Your Job Interview Manual
Knowing how to interview well is crucial in today’s job market. Whether you’re a new graduate or have been working for years, understanding the process can assist in creating an effective strategy to stand out from the competition. Even if you have been through numerous interviews, it’s always best to have a new perspective every time. Think strategic – new company, new landscape.
Once you reshape your thinking, you will able to apply what you’ve learned about the company and the tools you have acquired to make a strong impact. Your resume, interview, follow-up and subsequent thank-you letter all play an active role in how the employer will view you.
“Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
What are the steps in the process?
- Getting the Interview
- The Interview
- After the Interview
1. Getting the Interview
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Keep this in mind when developing your strategy. Getting an interview is not a whim – you have to earn it. That means you have used your tools to create a resume that has caught the eye of a recruiter. How is this done?
- Define the search parameters for the job: This means you must determine what you are looking for in a job and match it with offerings similar to your interests. Basically, you are writing your own job description, with skills and qualifications based on a particular industry. This will also help you determine whether or not you are looking for a short-term position, or a position that can help you establish and grow in your career. When considering the industry, it is important to decide whether you want to work in a public or private company, and if there are niche areas that interest you.
- Determine the type of position you are seeking: If you have been working in the industry for some time, you will not look for an entry-level position. Your experience should dictate the type of position you are seeking. Be realistic in your qualifications – you know your level of expertise, education and responsibility you have been tasked with. This should help determine the title and salary expectations you are seeking.
- Be fair with yourself to determine the lowest salary you are willing to accept: Do your research for that particular position, the area where it is located, and types of responsibilities that will be expected of you. This should help you determine a basis for salary negotiations. Be sure to factor in other types of benefits, such as vacation, sick time, health insurance, and whether or not the company has a retirement plan.
All these factors play a role in determining the type of job you should seek. Use your current salary as a precursor to what you would like, but if you are moving into a career change, consider the fact that you may have to take a lower salary to gain the experience. Additionally, if you are relocating, you may be moving into a part of the country where the cost of living is significantly lower, which may also be reflected in the salaries. You must weigh all your options.
Think about the expectations of the role. Is this a stepping stone for you, or do you expect to be in that same position over five years? If it is a stepping stone position, how long will you give yourself to become proficient in that role, and have you researched the next step? It is important to list your goals and objectives moving forward so you will have a clear plan of direction in place. The SMART goal system can help to make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
When you take the time to do your research and filter out what your expectations are, you will be better suited to apply for positions that meet your criteria and needs. This will also help you in the interview, as you will be able to articulate how your education, knowledge, skills and experience will benefit the company should they choose to hire you.
Where can you find jobs that will meet your criteria?
You can find these jobs in a number of places. Start with professional networks, such as LinkedIn; contact head hunters; search online postings, and general online forums. Make sure you include a cover letter with your resume and be ready to provide references and any additional documents they may require such as transcripts or a copy of your degree. Your cover letter should be professional and error-free.
Your resume is like a calling card – it can either make or break you. “The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when they write their resume.” What exactly is a resume? It details your experience, qualifications, and abilities as they relate to the job description. Your pros are all quantified through this document, giving employers an opportunity to get a closer look at what you have to offer. Your resume:
- Should be one to two pages in length
- Should have all your current contact information
- Should have action verbs
- Should be in a read-only format
2. The Interview
“You never get another chance to make a good first impression.”
Once you have gotten past the initial screening and they have contacted you for an interview, the fun begins. Make sure you:
- Do your homework: You should know all about the company and the position you have applied for. You should have looked at their social media accounts and understand how they operate. This could help you make a suggestion on how you could help improve the company.
- Have on the right attire: Make a lasting impression. Even if the advertisement says a business casual environment, you should always wear a suit or business attire to your interview. Make sure your clothes are pressed and clean. Simple jewelry, if any at all, and proper hygiene.
- Be early: Make a plan to wait in the lobby. You should arrive at least ten to fifteen minutes early before your interview is scheduled to begin. Employers notice the little things, and being early signals that the interview is important to you.
- Turn off all mobile devices: It is rude to have a mobile device going off during an interview. You can stand to be without it for at least an hour. Turn it off or put it on silent.
- Be pleasant: Smile, have a firm handshake. Do not speak negatively about your current position, and maintain your composure even if the interviewer is rude or asking impolite questions.
- Be aware of and use body language: This is key. Make eye contact, keep your posture erect, and do not fidget. The more you smile, the better the interview may turn out. This puts you both at ease.
- Be direct: Be direct when answering questions, but remain professional. You should practice open-ended questions with yourself prior to the interview to be comfortable with that style of interviewing. Be specific, and honest. This is your time to “pitch” yourself. No one can sell you better than YOU. Do not overplay your skill set, but capitalize on your abilities to adapt to new situations. If you have been out of work, be ready to discuss it. Also be ready to discuss your perceived failures. Use concrete examples, and be confident.
What types of interview questions should you expect?
Interview questions fall into one of these categories:
- Introductory questions: Introductory questions give you a chance to showcase who you are – make it count.
- Qualification questions: These questions are designed to better understand your technical and professional qualifications for the job.
- Situational questions: These questions are designed to give you the floor to tell about your experiences where you demonstrated certain skills.
- Motivational questions: These questions are designed to determine a candidate’s motivation for wanting the job.
- Curve-ball questions: These questions help the interviewer learn how the candidate will handle certain business situations. They are usually off-the-wall and spur-of-the-moment.
- Research questions: These questions will demonstrate to the interviewer how much research you have done on their company. Be prepared.
- Final questions: These are the questions that give you an opportunity to run through your qualifications again. This is also the time to ask the interviewer specifics about the company, position and their expectations of the role. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the employer for references as well. It will pique their interest, but most of all, demonstrate that you feel you are valuable enough to determine whether or not the company would be a good fit based on their references.
You should draft a few of each type question prior to the interview and write out direct, specific answers in bullet form to keep your responses short and precise. Be calm, cool and confident on any of these questions. It is important to note the types of questions that are against the law. In an interview, you should never be asked questions about family, nationality, gender, race or religion.
3. After the Interview
“Today’s preparation meets tomorrow’s achievement.”
Once the interview is over, you should do the following:
- Write a thank-you letter: A handwritten note should immediately follow your interview, although email is now acceptable. You should have a note ready for each person you interviewed with and met.
- Update your resume with new accomplishments: Get the materials you may need ready. Your transcripts, references, writing samples, or other documents they require. This is also the time to compare what you have outlined you wanted in a position, with what you have learned.
If you receive an offer, review the terms in writing. If there are any discrepancies, now is the time to get them resolved before you accept. This is also the time to negotiate any of the terms you disagree with, especially as it relates to compensation. Check out our most recent salary guide to help in your decision process. Weigh all pros and cons of the position. Even if you do not receive an offer, thank the company for their time. They will remember you and how gracious you were. That may eventually turn into an offer for a later time.
These are the key factors when considering making a professional move. Now all you need to do is register for your CPA Exam Review course, power success on the CPA exam and enroll in professional development courses. You have all the tools to start your career in the field the right way, and will know how to proceed as you climb the ladder of success. Good luck!