Making the most of a job interview

May 12, 2017
Carter Dyson

Carter Dyson

Your careful research, resume, cover letter and application have paid off. You’ve landed an interview for the job you want. But your outlook has shifted from excitement to apprehension as you think about coming face to face with a hiring manager who will judge your skills, your experience, your attire and even your handshake.

First, you’re not alone. Job interviews can be nerve wrecking for even the most qualified and charismatic job seekers. And secondly, you absolutely can overcome the tension of a job interview with careful preparation.

Whether you are hoping to take your career to the next level or are a new graduate applying for an entry-level position, your interview is mostly likely to move through four stages. Understanding these stages can help you prepare and, in turn, display confidence during the interview.

The introduction stage is your chance to make a good first impression. Research shows the first few minutes of a job interview weigh heavily in the hiring decision. In fact, a CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers revealed that 50 percent of employers know within the first five minutes if a candidate is a good fit for the position.

Keep these tips in mind to make a great impression in the introduction phase:

  • Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Wear conservative business attire that fits well and has been pressed. Any makeup, jewelry or fragrance should be conservative, too.
  • Greet the interviewer with a warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake.
  • Be prepared to answer icebreakers like “tell me about yourself.” Practice delivering a 30-second summary of who you are, what you can offer the company and why you are interested in the job.

The next stage of the interview, the employer questions stage, includes questions as well as any tests or demonstrations required by the employer. I always encourage job seekers to prepare and rehearse possible interview questions. The most common questions include:

  • Why are you a good fit for this job?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What is your greatest strength and what is your greatest weakness?
  • Tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it.

After the employer questions stage, you’ll move into the applicant questions stage. This is an opportunity to actually make a statement. Ask questions that are designed to show your commitment, qualifications and interest in the company’s success. For example, asking how the company defines and measures success not only helps you determine if the company is a good fit for you, but it also tells the interviewer that you are goal oriented. Likewise, asking about how employees collaborate indicates that you work well in a team environment and care about internal customers.

It’s best to hold off on questions about pay or benefits until after you’ve received a job offer.

The interview wraps up with the closing stage, when an interviewer typically will let you know about the next steps in the hiring process. Be sure to verify the names of all interviewers so you can follow up with thank you notes within 24 hours. Finally, end the interview as it started – with a warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake.

At Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail, we provide individualized assistance to all job seekers, no matter their industry or career level. Our full lineup of free services includes interview coaching, and we often arrange for mock interviews with a single interviewer or a panel.

If you’re looking for your next career opportunity, I encourage you to find out how our services can help. Find the Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail location nearest you.

Carter Dyson is One-Stop Director at Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail, which is overseen by the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. He can be reached at 270-766-5115 or

The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail helps match job seekers with local employment and training opportunities. Our business solutions team offers employers of all sizes and industries personalized support to build a competitive workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer.
Program is funded with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funds through the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.
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