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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Seven steps to interview success

By Geoff Dillon
Special to The Toronto Sun

You just received "the call." The company you have been chasing down for what seems like forever just reviewed your resume, and would like to interview you for your dream job. After establishing a time for the interview and hanging up, reality sets in: you have just a few days to prepare for the interview of a lifetime.

The interview is critical. It represents the only time in the hiring process that you will have a chance to make your case in a face-to-face setting with the hiring managers.

To help maximize your chances of getting hired, here are seven steps to interview success.

Be prepared: In real estate, the mantra is "location, location, location." For interviewing, it's "preparation, preparation, preparation."

You must approach an interview with a sound understanding of what the company does, how the job for which you are interviewing will fit into the organization, and what you can do for the company if you get the job.

You need to spend some time researching the company. The Internet is a great source of information. Annual reports, newspaper articles, and company employees can provide valuable information on the company's operations.

Dress the part: Dress for the interview as you would dress for work if you were hired for the position, but don't overdo it.

If you are interviewing for a management position with a bank, a suit and tie is definitely in order. If, however, you are seeking a job as a line manager in a factory, dress in professional but casual attire.

Be on time: Of course you should be on time for the interview, but five to 10 minutes early is enough. If you arrive earlier, take a walk to clear your head before the interview. The interviewer is expecting you at the time you arranged, not a half-hour beforehand.

Customize your answers: This is critical to your success in an interview, and will be easy if you've done your preparation.

During any interview, you will be asked a number of questions about your work experience. The best answer you can give is one that shows you not only have the experience to do the job at hand, but also that you understand how your experience can benefit the company. For example, when you are asked about your experience in managing projects, you could answer by saying, "I have 10 years of experience in managing projects." Or, you could answer by saying "My 10 years of project management experience will really benefit ABC Company, especially with your new expansion project launching this year."

The second answer not only indicates experience, but also shows an understanding of the company's business and an enthusiasm for the company's plans. Interviewers will appreciate this.

Let them talk: You don't need to dominate the conversation in an interview. Listen to what the interviewer is saying as they describe the position and the company. Usually, you can pick up some valuable clues from what they say that will help guide your answers. For example, when discussing the company's objectives for this year, the interviewer consistently mentions customer satisfaction. In your answers, be sure to touch on the topic of customer satisfaction, because it obviously holds some importance to the company.

Be ready for behavioural questions: A current trend in interviewing is to ask the applicant about their experience through behaviour-based interviews. You might be prompted, "Tell me about a time that you disagreed with your manager" or "Describe your greatest accomplishment."

As you tell the story of your greatest accomplishment, keep in mind that the interviewer is interested in the story itself, and in learning more about your behaviours. If your greatest accomplishment was achieved by working well with your co-workers, and the position for which you are interviewing requires a high level of co-worker interaction, you've just demonstrated the right type of behaviour for the job, which puts you much closer to interview success.

Follow up: Remember that when the interview comes to an end, it doesn't mean that you can sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. Call the interviewer one or two days after the interview to express your interest in the position again, and to ask if the interviewer has any additional questions for you. This will demonstrate your interest in the position, and will keep your name fresh in the interviewer's mind.

-- Geoff Dillon is a branch manager for Toronto staffing company The People Bank

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