With the economy slowly healing after the financial crisis of 2008, competition for jobs is at an all-time high, making interview skills a vital tool for applicants. Increased competition within the pool of applicants often translates to increased anxiety for those who are fortunate enough to land an interview. Barbara Schafer, director of Career Services at Brown Mackie College - Boise, shares her insights into making the most of each interview opportunity.
“It’s often necessary to calm people before an interview,” says Schafer. “It’s important to communicate clearly, which can be hard to do under pressure. The ability to express yourself is huge. It can make the difference between being hired or not during your job search.” “When we’re looking for employment, we all have a tendency to think the job search is all about ourselves. However, we must remember that the prospective employer is looking for a candidate who can help make their business successful,” Schafer says. “They want to hire the right person to help them grow. As a candidate, you have to be prepared to communicate the skills you possess that set you apart from the others.”
Assess your skills and knowledge.
Schafer recommends taking a systematic approach to the interview. “We sometimes have to force ourselves to think about our own skills and qualifications,” she continues. “Before you can express yourself intelligently, you must know exactly what points you want to make.” To this end, Schafer suggests making a list of skills, accomplishments and education you want to highlight for a prospective employer.
Practice your pitch
“It can be tough to assess your skills; however, writing helps to organize your thoughts. The goal is to be able to tell a potential employer within 30 seconds to a minute what you can do and why you’re a good fit for their organization,” Schafer says. After assessing your skills and experience, Schafer advises practicing your pitch with a friend or family member, especially if shyness is a concern.
Employers expect professionalism. After all, every employee represents the company. When customers or clients visit the company, they see the employees, not just the person at the front desk. First impressions do matter. “I tell students, ‘Don’t dress like you’re going on a date. You can be the person you want to be after work hours, but not during the interview. Show your tattoos and face-piercing jewelry after work hours,” says Schafer. In the workplace, there is usually a dress code that must be followed. If you ignore it, you won’t last long. “Anyone not willing to dress professionally is just throwing their education away,” she adds.
Arrive 15-minutes early
Schafer suggests making a dry run to the company before the day of your interview. Knowing exactly where you’re going and where you can park helps to alleviate anxiety. “Arrive 15 minutes early, and expect that once you hit the parking lot, the interview could be starting,” she warns. “They could be watching out the window.”
Practice professional courtesy at all times
Your interview is with the entire organization. Professional behavior begins the way you treat the receptionist. “Everyone will have something to say about you after you leave,” Schafer says She recommends a pleasant greeting to the receptionist, a firm handshake upon meeting the interviewer, and the importance of looking the people you meet in the eye.
Showcase your skills and talents
Don’t expect the employer will have your resume in hand. Take several copies with you to leave behind. “Creating a portfolio often helps to guide the discussion during an interview. Include transcripts, resumes, awards you’ve received, career achievements, and even photos of projects you’ve been involved with,” advises Schafer. She also recommends leaving behind a business card with your contact information.
Follow up with a note of thanks
“Make sure you send a thank you note after the interview,” says Schafer. “It can often can make the difference between getting the job or not. If undecided, employers will hire the one who sent the note.”
Courtesy of ARAcontent