Interview Like a Pro

The Interview

Define Your Goals
How many times have you gone into an interview and been asked the questions “What type of work are you looking for?” All the time, right? And how many times have you replied with “I’ll take anything?” If this sounds like something that you would do, don’tworry, you’re not alone, however, this type of flexibility is not exactly what every employer looks for. Actually, most employers expect applicants to have reasonable, well-defined career objectives as well as some understanding of the “real world” conditions related to work in a given field. So next time you’re in an interview, be sure to be polite, be assertive and most importantly, be prepared!

Before the interview, you can create a great first impression by following the simple suggestions listed below:

  • Be sure to arrive early. Fifteen minutes early looks much better than two minutes late. Being early shows that you are responsible and that you are serious about getting the open position.
  • Dress appropriately for the type of job you are interviewing for. However, it is better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed, but do dress conservatively!
  • Avoid wearing too much jewelry, makeup and/or perfume. These can sometimes be more of a distraction than anything else.
  • Remember, a clean-cut appearance only supports your bid for a great position!
  • Be sure to research the company. Know a little bit about what you are getting into. Prepare questions that you have about the company in advance. Also, bring along a folder with a few sheets of paper and a pen in it. Be prepared to jot down useful information if you get a spare moment during the interview. (Otherwise wait until the interview is over). This type of enthusiasm can only help your bid for the position.

During the interview:

  • Greet the employer with a strong handshake and a smile! Remember, you’re the only one who can sell yourself!
  • Answer the interviewer’s questions in complete, well-thought sentences. Don’t give yes or no answers. Elaborate with relevant information and experiences that pertain to the qualities and skills needed for the position.
  • When given the chance, ask questions about things such as travel, additional training and performance reviews etc. Be sure to ask about your typical day-to-day duties for the particular position you are seeking. Take notes if you have a spare moment.
  • Do not ask about salary range at this time.
  • Just before the interview ends, ask when the decision to hire is going to be made. Be sure to shake the interviewer’s hand and thank him or her for their time. 

After the interview, be sure to think positively and hope for some good luck! Also, to increase your chances of receiving a call back, write a thank you letter to all those with whom you interviewed. A good thank you letter will do two things. First, it will be your last chance to make a good impression on the potential employer. Second, it gives you one more chance to show off your communication skills. Therefore, the quality of the letter is extremely important. You don’t want to have your name signed to a poorly written letter.

Below are a few tips to a successful follow-up letter:

  • Limit the letter to three to five well-versed, informative, grammatically correct paragraphs.
  • Type or write very neatly on quality paper.
  • Proofread!
  • Mail the letter in a timely fashion. Preferably a day or two after the interview.
  • Follow a direct outline.
    1. Be sure the address line includes the full name of the interviewer, his or her full title, and the full company name and address.
    2. The subject line should be a brief fragment eluding to the content of the letter.
    3. In the salutation, be sure to use the person’s first and last name.
    4. Use titles properly. If you do not know if your interviewer was a Ms. or a Mrs., do not put a title.
    5.  The opening should include an attention-getter.
    6. The body should focus on a topic that was discussed in previous contact. Be sure to build your interest and come across as enthusiastic in this portion.
    7. Create a reason for further contact in the closing.


See the sample letter below. Remember, this is a sample. Variations in style may occur.

July 26, 2001

Jacob ________
(Job Title)
United Company
284 Century Plaza
Anywhere, GA 22222

RE: Interview for sales position on July 24, 2001

Dear Mr. ____________,

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule on Tuesday morning to meet with me and discuss the sales position with your company.

As I explained in the interview, I feel that my solid education, strong work history and personal drive to succeed would make me a perfect fit with your company. Given the chance, I know that I can make a valuable  contribution.

I look forward to meeting with you again in the near future to further discuss your companies need.

Best regards,

Jane Doe

“Knowing Your Skills”

Before you can begin a successful job search, it is important that you identify your personal strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your strengths will help you to build a better, more representative picture of yourself to possible employers. Knowing your weaknesses will give you something to work on for the future. Below is a list of a variety of skills that you may or may not possess. Look through them and pick out the ones that you feel describe you best.

Information management skills:

  • Compile and rank information
  • Apply creative solutions to problems
  • Evaluate information against appropriate standards

Valuing skills:

  • Make decisions that will bring both personal and community good
  • Identify personal needs
  • Assess personal values when making important decisions

Planning skills:

  • Identify many different courses of action
  • Set goals
  • Follow through with plans
  • Time management
  • Make and keep schedules
  • Assess needs
  • Set priorities

Human relations/interpersonal skills:

  • Keep groups on track and moving toward common goal
  • Maintain group cooperation
  • Delegate tasks and responsibilities
  • Express one’s feeling in an appropriate manner
  • Listen and understand feelings of others
  • Make and keep commitments to others
  • Take risks
  • Able to work under time constraints
Communication skills:

  • Able to listen objectively and paraphrase given message
  • Able to use different styles of writing
  • Able to speak effectively in public
  • Able to express one’s needs/opinions without offending others
  • Able to describe events with minimum factual errors
  • Convey positive self-image to others

Critical Thinking skills:

  • Able to identify main points of problem
  • Able to weigh the appropriateness of future actions and words
  • Able to adapt behavior to changing situations

Management/administration skills:

  • Analyze tasks
  • Identify people who can help with a solution to the problem or task
  • Delegate responsibility for completion of task
  • Motivate and lead people to work hard
  • Organize people to achieve specific goals

Now, think back and try to remember an experience that helped you gain or further develop the skills that are personal strengths. For example, did holding the position of President of the Student Council help you develop the strong leadership and interpersonal skills that you now possess? These are experiences that you may want to add to your resume.

Liberal Arts Skills by
Paul Breen and Urban Whitaker

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