Creative Job Search
On-line Job Search Guide

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The Job Interview

Congratulations! All the hard work of your job search has just paid off. You have met the employer's minimum qualifications and captured her/his attention - you have been offered an interview. Now is the time to intensify your efforts. Preparation has been the force behind your job search, and further preparation is the key to a successful interview.

Interview Preparation

Knowing the kind of information the employer is likely to seek will help you prepare for the interview. Employers want to know your motivation for employment, your ability to do the job, how you will fit into the organization, and how much you will cost them. Being able to answer probing questions in these areas will make for a successful interview. While you already have some information about the company, you may need to do further research in preparation for the interview.

It is to your advantage to know as much as you can about the job before that first interview. It will help you to target your skills to the specific needs of the employer and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job. It shows that you are serious about employment.

Karen has an interview scheduled with a local manufacturing company. The job is an entry level assembly position. The company has a reputation for not being overly selective in who they hire. Initially Karen decides not to prepare for the interview, but after thinking about it changes her mind. She needs this job. At the library Karen finds some information on the company in an employer file. She learns a little of the history of the organization and its products. The next day at the interview the first question Karen is asked is "What do you know about what we do here?" Karen responds with a brief summary of her research. The result is dramatic. The interviewer is obviously impressed. Karen wins the job at the highest starting pay possible and is off to an excellent start with her new employer.

Employers have limited information from which to make a decision: an application or resume, references, and a brief interview. It is up to you to convince the employer you are the right person for the job. Some things can be assumed. All employers are looking for people who want to work. Most jobs require basic skills related to the specific job. For example, a computer operator should know computer systems, an accountant understand accounting principles, and a welder be proficient in welding applications. In order to have a successful interview, the computer operator needs to know the type of equipment and programs used. The accountant would want to find out which accounting system is used. The welder needs to know the different types of materials to be welded and the applications necessary to perform the welds.

Jack received a call from a company about an accounting position. His efforts have paid off. They want to schedule an interview! While Jack is on the phone scheduling the interview, he takes advantage of the opportunity. He inquires about the responsibilities of the position and they agree to send him a position description and corporate report. Preparing for the interview, Jack studies these documents. He finds additional information at the library and on the Internet. Next Jack writes down the skills and qualifications he believes the employer will be seeking. Then he considers how his qualifications match these needs. He is encouraged to discover that he meets 8 out of the 10 major requirements very well. For the two that are a weak match, Jack spends additional time preparing for how he will address his deficiency. With the help of a friend, Jack set up a mock interview where he practiced answers to common interview questions. Jack takes with him to the interview the marked up copy of the position description and the corporate report, and a note pad with an outline of his research.

At the interview there are no surprises. Jack is relaxed and confident. He anticipated the needs of the organization and is prepared to answer each question, even questions in those areas where his qualifications are weak. Occasionally he refers to the marked up position description, corporate report and his notes. Jack is on the path to success. He is doing all that he can to succeed and ultimately his efforts will pay off.

Research Questions

Information about the company can be obtained by talking with the person scheduling your interview.

Ask about the interview process.

Ask for a written job description. This will be very helpful when trying to identify specific skills on which to focus.

Ask a current employee what personality traits are most useful when working for this company.

Who are the business's customers?

What products or services are offered to customers?

What is management's philosophy?

The list goes on and on. The more you know, the better prepared you will be at the interview. Other sources of information include: company brochures, annual business reports, trade periodicals, manufacturers' guides, union representatives, school placement and state employment offices, the Chamber of Commerce, and professional organizations.

Matching Skills

Once you have gathered as much information as possible, list the specific skills, experience and employment attributes sought by the company. Write down how your qualifications meet these requirements. If you are deficient in an area, you must be ready to convince the employer you can/will learn the skill, or show how other skills you have make up for this weakness. Having a plan of action to overcome the deficiency should impress the employer. For example, you lack skill in programming in C++ language. Knowing when and where you can enroll in a C++ course in your community may convince the employer you are the right person to hire.


Employers are looking for people with a positive work attitude. Often employers emphasize attitude over skills, training, and experience. Look for ways to show your enthusiasm for the job, willingness to learn, spirit of cooperation, and respect for the employer. Prepare yourself mentally with positive self-talk. Review your skills for reinforcement of your qualifications. Pay attention to what you are telling yourself before the interview: Is it positive, truthful, and realistic?


A critical part of the impression you make on an employer is based on your physical appearance. An employer might reason that the person who doesn't care about her/his appearance will not care about the job. Neat, clean, and conservative is a safe standard for dress and grooming. Dress a step above what the best employee for that job would wear. Avoid excessive jewelry, perfumes, and colognes. Stay away from "fads" in clothing and shoes. Look the part.

George was applying for a building maintenance job. He had no employment history in maintenance, but he had developed the skills needed by repairing his home. He was competing with others who had lots of experience. For the interview, he wore a new pair of overalls, a tool belt loaded down with tools, and displayed a positive attitude. He got the job!

"Life is 10% what happens to you
and 90% how you react to it!"

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This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
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