Article 1 of 3. Before the Interview. This series is specifically for those who are either new to the workforce or are returning to the workforce after having a significant period of time off. But even if you don’t fall into this category, you should find these tips for interviewing helpful all the same.
Okay, so you got the interview. Now what? Chances are pretty good that others are also interviewing for that same job, so you should just assume that the odds are not in your favor. But just because the odds aren't in your favor doesn't mean that you can’t beat them - even if you think the competition has more experience than you.
What do teenagers, college students, and stay-at-home parents all have in common? You've been fooled into thinking that you don’t have any (worthwhile) experience. This is a cruel psychological ploy by others who are competing with you for that same job to get you to doubt yourself. Don’t fall for it! You can ace the interview and this is how.
Think of the interview as a process for which you should start preparing NOW. Luck favors the prepared. Even if you don’t have an interview scheduled, you will eventually, so don’t wait to begin preparations until after you have one written on the calendar. There are many things you should do now to help you prepare for later.
The interview can be broken down into three main parts – Before, During, and After. Tackle each part individually. In this article, I’m going to explaining the first part of the process – what to do before the actual interview.
Skills/Qualifications: Reporting Skills, Administrative Writing Skills, Microsoft Office Skills, Managing Processes, Organization, Analyzing Information , Professionalism, Problem Solving, Supply Management, Inventory Control, Verbal Communication
Take a look at the experiences you wrote down earlier. I guarantee you have had experiences that match up to this description. For example, I’m certain you've had to complete school assignments where you had to not only write reports, but also provide an oral presentation on your report to the class. For the stay-at-home parent who is also the Treasurer of your child’s band boosters club, don’t you have to present the treasurer’s report at every meeting? Here’s another example. Microsoft Office Skills. Students, I know for a fact you have had to use MS Word® (and most likely) PowerPoint® to complete school assignments. Stay-at-home-parents, perhaps you use MS Excel® to keep track of your household budget. These are just a couple of examples. I could keep going, but I’m writing a blog, not a book (for now). I hope you get the picture though. Remember, the goal is to come up with concrete examples of how your experiences match up with the skills that the hiring manager is looking for.
“I volunteer as treasurer for the chorus boosters club at my kids’ high school. The club decided to use a website that provides a way to publicly track not only the club’s finances, but each individual student’s finances also. This is especially important when the chorus is fundraising for a trip and each student is responsible for raising a certain amount of money. However, just like any computer program, unless you’ve used it for a while, you can run into problems. And that’s exactly what happened to me. I found that the balance I kept in the checkbook was not matching the balance I kept using the online program. I went over the expenses and deposits several times to make sure I didn’t make an error, but still couldn’t figure out why the balances didn’t match. As far as I could tell, I did everything correctly but I knew I somehow must’ve made a mistake. I needed to solve this before reporting the balances during the next meeting, but knew that the other officers knew even less than I did about this new program. And as the treasurer, I had a responsibility to get this right for the students and the parents. I can’t just guess how much a student needs to raise to be able to go on the spring trip. I found a contact on the website and called the organization directly and explained my problem. The staff was very helpful and actually went with me step-by-step over the data until we found the error. And as I suspected, it was my error. But I learned what caused the error and how to correctly input the data for the next time. I had all of the fundraising deposits correctly recorded in time for the meeting.”
Notice how I wrote out my answer completely? Does this mean I need to memorize my answer? Absolutely not! But it does give me an opportunity to come up with a good, concrete example that I can use to answer the interview question. It also gives me an opportunity to PRACTICE out loud how I would like to answer this question. This is the most important thing you can do to prepare for the interview. Provide specific examples to help support your answer to the questions and practice the answer out loud. If you can do this for every question, then I promise you will do great in your next interview. Start practicing now and write out answers to these common interview questions for teens by Alison Doyle, job search and employment expert, as well as these other common interview questions by U.S. News & World Report.
Now, it’s important to note that there are different expectations for what’s acceptable for teenagers versus the older folks. For the teens, you have many options to look professional, but still look your age. Twenty-somethings, I hate to break it to you, but yes, you fall under the older folk’s category. After all, you are considered adults now. And for the adults, Jacquelyn Smith, writer for Forbes, has some very good examples of what you should and should not wear to the interview. Just remember that in the end, choose something that’s age-appropriate as well as work-appropriate.
Stay tuned for the next article discussing what you should do During the Interview.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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