Interview Preparation Guide

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1 1 Interview Preparation Guide The following guide is a tool for applicants preparing for a job interview. Summarizing key points, the following pages contain tips and best practices on the following areas: Preparing Yourself Dress for Success Do's and Don'ts Follow Up Presenting Yourself The Employer's Perspective What Employers Look For Responses to Interview Questions Sample Questions Following-Up Preparation Preparation can be one of the most important phases of an interview - the better prepared, the more confident and the greater the opportunities for success. The following are important points to remember: Write down the exact time and location of the interview, and keep this information. Know the names and titles of the interview panel. Know the department - what does it do? what are the goals? what are the competencies required to be successful in the role? Before the interview, do some research. Prepare good questions and show a genuine interest in the position. Information can be found on the website, newsletters, the library, or by asking people knowledgeable in the area. Remember, you are assessing this as place to work as well, that is very important when it comes to making decisions. Be well prepared regarding: possible interview questions; the actual role and descriptions; ask for the job description skills and accomplishments in relation to the job duties; questions to ask; the organization. Arrive early. If kept waiting, don't let it make you nervous. Spend the time reading your resume and research materials. Be prepared for the possibility of testing, and be prepared for the possibility that this interview may lead to another. Dress for Success While the ability to field questions and communicate skills successfully is indispensable, there are other issues to be considered. An important component of the job interview is "dressing for success". Be sure to present yourself in a professional manner. Seeing how others dress at the prospective place of employment is also a good idea. Once you have gotten the job you may have the freedom to express your personal style. Display a positive self-image; be confident, show energy and enthusiasm. First impressions are important.

2 2 Do's and Don'ts Keep things moving; keep the conversation geared to what you can contribute Avoid discussions about personal problems. Focus on what you can do for the employer. Think before you respond. It is quite acceptable to pause before responding in order to organize your thoughts. Don't give "yes" or "no" answers. One-liners are conversation stoppers. Elaborate appropriately on your experience, your skills, and background. Be a good listener; but if you are asked a question you don't understand, ask for clarification. Always answer truthfully and tactfully, but don t interrupt. Body language is important in the interview as good answers. Try to establish a connection with the interview panel. Be calm and poised. Pay attention to voice level: not too soft or too loud. Use the interviewer as your benchmark. Establish a conversation with the interview panel. Don't criticize your old job or manager, don't volunteer any negative information. Don't exaggerate or compare yourself to others or be untruthful Ask well thought-out questions, remember you are assessing this as a place to work as well. Acknowledge and thank each interviewer, thank any others who may have been of assistance. Follow Up Take notes immediately after the interview, including interviewer s name, title, address, and important information that may help to prepare for a second interview with the organization. Reflect on the interview afterwards; use it as a learning opportunity. Write a sincere, straight-forward thank you letter or for the interview. Recap your skills. Use common sense and good judgment in timing any follow-up. Prepare for rejection. If notified that you have not received the position, try to get some feedback. If not qualified, ask if there are positions with the organization for which you are qualified. Try to keep communication with the organization open to better the chances for future positions. The Employer's Perspective The following is a summary of skill areas which employers consider important: Knowledge of the Role and Organization: Show you have read the job description, and are clear on the position goals and responsibilities; be clear on the competencies required for success Described similar jobs held and how this role fits with your career path Express interest in working with the organization and why you applied Research the department. Employers are impressed with applicants who take the time to learn something about them and how they can contribute to the goals and objectives. This is helpful to you in determining if the role matches your values and career goals. Ability to Learn Quickly: Discuss any training achievements; demonstrate your commitment to professional development Express willingness to learn from supervision, coaches, mentors and further develop your skill set

3 3 Self Confidence/Positive Attitudes: Demonstrate initiative in taking on projects and assignments Show initiative, energy, and engagement in getting the work accomplished Reliability Be on time for the interview. Demonstrate ability and willingness to get work done Follow through with information requested by the employer, (e.g., references, portfolio). Interpersonal skills: Be communicative and approachable in the interview. Emphasize ability to build relationships; provide examples Professionalism: Present yourself in a professional manner during the interview. Demonstrate appropriate behavior Stability: Express intention for long-term growth with the employer. Express any previous long-term work relationships Relationships with Supervisors: Provide recommendations from past supervisors. Mention past development and successes due to mentors, coaches Discuss past success with supervisors; provide examples Flexibility and Adaptability: Portray a positive attitude towards change. Show recognition of, and respect for, people's diversity and individuality. Outline your ability to identify and suggest new ideas to get the job done creatively. Express willingness to be flexible in work schedule, if necessary. Possible Responses To Some Typical Interview Questions Preparing answers to potential interview questions is vital to interview success. There are a number of standard interview questions which you might consider before meeting with employers. Listed below is a sampling of these questions and possible responses. (1) Tell me something about yourself, background, professional experience, career etc.: This question is aimed at finding out other qualifications, competencies and experience you may have. You may wish to mention your personal strengths, interests and abilities and how they related to this position. (2) Have you ever done this kind of work before, tell us about your experience: Since no two jobs are the same, what the interviewer wants to know is whether you can learn to do that job in a reasonable amount of time. Mention transferable skills and all of the experiences you have had that makes it likely that you can learn quickly to do the duties required in this specific job. Discuss

4 4 your education/training in relation to the job, any relevant non-paid experiences, and how quickly you have learned that type of work in the past. (3) Why do you want to work here: When an interviewer asks you why you wish to work for their organization, they are looking to determine if the role fits with your career path and values in an employer. It is also a way to see whether or not you have done any research on the organization, know it enough to really want to work there, rather than just wanting to work anywhere. To demonstrate this knowledge, discuss positive features about the job, department or organization that you have learned through your research and how you can make a contribution. (4) Why did you leave your last job: In describing your last job, include what you learned from the role and how the one you are applying for meets your career goals. If leaving under difficult circumstances, don t say anything negative about the company or the supervisor, only that your needs were not suitable or a match with the position. (5) What kind of salary are you expecting? When you are asked about your salary requirements in an interview, the interviewer is attempting to determine whether your expectations are suitable. The wisest course is to remain negotiable until you have been offered a position. (6) Why should we hire you instead of someone else: When you are asked this direct question, the interviewer is asking you, in a sense, to make their decision for them. If you have to hesitate or can think of only one or two reasons, then they will feel that the reasons are not sufficient. You should describe your skills and competencies that are job related and that may differentiate yourself from other candidates. (7) When are you available for work: Describe that you understand that the department has timelines to meet and that you will work with them to accommodate their needs and the needs of your current organization, being mindful of any required notice period you need to provide. Discuss other concerns and needs during the offer process. (8) What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses: Try to highlight your most positive competencies. Make sure to use examples to illustrate your positive qualities and how they apply to work. Talk about things which you have improved and the steps you took to do so and focus on the development piece. (9) What five words would you say describe you best: When asked to select words to describe yourself, select job related competencies. (10) What was your last employer's opinion of you: The best answer to the general question about your last employer's opinion of you is to have an open letter of recommendation from your last employer, which you can then summarize and show to the interviewer. If you do not have such a letter list the positive, but realistic comments they would say about you. Suggest that the interviewer contact your employer, and express your assurance that they will speak positively of you. Supply the interviewer with a list of references, including phone numbers.

5 5 (11) What are your long-range goals: The interviewer is trying to determine whether this position fits in with your long term plans. The items to stress are that you share the values of the organization, you hope to become a valuable employee, and that you hope you will be in a role which challenges you and enables you to make an effective, engaged contribution to the company. (12) What is your proficiency in.(e.g. software, Microsoft Office) If the interviewer asks this question, then, obviously, skill in this area is very important, and you should demonstrate your experience and capability. Be as specific as possible about your expertise--it provides evidence of your skill level. If the interviewer asks about equipment you haven't had experience with, describe what types of similar packages you have worked with, and convey your ability that you can learn quickly. (13) Can you work under pressure or tight deadlines: This question indicates that your job will involve working under pressure and deadlines, so respond by giving examples of activities that involved deadlines/pressure. Mention several examples that demonstrate your capabilities. (14) What would you do in this situation: This is usually a hypothetical or technical question. Take the necessary time to answer the question carefully, and ask for further details or explanations where necessary. Keep in mind the general steps of problem solving. If given a technical question, analyze the question and often you will find you have the necessary background to answer. In both cases (hypothetical or technical), the interviewer is trying to gauge your ability to function under pressure, and to analyze and solve problems using sound judgment. (15) What do you think of working in a group: In this question, you are being asked to demonstrate your ability to get along well with others. Speak of the advantages of working in a group. For example, you might explain how the various individuals in the group complement one another in carrying out certain tasks. Be prepared to give concrete examples of personal experience in a group. (16) Would you be willing to work as a temporary or contract employee? Consider this a viable alternative to permanent employment. Temporary/contract work will get your foot in the door, give you a chance to prove yourself, give you new current experiences and additional references. Think hard before turning down this valuable opportunity. Following are more sample questions that you may face in a job interview. Develop your own answers for these questions and practice your responses. Describe what you know about this organization/this position? What attracted you to apply? What qualifications and relevant experience would you bring to this position? Do you prefer working by yourself, or with others? Team player? What parts of a job do you find most/least satisfying? What motivates you? What are the most important rewards you expect in and from your career? What would you say has been your proudest accomplishment(s) so far? What has been your greatest disappointment? What have you learned from some of the positions you have held?

6 6 What have you learned from your mistakes? What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses? What qualifications do you have that make you think you will be successful in this position? In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to departmental goals and objectives? How do you work under pressure? Give me an example. Give an example that demonstrates your initiative. What are your short/long-range goals, and how are you preparing yourself to achieve them? What do you see yourself doing five years from now? In addition to preparing for these type of questions, you should be prepared for behavioural questions which ask you to relate a particular incident from past experience: Describe a time when you... How did you go about... Give us an example of... There may also be some hypothetical questions asking how you would respond to a specific scenario. Role playing would be a different version of this format and could also be used. Self-Preparation Guide What are my current short-term career goals in terms of specific occupations? What are my tentative long-term (5 year) career goals? What is my educational background? What skills have I developed, and what training have I received that is relevant to my career goals? What are my work experiences? What skills did I use in my previous experiences that are relevant to jobs I wish to pursue now? What are my personal skills and abilities? What do I value in my career? In an organization? What are specific examples of how I have used these skills? What accomplishments in my work experiences, school, community am I most proud of? What are some examples of organizations that have the kind of jobs I wish to pursue? What information do I have concerning the type of job I would like to pursue? What information do I have concerning a company with which I may interview? Self-Assessment: Interview Evaluation Checklist 1. Did I have the necessary materials with me? (a) Writing Materials (b) Personal information package containing resume, documents, portfolio or work samples, reference letters, or lists of references 2. Did I arrive on time? 3. Was I approachable to everyone I dealt with? 4. Did I know the interviewer's name and use it correctly? 5. Did I give positive signals about my interest in the position? 6. Did I answer all the questions put to me adequately? 7. Did I ask relevant questions when given the opportunity to do so? 8. What were my greatest strengths in the interview? 9. What were my greatest areas for development? 10. Did the interviewer do a good job working with me 11. How would I assess my overall performance? 12. How could I have improved this interview?

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