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Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Ace an Interview: Group and Individual Interviews

According to the household survey data conducted by the government bureau of labor statistics there are at least 12.3 million unemployed Americans with an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent. Now, this isn't exactly the highest unemployment rate in US history, but nonetheless it is still a bit too high in my personal opinion.

So with this being known, what are the reasons for this unemployment rate? It appears that the unemployment rate may have actually dropped due to people simply just giving up on looking for work. Research has shown that the longer a person is out of employment, the harder it is for them to get a job. This is why it is important for people to realize that although they may consider themselves to only be in a "certain" field, if they can't find work in that field, it may be in their best interest to expand their options temporarily. As I like to say, any job is better than no job. This way, while you have this temporary job, you can be looking for a job in your actual field while not being considered one of those long-term unemployed Americans.

How to Find Work

So, how do you get a job that isn't exactly in your line of work? Research, research, research! Use online job boards such as Craigslist, Indeed, Beyond, Career Builder, Linked In, Monster, Simply Hired, and US Jobs. Ask around, sometimes word of mouth is the best way to land a job. Create a resume that highlights your skills. Find out what skills the job you are applying to is looking for and mention those. Find a way to tie in your previous experience with the job you are applying to. And don't forget to write a cover letter. Most employers are impressed to see you take the extra step to show your interest. Keep your cover letter simple, let the employer know why you are applying to the particular job, what you can offer the company, and any gaps in your employment. Thank the employer for taking the time to consider you and you look forward to an interview.

So You Got an Interview? How do You Prepare?

Once you get a call to schedule an interview, make sure you can make it the time they set up for you, be as flexible as you possibly can. This shows the employer you are very interested and will do what it takes to get the job. Make sure you have the correct address and thank the caller by name before hanging up. As soon as you can, do some research! Make sure you know what the company looks for in their employees, what your specific job duties will be so that you can relate to them during your interview. Employers love it when they know you have done your homework.

On the day of the interview make sure you have something nice to wear and are well groomed.  Make sure you are clean shaven and there is no dirt under your fingernails; ladies freshen up your nail polish.
Never: Wear jeans, shorts, short skirt, flip flops, sandals, tennis shoes, low cut t-shirts, see through blouses, t-shirts with logos or quotes, or tank tops. Also don't wear too much fragrance, keep it simple.
I am not saying you need to wear a full on business suit, but keep it business casual. Wear some nice dress slacks or a nice dress skirt that goes to your knees. Some nice dress shoes or boots. A simple blouse or t-shirt with a light cardigan or sweater. Think about what you would wear to Church. Keep everything simple, don't wear distracting jewelry or too much jewelry. Don't wear heavy make-up; keep it as close to natural as possible. Wear your hair down or in a nice bun or ponytail; don't over complicate things. If you have tattoos or piercings, cover them up and take them out. If you are worried about piercings closing up, you can  purchase clear retainers from a local tattoo and piercing shop or online; Google inexpensive clear piercing retainers. At the interview you can ask about their policies on tattoos and piercings, or better yet, wait until offered a job to ask.

Arrive at least 15 minutes early! Do not chew gum or have anything in your mouth. Use the restroom if you need to before your interview. If you are the type of person that gets sweaty palms when nervous, run your hands under cold water at least 5 minutes before your interview. There is nothing worse than shaking your interviewers hand with sweaty palms. Make sure to bring a few extra copies of your resume with you. If you would like bring a notebook or pad of paper to take notes and to write down any questions you would like to ask at the end of the interview. Bring a list of your previous employers and all of their information as well as your list of references in case you need to fill out a paper form application. Bring your ID and your social security card in case they offer you a job right away and need to make a copy of those things.

The Interview

Some employees now days are going the group interview route. This is to save time and to see how you interact with other people. Don't let this make you nervous; embrace it, use it as a chance to show your friendly social skills. When the employer asks a question, if it isn't aimed directly at a certain person; be the first to speak up, this shows initiative and interest. Do not let your answer be; "I agree with what everyone else said" and that be it; expand a little, add something of your own or reword what the others said.

In either type of interview, group or individual, be sure to mention the skills they are looking for in your answers. For example, if you are interviewing for a customer service or sales job, use the word customer service or sales a lot. Don't overuse the word, but make sure to throw it in there a few times. Something like, "I believe I would be a great addition to your company because I care about the customers and I enjoy providing excellent customer service, I believe that making the customers happy is the number one priority to making any sell successful."

Watch your body language, you may not think it is important, but you can tell a lot about a person by the way they present themselves. Sit up straight, do not cross your arms (this shows you are closed off), if you are more comfortable crossing your legs try to cross them towards the interviewer and not away from them, smile a lot (but not too much), don't tap your fingers or feet, don't twirl your hair, keep your hands in your lap, make direct eye contact at all times when speaking or listening, nod in agreement when you agree to show you are listening and understanding. Do not ever interrupt the interviewer, give them the chance to ask you the question before you answer, if you don't understand the question then don't be afraid to ask if they wouldn't mind repeating the question or rephrasing it.

Most importantly be HONEST! Never lie about anything, this will not do you any good. If your answer would be something that may make you look bad try to find a way to put it in a more positive perspective. When asked about your strengths and weaknesses use positivity for both answers. Some examples for making a weakness into a positive answer may be; "I sometimes care a little too much about my work," "Some people tell me that I am too friendly and I need to take care of myself more often," "I usually try too hard to make other people happy," "I use to have a hard time with time management, but I now use a scheduler and make sure to leave at least 15 minutes earlier," "I have a hard time balancing my work and personal life, but I am learning to do more fun things on my personal time," or "I am a bit of a perfectionist but I am learning that not everything needs to be perfect."

At the end of your interview make sure to ask at least two questions to show the employer that you are interested in the job and want to know more. Do not ask about salary, this can be discussed when they offer you the job. Some questions you may want to ask is, "What type of training do you provide?" "Do you do quarterly progress reports so we can improve ourselves?" "How many employees are you looking to hire?" "What is the dress code here?" "What is the next step in your hiring process?" And "What is the most important quality you are looking for in your employees?" Make sure to thank the interviewer for their time and that you appreciate the opportunity they have given you. Shake their hand, smile, let them know you look forward to their call (this shows confidence), and then leave quietly.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.
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