Interviewing Tips: Learn to Sell Yourself

 

Interviewing is THE time to "sell" yourself. No, we're not asking you to sell your soul, but you need to look at interviewing as a potential sale-and you (your skills and experience) are the product. By being prepared, focused, and confident in your abilities you are much more likely to get the interviewer to "buy" the product-i.e. you will land a second interview or better yet receive an offer for the position.

 

Preparing for an interview is a lot like studying for a big test-you have to do your homework. Learn about the company, its mission statement, its history, find out what products they offer, where they're located, discover the management and personnel office-basically anything and everything. If you don't, you'll probably fall flat on your face. Practice the following tips, and you should be golden.

 

 

Before the Interview: The four "knows"

 

  • Know yourself: Make a personal inventory list. Your strengths and weaknesses. What you want in a job and what you don't want.

  • Know the employer: Read the recruiting literature and the Annual Report. Find out about products, services, sales, earnings, business strategies, benefit programs and the corporate culture.

  • Know the interview procedure: If you don't know what to expect, you won't be relaxed and natural. Talk to your placement people and learn about interviewing procedures. Schedule a mock interview with Career Development. Begin using Perfect Interview.

  • Make sure the interviewer knows about you: Fill out the personal information form and other paper work completely, neatly and promptly. They give you and the interviewer the foundation for a mutually productive interview.

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PERFECT INTERVIEW allows you to conduct your own personal interview session.

 

Perfect InterviewT is an exciting interactive tool that anyone seeking a job can use to practice and develop their interviewing skills. Perfect InterviewT can be accessed over the Internet. To access Perfect Interview On-Line, please point your browser to:http://www.perfectinterview.com/stmary , enter your User ID and Password at the prompts.

 

Perfect Interview is exclusively for USM Students!

 

Students are encouraged to go online and perform practice interview sessions. Then, contact Career Development to schedule your videotaped session of Perfect Interview using a webcam to provide you with instant feedback by the career counselor. If available, students can also use their own webcam.

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Favorite Interviewing Questions: How to Answer Properly

 

Picture this-you are getting ready for the big interview. You are dressed in your favorite interview suit, you researched the company and now you are confident you are the ideal candidate for the job. But you forgot one thing-you forgot to prep and "script" your answers to some common interviewing questions. When the interview time comes, the simple questions arise, you stumble to answer and the next thing you know you are rambling on and on for five minutes. That's not good.

 

When you script your answers to common interviewing questions, you actually write out answers to common interview questions prior to the interview. Scripting doesn't mean you simply memorize and regurgitate each answer. It means you prepare-highlight a few points you would like to make and emphasize them throughout. If you don't script, you could be in for a long, grueling interview.

 

The following common interviewing questions are commonly asked by recruiters. Answers from real-world recruiters are also provided. Study these questions and script your answers you won't get thrown for a loop.

 

1. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

 

"I want to hear something related to retail," says Haley Peoples, college relations manager for JC Penney Co. Inc. in Dallas , Texas . "I don't want to hear 'I want to be an astronaut' or 'I want to win the Academy Award.'"

 

Peoples says the question is designed to help the interviewer know if the job seeker will be happy in that position, or if he or she wants to work in it only as long as it takes to find something "better."

 

2. How do you make yourself indispensable to a company?

 

"We are looking for both technical and interpersonal competence," says Doris J. Smith-Brooks, recruiting and advertising manager for Boeing Co. in Seattle , Washington .

 

Smith-Brooks explains that students who have interned or completed cooperative education assignments generally answer the question best because they know what working for a company entails.

 

3. What's your greatest strength?

 

"Don't just talk about your strength-relate it to the position," Ferguson says. "Let them know you are a qualified candidate."

 

4. What's your greatest weakness?

 

"Say something along the lines of, 'I have difficulty with this thing, and these are the strategies I use to get around it," Ferguson says. "For example, you could say, 'I'm not the most organized of individuals, so I always answer my emails and phone calls right away. I'm aware of the problem and I have strategies to deal with it."

 

5. Tell me about a time when your course load was heavy. How did you complete all your work?

 

"We generally are looking for an answer like, 'Last semester I was taking 21 credits, so I made sure I had a day planner and mapped out all my assignments,'" says Felix J. Martinez, senior staff recruiter at Abbott Laboratories in Abbott Park , Illinois . "We're looking for a plan-ahead kind of individual, not someone who just flies by the seat of his pants."

 

Martinez says recruiters at Abbott Laboratories use the STAR method of interviewing, which involves getting the interviewee to describe a situation that includes a task that needed to be accomplished, the action taken to accomplish the task, and the result of that action.

 

"We actually tell the candidate, so they're aware of what we're looking for," he says, adding that the approach can help candidates focus on their answers.

 

6. Tell me about a time when you had to accomplish a task with someone who was particularly difficult to get along with.

 

"I want to hear something that shows the candidate has the ability to be sensitive to the needs of others but can still influence them," Peoples says, adding that he's heard plenty of wrong answers to that question. "Don't say 'I just avoided them' or 'They made me cry.'"

 

7. How do you accept direction and, at the same time, maintain a critical stance regarding your ideas and values?

 

Smith-Brooks repeats that internship or co-op experience can give students the experience to answer that question, pointing out that students with good interpersonal skills honed on the job can understand how to walk that fine line.

 

8. What are some examples of activities and surroundings that motivate you?

 

"Most of our technical disciplines are teamwork professions and require getting along with and motivating other people," Smith-Brooks says.

 

9. Tell me how you handled an ethical dilemma.

 

"Suppose you worked at a bank and a long-time customer wanted a check cashed right away but didn't have the fund balance in his account to cover the check," Martinez says, explaining that if the bank's policy prohibited cashing checks in that manner, the teller would have a choice of violating bank policy or alienating a good customer.

 

Martinez says the best way to handle such a situation would be to go to a supervisor, explain the situation, and ask for advice. He adds that students who can't offer a situation that they handled correctly the first time can explain how they learned from making mistakes.

 

"Explain that the next time, this was how you handled it," he says.

 

10. Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a problem with no rules or guidelines in place.

 

"I'm looking for a sense of urgency in initiating action," Peoples says, explaining that the question probes a student's ability to overcome obstacles.

 

For Peoples, students offering the best answers to the question describe a retail-related problem.

 

"I'm looking for the right thing in terms of customer service," he says.

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Interview attire for women 

 

  • Dark business suit or business pant suit (preferably navy) 

  • White or cream-colored center button blouse (not cut too low) or shell, professionally laundered. 

  • Wear hosiery (neutral) 

  • Conservative jewelry (one ring per hand, modest pearls or necklace, no dangling earrings, pins are OK, no more than one bracelet.) 

  • Minimal or no perfume 

  • Conservative (no wild colors) nail polish (none is OK) 

  • Modest make-up 

  • Professional watch 

  • Closed toe pumps 

  • Conservative hairstyle, pulled away from the face 

 

Interview attire for men

 

  • Dark business suit and tie, preferably charcoal, black, dark navy colored 

  • White or light colored long-sleeved button-down shirt

  • Conservative, non-flashy power tie that emphasizes your features. Avoid wild colors or odd prints 

  • Conservative jewelry (one ring per hand. No ear rings)

  • Go light on the cologne 

  • Always be clean shaven or neatly trim mustaches or beards

  • Go with a conservative hairstyle 

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During the interview: A few "do's" and "don'ts"

 

  • Don't act: Just be you. The only employer you will be happy working for is one that likes the real you.

  • Don't be too casual: Remember you are interviewing for a professional position. BE ON TIME. Dress appropriately and have your thoughts and questions well organized.

  • Do talk about yourself: That's what the interview is for. When asked a question, don't just answer yes or no. Take the opportunity to elaborate on your career goals, interests and qualifications.

  • Do be honest: Exaggerations or outright lies are usually attempts to hide some problem that will prevent a good student/company match. 

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What interviewers look for

 

  • A lot of facts in a short time: The interviewer needs enough information to make a decision as to whether the company should invite you to further interviews.

  • Your personality: First impressions are important. They tell a lot about your poise, ability to communicate and general social skills.

  • Your interests: What you want to do and why you want to do it. Your career goals, interest in continuing education, geographic preference and willingness to relocate.

  • Your qualifications: Grade point average is important. So is work experience, extracurricular activities and hobbies. But most important is how all these things relate to your career objectives.

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What to expect after the interview

 

  • Don't expect instant action: Normally, interviewers don't hire anybody on the spot. Their job is to screen candidates for future interviews.

  • What happens next: Even when interviewers are impressed with students, they will rarely make promises. That's because they must review your qualifications with the hiring managers before making commitments. If they agree, you will get an invitation to an interview at a company location.

  • How to help your chances: If you are really interested in a particular company, write to the interviewer confirming your interest and reiterating the points you discussed.

  • What if the answer is no: Sometimes it's obvious from the interview that the student's qualifications and the company's opportunities don't match. In such a case, the interviewer will tell you candidly and courteously that there will be no further action.

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Contact the Student Success Office

913-758-6131
On campus: ext. 6131
christine.snyder@stmary.edu


The Student Success Office is dedicated to helping students gain the most  academic achievement during their stay at USM -- from day one to graduation.