February 17, 2009

Nine Ways to Make (or Break) a Job Interview

Perhaps the most nerve-racking part of the job search process is the job interview. Despite the nerves, though, you still need to be able to set the right tone and make a great first impression –  all the while deftly answering questions about your experience, skills and “best and worst” qualities.

Interviewing can be quite a minefield, actually.

But it doesn’t have to be! Follow these nine tips and you are sure to wow ’em at your next job interview. (Of course, the opposite also applies: If you fail to head this advice, that first impression will probably be your last!)

1. Arrive early.
I am not talking about getting there an hour early, but 10-15 minutes early is a good goal to shoot for. If you are not sure about the directions, be sure to leave yourself ample time to get lost… and found. If, worst comes to worst, and you realize you are going to be late, definitely call them to let them know.

2. Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake.
Sweaty palms and limp handshakes are both major turn-offs. So is mispronouncing your interviewer’s name, so make every effort to repeat it back… correctly, with a smile, and a firm handshake.

3. Speak clearly and answer each question concisely.
Don’t ramble on and on. Take a few seconds to gather your thoughts before you start answering a question. Also, be sure to have an endpoint in mind before you start out. Also, be careful to articulate your words and avoid mumbling (it is the interviewee’s kiss of death!)

4. Use proper English.
Avoid using jargon, even if it is industry appropriate. And don’t speak in slang.

5. Be sincere and enthusiastic.
Positivity breeds positivity. If you are negative or sullen (especially when talking about past job experiences), it will rub off on your interviewers. At the same time, you don’t want to lie about past experiences, even the bad ones.

So, if you have a few skeletons in your career closet, think long and hard ahead of time about how you will address these issues.

6. Use open, expressive body language.
Maintain good eye contact. Don’t fidget with your hands and feet. Keep your arms loosely at your side unless you are gesturing to make a point. (And, if you are gesturing, keep it under control — no wild hand movements, please!)

7. Do your research and be prepared with insightful questions.
At the end of your interview, if not before, you will be asked if you have any questions about the job or the organization. Prepare one or two erudite questions to keep in your back pocket. Your interviewers will learn as much about you from what you ask — as you do about them from what they answer.

8. Do NOT ask about salary or terms until an offer has been made.
It’s considered poor form to raise questions about salary and benefits until a job offer is on the table. So hold your tongue. Meanwhile, a little Internet sleuthing should turn up some clues to the salary range if you really want to know. (And once an offer is on the table, by all means ask and negotiate.)

9. Be polite.
No matter how well or how poorly the interview went, be gracious right up until the end. Say thank you sincerely and shake your interviewer’s hand (remember, firm handshake)! Also, be sure to send a short and professional thank you note within three days of the interview.

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