Interviewing with the State
The interview gives you the chance to prove to the employer that you are the best candidate for the job. The interview also gives you insight to determine whether you want to work for this department. It is only through planning and preparation that you will develop the image of a confident and self-assured candidate who knows his/her career goals and is ready to set them in motion.
This image can be enhanced through self-assessment, research, and preparation.
Before you go to any interview
- Find out as much as you can about the department and the job for which you are applying. What does the department do? Its size and location, its operations, its history, their policies/mission/vision statement, the exact requirements for the job, promotional opportunities, etc.? Visit or call the department; talk with employees you or your friends may know; go to their website to investigate; read everything you can find on the department. And, most important,READ the job description and the duty statement.
- Be Prepared to answer the questions that you will be asked. See section on QUESTIONS FREQUENTLY ASKED BY EMPLOYERS.
- Reassure yourself that you do have the talents and the abilities, and the interviewer will see them if you present them clearly. After all, you did make it past the paper screening and have an interview.
- Bring an extra copy of your application and/or resume in case it is needed at the interview.
- Plan ahead: Arrange your transportation now, consider the weather conditions, and give yourself plenty of time. Do not be late!
Good manners do not stand out in an interview, bad manners do. Be careful to avoid the following:
- Late arrival
- Poor eye contact
- No follow-up
- Limp handshake
- Rude behavior
- Inappropriate Language
- Unprofessional image
- Lack of preparation
Preparing for success
- Start with a healthy attitude.
- Know your strengths.
- Communicate effectively
- Write a winning resume.
- Practice, practice, practice (conduct mock interviews-use friends, family, a mirror to help you prepare for an interview).
- Research employers – obtain as much information as you can about the department before interviewing. Read the job descriptions, newspaper articles, and salary and benefit information. Visit the state library, the local library and/or the department’s website. Read the job description and duty statement.
- Keep a record – this will help you organize yourself while interviewing. Record things such as: who has been sent your resume; departments with whom you have an interview; time of the interview; thank you notes written and sent; your thoughts on the interview; what questions did you have trouble answering - develop answers for the next time that question arises; list points on how you can better prepare for the next interview.
- Schedule like a pro – do not eat or drink when on the phone; repeat the date, time, and other important information; and learn as much as you can about the job and the interview format.
- Dress in a manner that would be suitable for the position for which you are applying. Dress to the position you want to attain.
- Use a folder or portfolio in which to put your interview questions, list of references, and an extra copy of your resume. Take this folder or portfolio with you when you go on your interview(s).
- Be punctual – arrive at the interview site 10 minutes ahead of time; be friendly to everyone outside and inside the office; stop and get a drink of water; take a deep breath and act relaxed; arrive at the interviewer’s office 5-7 minutes early. You may have to wait, but it can make a good impression (and arriving late is almost never considered excusable. It could eliminate your chance of getting the job.)
- Do not bring anyone to the interview office. It’s best to go in by yourself.
- Dress appropriately. Do not over dress and do not under dress. Do not wear perfume and watch the amount of jewelry you are wearing. Be simple.
- Wait until the interviewer extends his/her hand to shake hands, not everybody likes to shake hands. If you do shake hands, do so confidently.
- Start smart – address the interviewer by “Mr.” or “Ms.” If you are just meeting them; wait until you are asked to be seated; put everything you have carried into the office on the floor; be yourself.
- Good posture is important. Sit up straight and look alert.
- Hands can betray nervousness. If you do not know where to put them, leave them in your lap and keep them still, or use them to hold your folder or portfolio on your lap. Do not “drum” with your fingers or tap a pencil.
- Do not chew gum in the interview.
- Speak up and speak clearly. Do not hide your mouth with your hands.
- Use proper English. Avoid slang and acronyms, and use complete sentences.
- Be polite and show respect for the interviewer. Do not interrupt (but allow yourself to be interrupted).
- Look your interviewer (or interviewers) directly in the eye. Make sure you make eye contact with everyone on a panel. This is important and nearly every interviewer is conscious of it.
- Build rapport – look for common interests.
- Listen carefully – then answer carefully, concisely, and with relevant examples.
- YOU – the interview is about you, and you are the expert on this subject. Be enthusiastic. Your communication skills, competence and overall professionalism will be evaluated. Discuss your accomplishments and give examples.
- Always remember to emphasize and talk about your strengths. If you do not do it, nobody will. So do not be too modest – just be honest and genuine.
- Don’t answer with simply “yes” or “no”. Give examples. It is OK to think quietly to yourself, even if it takes a few seconds, before you speak your answer.
- Show real interest in the job you are seeking. Do not give the impression that you have just come in to consider the possibilities. Act as if you really want the job.
- Always try to be yourself. Do not be too “stiff”.
- Answer completely, but stick to the subject or question that is asked. Do not let yourself wander away on a tangent.
- If you find yourself talking too long, give the lead back to the interviewer by saying, “Did I answer your question?” Or “Perhaps you have some other questions to ask me?”
- Never complain or make a slighting reference about a former employer. If something went wrong, suggest that the blame must be shared.
- Do not talk about your personal problems.
- If the interviewer steers the conversation into politics, economics, or social issues, try to say as little as possible. Differences of opinion should not be brought into the interview.
- If you are asked a job-related “technical” question and you do not know the answer, admit you do not know, but try to show interest in the question. In this way, they will see that you are truthful and willing to learn.
- Ask questions. This is a good way to indicate interest in the job. Often, near the end of the interview, the employer will ask if you have questions. The following are sample questions, depending on the job:
- “What are the hours?”
- “What opportunities are offered by your organization for upward mobility?”
- “Is there anything I could study now that might help me if I’m hired for the job?”
- Listen carefully during the interview so that you do not ask questions which the employer has already answered. If the interviewer has been very thorough in providing information, try saying something like “I had some questions before we started, but I think you have covered all of them.”
- If you get the impression that the interview is not going well, do not let your discouragement show. The last few minutes can often change things. Once in a while, an interviewer who is interested in you may seem to discourage you in order to test your reaction. If you remain confident and determined, you have probably made a good impression.
- Be sure to thank the recruiter for his or her time and consideration. Resist the temptation to flatter – you may be misunderstood.
- Exit confidently – before shaking hands and leaving, find out when a decision will be made and how you will be notified; get a business card; express your interest in the job; leave the interview with the same confidence as when you arrived.
- This next suggestion is up to you: Write and send a follow-up “thank you” letter to the lead on your interview panel immediately following the interview. Try to mail it the same day as your interview.
- If you are offered the job and if you are sure it is the one you want, accept with a definite, “Yes”. If you have the slightest doubt or do not want to accept without giving it further thought, play for time. As for time to think it over and set a definite day when you can provide an answer.