Tips for Successful Job Interviews

Connie Cannon talks clearly when it comes to getting a job. An employment counselor in Washington, D.C., for the past six years, Sister Cannon has placed hundreds of people in corporate support jobs. Following are her tips for ensuring that you make the best impression possible when you interview for a job.

What’s the first thing to do before going for a job interview?

Preparation is invaluable. Find out as much as you can about the company and what it does. The more knowledge you have, the better you can display interest.

Physical preparation comes next. Dress is important. Men should wear conservative clothes; hair should not be longer than the bottom of the neck. Women should avoid wild or unusual clothing styles, loud colors, heavy scents, and dangling earrings. Nothing should take the focus of the interviewer from you and your qualifications.

How important is a résumé?

It is vital because it represents you before a prospective employer. A résumé should be brief. One page is best; never use more than two. It must be clean and neat, with no grammatical or spelling errors. Above all, it must represent you honestly.

Check your local library for books to help you create a résumé.

What will I be asked in an interview?

The most common request is “Please tell me something about yourself.” In answering, don’t deviate from the information on your résumé. Start with your high school graduation and go on to technical school, college, your first job and why you left. Continue on to the present. Realize that the employer is listening to your voice, judging your command of language, listening to hear your grammar and your vocabulary. If he does not interrupt, you should speak for no more than five minutes, taking even less time if possible.

In addition, here are six questions many interviewers ask. Be prepared, but don’t feel you have to have an answer. You can say, “I’d like to think about that before I answer.” Just be yourself, confident and comfortable without being pushy.

  1. 1.

    “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Center comments on your strengths, especially those strengths that apply to the job for which you are interviewing; for example, high skill levels, ability to learn quickly, ability to get along well with people. In discussing weaknesses, maintain your integrity but mention them in light of how you are planning to overcome them. For example, “I have high expectations for myself and I get frustrated when I don’t accomplish as much as I feel I should in a day. But I am learning to prioritize my projects.” Or “I need more education, but I am planning to take a class in the evenings.”

  2. 2.

    “How much money do you want?” Be cautious when discussing salary. To the question above, you should answer, “That’s open and negotiable.” If the interviewer presses, say, “The ad mentioned a salary between _____ and _____, based on experience. With my experience, what are you willing to offer?” Keep your salary demands reasonable—even highly skilled individuals sometimes have to start at entry-level jobs.

  3. 3.

    “Where do you see yourself in two to five years?” For many people, the most honest answer you can give is “I don’t know. It depends on how well I do in my job, when I complete my education, etc. For now I want to get a job and get to work.”

  4. 4.

    “Tell me the best and worst about your former employer.” Saying the best is usually not a problem. In discussing the less-than-ideal qualities of your former employers, remember that even people you did not get along with had good qualities. Maybe your boss was a slave driver. You can say, “He was a taskmaster, but while I worked for him, I learned how to cope with pressure.”

  5. 5.

    “Do you have questions for me?” If you don’t want the job, say no. If you want it, ask questions like “Why did your former employee leave?” “If I were hired, what is the most important thing I would do for you each day when I came to work?” Ask questions you’d really need to know if you were hired. You may as well find out the answers now.

  6. 6.

    “Do you have anything else to discuss?” This question, or something similar, is your cue to wind up. Quickly restate your qualifications and make a statement of interest, if applicable: “I’m excited about the opportunity and I feel that I can do the job.” Then close.

How do I close an interview?

There are three questions you could ask that would let you know where you stand.

  1. 1.

    “Are my skills and/or experience adequate for this job?”

  2. 2.

    “Are there other steps I should take in order to get this job?”

  3. 3.

    The hardest but most effective question to ask—if it appears that your abilities and the company’s needs are harmonious—is “Am I a strong candidate for this job?”

Thank your interviewer for the time he or she has spent with you. Indicate that you are looking forward to hearing from him or her when a decision has been made. If you wish, ask the interviewer, “May I call you in ___ days to learn of your decision?”

Then, whether or not the interviewer has been encouraging, stand up, offer your hand, thank everyone to whom you have spoken, and leave.Nadeoui Anatalia Eden, Bowie, Maryland

Mike Fright

Before you give that talk in sacrament meeting, you should know the following things about a microphone:

  1. 1.

    A microphone is a delicate, sensitive instrument. Don’t touch the head of the microphone while you are speaking.

  2. 2.

    Never blow into a microphone. To test the sound system, snap your fingers in front of the microphone, or speak directly into it. Ideally, you should do this or have it done for you before the audience arrives.

  3. 3.

    Learn how to adjust the microphone easily by practicing before the audience arrives. This will help you avoid excessive fumbling with the mike when you stand up to speak.

  4. 4.

    Remember, when you speak before a microphone, your audience wants to see your face, not the mike. Do not adjust the microphone so that it covers your face. It should be positioned at chin or chest level.

  5. 5.

    Train yourself to stand constantly at a given distance from the microphone as you are speaking. Doing this avoids both loud blasts of your voice if you are too close and fading away of your voice if you are not close enough.

  6. 6.

    Speak into the microphone as you do into a telephone. Speak to your audience, not to the microphone. The microphone is simply the avenue through which your voice travels to reach your listeners.

  7. 7.

    Remember that the microphone amplifies every sound. Be careful not to rattle your notes or papers. Speak in your normal voice, not yelling or speaking too loudly. However, speak out clearly, expressively, and thoughtfully. (See LDS Communications Manual, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, pp. 5–6.)

  8. 8.

    Loudness is not intensity. A microphone will give your voice volume, but it will not put conviction into your voice. Try to speak with a normal degree of variation and emphasis, not in a monotone.

  9. 9.

    If there has been no chance to pretest the microphone before speaking into it and if your voice appears to be too loud or too soft (and there is no sound technician to adjust the volume), ask the audience whether the audio level is comfortable for them. This practical approach is better than having bad microphone reception spoil your speech.Shirlee Hurst Shields, Salt Lake City, Utah

Treasure Hunt

As a single parent trying to complete my college education, I struggled to hold regular family home evening with my children. We managed to do pretty well while they were young, but as they entered their teen years and expanded their activities and social circles, the task became a challenge. One winter evening as I tried to begin home evening, my children began quarreling. Feeling overwhelmed, I went to a quiet room and knelt in prayer. Within minutes I had an idea: We would have a treasure hunt. They couldn’t resist that! Surely they would be so captivated that they would forget about their quarrels.

Thoughts began to rush into my mind, and I wrote the clues. When I finished, I called the family together again and gave them each a copy of the first clue. The verses were difficult, and they had to work together to unravel the mysteries. I had caught their interest, all right. They became so enthralled that all fighting ceased.

After they had gone from room to room finding notes that gave them clues to the whereabouts of the next note, the last clue read:

“The scriptures point the way. Search them. Therein will your quest be fulfilled.”

After we read this clue, I gave each child a different scripture reference to look up. In the pages next to each scripture I had placed a copy of a poem about making the world a better place.

Although the evening was a success, I was not sure my children had really understood the concept until I received a letter from my missionary son a few years later. He wrote: “I get discouraged sometimes with people I try to teach. But I still remember the treasure hunt and the poem about making the world a better place. Like the poem said, Mom, I have to start with me.”Norma P. Mitchell, Pleasant Grove, Utah

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark

[illustrations] Illustrations by Brent Christison