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Interview 101 Revised & Making a great first impression

You brush up on your interview know-how constantly and put it to actual use. So why the drought in offers? Because most of the advice you’vie been getting has been handed down from generation to generation, and some no longer apply in a work environment that is seeing dramatic shifts in step with modern times. Indeed, what may be desirable candidate qualities a few years ago may today be stale and ineffective. Here, we give you the latest rules on the interview front:

1. Drop the long-term perspective. A typical question once thrown at candidates was, “Describe yourself five years from now.” You were supposed to respond that you hoped to grow with the company and assume increasing responsibility over the years. Now with business fortunes rocked by uncertainties, employers want workers who can make a big impact and produce fast results. They need someone who can speed up company turnaround and introduce winning concepts. Thus, be prepared for such posers as: “Tell me how you plan to improve the performance of your team within six months.”

2. Demonstrate a team outlook. Before, you were merely expected to know more about the ins and outs of the position than your competitors. Now, being head and shoulders above the rest in hard knowledge and solid experience is no longer enough. Hiring managers need people who possess the emotional intelligence to deal with a variety of personalities and situations. To make an impression, show the interviewer you have not just the hard skills but the soft skills as well, including flexibility, diplomacy, judgment and communication abilities.

3. Learn from the past. Employers used to search for someone who was always right. Nowadays, they know that to never err is to play safe—and to lose great opportunities because of the fear of making mistakes. Be ready to come up with convincing reasons to such queries: “What was your greatest mistake in the past and how did you solve it?” How well you can explain the rationale behind your choice, the factors that led to the debacle and the lessons you have extracted from the experience and applied afterward will convince the employer that you have the experience to deal with adversity. More than that, you have the courage to make decisions and take calculated risks for greater returns.

Making a great first impression

by Regina Gozar-Posadas

It’s said that body language makes the biggest impact on the meaning of the message, followed by the tone of voice, and finally, by the words itself. This holds true particularly in the interview, where the first few minutes you spend with a potential employer can spell the success or failure of your application. If this were not so, employers would be hiring applicants merely on the strength of their resumes or test results. It’s thus vital to make a favorable first impression. To do that:

Be punctual.
You might as well kiss the job goodbye if you come in late for the interview, clothes drenched in sweat and hair sticking out in different places. Give extra time for traffic, parking, bad weather and slow elevators. However, if you’re 15 to 20 minutes ahead of schedule, don’t go straight to the reception lady to announce your presence-this might put undue pressure on the interviewer. Instead, catch your breath and freshen up in the restroom, or get some coffee at the cafeteria.

Dress neatly and appropriately.
Let the hiring manager see you in the job by dressing for the part. Pants, skirts and shirts should be pressed, while shoes should be shined. If not sure what attire is required for the interview, dress on the conservative side. If possible, call the company and ask.

Observe moderation.
Practicing restraint is a virtue when it comes to the interview. Too much of anything-no matter how good-can be distracting or annoying to the interviewer. So keep these in mind.
  • Use minimal makeup, jewelry and perfume.
  • Style your hair conservatively.
  • Avoid excessive body movement (hand gestures, nods, shrugs).
  • Stick to plain and simple polish.

Project rapport and confidence.
While it may seem unfair to be judged solely from that brief meeting, it’s a reality that 80% of hiring decisions are made on the candidate’s personality, and only 20% on skills. So project a hirable persona by following these guidelines:
  • Shake hands firmly. If your hands are wet, try running them under lukewarm water and drying them well.
  • Maintain eye contact. Experts suggest maintaining eye contact for no longer than 10 seconds to avoid staring. Be careful too to look him in the eye only. Don’t let your eyes roam on his balding pate or the big mole on his cheek, for instance.
  • Keep your back straight when standing or sitting. Move confidently. Sit slightly forward in your chair.
  • Ask questions. Don’t just nod and agree all the time! Delve deeper into what the interviewer is saying, or inquire about job-related details to move things along.
  • Listen carefully, look interested and speak clearly.
  • Be diplomatic. No negative statements or derogatory remarks about previous jobs, colleagues or employers.
Before the interview, work on your communication skills. Good grammar and coherent speech are compulsory. Listen to yourself when you speak-do you tend to ramble on, rush your words, or take overly long pauses? Talk to family members and friends, read aloud or practice in front of the mirror to become a better communicator.

Think positive and believe in yourself. If you don’t think you have what it takes to succeed, how can you convince a would-be employer to hire you?

Be mentally prepared to interview

by Regina Gozar-Posadas

Preparing for a prized interview entails much more than just knowing what to wear or where to go, looking neat and being on time. Beyond logistics and physical appearances, there should be constructive mental and psychological planning as well. Follow these steps to emerge a winner in your next interview:

Do some research. Learn as much as you can about the position, the company and the industry so you can assess and justify your suitability for the job. If the company has a website, check it out on the Internet. Be friendly and professional to employees you meet or speak with on the phone-they can be your allies in securing that coveted job.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Review the skills, character traits and abilities you possess that can contribute to the company’s cause. Envision yourself in the position and think realistically of what you can do, improve or add to benefit the company.

Study your employment history so you can describe your work experience in detail. Get excellent references and bring samples of your work to show the interviewer. Practice enumerating your duties and accomplishments at each job.

Be familiar with the questions. Prep yourself for both the usual suspects (“Tell me about yourself.”) and tough-to-answer questions (“What are the benefits of hiring you over someone else?” Or “What can you do for the company?”) Think of questions from an employer’s standpoint and try to answer these positively.

Ask your own questions. Interviewers are not just after answers; they also want to know how you think and thus, are interested to hear intelligent, job-related inquiries from applicants.

Finally, try to imagine how the entire interview will go. Visualize yourself performing calmly and confidently from start to finish. Psych yourself up for anything that may happen, but always hope for the best. Good luck!