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Critical Guidelines for Candidates Prior to an Interview

@Florida Gulf Coast University - Administrator


The interview is a conversation to determine mutual needs. You have certain needs just as the company does. You want to describe how your skills fit the job, but you also want to make sure that the job is right for you. The interviewer’s decision to hire you is based on your personality, your skills, your career ambitions, your education, your experience and your ability to communicate these things effectively. Your success on your first interview is a critical factor in getting hired.

Don't hesitate to talk to your Executive Search Consultant for details or to do a dry run prior to your interview. It is their job to help you succeed.

Before the Interview

§ Practice! Have a friend ask you common interview questions or, if you feel it is necessary, schedule a mock interview with your mentor or your executive search consultant.

§ Be prepared! Review information on the organization and the position well in advance of the interview. Be prepared to talk about your assets and how they relate to the organization and position.

§ Have a professional telephone greeting on your voice mail.

During the Interview

§ Be comfortable discussing everything on your resume, some interviewers will use it as their only guide for the interview.

§ Be on time! Even better, be 5 or 10 minutes early. If circumstances cause you to run late, call the interviewer and let them know.

§ Dress appropriately. A positive first impression gets the interview off to a good start. If you do not know what is appropriate dress, contact the Career Development Center. Many employers now have a business casual work environment, however, most prefer professional dress for interviews.

§ Carry your materials in a professional looking portfolio, folder or briefcase and bring extra copies of your resume.

§ Address the interviewer by his/her formal title (Mr. Jones, Miss Smith, etc.).

§ Utilize nonverbal communication to show your interest. This may include maintaining appropriate eye contact, smiling, nodding your head, and sitting upright in your chair.

§ Be positive. Make a positive first impression by greeting the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake. Keep answers to questions positive and upbeat, do not dwell on negatives.

§ Use examples from volunteer work, internships, independent research, employment, courses, and campus or community involvement to make your points clearer. Interviewers often hear the same answers from several candidates, but the stories your tell are unique to you.

§ Listen attentively to the interviewer. If you do not understand a question, ask to have it restated.

§ Let the interviewer control the questions while you control the answers. Controlling the answers means that you will be deciding what to say and what examples to give as a result of your interview preparation.

§ If you do not know the answer to the question, don't be afraid to admit it. If you think your answer may have been too short, ask the interviewer if you answered the question or if he or she would like additional details. If you think your answers are too long and the interviewer does not maintain eye contact with you, stop and ask if you are answering the question.

§ Be honest. Any information you give is subject to verification.

§ Being nervous is normal; denying it will make you more anxious. If you are not nervous, the interviewer may think you are not really interested in the position. The interviewer is interested in getting to know you and as a rule, will try to relieve your anxiety.


§ At the conclusion of the interview, if you are still interested, politely reaffirm your interest in the position.

§ As a professional courtesy, a thank you letter should be sent after every interview.

§ If you have not heard from the company within two to three weeks, contact the interviewer and inquire about the status of the position.

§ Be aware that many employers will require drug use testing prior to employment. This may often be discussed near the end of a second interview with the test to follow a few days later.

§ Be persistent and maintain an optimistic outlook.

Professional Image

§ It is important to project a professional image

§ Employers may assume that this is the best you will ever look

§ Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. You’re trying to sell yourself

§ Always wear a suit to an interview, even if the people who work at the organization are not wearing suits and the job for which you are interviewing doesn’t require it. Remember, the people there already have the job…you don’t.

§ Always have fresh breath and clean body hygiene. This may seem obvious but take a shower, use deodorant, and brush your teeth

§ Wear cologne and aftershave that is subtle, some people may be allergic. Your scent should leave the room when you do.

§ Have clean, short nails without ragged edges.

Research the Employer Extensively

Don't expect the employer to educate you about what they do! Identify the organization's products or services, investigate its history and growth, and learn what you can about the positions for which you are applying. If you cannot find any specific information about the position or organization, then learn something about the industry or field.

Use the WWW. Search for the company/organization/school district on the Internet. Use a search engine built into the browser your are using or visit the Career Development Center home page for tools to help you find information about an organization.

Review informational brochures and videotapes from the organization that may be on file in the Career Development Center

Prepare Answers to Common Questions

Many of the questions interviewers ask are included in this section. No two interviews or interviewers will be alike. Questions generally take three forms, situational which asks an applicant to respond to a given situation; observational where an applicant is asked to reflect upon the actions of a third party or conceptual where an applicant is asked about their personal philosophy or future goals. However, you should be prepared to answer the following questions in any interview, including the behavioral interview questions that follow in the next section.

§ Tell me something about yourself. This is the most frequently asked question in interviews. Always be prepared to summarize your background as it relates to the position for which you are interviewing. It is a wonderful opportunity to sell yourself and you should look forward to this question. Tell the interviewer where you plan to start. You may want to go back to high school if you feel it is relevant, or start with college. Briefly comment on items highlighted on your resume.

§ What are your career goals? This question tests whether you've determined your career goals, and whether your goals match what the organization has to offer. Sound clear and definite about your goals and demonstrate your knowledge of the organization. Employers are concerned about loyalty and staff turnover. Emphasize the fact that you are being very thorough with your job search to assure that you find the right match. If you are interviewing for an internship, you may want to indicate that you are carefully exploring career options and an internship will give both you and the employer a trial period of employment.

§ Why do you want to work for our organization? This is your opportunity to demonstrate what you know about the organization from your research. Reasons might include the reputation of the organization or department in terms of products or service; the company's rapid growth, or positive information you have received from employees or previous interns of the organization.

§ Why did you choose ...............(University/Employer)? or Why did you major in _____? These questions give you the opportunity to demonstrate your career commitment and your planning ability. Describe how the decision was made.

§ Describe your academic performance. Accent the positive. Do not offer excuses! Discuss the fact that you've done very well in the courses related to your major and career choice. If you have strong academic references, suggest the employer talk with them. If you have not indicated your grade point average on your resume, there is a very good chance you will be questioned about it. If you think your grade point may create a problem in an interview situation, consult a Career Services staff member.

§ What are your strengths? Your strengths may be your leadership experience, your academic achievement, your career commitment, your relevant experience, or personal traits such as motivation and dependability. Don't be afraid to repeat or emphasize items on your resume or items that may have already been discussed in the interview.

§ What are some areas in which you feel you need improvement? Comment on areas that you continue to improve upon such as your computer knowledge or your time management. If you obviously don't meet one of the qualifications for the position, address that issue and discuss how you will acquire that knowledge or skill. If you are an intern applicant, discuss the fact that you do not have relevant experience; however, that's why you are seeking an internship.

§ Tell me what you learned from your internship/student teaching experience. If you have a related experience category on your resume, be prepared to spend the majority of the interview on this topic. Be ready to give more detail on your responsibilities. Discuss what you learned and observed, and how you grew professionally. Give examples of what you accomplished. Relay positive feedback given to you by co-workers and supervisors. Education majors may want to develop a professional portfolio.

§ Please discuss your personality strengths as they relate to this position. Make a list of 6-8 of your personality traits that you believe are assets. Write down experiences and examples that demonstrate these traits and be prepared to relay them in the interview.

What additional comments do you wish to make regarding your application? This question usually comes at the end of the interview. If there are important experiences or skills and abilities that you have not had the opportunity to discuss, mention them now. Encourage them to contact your references. Tell them how interested you are in the position.

Acknowledged with thanks - @Florida Gulf Coast University - Administrator

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