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Interview Successfully

The better you prepare and practice,
the better impression you'll make during the interview.

If after reviewing your application, the employer asks you to come for an interview, you should congratulate yourself on reaching this second important stage in the employment process.

Putting your best foot forward during an interview takes a lot of thought and preparation.  One of the best ways to get ready is to ask one or more people—preferably people who are or have been employers or supervisors themselves—to help you do practice interviews.  They will play the role of the employer and ask you a number of questions that are usually asked during the interview, such as:

  • “Why do you want to work here?”

Obviously, “to make money” is one of your major objectives, but you don't want to say this in so many words.  A better answer would be to tell the interviewer why you are interested in working in that particular company or shop.  This will take some thought and preparation ahead of time.  However, an answer along the lines of "I was very impressed by [the number of customers you have] [your employee training program] [your good reputation for quick food service] etc." will show the interviewer that you already know something about the company and how it operates.

  • “Why should I hire you?”

This is a ready-made opportunity to blow your own horn and—in a modest but direct way—describe your own abilities and how they will contribute to your performance on the job.  If you can (truthfully) point to such personal characteristics as diligence, attention to detail, willingness to work hard, ability to get along well with people, and so forth, this is the time to mention these qualities.  When describing your own background and abilities, you should of course emphasize things that would be important strengths for that particular job.

  • “Why did you leave your last job?”

This and other questions about your employment history may pose some problems, especially if you were laid off or forced to quit for some less-than-desirable reason.  Avoid using the word “fired,” and instead say something like “There was a separation in [date] because of some differences concerning [.......]”  Don’t bring up negative information about previous employment unless you are specifically asked.  Try to get past any “negative” job experiences as quickly and smoothly as possible and concentrate on talking about other jobs that you did have good success in.

  • “What do you like to do in your spare time?”

The interviewer sometimes asks a question like this to see how easily and well you communicate in general social situations.  You should feel free to answer in a truthful and straightforward (but not too long-winded) way.  The spare-time activities you describe should be things that the general public finds quite acceptable.  For example, reading for pleasure, studying how-to books, hiking, woodworking, playing the guitar, etc. would all be “OK” activities.  However, dirt biking—even if it in fact takes up almost all of your free time—would not be something to mention in the interview setting.

Exercise:  Do you think doing practice interviews and getting feedback on them would be helpful?  If so, what are some of the main things you would like to learn more about or improve on through this kind of practice? 

It is quite possible that your first (or first several) interviews will not yield positive results. You should view these as important learning opportunities rather than as “failures.”

If you are turned down following an interview, it would be very useful to call the person who interviewed you and ask in a polite way for any information they can give you about why you were not accepted for the job.  Many interviewers would be impressed by someone who went to the trouble of asking for this kind of information, and they might give you some frank and solid feedback that could help you prepare better for other interviews.

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