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Saturday, March 04, 2006

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  • Saturday, February 25, 2006

    What you can do before the interview

    ---Research as much basic information as you can about the organization before the interview. Find out its products and services, its profit margin, its management, its culture, its dress code, and anything else you can get. Ask for information from your career services center, college or public library. The Internet also provides good sources.

    ---Analyze the information and think about how it matches your experience in classes and work, your skills, your interests, etc. You may find jobs related to what you are seeking.

    ---Interview someone who is working at a job you are interested in. One of the best ways to obtain knowlege about an area of work is to talk to people doing that work.

    ---Prepare and practice interviews. Anticipate typical questions that may be asked of you in an interview. Prepare the answers to especially difficult or sensitive questions for you. UWSP career services center will help you in preparing for interviews personally. Role playing sessions are available upon request. (UWSP career services center also provides on-campus interviews. See Calender of on-campus interviews.) You can also utilize visual interviews on the Internet.

    ---Make sure you dress appropriately. Your clothing should be neat, clean and pressed. Your shoes should be shined, and your hair and nails should be groomed.

    ---Be on time for the interview. Try to arrive at least ten minutes early. Visit the site in advance and time how long it takes to get there, if possible.

    Thursday, February 23, 2006

    Interviewing: Answers that Get You Hired

    Stock answers don't get it anymore. You must show that you'll make a difference to the "bottom line." There was a time when you could volley stock questions with pre-packaged answers. Today, job interviewers have wised up. Now they are more apt to press a point -- to take a line from your resume and ask you in depth about it. Why did you choose this college? What projects did you complete that would make you a better candidate for the job we have?
    "Looking good" in your interview today means preparing for the unexpected. "I want to know what makes a person tick," says Philip Sanborn, a management consultant in Reading, Mass. "If they have been successful at something, I want to know why and how." He refuses to ask such typical interview questions as, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" He avoids the obvious for a simple reason. Such canned questions as, Have you done the best work you are capable of doing? ("My best work is yet to come."), don't get much beyond the surface. Too many campus recruiting offices and how-to-guidebooks have coached too many job applicants on the "proper" answers. So what will you hear in some interviews?

    "Bottom-line questions," says Nancy Gaffner, senior vice-president of Swain & Swain in New York City. Because companies are trying to become leaner and more competitive, they are looking for people who can make a difference on the balance sheet. Expect to be asked, "How did you do it, and who did it benefit?" Get specific.

    The questions you're likely to hear today are aimed at eliciting answers to three concerns all employers have before an offer is made. Use these three concerns to organize your thinking.

    Can you do the job? To find out, an interviewer might use a reference to a previous job in your resume and ask how you accomplished that. Or how you made a difference. A follow-up question might be to ask you how long it would take you to make a contribution at the new company if you were hired. A good answer has to be realistic, based on what you know about the company and any clues provided by the interviewer.

    You might be asked, as a student, how you solved your problems when you had an overload of assignments. Your answer will indicate how you would handle a crisis and whether you could do the job under pressure. A suitable answer would describe how you ranked work according to importance, parceled your time to each project and, if that failed, negotiated with your professors to either reduce the workload or change the deadline.

    Will you fit in? This is a perfect time to show your knowledge of the company. "Half the game is preparation," says Dan Nagy, executive director of placement services at the University of Pittsburgh's graduate school of business.

    Students could be asked what they contributed to campus life as another way of asking whether they'll fit in.

    What do you want to be paid? In this chess game, you want them to name a figure first because you don't want to come in with a salary that's less than they'd be willing to offer. Ask how much they pay for similar jobs. If they don't answer but press you, say you'd like as much as your background and experience permit and that you know they will be fair with you. Once your prospective company suggests a rate of pay, you can then respond frankly.

    Avoiding Traps
    Tell us about your professional experience. You don't want to narrowly define yourself. You want to have a broad enough appeal to stay on the candidate list. Keep replies general and brief.
    What are you looking for? "You just talk yourself out of a job by offering the company a product it doesn't want to buy," says James Challenger, president of the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. His advice: stick to general skills so you're selling benefits a company may want.

    What are your faults? People get too honest and offer a litany of reasons why they shouldn't be hired. Challenger says even a canned answer, "I work too hard," can be effective if you personalize it and make it specific.

    Most interviewers know enough not to ask illegal questions. Areas off limits include discussions (if unrelated to job requirements) of religion, political affiliation, ancestry, national origin, even your birthplace and the naturalization status of your parents, spouse or children. You don't have to answer questions about your native language, your age, date of birth, or the ages of your children. Your marital status, maiden name, number of dependents or your spouse's occupation are taboo, also.
    However, you can volunteer information if you think they are appropriate to the conversation.

    If the interviewer treads on forbidden ground, you have three choices:

    Answer the questions and mull the situation over later.

    Deal with these questions by saying you don't believe they are relevant to your ability to do a job or ask the interviewer to explain their relevance, giving him or her a chance to back off.

    You could ask for the interviewer's business card and indicate you are filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
    Screening Process
    The routine questions may be gone, but the process of screening can still include standard tactics. The scariest is the stress interview. In this type of interview, things go from some degree of cordiality to a purposeful toughness. You get asked questions designed to make you nervous, throw you off balance and measure your response.
    If you're headed for a career in which stress is a key to the work environment, you can expect your interviewer to ask you tough questions. The tone will be antagonistic. The goal is to keep your cool and not become angry.

    The silent treatment is another tactic. Its purpose is to draw you out. You have given them the answer you rehearsed. Now they just sit there silently, betting you'll jump in to fill the dead air and finally give an honest, unrehearsed answer. What do you do? Wait them out. Dead air cuts both ways and you won't have put your foot in your mouth. Use the follow-up letter to flesh out any incomplete answer. But if it's too tough to remain silent, you might ask whether there's more information the interviewer wants on a particular issue.

    One interviewer says he is satisfied when he leaves an interview with a feeling that he has come to know the person. You can measure the success of an interview in the same way. If you can say that you understand them and they understand you, you have had a successful interview.

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