Canada lost an astounding 129,000 jobs in the first month of 2009 alone. And it’s not getting much better – the unemployment rate in Canada hovered at around 8.6% in June according to Statistics Canada. The reality is that job hunters now face more competition than ever. That means if you’ve made it to the interview stage with a prospective employer, the pressure to perform and impress can be really high. Here are a few tips to help you ace your interview and, hopefully, get you the job at the end:
The seven second rule
That’s the amount of time it takes most people to make up their minds about you. First impressions count, so make sure you are ready to make your best possible entrance. Stand up straight, smile, make eye contact and give a firm handshake to the person interviewing you – your body language will tell them you’re eager, energetic and able to do the job.
First impressions are also about what you’re wearing – you might think those hot pink pants are great but I guarantee you, most employers will not. If you don’t know what the dress code is at a prospective employer than default to a suit, particularly if it’s in a corporate environment. If the workplace is more casual (a retail store, library, etc) then opt for a neat and simple pair of pants or a skirt and a nice blouse. Make sure you pay attention to details like your fingernails, hair, skin and makeup – keep it all neat and simple.
Listen up – and stick to the point
When you’re asked a question, keep your responses on message – that means answering the question as concisely as possible without a lot of superfluous detail like how your experiences in grade eight band shaped the person you’ve become today. And make sure you listen carefully – don’t interrupt and listen for cues and clues about the job and what they’re looking for.
Show you’re interested in the company
You’ve come prepared to answer questions – but you should also have some of your own to ask the interviewer. This will show you are interested in the organization and the job on offer. Questions can be more specific about the interviewer (i.e., how long have you been with the company?) or more general questions about the firm and what it’s like to work there (what is a typical day like at the company? What is the management style and what are the values that drive how it does business?).
Go online and read any articles or recent material about the company – has it been in the headlines? Has it been rated by industry publications? This will help show you’re interested. And if you’re not afraid to do a little cyber-stalking, Google the person who’s interviewing you – doing this doesn’t mean asking them personal stuff from their Facebook page, though (that’s creepy). Check and see if they’ve been quoted in publications or have received any special awards.
Yes, listening and not diving into your life story is important – but if your interviewer doesn’t ask you about a key skill or attribute you have that is crucial to getting the job done then make sure you pipe up. Don’t wait to be asked about the industry award you won or the degree you are working on to advance your skills in the field you’re applying to. Just work it into the conversation and let accomplishments shine.