Public Service Commission
Step 4: Make A Plan ~ Interview Tips
Are You Prepared for an Interview?
Interviews are stressful!
There is no getting around it. If you are sincere about getting the job, an interview can be stressful. They have something you want and your performance is what they are looking at. However, there are ways to make it less stressful.
Keep in mind the purpose of the interview
The interviewer has seen your written credentials, probably through a resumé and something tweaked their interest. They are checking you out to see if you “fit” with the printed word as well as within the company. Remember that this is a chance for you to check them out as well. Ask yourself if you can see yourself working with these people in this atmosphere.
Take your resumé and cover letter with you. Familiarize yourself with what you have already told them about yourself. Verbally rehearse specific things you want to say, skills you want them to notice, past accomplishments and so on. Try to put these in a context of how you can add value and contribute to that organization.
“So tell me about yourself.” This is usually the first question in an interview and the most difficult to answer. But it is your chance to tell the interviewer who you are and how you can contribute to their workplace. Before you go to your interview, write out key points about your work, your accomplishments and how they relate to this particular job. Now say it out loud. Develop a conversational tone and give yourself a few minutes to tell the employer who you are and how you can use your past experiences, strengths and skills to add value to their company.
Some points to include in your script:
- Your professional skills, experience and how you identify yourself;
- A career accomplishment you are proud of;
- Skills and strengths which are applicable to the job;
- Specialized training awards;
- Where you are going in your career and how the past relates to the present.
Remember, this is not a review of your resumé. Bring out key points in your past work that you see relating to the present position. Let the interviewer know why you are the person for the job.
Familiarize yourself with the company. You have probably already done this but make sure you know something about the place and position for which you are being interviewed. Take a few minutes and go over the company website.
Maintain a positive attitude and point of view during and after the interview. Keep the interview conversational and listen carefully to the question. It is fine to wait a few seconds to organize your thoughts before answering. It is ok to ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question.
Wear appropriate clothes for the position. For example, don’t wear a three piece suit to an interview as a mechanic.
Give yourself time to get there. If it is an unfamiliar place ask other to help you estimate the amount of time it will take you to travel to the interview. Being late is not an option.
Take the cue from the interviewer on where to sit. Avoid couches and low slung chairs if possible. Maintain good posture and remain attentive.
Smile as much as possible but keep it sincere.
Shake hands with everyone in the room and maintain strong eye contact. If it is a committee of interviewers, remember to address all of them with your answer.
Ask questions. Have a few standard questions for the end of the interview but also don’t be afraid to ask questions as they arise. Keep the interview conversational and show that you are relaxed but attentive. For example, you can ask when they hope to make a decision.
Unless the interviewer brings it up don’t ask about money. Try to divert any specific requests for your salary needs. Reply that the job is the most important element right now and salary details can be worked out if the fit is right.
Never say anything bad about a past employer or workplace. If you were fired or left a position for personal reasons say just that. The fit was not right for either of you and you felt it was time to leave or the company was going in a direction that was different from your vision. Have some sort of answer verbally ready for a question about past job experiences that may have been negative for you.
Be aware of body language. Arms crossed generally represent a closed person. Thoughtful small talk at the beginning of an interview sets everyone at ease. The secretary or receptionist who is sitting outside the interviewing office with you is often consulted for his/her views on applicants. Be friendly and polite and wait patiently to be called next.
Styles of Interview Questions
There are a number of styles that interviewers choose in order to assess a candidate. Questions can be situational, informational and behavioral.
Informational questions are straight information about you or your past experiences as listed in your resumé. They help the employer clarify things and are a chance for you to expand on the information you gave them in the written resumé.
Situational questions are used so the employer can get an idea of how you would react in a given situation at work. They usually start with “Let’s say you are…” or “Imagine that…” or, “What would you do if….”
Behavioral questions are used to help the interviewer get an indication of how you may act in the job for which you are applying—future job performance. They often begin with “Can you tell me of a particular incident in your past work experience where you were responsible for…”
How To Answer
Always expand your answers. Avoid answering with only “yes” or “no.” The interviewer is looking for you to include the following:
What situation or task were you involved in?
Describe the situation at work. Be specific about your role in that situation.
What action did you take within that situation?
Tell the interviewer what you did to make that situation better; to solve the problem.
Outline all of the positive outcomes that resulted from your action.