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 Interview Tips
by Khola Janala
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The interview is the most important aspect of any job hunt. The impression you make on an employer will likely be the reason you do or do not get a job offer. Preparing in advance can help lower your stress level and help you perform better during the process.

 Prepare

Research the company to learn as much as you can. Use the information to demonstrate your knowledge and interest during the interview.

Rehearse. Practice your facial expression, eye contact, handshake and body language. Review likely interview questions and practice answering them.

Catalog your skills. Bring a list with you, as necessary, and make sure you're ready to tell the interviewer what you have done, and what you can do for him.

Allow at least two hours for the interview. Some employers want to spend the better part of a day with you, have you meet a number of people, tour the facility, take pre-employment screening tests and so forth. It's a mistake to feel rushed, or to leave the impression you have more important things to do than participate in the interview.

Dress as though you're ready and enthusiastic to go to work. Professionals tend to dress professionally: Men usually wear ties, dress shoes and often a sports coat. Women always wear hosiery and dress shoes. Go easy on the trendy; avoid displaying anything that may take attention away from your skills and qualifications -- tattoos, nose rings, makeup, etc. -- unless you are interviewing at a place where managers, employees and customers alike dress in that style.

Go alone. Don't bring a friend or relative. It may sound obvious, but it's been known to happen. If someone needs to drive you to the interview, leave him outside the building. Arrange to meet after the interview.

Arrive a few minutes early. Always make sure you allow extra time if you are unfamiliar with the location.

 At the Interview

Be polite. Show respect to everyone you meet, whether it's the boss, the receptionist or a prospective coworker.

Focus on what you can offer the interviewer to address his problems. Don't talk about how the job or company can help you solve your problems.

Bring a fact sheet or resume with you. Even if the interviewer has a copy, another can be useful for you to refer to as you answer questions.

Think about what the interviewer really wants to know. Think of yourself as a retail product with features and benefits you want to sell, and gear your answers accordingly.

What are your features? For example, you offer excellent interpersonal skills, loyalty, enthusiasm and a passion for helping people.

How will your features benefit the employer? For example, you will do whatever it takes to satisfy your customers, work cooperatively with others and help the company triumph over its competitors.

Prepare a few questions to ask -- three to five is a good number. Asking insightful questions sets you apart from the rest of the pack of applicants. Questions demonstrate that you've done your homework about the company, and that you're as interested in finding out how you'll fit in and achieve your career goals as they are in learning if you're the right person for the job. You may not have as much time as you'd like to ask all your questions, so plan to ask the most important questions first, in case the interviewer closes the interview before you've had time to ask them all.

Never, ever ask about salary, vacation or other benefits during a job interview. Doing so communicates that you are only interested in what you are going to get out of the job. Remember, the point of the interview is to communicate what you have to offer the employer, not the other way around. The time to talk about money and other goodies is after the employer has offered you the job.

Make hiring you the easiest decision an employer can make. Follow up with a thank-you letter to the interviewer or a phone call to let him know you are interested.

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 Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Even if you don't ask any questions during an interview, many employers will ask you if you have any. How you respond will affect their evaluation of you. So be prepared to ask insightful questions about the organization.
Good topics to touch on include:

)) the competitive environment in which the organization operates
)) executive management styles
)) what obstacles the organization anticipates in meeting its goals
)) how the organization's goals have changed over the past three to five years

Generally, it is most unwise to ask about pay or benefits or other similar areas. The reason is that it tends to make you seem more interested in what the organization can do for you. It is also not a good idea to simply have no questions at all. Doing so makes you appear passive rather than curious and interested.

 Quick Tip

From "America Online's Career Center," hosted by Jim Gonyea
Q: I've been on several interviews lately, and invariably the interviewer invites me to ask questions about the position or the company. What kinds of questions would be most appropriate to show genuine interest? I know what not to ask, e.g. "How much am I gonna make at this place?" Still, I think it is possible that I have done less than my best in this regard.
A: I would ask the following questions:

1. What are the main objectives and responsibilities of the position?
2. How does the company expect these objectives to be met?
3. What obstacles are commonly encountered in reaching these objectives?
4. What is the desired time frame for reaching the objectives?
5. What resources are available from the company and what must be found elsewhere to reach the objectives?

 Six Steps to Handling Money Questions

By Therese Droste  ||  Monster Contributing Writer
Everyone wants as much money as an employer is willing to shell out. Yet when it comes to job interviewing, salary questions make most people squirm. One reason is that such questions pressure you to tip your hand during the negotiating game. Winning the salary you want requires some evasive action on your part. Choose your words carefully, and don't be afraid to redirect a pointed question. These tips will help you stay in control of your compensation.

1. How to Handle Applications or Ads Requesting a Salary History.
Diane Barowsky, who works in executive recruiting, advises job seekers not to include salary requirements. "True, when you leave out the information, you run the risk that the employer won't look at you because you've not put a salary in there. But you run a greater risk of selling yourself short, because you don't know what the range is," she says.
Instead, write that you expect a salary commensurate with your experience and the job's demands. You could also write, "negotiable," because, frankly, salary is always negotiable.

2. What Are You Currently Making?
Answer carefully. State that the new job, while in line with your skills, can't compare to your current job. As such, your current salary isn't a good judge of what you should earn in this position. "Answer: What I'm making is not important," says Barowsky. "What is important is whether or not my skills are what you need, and I'm confident the range will be fair." This allows you to reveal your self-confidence.
In addition, this levels the playing field if there are two candidates, says Barowsky. If you're currently underpaid, answering such a question directly will work against you. "What if you work for a nonprofit, and your pay is lower than that of another candidate who has the same skills and experience but has a higher pay because he is with a corporation that offers competitive salaries?" Barowsky asks. "You could be hired at a much lower figure than the other person would have received. It's not the past salary that's important, it's the skills and experience and what you can do for the organization."

3. Get the Employer to Say a Number First.
Every employer has some type of salary range in mind, and they most often can play with that range, says Barowsky. "They have information you are not privy to. When you don't know what the employer has in mind, you can underbid yourself. Employers will jump on that. Later, you'll find out that someone two cubicles over from you is making more money for the same work you're doing," she adds. So find out what the range is before you state any salary requirements.
If the range is below what you want, state that you expect a range closer to XYZ. And make XYZ at least 10 percent to 20 percent higher than what you currently make. If you're grossly underpaid in your position, hike it even higher.

4. What If You're Really Pushed to State a Figure?
State a range that reflects the amount you want to make. And remember: Employers will always look at the low end of your range, so make the low end as high as you are comfortable with. If you make $35,000, state a range of $42,000 to $55,000 or so.

5. Be Prepared. Do Your Research.

Research what others in the field make. Contact professional organizations and get their annual salary surveys. Read professional publications. Network and look on the Web to find out what others in your field are making.

6. Show Us Your Pay Stub.
If an employer wants to contact your old employers to verify your salary, think twice about the job. Frankly, do you really want to work with someone who will intimidate you? "If they badger you during the interview, a point where they're supposed to be wooing and impressing you, think of what it'll be like when you go to work there," says Barowsky.
The bottom line is you not only want good pay, you want respect. And a job that provides mutual employer-employee respect is bound to reap rewards.