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Preparation and Confidence Are Key in the Interview Process

by Bonnie Roberts Erickson

Though the evening news shook the world around you and it was always “everybody else” talking about losing their jobs, you always thought your job and career would go on regardless. It was the one thing in life you wouldn’t have to worry about because it would always be there. Then everything changed. The workplace either shut its doors or downsized. You are out of a job.

Radford University’s Business Dean William Dempsey, along with Management and Marketing professor James Lollar, both agree that now more than ever, people are going to have to be willing to adapt to change because as Lollar says, “The only constant is change.” Things are not as concrete as they once were. People who never expected to endure another job interview - or even their first one - are now hastily preparing a job résumé. There could be one problem, though. They’re not prepared for the process.

Dempsey says most people have as many as six career changes in a lifetime but there are still many that have only worked that one job since high school. They may have never had to sit through an interview because “back then” people were sometimes hired right off the streets. “Somebody in the family may have known somebody else that got them the job,” Dempsey says, adding that is still a proven way to get a job in some places of employment. “Knowing somebody works pretty well these days,” he says. More than likely, however, it is going to be your responsibility to sell yourself to a new employer.

Employers and employees will both need to see a clear progression in the job hiring and job search process, Lollar says. “If a person is interviewing, for example, at the same place they work, the employer is going to be trying to match the perfect employee to that particular job. Employers do generally want to find someone within the company if there is someone,” Lollar says, adding that this sometimes will meet both the financial needs of the employee and the employer. “But you are still going to have to give them something to show them you deserve the job,” he says.

“Tell the truth in everything you say. If you have been a bartender, tell them you’ve been a bartender,” Lollar notes. “That position alone requires people to be a mom, dad, best friend, and even a counselor. You’ve got to have good people skills, be patient, be able to juggle several tasks at once and probably deal with very difficult people. Those skills are skills that will come in handy on just about any job.”

Lollar and Dempsey remind their students that employers will need to sell themselves, also. The interview process is a two-way street. As much as you want to impress them, they need to likewise impress you. There are a few questions you need to ask.

“Ask them about their benefits,” Lollar suggests. “What costs will there be to you and what kind of coverage do they have? What about retirement funds and training opportunities?” Lollar adds that it doesn’t hurt to check out the company’s reputation before you go for the interview. Are they doing well in the stock market? Are their employees happy? Have they had layoffs recently?

Another aspect of the job search that job seekers need to understand is that they may not be able to stay in their hometown. That next job interview could be somewhere in a region you are not familiar with, the professors say. Recent labor trends have yielded themselves to job relocation and statistics show that a large portion of those seeking a job are becoming less resistant to moving. “People have to do what they have to do to support themselves and their families,” Lollar says. Change does not necessarily have to be a bad thing or something to be dreaded, they believe. Lollar says the unemployed need to look at change as a potentially good thing in their lives. “You have to know what your priorities are” and stay focused.

Some pointers for that first job interview include:

* Be confident in yourself. Believe you are the perfect match for the job and tell them why.

* Dress appropriately and come well-groomed.

* Have a résumé in hand and tell the truth on your résumé. Contrary to popular belief, a good résumé doesn’t have to be “flowery and designed to death” as one professor put it. The simpler the better. Review your resume with a friend.

* Don’t panic if the interviewer asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to. It is better to say “I don’t know” or “I am not familiar with that” than to fake your way through the question. Employers respect honesty.

* Remember that you are not the only person being interviewed. Be realistic. Just because you got an interview, does not mean you will get the job. It’s a good beginning, though.

* When you leave the interview, thank them for their time.

Dempsey reitinerates what Lollar stresses to his students, “You sometimes have to make concessions when you start a career or change careers. For example, if you consider yourself rooted in your hometown, you are automatically limiting your choices.”

If a person is one of the many millions who have lost their jobs and fear they have no skills to help send them into another work environment, there are avenues of learning available. Some are free and some are inexpensive. One of the greatest assets is to learn basic computer skills. Classes are offered at local community colleges, libraries and at other state and local agencies. Often the former employer will have provided a financial means of educating laid-off workers or direct them to agencies which will help them polish their existing skills and learn new ones.

There are many sites on the World Wide Web offering pointers for interviewing and preparing résumés. Some examples are:

* (also has a link to a site that features over 50 sample résumés for different professions)
“Keep yourself prepared,” Dempsey stresses. “Keep learning something new.”

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