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How to Excel in the Job Interview


Does the thought of a job interview get you excited about the opportunity to promote yourself and talk about your accomplishments in the field of engineering? Or does it leave you cold and sweaty, with a dry mouth and an upset stomach? You may have experienced both because in some cases, depending upon the job opportunity, you feel confident and eager to sell what you have to offer to others. On the other hand, you may have walked away from interviews that were disappointing because you were nervous and you felt like you didn’t put forth your best effort.

This article contains 6 tips for excelling in the job interview.

Consider this: You have a respectable number of years working in the field of engineering. You have all the right credentials, certifications and licenses as well as solid work-related references and several patents to your name. However, one bad 30-minute interview could be what the interviewer remembers most about you.

No one expects you to be perfect in an interview. A little awkwardness and nervousness is not uncommon. On the other hand, you don’t want to look like you’ve never interviewed for a job before. You can’t change who you are by simply reading the latest interview tips before you meet with a potential employer, but preparation and practice will give you the confidence to relax and put your best face forward. That’s all you can do, but that’s usually enough.

Let’s begin with 6 tips for jump-starting your job search and interview opportunities.

Tip #1 - Begin by identifying and assessing your strengths. Evaluate your personal qualities, skills and abilities. In other words, what are you good at doing? Employers want to know what you can do and are willing to do. Self-assessment is the first step in preparing to communicate with the interviewer. It requires complete honesty and objectivity as you determine your strengths. You are laying the groundwork for your self-marketing plan and that requires a positive attitude and a high degree of self-motivation. By identifying and assessing your strengths, you are on your way to capitalizing on your positives and neutralizing your negatives. Prepare to take advantage of your strengths before your competition takes advantage of your weaknesses.

Start by translating your strengths into accomplishments. In evaluating your accomplishments, you should be prepared to talk about five or six examples that illustrate your success. Sharing examples is the best way to support your claims of achievement and convince the interviewer that your past performance is a reliable indicator of your future contributions. For example, are you a good organizer? If yes, you need to be prepared to talk about a time when you used those skills on the job. Did the fact that you are good at organizer save your company money? If so, how much money? These are the kind of details that you should be able to discuss in the interview. The more specific the examples, the more convincing you will be.

Tip # 2 - Research the company. The old adage that knowledge is power is especially true when conducting a job search. We’ve all heard about the importance of knowing as much as you can about the company with whom you will be interviewing. However, many people make a weak attempt in this area, maybe because they don’t know where or how to gather this type of information. You know how to use the Internet. You can find out enough on the Internet to speak intelligently during the interview. Research should be one of your top priorities in your job search. Although no one expects you be an expert on their company, you won’t look very bright if you don’t know what they do, something about their company history, reputation, competitors, size, products and why they were on the front page of Sunday’s business section.

Tip #3 - Prepare for the interview. You can’t change your personality or work history, but you can give proper emphasis to your selling points and downplay your deficiencies. You wouldn’t go into a big sales presentation without thorough preparation, but many people think they can just “show up” for a job interview and be themselves. Experienced interviewers, however, will see through your lack of preparation immediately and it will set off alarms. It’s hard enough competing with other people for good jobs; don’t handicap yourself. As you prepare for the interview, remember that the interviewer is interested in what you can do for the company. Stay away from self-centered dialogue, the kind that suggests that you are primarily interested in what the business can offer you in the way of salary and benefits.

Tip # 4 - It’s impossible to anticipate every question that you will be asked, but you can feel confident going into an interview if you think about what types of things the interviewer wants to know about you. The first item of interest is often “chemistry.” Will other employees in the organization like you and feel comfortable working with you?

Second, how will you be profitable to the business by contributing directly to the bottom line? Both of these issues are important to the interviewer and are critical to your success in landing a job offer. Mentally prepare to showcase your skills and suitability to the job and the culture of the company. Then go do it!

Tip #5 - Before you leave you need to close the sale of your talents to the interviewer. It’s no different than selling a product; you need to get a “yes” from the buyer. Understand that rejection is a challenge and that it doesn’t necessarily mean “no,” only that the buyer is not ready to buy. Don’t apologize for what you don’t have either. Some candidates fall all over themselves making excuses for why they don’t have certain experience or gush that they know that the company is wonderful and that they want to be a part of that success. It may sound harsh, but interviewers are primarily interested in what you can do for them.

If you get the feeling that the interviewer isn’t sold on you, try to get him or her to give you an explanation. Objections are not always rejections, but you have to get them out in the open in order to respond effectively. It’s always worth a try.

Tip #6 - Delay accepting an offer. No interviewer should expect you to accept a job offer on the spot. It’s reasonable for you to ask for 24 to 48 hours to respond, especially with management-level positions. Just don’t give the impression that you’re trying to take advantage of the interviewer.

Candidates who aggressively pursue an opportunity and then when offered the job coolly say they need several weeks to make a decision are viewed unfavorably. The offer might even be retracted.

If you want the job, but need some time to think about it or discuss it with family members, especially if it requires a relocation, it’s reasonable to ask for several days before giving an answer.

In conclusion, it’s the 21st Century and it’s time to take a fresh look at how you’re competing for job interviews and ultimately the job offer. Your approach to changing careers or dealing with job loss can make the difference in how fast you transition to something new. Regardless of which of these two categories you fall into, you have to accept the realities, develop an action plan for finding a new job, and move forward. Wallowing in self-pity serves no useful purpose. Waiting for “something” to happen is a waste of time. Use these ideas to help you get started and stay on course. Think positively. Don’t let yourself get discouraged and off track. Looking for a job is a full time job. It takes energy, commitment, a willingness to get out and network, meet strangers and toot your own horn. Now, go out and make it happen!

Carol Hacker is a business consultant, seminar leader and author of over 250 published articles and 13 books including the bestseller, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions for People Who Need People. She can be reached in Atlanta at 770-410-0517

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