The key to a successful job change is the interview. Regardless of your qualifications, regardless of your advance buildup, the interview is the real "make or break" test of your ability to sell a prospective employer that you are the right person for the job. Your object is to convince them that you are a mature and capable executive who will be an asset to management.
THE APPROACH TO THE INTERVIEW
How you approach an interview depends on a number of factors, some of which you do not control. It is up to you to size up the interviewer to whom you are talking and decide on the best way to convince them that you are right for the job, just as it is their responsibility to evaluate your capabilities.
Study the personality of an interviewer carefully. The attitude of the interviewer usually depends on their desire to obtain your services. If you are temporarily unemployed, the interview will be more inquisitive and difficult than if the company is seeking your services. In the latter case, you may discover the interviewer is more anxious to sell you on the merits of a job than you are to convince him that you have the ability to do it.
If you are really desired by a management, you will probably get right down to cases on the first interview. Therefore, it is extremely important to be prepared for it. The first interview may be your last opportunity to find out whether or not you really want the job.
You should not allow yourself to be rushed into a premature decision. It is absolutely necessary for you to know the full facts about the job before you agree to take it. This includes salary, working conditions, extent of authority and responsibility, the reporting lineup, living conditions, fringe benefits, and other matters relating to your assignment. An interview should always be an exchange of information. The company should tell you about its organizational setup, exactly what it expects you to do, and what authority you will be given.
THE RULES OF INTERVIEWING
There is no specific formula, however there are certain basic rules of good interviewing technique that any job candidate should follow:
- Be well groomed. This is of prime importance and shows that you are alert and interested.
- Don't be late for an appointment and don't overstay your welcome.
- Be prepared. Have your resume and exhibit kit available.
- Judge the interviewer. This requires good judgment. There is nothing magical about the process of evaluating another person. The good salesman does it every day when he approaches a customer. When you are job hunting, you are a salesman of your most precious product is your own ability.
In the end, you have to gauge the position of your interviewer, the extent of his authority, and how much you want to tell him. Regardless of your past prestige and his position, it is good business sense to give them respect and convince them that you have something special to offer that their superior would like to hear about.
PROBLEMS OF THE INTERVIEW
Much advice has been given on how to handle an interview, and it comes down to these following points:
- Watch your approach and keep in sequence. For example, discuss salary last, and only after you have convinced the company that you are the one for the job. Companies are not interested in your needs, only in theirs.
- Mention certain types of family problems. The interview is the place to bring up special types of family problems, particularly if they affect your availability for a job.
- Don't oversell. Understatement is better than the hard sell.
- Don't run down a former employer. If you are still working for a company, this is not only in bad taste, but it is dangerous. Word may get back. The wise executive stresses the reason that he wants to change is to win the opportunity for a more challenging assignment.
- Don't run down individuals you were associated with at a former company. Even if the interviewer tries to draw you out regarding a person or group of persons at your former firm, don't make the mistake of being critical.
- Don't name drop. If you have prominent friends, it may not hurt to mention their names if you think knowing them will help, but don't claim friendships that don't exist, or give people as references who hardly know you.
- Don't waste time during an interview. Plan your sales story in advance, and cover the pertinent facts briefly but clearly. The employer wants to hear what you have done, but he wants the big picture, not the intimate details.
- Don't impose on a potential employer. He always has the lead. Never presume or be too familiar and don't take advantage of his hospitality.
- Watch your language. Grammatical slips have cost many, an otherwise capable executive, a job opportunity.
- Don't negotiate on salary until you have an offer. The employer generally knows what you make or have earned. He also knows the salary range he is prepared to offer.
- Don't exaggerate or make false claims to impress an interviewer. The interviewer is likely to check the main points of your story, and if they find you are way off base, they will eliminate you from consideration.
- Don't count on a job before it has been officially offered to you. No matter how well an interview goes, it is not guaranteed until you’ve signed the contract.
HOW TO HANDLE EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS
Your job during an interview is to stress your strong points. The interviewer's assignment is not only to hear your story, but to uncover your deficiencies, shortcomings, or weaknesses.
Here are some suggestions to help you decide how to reply to probing questions that an employer may ask:
- Never resort to falsehood. Your story can be checked, and it probably will be. If you have told a deliberate untruth about any part of your activities, the presumption is you may have done so about others. This may turn a casual inquiry into an all out investigation.
- Don't be premature and jump the gun. It's a mistake to try to head off embarrassing questions by answering them before they are asked. If you allow the interviewer to inquire and give them a well thought out answer, you appear natural and relaxed.
- Be careful about concealing embarrassing incidents in your past. This doesn't mean that you should blurt out all sorts of negative information on your prior life. But if you believe that there is a good chance that a prospective employer will get certain facts that are damaging to your job chances when he checks your record, it is usually best to tell him yourself.
- Don't try to be too clever. Evasions and half-truths may get you past the hurdle of embarrassing questions, but usually they do not.
- Keep your self-respect. In the psychologically and sociologically oriented world of today, personal privacy is almost nonexistent. Electronic devices allow people to acquire intimate information on the lives of others. Therefore, during an interview, there is a possibility that you may be asked questions of a highly personal nature.
During every interview there will be some surprise questions. When you get them, here are some rules to remember:
- Don't let such questions upset your poise or balance.
- Don't give premature answers. If the question requires thought, ask for time to consider.
- If you need additional facts before you can make up your mind, ask for them.
- When you give your answer, be prepared to live with it.
THE MATTER OF SALARY
Should you bring up the question of salary in an interview? Not at first. Your main object is to land the job. When you have received the offer, then you can negotiate.
It is a good idea to hear an employer's proposition before you state your terms. Their offer at least constitutes a floor for bargaining. If the figure is a little below what you expected, say so, but be realistic.
Obviously, if a company does not mention salary you should bring up the subject. In doing so you may want to mention what you are already earning or have earned in the past. This gives the interviewer an idea of your income floor. If you are already working, you can expect their offer to be higher than what you are making.
The cash income a job provides is not the only thing an executive must consider. Fringe benefits may be equally, or more, important. Get full facts on the insurance, pension, health and welfare, major medical, stock option, thrift, and other plans the company offers its executives.
THE INTERVIEW IS THE KEY
The job interview is the acid test of the hiring process. No matter how good your past experience is, no matter how well your references check out, no matter how capable you are, you still have to sell an employer on the idea that you are the employee they need. So here are some final suggestions on the interview:
- Do your homework. Don't just walk into an employer's office with an eager look on your face and a vacant mind. Plan your strategy in advance, but keep it sufficiently flexible to be able to adjust quickly to different situations.
- Study the interviewer. Your skill in adapting your qualifications to the demands of the job, as they are unfolded to you, may determine whether or not you get it.
- Rehearse your story. Know how to cut the cloth of your sales pitch to the requirements of the particular interview and the particular job.
- Don't be pushed into decisions. If the company makes an offer, it won't be withdrawn simply because you ask for time to consider it, especially if the time you request is reasonable.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you ask searching questions about a job, you are entitled to answers.
- Keep your balance. Don't let the interviewer upset your equilibrium. If you don't know the answer to a question or don't want to give it, don't bluff, be open with the fact.
- Don't harass a possible employer with follow up telephone calls. Aside from writing a pleasant thank you letter in which you again stress your interest in the job and your hope that you will be favorably considered for it, there is little you can do but wait.
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