June 24, 2011

Interview Tips....

Literacy AmeriCorps Central Texas begins in September and I have been in full swing planning mode since January.  In the last two months we have had nearly 300 applicants, conducted more than 80 interviews (a few more scheduled), and I have absolutely loved getting to know all of these terrific individuals that are interested in serving in AmeriCorps!  I have learned a lot about myself and the millennial generation throughout this process. People I’ve talked to throughout the last few months have introduced me to new ideas and sometimes just new music!  The creativity, passion for service and engagement of these applicants has been obvious. As you can imagine the interviewing process – recruitment, review, interview, assessment, matching, etc has taken up the majority of my day time hours in the last two months so I have a few tips for folks that find themselves interviewing out there.

First off CONGRATS to all the new graduates out there!! I remember the elation from that time in my life, and the anxiety that quickly followed as I started searching for a job. In this tough economy I can’t imagine what you are all experiencing and I hope that this will help someone out there… I have a few tips I have been mentally collecting over the last few months for job seekers:
  1. Remember that you are a perfect fit for some agency/corporation out there. If you don’t get the first, second, third, or even eighteenth job you interview for - continue to go on interviews with your head held high.  You are learning something new at every interview. You will be better prepared at each and every interview….

  2. LOOK PROFESSIONAL. The interview is your first and sometimes only chance to make a good impression. People that show up to an interview looking disheveled don’t leave the interviewer with a sense of confidence in your professionalism. Show your interviewer how confident you are by looking them straight in the eye dressed appropriately – slacks, appropriate length skirts, nothing to tight or revealing. Don’t wear jeans – no matter what, no matter where. Don’t wear tennis shoes. Wear something that you are comfortable in but be classy folks!  Carry a lint roller in your car – get the dog/cat hair off of you on the way in! Iron your clothes whether you think they need it or not!  Sit up straight, don’t slouch … it will wrinkle your clothes!

  3. Interviewers CAN SEE YOU on Skype. Make sure that you have something behind you that is blank or appropriate (i.e. beer signs and pictures of your friends doing a beer bong are a bad idea for interview backgrounds). Dress up for your Skype interview, at least waist up. Showing up to a Skype interview in your PJ’s is not winning you any points!

  4. BE ON TIME.  Don’t arrive too early. When someone is conducting interviews, particularly for multiple positions schedules are tight.  If you get there more than 20 minutes early wait in your car. Arrive no more than 5-10 minutes early for your interview.

  5. Know what you have to offer. Be prepared for all the basic questions – “What can you offer to us?", “What is your strength/weakness?”… Know how you plan to answer these basic questions.

  6. Take time answering questions and give depth. It's better to answer slowly, accurately and with detail than it is to go on and on or add "umm", “you know”, and "like" in between every word. Give examples, even when people don’t ask – but especially when they do!

  7. Don't wear perfume. I am personally highly allergic to a lot of perfumes, as others are and in a small office sometimes even a little is overpowering. There were a few interviews that I had a horrible headache by the time my interviewee left the office because of the perfume in the air.  Take a shower, be clean and don’t smoke on your way in to the interview. Just smell naturally nice!

  8. RESEARCH the place you are interviewing with. When someone walks in for an interview and knows NOTHING about your company/agency it does not leave the impression that they really want to be there. Know everything you can about the place that you can – Google them, look for their partners, know what the job is and the programs that they offer. Study for this like you study for a test in college to make a good impression.

  9. Have questions. Along with doing your research, you should have questions about the job and about the supervision prepared. Candidates who don’t ask questions also come across as unprepared and unengaged. Questions show interest, prove again that you did your research and help to make sure that the position is a good fit for you.  Not having questions communicates you don’t have any interest in the company and are just looking for a paycheck.  If you have no specific questions make sure you have good general questions like “What would be the three major goals in this position,” or “What are some qualities of successful people at your group?”  Sometimes interviewers are more impressed with a candidate based on the questions that they ask rather than the answers that they give… if you walk in with good, insightful questions and show them that you did your research they will remember you when you walk out the door.

  10. Closings are not just for realtors and lawyers. When you think about it an interview is about selling yourself.  You want to be a good sales person – be the closer!  Your goal for an interview is to get a job, or at least move to the next round so don’t walk out (or hang up) until you have made your final pitch. Ask what the next steps in the process are and what the decision-making timelines might be.  Reiterate your interest in the position and why you are a good fit!
I sincerely hope that this helps someone out there looking for a position right now! I wish you the best of luck and just want you to remember - know what you want and where you are!

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