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Job interviews: How to stand out for all the right reasons

There are some things you can do to reduce your stress, make a positive first impression and land that job

April 5, 2017 — 

If the prospect of marketing your skills to an employer sounds like an Olympic feat, you’re not alone. Interviews are challenging for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out and relatively new to the job search scene. Nerves and clammy hands are to be expected – and they are a good sign – they show that you are invested in the process.

The great news is that you’ve already cleared the first hurdle – your resume convinced a potential employer that you have the skills and experience to do the job. Don’t forget, chances are the interviewer has been in your shoes more than a few times and understands that jitters are par for the course. Nonetheless, there are some things you can do to reduce your stress, make a positive first impression and land that job!

  • Do your homework – research is key
    Prepare to put your best foot forward by doing extensive research about the position and company you are interviewing for. This might include reviewing the company history, products and customers they serve, and even their mission and vision. Go into depth – check to see if there have been any recent developments or changes in their organization or industry, be curious about current projects or initiatives, and know the requirements of the job inside and out. (Helpful hint: you can even ask the human resource professional for a complete job description in advance).
  • Show the employer how you meet their needs
    Use the job posting and company information you’ve collected to predict the types of questions that the employer might ask you. For example, if the employer speaks highly about their “team-oriented culture” and the job posting outlines the need for “exceptional teamwork skills”, you can expect that the employer will ask you to demonstrate or highlight your ability to work in a team. Review your resume to identify examples of when you have demonstrated teamwork skills in your paid work, volunteer work, coursework or extracurricular experiences. Remember, you need to draw a match for the employer between their requirements and the skills and experiences you have to offer.
  • Practice, practice, practice Expect to answer a variety of different types of interview questions from traditional (how you meet the qualifications of the role) to behavioural based (examples of when you demonstrated a skill in the past) to hypothetical (how you would behave in a specific situation). Whatever the type of question, you will need to articulate your answer as clearly and concisely as possible. While you can never anticipate every question you may be asked, your best strategy for success is to practice. Ask a friend or family member to play the part of the interviewer, or use your smartphone to record yourself and give yourself some constructive feedback. **Register for an Interview Workshop on careerCONNECT at uofmcareerservices.ca to get some practice.
  • Pay attention to the details
    The best way to create a positive first impression in an interview is to do the little things right – arrive early, be friendly and courteous to all staff, dress professionally and appropriately for your field, maintain eye contact, shake hands firmly and with confidence, listen and appear attentive and engaged during the interview. If you want your interviewers to see you as a professional they would like to work with, you need to act the part at all times. If you have a phone, skype, or panel interview, check out our Interview Workbook for specific tips on how to prepare.
  • Ask good questions
    Use the initial info you gathered on the company and job to create tailored and intelligent questions to ask the employer at the end of the interview. You can prepare these in advance and bring them with you on a notepad or in a folder. Avoid asking questions regarding salary, vacation, or benefits unless the employer leads this discussion – you’ll have plenty of time to discuss the specifics of the job if you are the successful candidate at the end of the process.
  • Come prepared
    Bring an extra copy of your application documents, resume and cover letter, as well as your list of references on a separate sheet to give the employer. Be sure that you have already asked the people on your list if they are willing to provide a positive reference for you. Help them out by giving them as much information on the job you are applying for so they can highlight the strengths and skills you possess in relation to the job you are interviewing for. In some fields, you may also want to consider bringing along samples of your work or a portfolio.
  • Follow up
    Send a thank you email or deliver a hand written thank you to your interviewers within 24 hours to express your gratitude for taking the time to interview you. Outline what you learned in the interview, reiterate how you are a fit for the role, and express your interest in working for their organization. Many candidates forget this last step, you never know if your short thank you note could distinguish you from the competition.

Stay positive. If you aren’t selected for the job, ask for feedback on how you can improve for next time. Career Services offers a variety of services including workshops, workbooks and individual consultations on interview preparation. Check out umanitoba.ca/student/careerservices to see how we can help.

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