, it sounds as if you're looking for someone to come in and take charge immediately. It also sounds like you are experiencing problems with some of your database systems. With my seven years of experience working with financial databases, I have saved companies thousands of dollars by streamlining systems. My high energy and quick learning style enable me to hit the ground and size up problems rapidly. My colleagues would tell you I'm a team player who maintains a positive attitude and outlook. I have the ability to stay focused in stressful situations and can be counted on when the going gets tough. I'm confident I would be a great addition to your team."

What Makes You Unique?

Completing an exercise around this question will allow you to concentrate on your unique qualities. Like snowflakes, no two people are alike. Take some time to think about what sets you apart from others.

  • "Never miss deadlines."
  • "Bring order to chaos."
  • "Good sense of humor."
  • "Great attention to detail."

 Let the interviewer know that you have been listening to the problem and have what it takes to do the job -- that you are the solution to the problem.

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You have a job interview tomorrow. You've learned everything about the company, you're prepared for any questions they ask, and you even arrived a few minutes early. You couldn't be more ready.

But when you stop in the restroom for a last look in the mirror, your mind starts racing: "Am I dressed the way I should be for this interview?"

"In an interview situation, you're marketing yourself as a product, and so you want and need to have the best image possible," says Amy Glass, a trainer and coach at Brody Communications Ltd. of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and an expert on presentation skills, business etiquette, professional presence and interpersonal communication.

Presenting a professional image is more about doing your homework than spending money. So as you prepare for your interview, keep these wardrobe tips in mind.

In many traditional industries, like finance or accounting, business professional dress will be appropriate: A conservative suit, shirt and tie if you're a man, or a conservative suit if you're a woman, with -- perhaps -- personality shown through your shirt or jewelry, Glass says. In other industries such as advertising, public relations, graphic design and information technology, what to wear might be less clear. If that's the case, Glass says, ask about the company's general dress policies when you're first contacted about an interview.
 
"You can say to the person you speak with, 'I want to make sure I understand your company culture and dress appropriately,'" Glass notes. "It's not a bad thing at all. In fact, it shows respect."

If in doubt, err on the conservative side. "I've been overdressed at times, and that can be uncomfortable," Glass says. "But that's much better than being underdressed."

You don't have to buy several suits for different interviews at the same company. In many instances, you can get by with one suit combined with what Glass calls a "capsule dressing" strategy -- varying what you wear with the suit each time.
 
"If I'm a young woman and I invest in a nice black pantsuit, I could use that one suit for interviews, but change the shirt, jewelry or scarf each time," says Glass.

Visit higher-end stores, like Nordstrom's or Neiman Marcus, to look at interview clothes, Glass says. But when you're ready to buy something and money is tight, head for the outlet stores.

When considering your purchasing options look not so much at the specific price tags on various garments, but at the "cost per wearing," suggests Glass.
 
"Suppose you see a suit that's $150. If it's a trendy cut and it wasn't made of great fabric, you might be able to wear it once a month for two years. So your cost per wearing is fairly high. If you buy something for $300 instead, in a cut that will last longer -- not trendy but not old-fashioned either, and not screaming the year it was made -- your cost per wearing goes down dramatically. So don't look at the original price so much as how long the piece will be useful to you."
 
If you have leather shoes, Glass says, make sure they're shined. If you have suede shoes, make sure they're brushed. And if your shoes are five years old, have the soles redone at a shoemaker. If you have a leather briefcase and it's still in good shape, now's the time to use it. If you don't, a nice portfolio binder will do just fine.
 
Will all the effort and expense you put into your professional image for your interview make any difference? Absolutely, Glass says. In fact, it's essential.
"Your image matters because it shows your attentiveness to detail and gives recruiters an idea of how you'll represent their company to clients, both internally and externally," Glass concludes. "The visual message you send makes a big difference in how you're perceived and, ultimately, whether or not you get the job."

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Most job seekers put a great deal of effort into applying for positions and interviewing memorably. But there is another aspect to job hunting that a lot of people neglect: taking time to follow-up properly at each stage of the search.

As an applicant for a position you are being judged for each action that you take (or fail to take). Forgetting to send a Thank You note after each interview, not letting your networking contacts know what stage you’re at in your search, assuming that once you’ve applied to a position listed on GoldenCVs.com you should sit back and wait for employers to call...these are common errors with simple solutions.

Don’t Wait Forever

Take the job application for starters. So you’ve sent in your resume to one or more of the postings on our site. A good beginning. But what if you don’t hear anything although a week has already gone by?

Don’t assume that you haven’t been selected for an interview. Employers operate on their own timeframes, which may be very different than yours. A gentle prod can work in your favour here. Consider calling the employer after five business days of applying, to leave a polite message asking if they’ve received your resume, and reminding them what a terrific fit you’d be for the job.

Thank You’s To Everyone

Often you will be contacted by a screener or scheduler from the employer when they want to bring you in for a face-to-face interview. Get the name and title of that person and e-mail them a quick Thank You note. Same for the day of the interview: make sure to get a business card from everyone you meet with, then within two to three business days send each of these people a short Thank You e-mail. After the more important interviews, you might even mail in a card conveying your appreciation.

And what if another week or two passes by without hearing from the employer you’ve interviewed with? Follow-up with a courteous phone call or e-mail, asking when you might expect to hear from them next. Add a short ‘personal advertisement’ (a few words about why you’re the best candidate and how excited you are by this opportunity).

Update and Give In Return

Aside from applying to the job postings on GoldenCVs.com, you will likely be networking with friends, family and others as part of your search for new employment. The people that help you most – by giving you leads, reviewing your resume, offering to serve as a reference – deserve to be kept informed of your status.

Every few weeks send them a message that lets them know you have followed up on their advice. Provide them with a sense of how your applications and interviews are going.

If you can, try giving something back every so often. Maybe you stumble on article or piece of information that one of your contacts might find useful. Possibly you meet someone new along the way who you’d like to put in touch with one of your references because they share certain interests.

Details Make the Difference

You might not realize how important it can be to follow-up properly at each stage. After all, don’t you have enough on your plate with polishing that resume and honing your interview skills?

To put it into perspective, an employer may be faced, in the end, with two or more “equal” candidates that they must choose from. What if one of them hadn’t bothered to send a Thank You? It could be as subtle as that. It pays to pay attention to details. It demonstrates your professionalism in ways that might just win you that job.
 

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