Your Career: Interviews

If you plan on changing careers or getting a new job in your current field, you’ll likely need to be interviewed at some point. Most interviews will take place face-to-face, but an initial interview or an interview for a position a long distances from your current residence may take place over the phone instead.

Here are some overall tips to make a good impression during a face-to-face interview:

  • Dress to impress. If the interview is for a professional position, wear a suit. If the position is more casual, dress a little nicer than the position calls for: wear nice slacks or a skirt, and a clean dress shirt, polo, blouse, or sweater. No jeans and no t-shirts. Show the interviewer that you care about your appearance and are serious about the position. First impressions count.
  • Be present. Make eye contact and show the interviewer that you’re interested in what he or she is saying. Avoiding eye contact or activing distracted can indicate that you’re hiding something or are just not really interested in being there.
  • Be alert. Don’t slouch or lean back in a relaxed, reclined position. Sit up straight. Act professional. Acknowledge what the interviewer is saying.
  • Be confident in your answers. This shows that you’re confident in yourself, as well.
  • Elaborate. Don’t answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no,” unless that’s what the question calls for. Explain to the interviewer what you bring to the table, and why you’re the best person for the position.
  • Don’t make excuses. We all have areas on our resumes that are detours from our career path or that we’re not necessarily proud of. Don’t make excuses for them or apologize for them. Instead, explain how you’ve learned from those experiences and used each item to your benefit.
  • Be honest. Telling “white lies” may get you through the interview, but if you’re hired, you’ll soon be discovered. Be honest with yourself and the interviewer. If you can’t do the job, or you’re missing a necessary skill, lying about it won’t help you in the long run.
  • Be respectful. Greet your interviewer with a hand shake. Thank the interviewer for his or her time. Don’t interrupt or ignore the interviewer when he or she is talking. Show the interviewer that you are professional, courteous, and can treat others with the respect they deserve.

If you find yourself being interviewed by phone, many of the same tips apply. Obviously the interviewer can’t see how you’re dressed, but you will still want to be honest, respectful, and confident. Elaborate on your answers, really listen to what the interviewer is saying, and thank the interviewer for his or her time.

Common Interview Questions

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses, or areas in which you could improve?

  • An employer wants to know how the company will benefit from hiring you. What are you capable of? How will you fill the position? On the flip side, knowing not only where your talents lie, but also where you can improve, shows that you are aware of your limitations and are not afraid to work on improving them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

  • This tells the interviewer what your goals are, and whether employment in the open position could be a permanent position in the company, or a temporary stop for you in your travels. This also shows the interviewer that you can plan ahead, and that you’re motivated to move beyond your current situation. Explaining how you want to better yourself will show that you are going places. Don’t be afraid to mention personal goals, in addition to career goals. Employers want well-rounded associates.

Tell me about yourself.

  • Though not a question, be prepared to tell the interviewer a little about yourself. This doesn’t meant to start at birth and work your way up. Rather, tell the interviewer about your work history, what you bring to the table, and what you’re looking for. If you have extracurricular activities that can be considered an asset, by all means mention those as well. If you have a family, now would be a good time to mention them. Any lapses in employment, items on your resume that need explanation, or items that may affect your employment status should also be mentioned.

Do you have any questions for me?

  • This is a tricky question, and depending on how the interview has gone thus far, you may not have any questions for the interviewer. But asking at least one intelligent question in return will show the interviewer that you were paying attention, and that you’re actually interested in the position. Try asking for an elaboration on something the interviewer touched on, or specific questions about the open position. While inquiring about salary or benefits is OK, don’t dwell too much on these — the employer may think you’re only interested in the money, not the job itself.
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