Tips and Action Plans for Job Seekers

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Congrats! You just got the call to schedule an interview, and this is the position you want badly. This could be the beginning of something very big! It’s time to put your best foot forward and have the interviewer want you badly, too.

Prepare with questions–theirs and yours.
What do you think the interviewer will want to know about you? At least one question will address why you are interested in this particular position. Your interviewer will want to assess your genuine interest and fit with the work responsibilities and mission of the agency. So, do your research to know about the company and what the job entails, and then practice your response to clearly express how you and the job fit together.

You also need to have questions prepared for the interviewer, who is likely to view the quantity and quality of your questions as an indirect measure of your interest in the position and the company. One of my favorite questions is: “What are the qualities of someone who is successful in this position?” The answer provides additional information that helps you decide whether this job is still one you want to pursue.

Do your physical and mental prep work.
Put together your power outfit for interviewing. These clothes and shoes are decently comfortable, they make you look good and–also important–they make you feel good! The way you present yourself is crucial as another measure of your professionalism and attention to detail.

In the time leading up to the interview, give yourself a pep talk to boost your confidence. Avoid putting any energy into thoughts of self-doubt. Instead, assure yourself you will do the best you can to share about yourself. Ensure you are keeping a relaxed body posture and breathing regularly and deeply. Sit with confidence, upright and shoulders back, with alert eyes. Slumping in your chair and looking downward send the wrong message to others and even to yourself.

Be the early bird.
Do you know where the interview is located? Map out your directions and, if needed, make a trial run for getting there. The last thing you need is to feel anxious right before the interview due to running late. Plus, it makes a really bad impression. Leave for the interview with time to spare and arrive early. That tells the interviewer that you are serious in your commitments to others and do not let them down.

Approach the interview as a “work sample.”
The interviewer will be curious to know what it is like to sit with you and communicate on important issues. The interview is your first, most salient example for this. Maintain a warm and engaging style while flexing to the structure and needs of the interview. If at any point you are confused about what is being asked of you, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Not answering a question could be quite harmful when you want to demonstrate a basic skill set for listening closely and following directions successfully.

Be aware of your “air time.”
When responding to questions, monitor how you organize your thoughts to avoid tangents and be efficient with time. A big turn-off for an interviewer is a long, irrelevant and droning response. Most questions will not require responses that are longer than a few minutes. Also, if you know the length of time allowed for the total interview, be mindful of your interviewer’s time to not ask too many questions at the end that might over-extend their time and graciousness in meeting with you.

Show how you are not a risk.
The process of hiring new personnel is costly, since so many resources are used. Therefore, the interviewer does not want to fill the position with someone who cannot do the work or leaves quickly. In your descriptions of prior work examples and your aspirations for future opportunities, demonstrate and express your commitment for being a responsible, successful and dedicated employee.

Do not air dirty laundry.
Your last boss and co-workers may have been the dregs of humanity, but this interview is not the time to discuss it. Diplomacy is essential. Recall how this interview is a work sample for you. Do not give any reason to indicate that you might be the ringleader of office gossip or speak negatively of others. Even when you might describe challenging circumstances and interactions, demonstrate how you remain respectful and professional.

Express gratitude.
At the very end of the interview, let others know you appreciate their time and you welcome further questions should they arise. There are different opinions about the specifics of thank-you notes, but the prevailing wisdom is to follow up with some form of gratitude expression. Even if this interview does not lead to your next job, it’s always good to build your professional network with good connections. HLM

Source: Richard N. Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute? (Ten Speed Press, 2014).