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Cheat Sheet

Job Interviews For Dummies

From Job Interviews For Dummies, 4th Edition by Joyce Lain Kennedy

Does the thought of interviewing for a new job send shivers down your spine? It doesn’t have to! Whether you’re searching for your first job, changing careers, or looking to advance in your current field, shine in every job interview by staying positive and overcoming negatives, such as getting fired or your own shyness. You can deliver a show-stopping interview!

Doing Your Best in Job Interviews

You have to prepare for each and every job interview. Show your future bosses that you’re smart and ready for anything — and that you can communicate clearly and not go off track. Take a look at the following pointers to prepare for an interview.

  • Concentrate on what you can do for the company, not on what the company can do for you.

  • Focus on your skills and other factors that make you valuable immediately. Employers don’t want to wait for six months before you deliver benefits to them.

  • Present a fitting image for the job you seek. Walk it, talk it, and look it.

  • Be confident and friendly. Maintain good eye contact, have a firm handshake, and smile frequently. Don’t use first names unless asked to do so. Likeability is vital.

  • Memorize a short speech that tells your story quickly.

  • Don’t chatter to fill a silence. You risk nervously blurting out harmful information. Instead ask a question: “Would you rather hear about my skills in A or B?”

  • Avoid bringing up negative aspects from your employment history — unless you must to get ahead of the bad news that you’re sure is coming. Don’t ever trash your current or past employers.

  • Don’t ask about salary and benefits too soon. Use deft moves to avoid giving away your negotiating leverage when you go for your bottom-line pay even in tough times.

  • Develop a storytelling knack — memorize short little true stories that support your claims of relevant skills and accomplishments.

  • Don’t leave without asking when a decision will be made and whether you can call back to check progress on the decision.

Stay Positive during Job Interviews

The first rule of job interviewing is to project a favorable image of yourself. The second rule is to never forget the first. While the following tips may seem obvious, interviewers say that job seekers often stumble over the same blunders.

  • Relevant experience. When asked whether you’ve had directly-related experience, say “yes” if you have and cite achievements proving it. If not, don’t just say “no.” Instead, comment that rarely are two jobs identical in every way, and that you are very interested in the job and give examples of how you handled common problems — such as cutting costs, dealing with disgruntled customers, managing difficult coworkers — that reveal your thinking processes, skills, and competencies.

  • Team relationships. When discussing projects on which you worked, the interviewer may be listening to see whether you go beyond taking fair credit for your accomplishments — are you a credit hog? How often do you use the credit-grabbing pronoun “I” compared to the team-playing pronoun “we.” Credit hogs may be unable to perform as team members.

  • Departure reasons. Griping in detail about why you want to leave your present job reveals your values, raising suspicions that a new position would merely replay your frustrations. Will you ever be satisfied or are you a malcontent?

Hint: Record your answers to potential job interview questions. The next day, put yourself on the other side of the desk: Listen for what interviewers may be hearing. Do you sound like a winner?

Job Interviewing Tips for Shy People

Are you a bundle of nerves during job interviews? Does your shyness make your mind go blank at inopportune moments? If interviews make you feel like you’re up to bat with two outs and the bases loaded, remember these tips on handling the pressure:

  • Show and tell with striking visuals. Bring along a highly selective sample of your accomplishments (no landfills). These could be praise letters from former bosses and clients, achievement awards, charts of goals reached — any attractive document that underlines your qualifications for the job you seek. Your visuals can do your talking for you when you’re stumped for an answer and need recovery time.

  • Speak up with a success sheet. Create a one-page accomplishments document with a short description of up to 10 of your achievements. When a difficult question erases your memory banks, you can say “I am very interested in this job and a bit nervous. I’m drawing a blank. But I may have something related to your question here on my accomplishments page. . . Ah, here it is. . .” Glancing over your success sheet may uncork your brain.

  • Play for time. Rehearse in advance a phrase or two that will give you time to collect your wits. “What a good question! Is it okay if I take a few seconds to give you a responsible answer?” And then write the question in your notebook. (Just don't say it in a way that sounds as though you have short-term memory loss!)

  • Get an interview coach. Look around for a strong career coach, especially one with a specialty in interview prep. Alternatively, find a business friend with a digital camcorder or webcam who will rehearse with you until you’re no longer scared of the interview monster. If you’re looking ahead to interviews in a year or so, find a public speaking group such as Toastmasters where you can speak enough to gain poise and confidence.

  • Load up on questions. Shy people often freeze up toward the end of the interview, when the interviewer asks “Do you have questions?” Asking smart questions conveys your interest in the job and in the employer. Pull out your notebook, if you need prompts, and ask “What do you expect the person you hire to accomplish in the first six months?” “What training would I receive?” “Why is this position open — what happened to the person who formerly held it?”

Job Interviewing: What to Say if You've Been Fired

If your last job didn't work out, how do you explain that to potential employers? If you were given the boot by your last boss, see if one of these answers may help you in your job interviews..

  • Although I didn’t immediately realize it in this tight economy, hindsight makes me realize that being cut loose was a blessing in disguise. Now I have an opportunity to explore jobs that better suit my qualifications and interests. My research suggests that such an opportunity may be the one on your table. Would you like to hear more about my considerable skills in working with new technology?

  • Although circumstances caused me to leave my first job before I had a chance to prove myself, I was very successful in school and got along very well with both students and faculty. Perhaps I didn’t fully understand my boss’s expectations going in, but I get it now and won’t make that mistake again. Can I find another chance here now that I’m more mature?

  • After thinking about why I left, I realize I should have done some things differently. That job was a learning experience, and I think I’m wiser now. I’d like the chance to prove that to you that I’ll be the best young employee you’ve ever hired.

  • Certain personal problems, which I now have solved, unfortunately upset my work life. These problems no longer exist and I’m up and running strong with a determination to exceed expectations in my new job.

  • I usually hit it off very well with my bosses, but this case was the exception that proved my rule of good relationships. We just didn’t get on well. I’m not sure why.

  • My job was offshored to a low wage country. That’s too bad because people familiar with my work say it is superior and fairly priced.

  • I was desperate for work and took the wrong job without looking around the corner. I won’t make that mistake again. I’d prefer an environment that is structured, success-centered, and team-oriented — where my best talents can shine and make a substantial contribution.

Just hanging your head and saying “I dunno” why I was let go falls in the “duh” department.

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