Effective Interviewing

by By Ray Wells, Director of Career Services, The Computer Institute of America
Effective Interviewing

Presenting yourself well in an interview is a crucial aspect of your job search. Effective interviewing involves preparing for the interview, presenting assertively, and following up after the interview.

Before the Interview -- PREPARE!

1. Know Yourself. What are the key "selling points" about you? What do you have to offer the employer? Identify 3-5 things about you that make you an excellent candidate for the position. What are your strengths? Can you clearly discuss your goals and how the position relates to them?

2. Know the Employer. You don't have to become an expert on the organization, but you should know the basics: what type of employer is it, location(s), size, business volume, history, prospects for the future, product line, nature of the business, cuisine, service style, etc.

Where to find information about employers:

  • Company literature in Externship or Placement Libraries of Career Services
  • Company Internet Websites
  • Industry publications such as Nation's Restaurant News, Modern Baking, Food Arts, Food and Wine, etc.
  • Restaurant Guides: Zagat's, Gault Millau, DiRoNA…
  • Internet websites such as restaurantreport.com, cuisinenet.com, starchefs.com…
  • Employer directories, such as Official Hotel Guide, Chain Restaurant Operators, High-Volume Independent Restaurants…
  • Faculty or alumni who have worked for the company.

3. Know the Position. What is the position for which you are a candidate? Prior to the interview, you should have a fairly clear description of the basic job responsibilities and required skills.

4. Practice. "Practice makes perfect" is particularly true when it comes to interviewing. You should try to practice your responses to typical questions and also the presentation of your 3-5 key selling points. Practice by yourself in front of a mirror, get a friend to role-play with you, or schedule a practice interview with a counselor in Career Services.

During the Interview -- PRESENT!

OK, you've prepared for the interview…and have arrived 10-15 minutes early for your appointment with an extra copy of your resume. Now, it's time to tell them how great you are! Following are some tips on "selling" yourself in the interview:

  1. Dress Professionally.
    Arrive well-groomed in clean whites, service uniform, or professional business attire. You should treat the interview as a sales presentation in which your appearance helps to communicate your professionalism.
  2. Greet the interviewer warmly.
    A firm handshake and a warm smile help you make a good first impression.
  3. Relax.
    Speak clearly in a conversational manner and don't be afraid to pause for a moment to collect your thoughts.
  4. Think of the interview as a conversation.
    The interviewer wants to gather information about you and you are seeking information about the company. Make sure you present the information about you that you want the interviewer to know. Answer the questions completely, and don't be afraid to offer information that you don't feel you've had a chance to present.
  5. Give complete responses.
    Don't simply say, "I'm a hard worker"…say "I'm a hard worker…I've worked 20-30 hours a week throughout college, while keeping a good GPA." Present your strengths and give evidence of them.
  6. Listen.
    Listening carefully to the interviewer's questions enables you to answer effectively.
  7. Be Yourself.
    An interview is not a theatrical audition, so be genuine and let the interviewer see the real you.
  8. Silence is OK.
    When you have fully answered the question, stop. Don't ramble on…if the interviewer wants more, he or she will prompt you. If there is a long pause after your answer, you can ask, "Would you like me to go on?"
  9. Be Positive.
    This is not the time to complain about past employers, instructors, etc., or give a lengthy discussion of your weaknesses! Stay upbeat and positive! If you had a negative experience, think about what you learned from it, and present that in a positive light. If pressed for a weakness, be ready to talk about how you are attempting to deal with it in a positive manner.
  10. Ask for the next step in the hiring process.
    It's OK to inquire when and how you can expect to hear from the employer, and if there will be other steps in the process. AND IF YOU KNOW YOU WANT THE JOB…SAY SO!
  11. Be prepared to ask good questions.
    Remember, this is your opportunity to learn as much as possible about the employer.

After the Interview - FOLLOW UP!

Write it down.

It's a good idea to take a few minutes right after your interview to think about the positive aspects of the interview and also what did not go so well. Was there a particular question or questions which you could have handled better? Perhaps points come to mind which you wish you had made during the interview. Jot these thoughts down and work on them for your next interview. You should also make note of the time frame and how you can expect to hear from the employer concerning your status as a candidate.

Send a Thank You Letter.

Want to stand out from the crowd? Send a thank you note as soon as possible after the interview. It is courteous and professional, and gives you the opportunity to briefly present additional information that you feel the interviewer should know.

Follow-Up Phone Calls.

It's best to give the employer time to respond as was indicated at the close of the interview. If you haven't heard from the employer in the allotted time frame, it's in your best interest to give them a call, particularly if you are very interested in the position.

What to Say:

  • Identify yourself, the position for which you interviewed and the date of the interview.
  • Reinforce your interest in the position and briefly reiterate the positive aspects of your candidacy.
  • Inquire about the status of the selection process and your interest in the next step.



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