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How to Score Well in an Interview

Updated on August 16, 2013

Overview

There are lots of technicalities when it comes to securing employment, but the process is usually able to be broken down into 2 sections: Getting an interview, and passing an interview. This hub will cover tips and techniques for passing an interview, as it is very challenging at times to even make it that far. Don't let all that effort go to waste due to a simple mistake!

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Appearance

Is CRITICAL for interviews, and even walk-ins! Yes, we are taught not to judge, but in the workforce, an employer will make a judgement about a person in less than 30 seconds. Why? Sometimes it could be because they have hundreds of applications to weed through, or because the want to know that a person is serious about their work. Just because you qualify for a position doesn't mean you can show up in casual dress.

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If walking in to inquire for a position, or even going to an interview, you want to make sure you are dressed up, and/or professional. No stained clothes, wrinkle free, clean hair/grooming. My early job's interviews I had nothing super professional other than slack black pants and a polo collared white shirt, but it worked. You don't have to be super fancy, but show that you can be professional, employers will notice.

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Resume

Resume's may not be required, but they help you to stand out. With today's economy being as bad as it is (I don't care what the government says, they are LYING!) you are going to want to stand out as much as you can.

A resume should be a 1 page document that BRIEFLY describes who you are, your contact information, a summary of your skills, work experience, education, and other accomplishments. It is NOT a biography about your life/job history. Just as with appearance, employers will glance at a resume for maybe 10 seconds before placing it in the keep pile, or the trash can.

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There are many ways to write a resume, and if you don't know how a resume works, there are plenty of classes offered and web tutorials. Honestly, my first resume was crafted from a Word template that was offered in the program, which is what my resume today evolved from.

Once you have a basic resume set up, here are some tips to helping it stand out:

  • Customized Bullets: The standard bullet is usually a boring circle or square. Make it stand out! Search the bullet options and pick something above the usual, but still professional. Arrows or diamonds make great substitutes!
  • Resume Paper Printing: If sending your resume through email or attaching it with an online application, this won't apply, but when you go in to interview you always want to bring some resumes with you to give to your interviewer. Special bonded resume paper helps to set your resume above the rest and shows you mean business!
  • White Space: Thats right, the more white on the paper the better. Again, a resume is NOT an autobiography about your job history, keep it simple and concise
  • Taylor to the Company: The above picture shows "Objective" listed under the name, though I'd even say switch it with "Summary". This gives you a perfect in to show your talents and skills that the employ is looking for. Job ads have a summary of skills and requirements they want out of employees. Take any and all those skills that apply to you and organize them under your summary

Adding more to bullet 2, when you go in for an interview, bring copies of your resume for your interviewers. While they may have looked over your resume already, chances are they won't have it on hand. By giving them a physical copy right off, they have something they can look at and relate to when they interview with you. You want to give a copy to EVERYONE in the room. Usually interviews have 2 or more interviewers, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry 3-4 resumes with you in a folder to your interview.

Research

Research the company you are applying for, especially if you don't know much about them! Sometimes interviewers will ask "What do you know about ___?" If you do your research, this shows an employer you are interested in that company and you have an idea about the position you are applying for

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Arrive Early

If you have an interview time at 10 am, you want to be at the office no later than 9:50. Why? Being early shows you're punctual and the manager doesn't have to worry about tardy issues later on.

Showing up too early puts a strain on the employer and can catch them off guard, so usually it's good to be 5-10 minutes early

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Handshake

A handshake can tell a lot about a person. It's important to have a firm handshake, while looking the person in the eye with a warm smile. Have you ever tried to shake hands with someone whose hand is limp? I always anticipate a firm shake and it always feels weird to get a limp response.

Attitude

The way you come across in an interview can have a huge effect on your getting hired or not. One of the reasons for interviews is for employers to get to know you, how well you "gel" with others, and if you'll be a fit for the team both in skill and personality.

The magic words in an interview are "I really want to work for you", or something to this effect. Excitement about the position shows an employer you're serious. Showing enthusiasm with both verbal and nonverbal (body language) communication heightens your chances of getting a second interview, and/or being considered for the position.

Interview Question Do's and Don'ts

Even with all the above mentioned pointers, the real "meat" of the interview is in the questioning. Not every employer has the same questions, but there is a lot the same:

"Tell me a little about yourself" - Even with the summary section of a resume, I've gotten this question in an interview. Be honest, share your hobbies/interests, but also tailor some of those skills/talents to what the employer is looking for. Great with people? I have great customer service skills! Spend all day on a computer? I'm experienced with computers! You stay-at-home mom's out there may have more skills for the workforce than you'd ever know

"What are some of your weaknesses?" - This is always awkward. Who wants to tell about their weaknesses? But believe me, answering as "I can't think of any" or "I don't have any" is the worst offender. Be honest, but most importantly, find a way to turn your weakness into a strength! Me, I'm a little OCD and a perfectionist, but I've been able to use these tendencies to produce accurate results when managing data. Or even something like "I don't work well on a team, but at this place I volunteer at, I'm learning how to better work with those around me"

"Why should I hire you?" - Sure, maybe your skills don't meet requirements, but how can you make up for that? Me, I didn't know squat about working in HP Asset Manager, but I'm a fast learner, and I'm super accurate. Within a week I far excelled over expectations and became an asset to my team

"What are your goals?" - Usually employers want to know what to expect upon hiring you. Are you planning on staying with them and turning it into a career path? Is this just a temporary thing for you and you'll be leaving in 6 months? Looking to further your education? Lets try to be realistic with this one, but at the same time, tailor it to the employer's needs. "I'm looking to go back to school, but that'll be in a few years", or "I'll start some education courses part time, so I can fit them around my work schedule"

Employers like to hear numbers, and even amounts. If applicable, share an experience where you saved a previous company so much money by a certain action, or was able to increase performance by so much percent.

On the first interview, NEVER bring up questions on pay, this is discussed in the second interview. Although questions on schedule and full/part time is alright. Speak up, maintain eye contact, show interest, be considerate, and above all, DON'T BE A CHATTY CATHY! Keep your answers short, yet informative. Your employer is directing the interview, not you.


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Thank You Letters

A thank you letter shows the employer that you care, and give them a tangible item to remember you by when making a decision. It is best to carry Thank You cards to fill out in the lobby or your car after the interview. You can then seal these and leave them with the receptionist or fellow employee, if not the interviewer themselves.

Thank you statements should be short and considerate. Include the interviewer's name, thank them for the interview, include your enthusiasm to work with them, and PRINT your name at the bottom. You want the interviewer to KNOW who sent them the card, so legibility is key.


You can send a quick thank-you email, though it is not recommended, as emails are not as tangible as a card. BUT, that doesn't mean it's not effective. True story: I finished my first interview with a company that went really well, and was told I'd be hearing back in a few days. I forgot to bring my thank-you cards. As soon as I got back I opened up an email and sent a thank you via the net. I got a call 5 minutes later from the receptionist asking me to come in for a second interview.

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Follow Up

You want to follow up, this continues to show the employer your interest in their position. Ask for a business card, or get their name/number and a good time to call back (When an employer asks "Do you have any questions for me?" Is a good time to get this information). If an employer has two people they're looking to hire, and one of them calls back inquiring over his status, he's more likely to get chosen over the other person who showed no interest at all. For all the employer knows, maybe the other guy forgot about them, or found a job elsewhere, not like this guy who apparently really wants to work for him.

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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I hate reading long resume with generic off-the internet content. Plus, exaggerating on one's accomplishments does not really help.