The job interview: Prepare and impress

January 12, 2015
Carter Dyson

Carter Dyson

Job seekers commonly rank the interview as the most intimidating portion of their career search. Yet, the interview is the most critical time for a job seeker to be focused, engaging and confident.

The only effective way to overcome the tension of a job interview is to prepare. From researching the employer to answering possible questions in front of a mirror, every minute you spend preparing will settle those nerves and give you an edge on your competition.

Understanding the types of interviews employers conduct and the phases of those interviews will help you get ready. There are five main types of interviews – traditional, panel, telephone, stress and observational. As you prepare, it’s important to think about how you’ll handle each type.

In a traditional interview, a candidate meets face-to-face with one person. In a panel interview, at least one other person joins the main interviewer. Stress interviews are designed to evaluate how a potential employee operates under pressure. And in observational interviews, employers ask candidates to perform a task that demonstrates some of the skills required for the job.

No matter the type of interview you have, it consists of four basic stages.

The introduction stage is all about making a lasting impression. Research shows we make multiple decisions about a person within the first several seconds. In an interview situation, that means employers are taking in a lot of information about you before you’ve had a chance to say anything about your qualifications for the job. That’s why it’s so important to be sure you give the right nonverbal cues.

First, don’t give an interviewer a bad impression before they even see you by running late. Arrive 15 minutes early.

Show your professionalism. Depending on a company’s culture, a suit might not always be appropriate, but always wear conservative business attire that fits well and has been pressed. You also will want to go light on the makeup, jewelry and fragrance.

When you meet the interviewer, give them a warm, natural smile and a firm handshake. Maintain eye contact as you introduce yourself and display a positive attitude and genuine interest in the company.

Many interviews start off with ice breaking, so be ready for the interviewer to say, “tell me a little about yourself.” Develop a 30-second summary of who you are, what skills and talents you offer and why you’re interested in the job.

With a positive impression made, you’ll confidently move into the employer questions stage. This phase of the interview may also include demonstrations or assessments the employer requires.

You’ll want to spend some time developing answers to common questions. Note that many interviewers will want to know about specific experiences so they can predict if you will be a good fit. They might ask you to tell them about a time you showed leadership, resolved a customer’s problem or handled conflict within your work team.

Also consider industry specific questions. For example, if you work in advanced manufacturing, prepare to tell the interviewer how you ensure quality control or how you promote safety in the workplace.

Throughout the employer question stage, carefully listen to the entire question, pause to organize your response and rephrase the question in a way that shows your understanding.

Next, the interviewer will move into the applicant questions stage. Interviewers like to see candidates exhibit their knowledge of the company and interest in the job in the questions they ask. You might want to ask where the employer expects the employee to be in 90 days, for example. However, it is not appropriate for an applicant to bring up pay at an interview.

In the closing stage, the interviewer likely will explain the next steps in the hiring process. If you have the opportunity, reiterate your interest in the position. Be sure to get the names of each interviewer so you’ll be able to send personal thank you notes within 24 hours.

The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail regularly offers free workshops and career advising to help job seekers improve their interviewing skills and more.

For workshop offerings, see our events calendar.

For more information, contact the career center nearest you.

Carter Dyson is One Stop Director for Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail. He can be reached at (270) 766-5115 or The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail, overseen by the Lincoln Trail Workforce Investment Board, is a one-stop resource for both job seekers and employers.

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 Workforce Development Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.
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