"Please come for an interview at 2 p.m. on Thursday." The next time you hear those words, will you be ecstatic or will you quake in your boots? Will you look forward to the chance to tell about your background and experience,
or will you worry that you'll blow your chances at the job?
Savvy job seekers know a little preparation goes a long way. As soon as the interview is set, get on the Internet and research the organizational structure, the demographics, and other information. Then call and ask for internal and external newsletters and publications. Find out as much as you can about the hiring organization. Then you can anticipate their questions as well as ask sensible ones yourself.
In addition to electronic networking, use your people network, too. Talk to people you know who may have an insider's view of the organization. Remember, who you need to know, somebody you know knows somebody who knows them.
Ask around for information on history, trends, personalities, challenges, and reputation of the department or group you'd be working with.
If you've never been to the offices of the hiring organization you're interviewing with, go ahead and drop by - maybe to pick up those materials they've gathered
for you. That way when you go for your interview you'll avoid the added stress of figuring out how to get there and where to park. Notice how people dress and the degree of informality and friendliness. Watch for signs of low morale or burnout. You can tell a lot just by keeping your eyes open. Remember you're interviewing them, too.
And a word to the wise - don't stop your job search once you schedule an interview! Never let this interview be your "only hope." Take the pressure off yourself by keeping other possibilities active and continuing to pursue other leads.
The next part of your preparation involves coming up with the 10 questions you think you're most likely to be asked. You can guess what most of them will be. Practice your answers. Ask a friend or mentor to do a "dress rehearsal" with you or tape record your answers and listen both to how you sound and what you say.
THE THE INTERVIEW
1. Take copies of your resume. It's hard to believe, but sometimes your resume has been misplaced or a new person on the interviewee team hasn't seen it.
2. If it's not clear where to sit, ask! Put your purse, briefcase, coat, umbrella, etc. off your lap so you're free to focus. If you're in a swivel chair, watch out! When you're nervous, it's easy to swivel without even knowing it!
3. If you need a moment to think about your answer, say so. People will respect the 6 or 7 seconds you take to organize your thoughts.
4. Ask for the business cards of the people who are interviewing you. Then when you send a thank you note, you'll be sure you have the correct spelling and titles. (Or, better yet, ask the secretary to fax you a list of interviewers ahead of time.)
5. Be yourself! If you usually talk with your hands, don't try to squelch yourself in this setting. If you have been told to be more animated, be aware of your eye contact, facial expression and tone of voice. Let your enthusiasm for the job show in the way you talk as well as what you say.
Lynne Waymon is an expert on career and workplace issues, and she's the author of several books. She was the recipient of the prestigious 1998 Outstanding Speaker Award from the National Capital Speakers Association. [email protected]
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