Appropriate Interview Skills

 

MODULE GOAL: To be informed about necessary steps to take before, during, and after an interview. To identify key resources and strategies for interviewing, impressing employers, and securing a job.

OBJECTIVES:
  1. To identify different ways to prepare for an interview.
  2. To identify appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication during an interview.
  3. To describe the job interview process.
  4. To explain the importance of answering the questions asked during the interview.
  5. To identify questions to ask during an interview.
  6. To describe strategies of looking confident and not desperate.
  7. To explain the importance of after interview etiquette.
 
INTRODUCTION:
 
So you have spent agonizing hours putting together a resume, researching employers and answering repetitive questions? Now what? Waiting for a call from an employer is stressful; however, anticipating a job interview can add additional stress. An interview does not have to be terrifying. In fact, with practice, it becomes a valuable experience. The key to a great interview experience is preparation and practice. This module is intended to emphasize the importance of job interview preparation and different ways of making you stand out from other candidates. Whether you’re preparing your resume or actively job searching, it is never too late to learn the importance of appropriate interview skills. Below you will find common questions that you may have about the interview process with answers that you may find beneficial as you embark on this journey.
 
KEY QUESTIONS:
  1. How do I prepare for an interview?
  2. What is considered appropriate or inappropriate during an interview?
  3. Am I permitted to voice my feelings/concerns? Can I ask questions?
  4. What if I get nervous, forget words or say something wrong during the interview?
  5. Do I have to tell them about my disability?
  6. How do I follow-up after my interview?

How do I prepare for an interview?

There is no such thing as being too prepared for a job interview. Whether you’re familiar with the potential employer or you have never heard of them, there are things you can do to make yourself stand out. The three important steps to take in order to increase your odds of securing a position are: Research, Review and Plan Accordingly (Doyle, 2013).

Research: In this day and age, everything we need to know about an employer is right under our fingertips. The internet is a great source and valuable tool for learning everything you need to know about an employer. Connecting with people and networking (meeting new people that have similar professional goals) is a useful way of learning more information about an employer.     

  • Online: To start out, do a Google search with the name of the company, business or organization. Click on the appropriate place of business to start collecting information. As you do your research make sure to note: The number of years they have been in business, their mission statement, their objectives and their goals. Your interviewer will be very impressed if you find a way to disclose some of this information during the interview. Make sure to tailor your responses around their beliefs. Employers are looking for a good fit for their business. If you are already thinking like “them” during the interview, you will stand out against competition. 
  • Networking: If you know someone that works for the employer you are interviewing with, pick their brain. Ask them as many questions about the business as you can. No question is too silly. Ask them to explain a typical day at the office. Ask them if they see themselves working at the same place for the next 5 or 10 years. Don’t forget, your employer is not the only one making a BIG decision. You are too! If you need help with the job application process, visit http://www.www.heath.gwu.edu/modules/?page=2 for in-depth information about the job search and application process.

Review: This is the time to dig up your resume and make sure EVERYTHING is up to date. Also, think back to important events that would be valuable to your employer. Then, recount noteworthy events and practice describing them. 

  • Resume & References: Make sure your phone number, address and email are all updated. Take a look at your references. Is their information accurate? Also, make it a point to contact all of your references and give them a heads up about a possible phone call they may be getting soon. You do not want a reference to be off guard or ruin your chances. Ask yourself, are your references reliable? Will they have good things to say about you? It would be heartbreaking to realize that the interview went well but the conversation that the employer had with a reference was a disaster.
  • Recount Noteworthy Events: Think back to your accomplishments or noteworthy happenings that would be beneficial for you to bring up during an interview. Recount the event repeatedly making sure to include what you’ve learned from them, including both achievements and failures. It is okay to note downfalls ONLY if you follow them up with how you grew from the experience. Be sure to tailor the noteworthy events to the job when describing them to your employer.

Plan Accordingly: Although we grew up hearing the cliché, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”…..research shows, employers do! Dress appropriately! There are certain clothing items both females and males should stick to for a job interview. A prompt arrival is a must. You can never be too early for an interview but showing up late will undoubtedly cost you the job. Lastly, bring necessary paper work

  • Appropriate Attire: Both females and males should adhere to an appropriate dress code when interviewing. 

Females: Stick with business suits. If you want to wear a skirt, make sure it falls at or below the knee. Darker color suits are best (navy, dark brown or black). If you must wear color, a nice blouse under the suit will suffice. Stay away from tight fitting attire. Modest is best. Make sure the blouse is not low cut. Bend over in front of a mirror to be certain that there is no chance of revealing cleavage. Keep make up to a minimal. The employer wants to see you, not your ultra black eye liner and flirty red lipstick. If possible, wear your hair up, away from your face. Again, you want the employer to see you! Opt out of wearing perfume. People may have allergies. When it comes to jewelry, keep it to a minimum. Too much jewelry may be too distracting. You want his/her undivided attention. This is your time to shine not sparkle. Women tend to feel more confident in heels. Heels are fine, but make sure you can walk. A “stumbling in the office” may not be the first impression you had in mind. 

Males: Males should opt for darker color suits and plain ties (not bright yellow with smiley faces). The suits should be ironed. If you have a beard, it should be groomed. Make sure your socks match. This isn’t the time to break out the rainbow socks you received in your Christmas stocking. A simple watch and wedding band (if married) should be the extent of your jewelry. Leave the cuff links at home, unless the job is super fancy

  • Prompt Arrival: Get to the interview on time if not EARLY.

If you are unfamiliar with the location of the interview, make sure to plan out the route you will take prior to your interview.  If you have time, make the trip and calculate how much time it took you to arrive. Again, it is extremely important to make it to the interview on time if not early. Also, Lay out your clothes the night before so you don’thave to waste precious time deciding what you want to wear.

  • Paper Work: 

You should bring several copies of your resume with cover letters and a list of  references. Also, any recommendation letters that you have collected from past supervisors and colleagues. If applicable, bring a portfolio that you worked on for school or a certification program.  Sometimes just walking in with a nice looking portfolio makes you look more appealing to the employer. 

What is considered appropriate or inappropriate during an interview?

Once you’ve arrived to your interview destination, you should keep in mind appropriate vs. inappropriate verbal and nonverbal actions. You want to make a good impression, so every move you make will be judged. 

Appropriate and Inappropriate verbal actions: You want to come across as being confident, dependable and reliable. However, talking about your self can be misconstrued as sounding too cocky. Be careful. When stating something positive about yourself, be sure to back it up with an example. Also, include an example of when you made a mistake and follow that up with how you learned from it. We are all human, we make mistakes and grow from them. Next, do not take over the conversation. When asked a question, it is important to answer it in three sentences or less. In the case of an interview, less is more. Be sure to answer the question, follow it up with an example, then how you changed from it. Also, use appropriate language at all times! Be a good listener by not cutting off what the interviewer is saying. Leave questions to the end. Most interviewers ask you if you have any questions for them at the end. If you think of a question during the interview, jot it down and ask it at the end. 

Appropriate and inappropriate nonverbal actions: Once you meet the interviewer, make eye contact and give him/her a firm handshake. Once you have a seat, sit up straight and maintain eye contact. Smile. Smiling is such an important non verbal action during an interview. It speaks volumes about your personality. While the interviewer is talking, show that you are following by nodding your head or maintaining good eye contact. Slouching or avoiding eye contact can make the interviewer feel that you do not want to be there or that you are not interested in the company or business. You are trying to sell yourself. Putting the best YOU forward will get you the position. 

Am I permitted to voice my feelings/concerns? Can I ask questions?

Yes. You are not the only one being “judged.” You are also making a huge decision. You should feel free to ask any question or voice any concern that you may have. When is it appropriate to voice your concerns or ask your questions? Short answer: It depends. Since each interview is different, it is hard to say whether or not you can ask questions throughout the duration of the interview. Most of the time, the interviewee is expected to hold off on asking questions until he/she is prompted to at the end. Your best bet: Get a good feel of your environment and go from there. 

What if I get nervous, forget words or say the wrong things during the interview?

  • Breathe. Keep in mind that everyone has been in your shoes- even the interviewer. It is no secret that interviews are a nerve wrecking experience. Do something that relaxes you prior to the interview. Whether it is listening to your favorite song of taking a jog (don’t forget to shower after).
  • Excuse Yourself. If you happen to say the wrong thing, excuse yourself and try again. Most people understand. If they don’t, it is not the end of the world. Just keep this in mind: Every interview is a learning experience. You will gradually get better! 

Do I have to tell them about my disability?

No, you are not required to disclose this information in an interview. Also, the interviewer, by law, is not permitted to ask you any questions related the subject. However, if you feel that disclosing this information is important, do so. If you need certain accommodations like wheel chair accessible ramps, Braille or other accommodations, it may be important to make the employer aware of this before the interview, during the interview, or after you are hired. Please refer to the 411 on Disability Disclosure for youth with disabilities at http://www.ncwd-youth.info/411-on-disability-disclosure (National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability, 2005).

After the interview, do I just leave and hope they contact me? Is there something I should do to follow up?

There are three important follow up items an interviewee needs to do after leaving an interview. Before leaving, you need to ask for a business card. Next, send an email. Finally, send a “Thank You” card in the mail (Kobrara, 2013).  

  • Asking for a business card ensures 3 things. 

o  You have the correct spelling of the employer’s name.

o  You have the correct email address.

o  You have the correct email address.

  • Then, send the interviewer an email within 48 hours of the interview. This way, he/she knows that you are still thinking about the job opportunity.
  • Finally, mail a “Thank You” card. In the card thank the interviewer for his/ her time and state how wonderful of an opportunity this position will be for you. The employer will love and appreciate the enthusiasm you already have for this position. 

Following up using these 3 steps will only help your chances of getting the position (Poindexter, 2012).

Review of Topics:

  1. There are many different things one needs to do to prepare for an interview. If you feel unprepared, you will look unprepared. Picking out the right outfit, knowing the location of the interview, bringing the right paperwork, and researching the business are all imperative. 
  2. Being appropriate during an interview is a must. This does not only involve what you say and how you say it but also your nonverbal cues. Smiling, nodding, and sitting up straight are all positive body language that will demonstrate that you are focused on the interview and the interviewer.
  3. This is not just a big decision for your potential employer. It is also a big decision for you. Make sure to come with a list of questions. The important thing to remember here is to save the questions until you are prompted to ask them. You don’t want to come across as overbearing.             
  4. Having confidence is important during an interview; however, too much confidence is a turn off. Do not take over the conversation and make sure to listen intently to the employer. Give both positive and negative examples of your past work experience and explain how you grew as an employer in each of those instances.
  5. Remember that when the interview is over, it is not really over! Follow up the interview with both an email and a thank you note. Again, this will only help you!    
 
ADDITIONAL WEBSITES:
 
The first website provides job seekers with techniques and tips that range from what jobs to apply for and to what questions to ask during the interview:
 
The next website focuses on important verbal and nonverbal skills to practice during an interview:
 
The following website stresses the importance of research the company/organization before your interview:
 
Finally, this website concentrates on the importance of appropriate attire for an interview:
 
ASSESSMENT/EVALUATION:
  1. How would an appropriate outfit look for someone preparing for interview? Appropriate female outfit? Appropriate male outfit? What are examples of inappropriate outfits?
  2. What are two things an interviewee must take with them to an interview?
  3. What are some appropriate nonverbal and verbal actions one can make during an interview? What are some inappropriate nonverbal and verbal actions one can make during an interview?
  4. Should one come to an interview with questions? When is the most appropriate time to ask these questions?
  5. Is it ever okay for me to disclose my disability to my potential employer? Is the interviewer ever allowed to ask me about my disability?
  6. What are 3 things I must do directly after an interview?
 
WRAP-UP:
 
It is normal to feel uneasy and nervous before an interview. The key to a successful interview is preparation. Research the company or organization, pick out an outfit to impress, come up with questions that you want answered and think positively.
 

Nafiseh Lundquist chose a career in Special Education after taking a position as a long term substitute for a self-contained class. She insists that, no matter the disability, students can and will learn. After her experience as a long term substitute, she applied for a permanent position as a Paraeducator. A few years later, she went back to school to pursue a Masters Degree in Special Education.

REFERENCES:
 
Kobara, J. & Smith, M. (2013). Interviewing Techniques and Tips: Putting Your Best Self Forward and Getting the job: HelpGuide.org. Retrieved from      http://www.helpguide.org/life/interviewing_techniques_tips_getting_job.htm
 
Doyle, Alyson. (2013). Top 10 Interview Tips:About.com. http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviews/tp/jobinterviewtips.htm
 
National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth. (2005). The 411 on Disability Disclosure Workbook. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.ncwd-youth.info/assets/guides/411/411_Disability_Disclosure_complete.pdf
 
Poindexter, J. (2012). How to Effectively Follow Up After a Job Interview. Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/08/27/how-to-effectively-follow-up-after-a-job-interview