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          Empowerment Series: Interview Skills

          Contributed by Business Professionals of America

          Empowerment Series: Interview Skills

          Hello BPA and welcome to the sixth installment of the Empowerment Series, Interview Skills! Regardless of what profession you pursue, you will need to excel during an interview to land your dream job. In today’s competitive market, some employers may require you to go through multiple interview processes. Although the processes will vary, the pointers in this segment can be adopted to apply to all interviews.

          Types of Interviews

          There are many tips for interviewing and how you prepare will depend on the type of interview. Common types of interviews include phone, skype, and in-person.  These interview types are different, but how you prepare can make the difference in getting a second interview. No matter which one of these you get the opportunity to do, you will want to prepare yourself. You want to know who you will be interviewing with and how many people will be interviewing you.

          Research the Company

          You want to come to the interview with as much information about the company as possible. Try to go to their website, do some research on LinkedIn, visit the Better Business Bureau and if you know someone at the company, speak with them. Learn about the mission of the company, what their core values are, and how they apply to what you hope to accomplish. Be prepared to show them why you are the ideal fit for their business. Click this link for more tips on researching the company: Researching the Company

          While you are researching the company, come up with potential questions you can ask during the interview. Employers like candidates who come prepared with questions; it shows they made the effort to prepare beforehand. A few potential questions include “where do you see the company in five years”, “can you tell me about your company culture”, and “I’d like to grow and continue improving with your company. What professional development opportunities are available for employees”? These are some of the many questions you may ask.

          Dress for Success

          After your research, you should have an idea of the dress code for the business. You will want to dress appropriately; at a minimum, dress business casual, which means NO jeans or dirty clothes. A pair of black dress slacks and a sweater or dress shirt will be a great go-to outfit for the interview. Do not wear excessive makeup or perfume; try the bare minimum. Unfortunately the statement, “judge a book by its cover” is true, so make sure your appearance says something positive about you. For more hints on what to wear based on each industry, click this link: Interviewing by Industry


          You will want to arrive a few minutes ahead of time; about 15 minutes early is a good rule of thumb. You never know who is watching and who will have influence over if you get the job. That means if you are in the waiting room, sit appropriately and patiently wait for them to call you in. Be respectful to everyone you meet, even if they are not the ones interviewing you. Some employers may ask their staff for their impression of you while you were waiting to be called in for the interview.



          Presenting Yourself

          Be enthusiastic! Ask the interviewer’s name and offer a firm, but gentle handshake. One key point is to wait to be asked to have a seat before you sit down. Be ready to answer and ask appropriate questions; nobody knows you better than you know yourself. You want to give them reasons to hire you over someone else, so sell yourself!

          You should know some of your core strengths. Employers do not want to hear your core strengths are that you work really hard and you try your best; those aren’t really notable strengths. If they’re interviewing you for a job, then they’re already going to assume you work hard and try your best. These are qualities anyone can state. Therefore, make your strengths specific and give examples. For example, “I excel at communication. Working at ABC Corporation required me to communicate with clients on a daily basis via phone and email”. Whatever strengths you state, defend them with examples. Have three strengths in mind and scenarios of how they relate to you prepared before going into the interview.

          Along with your strengths, be ready to address your weaknesses. When stating your weaknesses, do not cut yourself short or state them in a way that would make them not want to hire you. Always offer a way that you’re working to improve them or have some angle that makes them seem less as weaknesses and more as areas of improvement. For example, “working at ABC Corporation required me to primarily work alone on projects, therefore I don’t necessarily have the best teamwork skills. However, that’s why I saw this opportunity to join your company and work in a team environment as a great learning experience. I’m willing to develop this skill because I value what your company is trying to accomplish”. Take any negative and give it a positive twist.

          Throughout the interview, make sure you are being authentic and concrete. Your interview time is limited, so focus on the important details; do not ramble. Remember, they have seen your resume, so listing your accomplishments isn’t adding any new information for them. That’s why you need to show, not tell, what you have done and what you can do. Never talk bad about a previous employer; the interview is about you and this kind of negative talk can send the wrong message.

          Body Language

          Make good eye contact with the interviewer and smile. Make sure your body matches the image you are trying to convey. If you’re talking about how interested you are in the company, yet you’re slouching in your seat and gazing in the distance, this will have negative repercussions. Sit up straight, speak with confidence, and avoid playing with your hands. Some people talk with their hands, which is a great tool if it enhances your story. Others may use their hands to constantly move their hair, touch their face, etc. because there are nervous; try your best to overcome that, if it applies to you. Click this link for more tips on your body language: Body Language Tips




          Thank the Interviewer   

          After the process is over, express gratitude for them making time to interview you. Tell them you appreciate having had the opportunity and that you look forward to potentially working with them in the future. You may ask about the follow up process and when you can expect to hear something. Later that day, you will want to send thank-you notes to each interviewer. A personalized, hand written note goes a long way and it’s another way to set yourself apart from the competition. If you can reference something specific the interviewer mentioned during the interview, this will show you were paying attention.

          After the Interview

          Keep your enthusiasm up and your fingers crossed. If you do not get the job, do not burn any bridges because of frustration. Some employers may set your application in a pile to consider for a future opening. Everything happens for a reason, so stay optimistic. If it was that easy to find and land your dream job, everyone would already have theirs. Take every interview as a learning experience and utilize them to do better in the future.  

          Miscellaneous Tips

          Some interviews may take place during a meal function. Understand that you are being judged at all times, so avoid doing things such as ordering the most expensive item. Also, know your audience. For example, take a lawyer who is being interviewed over dinner. If they order a steak, it’s essential that they try the steak before adding salt or pepper. A lawyer should not pre-judge individuals, hence they should not pre-judge their food by adding salt or pepper before trying it first. Click this link for more tips on interviewing: Interview Do’s and Don’ts

          Your wage/salary also needs to be carefully discussed. To start, when you apply for the job in the first place, avoid listing specific amounts. You may not know what the company is willing to pay, so the amount you list could be too low and you sell yourself short, or too high and you come off as greedy. A simple solution is to write the word “negotiable”. Never ask about pay during an interview; only once they have offered you the job can you start negotiating. Researching what the average person of the occupation you are applying for makes in your area, how much experience you have, etc. should give you an idea on how much you should try negotiating for.

          By following these tips, we hope you feel better prepared going into an interview. Remember to smile at all times and make the most of every opportunity. Keep in mind an interview is just the beginning; your journey to finding your dream job may not always be easy, but always continue moving forward.

          Thank you for reading this segment of the Empowerment Series. As we come close to the end of the year, we only have two segments left. If you have a topic in mind that you’d like us to cover, please do let us know. Please email any suggestions, comments, or questions to any one of the National Officers.


          2015-2016 National Officer Team






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          "When You Master These 20 Questions, You Can Ace Any Interview and Land the Job of Your Dreams."" Perfect Interview Answers. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.












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