“Can you describe yourself in a few words?”
Prepare for this popular question — which is often the first one asked — by developing an insightful summary of your career. The answer should be brief and specific but should include enough detail about your pertinent skills, work experience, accomplishments and goals that the hiring manager can quickly see what you bring to the table.
“Why do you want to join our company?”
It is always advisable to have a basic knowledge of the company before walking into any interview. Go through the company website and relevant news to gain a good grasp of its vision, mission, history, reputation and corporate culture. The more information you collect, the more specific you can be about why you’re an excellent fit. Do not answer in the context of your financial needs.
“What’s your biggest weakness?”
This is an opportunity to demonstrate your self-awareness, sincerity and problem-solving aptitude. Mention an area where you could improve and highlight the steps you’ve taken to do so. Do not offer a transparently fake flaw (“I care too much about my work.”) or pretend to be perfect (“Weaknesses? None come to mind.”). And, of course, don’t be your own worst critic by citing countless shortcomings.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Position yourself as an ambitious but flexible and realist individual. One way to do this is to speak of your desire to continually take on broader responsibilities and grow professionally. You also might emphasize your commitment to lifelong learning by mentioning your interest in attaining advanced industry certifications. Do not focus on an overly supercilious objective. For instance, boldly proclaiming you intend to be the firm’s next chief financial officer when you’re an entry-level finance candidate certainly shows drive, but it’s not a practical five-year objective.
Non verbal Communication: A crucial Interview Component
Giving a limp handshake, letting your eyes wander and fidgeting are just a few of the subtle blunders that can botch your success in a job interview. Although you may have been unaware you were doing these things, interviewers who pick up on negative nonverbal communication are likely to doubt your fit for the job. Nonverbal communication can be judged just as much as, and sometimes even more harshly than, the responses you give to questions you’re asked during interviews. It can even be the single factor that helps hiring managers decide between you and another candidate when you’re both equally qualified for the job. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful about your posture, facial expression and other behaviors.
• Posture and physical distance: When sitting in a chair, sit up straight or lean forward slightly. If you cross your legs, do it so that one knee is stacked on top of the other or cross your ankles. Do not cross your legs so that one foot is on top of your other knee. Alternatively, keep both feet on the floor. Do not stretch your legs out in front of you or sit with your legs spread far apart — it looks too casual. When standing near someone, about 3 feet is standard and standing closer than this can make others feel uncomfortable.
• Arms and hands: You can move your hands while talking to some extent, but do not do so to the point of distracting your interviewer. Sitting with your arms crossed in front of you can look defensive. Instead, try to have a more open posture. Don’t fidget, play with your hair or pen or bite your nails.
• Eye contact: Look in the eyes of the person interviewing you. Looking down or away frequently gives a message of not being confident or being confused. Don’t stare intensely at the interviewer; just look at him or her in the eye as much as possible.
• Facial expression: Smiling is an important way of showing that you are friendly and enthusiastic about the position. Smile at the beginning and the end of the interview at a minimum.
• Mirroring: You can also take note of the posture and expressions of your interviewer, and adopt some of his or her tone. Be careful, though — even if an interviewer is friendly and casual, that does not mean you should be too casual. It is still a professional job interview.
Making an Impression
A hiring manager can often tell if you’re the right fit for his or her organization just minutes after the two of you shake hands. With such a short amount of time to interact with a hiring manager, how can you evoke a positive response? Projecting confidence and enthusiasm is the key, so keep the following advice in mind.
Dress to impress
A good part of the impression an interviewer first forms of you depends on how you’re dressed. So wear a nice suit or business-appropriate dress, even if you know the office to be a casual environment.
One of the best ways to make a good first impression is to avoid any pre-interview jitters. Plan to arrive at the interview destination 10-15 minutes early. This will give you time to compose yourself and relax a little.
Many hiring managers ask everyone who has interacted with a candidate — from administrative staff to members of their department — for feedback on the prospective employee. So be pleasant toward those you meet and be respectful.
Break the ice
Small talk plays an important role in the interview by helping to break the ice and put both parties at ease. If the hiring manager asks if traffic was heavy or if you had problems finding your way to the office, offer more than just a “yes” or “no” answer. Just be sure not to linger with it too much.
No matter how well you have prepared for an interview, things may not always go as smoothly as you had hoped for. Even if you fear you’ve already made a negative impression in the hiring manager’s mind, stay positive and be focused on what you can do during the rest of the meeting to convince the employer that you’re right for the job. Keeping a positive attitude and remaining confident is the right approach in case of a nervous mistake because it shows your strong composure capacity.
A resume Checklist
When writing the first draft of your résumé, you probably know it could be — and should be — stronger than it is. If you’re like many job seekers, though, you might feel baffled as to which specific steps will lead you to more powerful content and a more attractive design. The following steps to can be taken to improve your résumé before using it to apply for jobs:
Check for verbs
Be sure each bullet in your “professional experience” section starts with a verb or an adverb preceding a verb
Delete redundant or superfluous words
Review each sentence or bullet and delete any words that your sentence reads fine without, such as “the” and “that,” as well as unnecessary words. Edit down to the most concise sentence possible without omitting important content, such as achievements. Include personal attributes. Double-check that your primary attributes are included in your “professional summary” section and that you didn’t leave out any important ones.
Ensure that all pertinent, targeted qualifications are included
Compare your résumé to the description of the job you’re targeting. Is there any information you didn’t already mention that would address a function or need listed in the description? If so, revise your résumé to include that information. Prioritize your bullets. Review your responsibilities and achievements in each position and move the more important, targeted ones closer to the top under each position.
Remove irrelevant information. Check to ensure that anything irrelevant or not directly related to your targeted goal is minimized, put toward the end or omitted so that your résumé includes more relevant information.
Subdivide and categorize bullets. If you have many responsibility and achievement bullets under each position (say, more than 10), you can divide them into two categories (“responsibilities” and “achievements”) and subtitle them as such under each position for easier reading. Check for quantifying information. When reviewing your sentences, ask yourself, “Did I include how many, how much, how often, how big, how fast, and how well and so on?” If not, edit your sentences to include more specific, concrete information.
Verify that “CAR” and benefit information is included. Do your achievements include the Challenge you faced, the Action you took and the Result? Be sure you show how well you performed these functions and always include the benefit(s) to the company
Check grammar, Punctuation and Spelling. Spell-check your document in your word-processing program. Proofread several times. Be consistent in your use of capitalization and hyphenation. Be sure you have used correct grammar and punctuation. If this is not one of your fortes, give your completed résumé to someone you trust to proofread it for you. Add adjectives or adverbs where applicable. Check to see whether you can add descriptors that show how well you performed your job functions.
Resume Editing Tips
Depending on how it’s written, your résumé can make or break your job search. A professional, well-written résumé can make an immediate impact within the mind of employers; but a sloppy, mistake-laden résumé can turn off a hiring manager in a split second. Proofreading is a must. Before you send yours to an employer, follow this checklist to ensure it is the highest-quality representation of yourself.
Grammar and spelling – Use the grammar and spell check function in Microsoft Word. When you are finished with that, print out your résumé and read the document word for word. Spell check won’t know that you meant to enter “manager” when you actually typed “manger.”
Capitalization – The most common capitalization errors are with job titles. You capitalize a person’s job title only when it precedes his or her name. (Example: President Peters) You do not capitalize a job title when it comes after the name as a description. (Example: Mr. Peters, the president of XYZ Corporation…)
Punctuation – Check for proper and consistent use of punctuation. Again, if you are unsure, refer to a reference manual. If you don’t own one, there are many accessible for free online.
Run-on sentences – Check to make sure you do not have run-ons: They are difficult to read and comprehend. A run-on sentence is defined as two or more sentences that have been joined together without a conjunction or the correct punctuation. (Example: I produced strategies for growth management and market expansion and identified profitable acquisition and diversification opportunities and facilitated negotiations for sale of software division.)
Consistency – You must be consistent with your number usage (dates, money, numbers), plurals and abbreviations. For example, don’t list one date as “8/2004″ and then list another as “3/15/2004.” Also, be aware of listing software consistently (abbreviation use). MS Word and Microsoft Outlook are both correct, but not consistent when used in the same document.