By BRAD M. BUCKLIN
From the National Employment Weekly
It had been almost 20 years since Tom Scott had interviewed for a job. Now, the aerospace engineer had all the classic symptoms -- sweaty palms, nervous stomach, shortness of breath, dry mouth, dizziness -- of stage fright. Hed spent his career with such Southern California aerospace companies as Lockheed Martin Corp. Aerojet/GenCorp, and Rockwell International Corp. Now, like many professionals, Mr. Scott faced diminished job security from downsizing and outsourcing, and less job satisfaction because of an increasing workload.
The specter of interviewing looms large for many job seekers. What should you say? Will hiring managers like you? How will you rate against other contenders? These pressures can be as stressful as root canal when candidates most want to appear calm and communicate effectively.
Typically, you must interview two or three times with a firm before receiving a job offer. In large firms, the first interview is usually with a human-resources representative or someone whos been asked to screen applicants. In small firms, youre likely to meet a hiring manager during your first interview. The purpose of the first interview is to gain a better understanding of you beyond the experience listed on your resume. Do you have a good attitude? Are you willing to "go the extra mile," work long hours and be a team player?
"The final decision has more to do with how I perceive the person will fit in with our organization and not necessarily on his experience alone," says Charlotte Crowder, a banking center manager for Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles.
Second interviews are usually with supervisors or managers who want to see if youre qualified for the position and can take direction. They want to make sure youre the right person for the job.
"I hated interviewing [candidates]," says Greg Braendel, founder and former CEO of Thrislington Cubicles, a bathroom-partition company he started in Los Angeles. "I would have to make a decision after meeting someone one or two times that could very well impact the whole company. I wanted to get it over with and get back to doing business."
You next interview may be with top executives. They want to know if youre a team player, have the companys interests in mind and are a good fit in the long run.
Regardless of whom youre interviewing with, these tips can help you be a more effective and confident in interviews
Visualize the perfect job. Its important to search for a job that will use your talents as well as satisfy your financial needs. Consider your dream job. What would motivate you to get out of bed in the morning?
Bob Swan, a former CFO of a Los Angeles film company, was dissatisfied with his job and general career direction. When his employer ceased operations and terminated executives, he decided he wanted a job that required solving problems. With help from a career counselor, he assessed his talents and career direction.
"I decided that I wanted to [lead] a new dynamic company," says Mr. Swan. Recently he became president of a start-up company and is also a CFO of a music publishing organization.
Its amazing how effective you are when you have clearly defined goals. In interviews youll be more relaxed and better able to listen and understand whats being offered. Most importantly, youll know if the job is right for you.
Research prospective employers. Mr. Braendel, now president of Career Dreams Inc., a company he founded that helps candidates with job-search, transitioning and interviewing skills, tells job seekers to do their homework and find out everything they can about companies they want to work for. "I wanted people who were interested in working for me and my company," he says.
Review your resume. While you may think you know whats on your resume, stress can make you forget the most important information. Review your resume before each interview to feel more relaxed and prepared for questions about it.
Prepare answers in advance. In addition to researching employers and knowing your resume cold, you should be ready to answer commonly asked interview questions. If youve prepared for them, there wont be many questions that surprise you. Caja Lucan, a video merchandiser for Walt Disney Co.s Buena Vista Distribution in Burbank, Calif., found that in two of her three interviews with the firm, she got the dreaded "Tell me about yourself," question. She figures she must have answered this and other questions well because she received an offer.
Hone your listening skills. Listening skills are essential to being an effective interviewee. You need to know what prospective employers want to hear. Often, interviewers will tell you the skills theyre looking for. Further, the interview is the time to find out if you really want to work for an employer. By listening carefully, you can decide if you want the job and whats required to get it.
Put the interviewer at ease. Sometimes, interviewers are as nervous as you are. Theyre under pressure to make critical hiring decisions after only two or three meetings with candidates. Be friendly. Break the ice by finding an area of common interest to discuss without going on too long or getting too personal.
"If they have a golf trophy on their shelf, Ill start talking about chip shots or golf swings to break the ice," says Mr. Swan.
Be enthusiastic. Interviewing is tough. If you go in with a positive attitude, the interviewer cant help but be drawn in and feel good about you.
Be honest. If you feel you have to lie about anything, then the job youre seeking isnt right for you.
"There was one guy who was very nervous, and it wasnt just from being interviewed," says Ms. Crowder. "I could tell that he wasnt being truthful with his answers, and since the people I supervise have to deal with large sums of money, I recommended that he not be hired."
Believe in yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else. Think about yourself as a product that the prospective employer needs. Sell your expertise and experience. Youll put yourself in a much stronger position to get the job.
Decide if you really want to work there. Accepting a job and then realizing you hate working for your new employer is a terrible feeling, especially if you planned on working there for a long time.
"Its always hard when youre looking for work," says Mr. Swan. "You want a job, but you also want it to be the right job. During the interview, I look around...to see how I feel about the environment, if it suits me and if Im comfortable."
Be yourself. During a job search, you may feel depressed one day and on top of the world the next. This is natural. Try to leave your problems behind before the meeting begins. Dont burden the interviewer with your personal issues.
If you follow these steps, youll be less nervous and make a better impression on interviewers. After the meeting is over, keep smiling and shake the interviewers hand. End your dialogue on a positive note.
"The most critical aspect of an interview is to answer sincerely, be honest and make sure the job is what you want," says Dee Vanderlind, former president of Thrislington Cubicles.
Mr. Bucklin, a former human resources manager, is a career development and resume specialist with CareerPro/Professional Literary Services in Los Angeles.
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