The purpose of the job interview is to give the interviewer the opportunity to evaluate your application to determine if you can do the job, whether you will fit in and if you are the best candidate for the position? The interview also gives you, as the candidate, the chance to better understand the job and the organization and determine whether the job will offer you the opportunities you may want for advancement or experience? Keep in mind that even though you may possess excellent office technology skills, the prospective employer will also be evaluating your personality, attitudes, professional appearance and ability to communicate. Your ability to convince a prospective employer that you can make a real contribution to their department or company will depend on how well you prepare for the interview. In addition to reviewing the soft skills required by most employers today, follow the guidelines below to help you prepare for your interview:
Step 1: Prepare for the Interview?
Research the Company
It’s important to thoroughly research the company and get to know their products and services before the interview. This will show an employer that you took the time to learn about their company and will help you in your quest towards making a good first impression. A good place to start would be to visit the company website. Many companies will provide information about their mission, culture, number of employees, locations, leadership and other statistics such as the example here at Facebook or here at Google. Requesting a copy of the annual report is another good way to learn about a company. Some items to look out for include:
- What are their products and services
- How profitable is the company?
- How many employees are there?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Any recent expansions or mergers?
- Who are their competitors?
- What are their hiring practices?
Prepare Questions to Ask
Once your research is complete, think of a list of questions you want to ask your perspective employer that may help you determine if the job is for you. Avoid asking questions about salary, wages, holidays with pay, paid sick days, personal days or time off until you get a job offer. Some questions that you may consider are listed below:
- Could you tell me about a typical work day and the tasks I will be doing?
- Which duties or responsibilities are most important for this job?
- What are the major challenges I will face in this job?
- How will I be trained or introduced to this job?
- Can you describe the ideal person for this job
- Who will I report to in this job?
- How many people in your department will I be supporting?
- Please explain the opportunities for advancement and professional growth in this department/company?
- How soon do you plan to fill this job?
- How many people work in the department/company?
- What are the department/company goals for the year?
Update your Information
Update your resume with your most recent employment, education and relevant experience. Once updated, prepare copies of your resume, a typed list of your 3 references and their contact information, copies of your certificates, diplomas, letters of recommendation and your portfolio or samples of your work (if applicable.)
Step 2: Practice Basic Interview Questions
While you’ll never be able to anticipate every single question you may be asked at your interview, you can at least be prepared to answer some of the most commonly known frequently asked interview questions. There are many websites that list these questions and ideas of how to answer them. A good place to start would be job-hunt.org which lists some of the most popular questions and their thoughts on how to answer them. Some job sites, like Monster.com, also provide guidelines on how to answer common interview questions. The following list also gives some commonly asked interview questions.
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- Can you tell me about your experience?
- What do you know about this company and why would you like to work here?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your biggest weaknesses?
- What would you like to be doing in 3-5 years from now?
- Why did you choose a career as an Administrative Assistant/Office Professional?
- What salary are you looking for?
- What was your greatest accomplishment in your last job?
- How do you react to working under pressure?
- Do you enjoy working independently or as part of a team?
- Do you require close supervision when you work?
Beware of Illegal Questions
In the United States there is a federal law that forbids employers from discriminating against any person on the basis of marital status, sex, age, race, national origin or religion. Therefore, interviewers who want information on these topics need to phase these questions very carefully. For instance, an interviewer cannot ask what your native tongue is but he/she can ask you what languages you speak and write fluently. It is also illegal for an interviewer to ask your age, if you are married, plan to have any children or what church you belong to. For a complete description of illegal questions and how to handle them, visit Martin Yates blog on Illegal Questions at Knockemdead.com.
Step 3: The Day of the Interview
Timing is Key
- Know the date, time and address of your interview.
- Know the best way to get to the interview and how long it will take to get there. Prepare a map through mapquest or Google maps and do a trial run if time allows.
- Know the name of the company/business, the job title of the position you are applying for and the name of the person who will interview you. Write down this information.
- Read the job description carefully to understand the job duties, salary and qualifications required, etc…)
- Plan to arrive at the interview 10-15 minutes early.
- Be prepared to fill out an application by taking with you a separate sheet of past employment, dates employed, supervisor names and phone numbers
- Review the information on your resume and practice your answers to the basic interview questions.
- Participate in a Mock Interview and get video-taped if time allows
- Arrange for child care (if necessary)
Dress for Success
While dressing for success may not always get you the job, it will give you a competitive edge and create a positive first impression. The following tips will help you make a good, first impression:
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before your interview
- Shower and shampoo your hair
- Have a well-groomed hairstyle
- Wear clean and polished conservative dress shoes
- Avoid trendy fashions. Dress in the clothes that you would wear on the job
- Wear clean, freshly pressed clothes
- Have cleaned and trimmed fingernails
- Use minimal cologne or perfume
- Have no visible body piercing beyond conservative ear piercing’s for women
- Brush your teeth, floss and use a mouth wash. It’s important to have fresh breath
- Have no gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth
- Use minimal jewelry
- No body odor
- Review these Dress for Success tips
Exhibit Good Body Language
Does body language matter? Yes, learning to use positive body signals and control negative ones during an interview can have a significant impact on your job search and on the new job, says Martin Yates, author of “Knock ‘Em Dead.” Experts recommend the following general suggestions on good body language for the interview:
- Walk slowly and stand tall upon entering the room
- On greeting your interviewer, give a smile, make eye contact, and respond warmly to the interviewer’s greeting and handshake
- Get comfortably seated. Keep your head up. Maintain eye contact a good portion of the time, especially when the interviewer begins to speak and when you reply. Smile naturally whenever the opportunity arises
- Respond positively and keep your complaints to yourself
- Keep your head up and don’t slouch in your seat
- Try to remain calm and do not hurry your movements
- Remember to ask the questions you previously researched.
- At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for his/her time and ask when a decision will be made on the position.
- Obtain any necessary information you need to send your follow-up letter
Step 4: Follow Up After the Interview
Immediately after the interview, send a Follow-Up Letter. Some experts recommend that this should be sent within 24 hours of the interview. The Follow-Up letter shows the employer that you care about the position, that you are responsible and that you want to work for the company. Follow-up letters can also be in the form of an email and a sample of one can be found here.