Job Hunting Success – Interview 201: At the Interview, and Beyond

It’s time to get down to the biggest stress of any job hunt: the interview. Last week, we talked about how to get ready for the interview, from knowing where the interview is held to making sure you have some responses to common interview questions prepared. That’s not bad for the week or so you’ll have leading up to the interview.

For the interview itself, though, there’s a whole ‘nother set of preparations that must be done. If we were talking about how to get ready up to (and including) the morning of the interview last week, let’s look at how to succeed in the interview itself (and how to follow up after the interview, to make sure you stand out in the interviewer’s mind and are more likely to get the job).

During the Interview

1. Don’t Panic: There’s very rarely a situation where panicking during an interview will help you out (maybe if you are trying to get a role as a panicky character on a TV show or movie). Just relax, keep your cool, and go through the interview process as best you are able. If nothing else helps, try to keep this in mind: The worst that can happen to you is that you don’t get the job, and you’re in the same situation you were before the interview. No worse than before, and you even got a little more interview experience under your belt. True, it’s not as good as getting the job, and does mean that there will be more interviews in your future, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

Ah yes, the job interview. Always fun. (Side note: unless it is offered, don’t bring a soda to the interview.)

2. Be Prepared
: The Boy Scout motto will serve you well during your interview; you’ll need to be prepared both physically (by bringing all the right things) and mentally (by being ready for the questions to be asked) in order to do well in an interview. How to be prepared is something that will vary depending on the particulars of the job, but before you walk in the door to your interview, you should make sure that you have:

-Copies of Your Resume (Not every company will give the interviewer a copy, so make sure to use the same one you used when applying for the job)
-Copies of Your Cover Letter (As with the resume, you’ll definitely score some points if you have your cover letter handy)
-Copies of Your List of References (Many employers want to contact them following the interview, so it’s good to have on hand)
-A Pen and Notepad (To keep your questions for the interviewer, write the details of the job, and simply appear prepared for the interview.)
-An Appropriate Outfit (Make sure you’re dressed in a way that proves you can do the job; this will vary depending on the job itself)
-A Briefcase/Folder to Hold All the Paperwork (If you take everything discussed above, it’ll be hard to hold it all; a folder or briefcase will help you handle it, as well as adding to your professional appearance)
-Answers for the Most Common Interview Questions (If you hope to do well, then in the days leading up to the interview, be sure to look up some of the commonly asked questions, and figure out how you should respond. Don’t write the answers down (or at least, don’t try to look at them during the interview itself), but keep them in your mind to refer to during the interview. Also, when answering, be sure to:)

3. Answer Questions Truthfully, Positively, and Confidently: Most of the interview process will consist of the interviewer asking you questions to try to get a better understanding of you, and how well you will do if given the position in question. If you’ve looked over the lists of interview questions that are available, most of what you are asked shouldn’t come as a surprise. Just make sure that you DO NOT lie when answering (if you do, it’ll likely come back to hurt you later, preventing you from getting the job or possibly causing you to lose it when you have been hired). Also, stay positive with your answers; moaning and complaining about your last job/boss/coworkers won’t do anything to help you get a new position. Lastly, be sure to give your answers with confidence in your voice; you want to make sure that your future employer knows you are sure that you will do well.

4. Finish the Interview by Asking When You Will Start: You’re going to need to know when to come in for a follow up interview or otherwise proceed to the next step of the interview process. By asking when you’ll start working, you’ll show a hefty amount of confidence, and if you make sure to have a small smile on your face, you can play it off as a joke, allowing you to display your sense of humor, as well. Be sure not to leave the interview until you know how things will proceed: when a decision will be made, when you will hear back, what is the next step in the job-filling process, etc.

After the Interview

Once the interview is over, you’re probably going to be ready to sit back and wait for the call that tells you that you got the job. However, things don’t stop when you walk out the door; you have to be ready to follow up on your interview in order to have the best chance to get the job. Here are a few of the things you need to do to keep yourself in the interviewer’s mind in the days following the interview:

Within 24 Hours: Send a Thank-You Email. You want to be sure to let your interviewer(s) know that you appreciate having the opportunity to speak with them. A brief, prompt thank-you email will go a long way to achieving that goal, plus help give you the opportunity to let your interviewer know that you were truly interested in the job. Be quick to show your interest, and you’ll go a what towards standing out from many of the other interviewers.

Within 72 Hours: Follow Up with a Physical Thank-You Letter. While a thank-you email is a good way to show your appreciation quickly, a physical thank-you letter definitely helps to impress your true interest in the position. Particularly now when most people don’t bother using ‘snail mail’, having a physical letter arrive in a few days will show how much you want the job and help you to stand out from the crowd.

One Week Later: Learn About What Decision Has Been Made. Unless you were explicitly told that it would be longer than a week before a decision was made, it’s good to contact the company about a week after your interview and find out what progress has been made in the hiring progress. Politely ask if you have gotten the job, and you’ll find out if you got the job (in which case, you can ask when you should come in to begin and how to proceed), if you didn’t (thank them for the interview, and ask them to keep you in mind for future positions), or if the decision process is still ongoing (ask when the decision on the position will be finalized). Regardless of what you are told, be sure to be respectful in your response; even if this job doesn’t go through, you might end up looking for another position at this company, and don’t want to burn any bridges.

There you go, how to handle your interview (and the following week). Any further advice on how to handle your job interview?  Are there any ways to follow up that will improve your success in job acquisition?  As always, good luck with your job hunt, and here’s to plenty of success as you find a new career.

Picture courtesy of bpsusf

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