Five Tips for Tip-Top Interviews

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A professor friend of mine does mock interviews with graduating seniors in her journalism classes. Mock interviews might be all that they’ll get in these economic times, but here’s some solid advice anyone hustling to compete for fewer job opportunities.

1. Photogenic? Don’t put anything on the internet that you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. That means the pictures of bikini-clad babes. Of you with anything alcoholic or illicit in your hand. Looks like you’re having fun? Looks to an employer that you might lack seriousness or purpose.

2. Watch your Words Don’t write anything on a public site that you wouldn’t want your prospective employer to read. What is personal is too often public. One student confessed on a Facebook page how happy she was that a grammar course was over. “Yeaa! I’ll never have to diagram another sentence again!” she wrote. This sounds innocent enough, but such a good thing to share when she applied for a job teaching high school English.

3. Any Questions? When an interviewer asks if you have any questions, have one ready. But not just any question. Ask something that shows you know about the workplace and the specific challenges you might face. Ask a question that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no answer, but one that encourages further dialogue. (Would I ever have the opportunity to . . . is a good opening. This shows you brought some of your own ideas to the table.)

4. Don’t give the pat answer when asked about your weakness. That pat answer is usually: I work too hard, I’m too committed to the task at hand, I’m a perfectionist . . . etc. This is an irritating cliché and a sneaky way to say that your only weakness is really a strength. And no one believes it. A prospective employer is not expecting you to reveal a chronic inability to complete projects on time – but come on. Try humor – say your weakness is chocolate!

5. Send a thank you letter that says more than thank you. No, I’m not suggesting a bribe here. But a thank you letter that is not generic in form, one that expresses enthusiasm for the work you want to do. When I’ve interviewed prospective job candidates, I’m pleased when they’ve mentioned something about the town itself from their visit. (The neighborhood elementary school looks great here. And there’s so many parks. ) This shows that the prospective employee is thinking even beyond the job, to the life-style opportunities afforded when she starts working!

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