Interviewing is one of the most daunting and stress-inducing experiences many job seekers will encounter. There is no way to anticipate every possible question or every possible situation you may be put into, but there are some steps you can take to improve your interviewing skills and develop a solid presentation. Remember that you are there to sell yourself and therefore need to prepare a quality "sales presentation".
- Start by making a written list of your skills. All good sales pitches begin with product knowledge. Since you are the product, you need to take stock of what you have to offer. Making a written list solidifies this information in your head and prepares you to speak intelligently about what you have to offer.
- List first what job-specific knowledge you possess. What tasks can you perform, what equipment can you operate, what licenses/training/education do you have?
- Next list transferable skills you possess. These are things like, organizational skills, leadership skills, or time-management skills.
- The next step in improving your interviewing skills requires you to do your research. Know what the company is, does, and needs from the person they are looking to hire. You will be more confident and be able to answer questions more effectively if you have this information at hand. Using the sales analogy, this is knowing your customer. You can get this information from the company website, the library, or even by talking to someone who works for the company.
- Another part of improving your skills requires that you have some knowledge of the types of questions you may be asked. There are standard questions that are almost always asked at interviews. Although too numerous to list here, you can find lists of "typical" interview questions in many books, periodicals, and Internet sites created for job seekers. However, here are two of the bigger stumbling block questions for some interviewees:
- "Why should we hire you?" Don't give vague answers regarding your "hard work" or your "punctuality" or your "dedication". While these are admirable traits, they are almost a given. What sets you apart? Be prepared to speak on specific and measurable accomplishments like improving sales by 23% or developing a safety plan that reduced reported injuries by 17%.
- "What are you weaknesses?" Let's face it, we all have them. And the employer knows it. While answers like "I'm a perfectionist" or "I'm a workaholic" are often given to this question, interviewers hear those responses all the time. A better tack is to find an actual weakness that you have been working to improve upon, such as "Computers have been my challenge, but I've been taking classes to gain the requisite skills." This shows self-recognition of your weakness, and your desire to remedy it.
- Practice, practice, practice. Once you know what your skills are, what the company is looking for, and what might be asked, you need to rehearse. Just like an athlete, you can only improve by doing. You can find classes through your local employment office or college placement center, or you can practice with a friend. If possible, make a video recording of your "mock interview" to learn where you can improve.
- Remember that you are sitting before a fellow human being. Calm down and try to have a conversation as you would with someone you met at a party or on the train. If you can turn your interview into a conversation, you might be able to make a friend. The bottom line is this: All else being relatively equal between candidates, the employer will choose the person she likes - the person she felt a "connection" with.