Don’t Forget to Prepare for that Job Interview

You may have the best resume and references, but if your job interview skills are lousy you could miss out on your dream job. And it’s the interview that trips up most applicants, according to some people who know about these things.

Specialty staffing firm Accountemps surveyed a group of chief financial officers (CFOs) in an effort to determine which areas of the job application process caused the most problems for applicants.

CFOs sit at the top of the food chain in corporate finance, and have usually seen a lot of job applicants during their careers, so they are a good source of insights in this area.

According to 43% of the CFOs surveyed, it is during the job interview that applicants are most likely to make mistakes. Only 19% of the CFOs surveyed found that the applicant’s resume is the most likely place to find a job-killing mistake. Other areas cited include the interview follow-up (11%), the cover letter (10%), the phone interview/screen (7%) and the reference check (5%).

Clearly, the interview is the area of the process where the well-prepared job applicant can gain a real edge on the competition. Be that applicant.

Accountemps suggests that you must prepare for the different types of interviews that companies are conducting these days. These include traditional one-on-one in-person interviews, as well as group, panel, video interviews. Applicants may also be asked to do a series of interviews before getting a job offer.

One question that’s likely to be asked in all of these types of interviews is the classic behavioral question, (eg: “Can you tell me about a time when you increased productivity at your last job?”). Prepare for this by compiling great anecdotes about your past experiences. Focus on how you solved problems and delivered results, Accountemps says.

Skype, and other Internet-served video conferencing services are increasingly being utilized as a cost-effective tool for conducting  interviews. Accountemps said you should prepare for any such interview by conducting a tech check beforehand. Also, dress appropriately – and make sure the environment you’re in is neat and professional-looking.

If you’re asked to take part in a group interview, be careful to comport yourself in a professional manner. As Accountemps points out, the other applicants there may be your competition, but you should still treat them with respect. After all, the company is looking to see how well you play with others. Don’t interrupt people, or look to “one up” anyone else.

Remember: leaders know they have what it takes, and don’t need to prove it every five seconds; they can afford to be gracious, relaxed and polite.

Panel interviews resemble parole board hearings, and can be particularly stressful. Try to stay calm enough to make eye contact with each member of the panel, and use each person’s name when answering their questions. Accountemps also suggests that you ask for each panel member’s business card, so you can follow up with each one afterward.

One other tip we’ll share is this: be polite and professional to everyone you encounter in the job interview process, not just those whom you deem to be important decision-makers. Not only is this a good practice in general, but you never know who might be riding with you in an elevator, or walking through a lobby, when you go to interview for a job.

Above all, be prepared for your interview: Work on those great anecdotes, practice with friends and study up on the company – and the person — who will be interviewing you. Putting the time in to hone your interview skills will pay off when you avoid the mistakes that so many seem to be making, and you get the job.

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