Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Finding the Perfect Job: Ace the Interview!

Now that you know how to handle Job Fairs, we'll move along to how to ace the interview. This series of articles can be found here on our blog each week, or you can pick up a copy of the Job Seeker's Survival Guide at any of The Employment Guide® job fairs.

"Our hiring philosophy is 'hire the best.' We look for the extraordinary person. Only one in 100 candidates will make it through the hiring process. In order to be successful at Loomis Fargo, flexibility and attention to detail are necessary." - Loomis Fargo

Dressing the Part - The "Do's" and "Don'ts"

Let's face it - first impressions stick! Studies conclude that people form an impression of someone within the first 15-30 seconds of meeting them. Given this time frame, your outward appearance makes up a majority of a potential employer's first impression. Follow these simple rules to ensure you are dressing the part.

Standard Interview Dress:

For Men:

  • Wear a suit (preferably dark colors)
  • Wear a long-sleeve dress shirt (preferably white)
  • Wear a stylish, conservative tie
  • Wear dark dress shoes in good condition
  • Wear a belt that matches your shoes
  • Have well-groomed hair and nails
  • Don't wear a short-sleeved shirt
  • Don't wear too much cologne

For Women:

  • Dress conservatively (preferably dark colors)
  • Wear tailored pantsuit, jacket and skirt or dress
  • Wear dark dress shoes with 1-3 inch heel in good condition
  • Wear hosiery that matches your outfit (natural or dark colors preferably)
  • Carry a small purse that matches your shoes and/or belt
  • Have well-groomed hair and nails
  • Don't wear bright colors or bold prints
  • Don't wear too much makeup
  • Don't wear too much perfume
  • Don't wear excessive, distracting jewelry

Interview Questions

"I look for candidates that fit our hiring profile: Passion for the restaurant business; community involvement/awareness; solid communication skills; bias for taking action; independent; progressive thinker; and a balanced lifestyle." - Pasta Pomodoro

During an interview, you should expect questions about your professional background and experience. You should also expect to hear questions about your goals and what you want to do with your career. The questions will often depend on the type of job you are seeking. Listed below are some sample questions that you should be able answer.

General Company Questions

  • How did you hear about our company?
  • What interests you about working for our company?

Educational Experience

  • How would you describe your academic achievement?
  • What courses did you enjoy most?
  • What interests you about this position?
  • Explain your understanding of the job's responsibility.
  • What experiences or qualifications do you have that prepare you for this position?
  • What sets you apart from others?
  • What will you bring the position?

Your Personal Experience

  • How would you describe your ideal job?
  • What kind of work interests you?
  • Can you give me specific examples of how you handled a difficult situation in your previous employment?
  • What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
  • Tell me about a typical day in your current job.
  • What are your current hours? Schedule? Workdays?
  • How do you plan your day?
  • What do you like best about your current job?
  • What do you like least about your current job?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • How would your boss describe you?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What areas could use improving?
  • Do you need additional training?

Interpersonal Skills

  • How would your coworkers describe you?
  • How do you relate to your coworkers?
  • What do you look for in a supervisor?
  • How do you relate to your supervisor?
  • What makes you feel tense or nervous?
  • When the pressure of work is high, where does your energy come from?
  • Define a good work atmosphere.
  • How do you handle criticism?

Your Goals

  • What do you expect out of this job?
  • How will this help you reach your long-term personal and career goals?
  • What do you feel are the disadvantages of this field?
  • How will you evaluate the company for which you hope to work?

Interview the Interviewer

During an interview, you are responsible for learning about the company and job. To determine if the job is right for you, it is important for you to interview the interviewer. Don't forget, you are determining if this position is a good fit for you. Bring a list with you to the interview. It shows your seriousness.

Job-related questions

  • What are the day-to-day job expectations?
  • Who will be my supervisor?
  • How will I be evaluated in this position?
  • What do you expect from the ideal candidate?
  • How does this position affect other positions and the company operation?
  • Will there be any training offered to get started?
  • If there will be training, what will it consist of and how long will it last?
  • Can I speak with someone in a similar role?
  • Is this a new position or is it replacing someone who left?
  • If someone left, why did that person leave?
  • What are the normal working hours?
  • What are the overtime expectations?
  • What is the accepted dress code?

Education experience

  • Do I need specific training in this position?

Interpersonal skills

  • How would your employees describe you?
  • What do you look for in an employee?
  • Is this a fast-paced environment?

General Company Questions

  • How do you like working for this company?
  • What has your career been like? How did you get started?
  • Who is your boss?

Career growth

  • What are the opportunities for growth? Training?

What not to Discuss

You should not discuss wages for fringe benefits on the first interview. Allow the interviewer to bring up that subject.

Body Language 101

The old saying "actions speak louder than words," has never rung more true than during the interview process. It is critical that you always arrive on time or early for an interview, and that you are aware of your body language and what it says about you during the interview. When interviewing, consider this about your unspoken words:

If You…

The Interview Thinks you are…

Better to…



Maintain steady look, shifting focus from eyes to mouth

Look away too long

Not interested

Glance away for only brief periods of time



Sustain calm, normal gaze at interviewer



Raise eyebrows slightly to draw attention to your face

Grin or smirk with mouth closed


Open mouth when smiling




Touch mouth frequently


Fold hands in lap

Bite lips


Part lips slightly

Cough/clear throat often

Unsure of yourself

Take a sip of water



Keep back straight and chin up

Lean back in your chair


Lean forward in chair



Sit still, control gestures, and relax with every breath

Personality Pays - How to Interject Yourself into the Interview!

"At Yum! Brands, we're looking for true Customer Maniacs - people with energy, talent, and the desire to give our customers a great experience and have fun doing it." - Yum! Brands

The best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself! We have all heard the saying, "Nice guys finish last." Well, in this case, "honest guys (and gals) finish first!"

So often in the interview process, candidates feel like they have to put on a show and try to be the person they think the interviewer wants them to be, rather than the person they really are. You are better off walking away from a job that does not fit your core personality than accepting a job in which you will not be happy.

There is no such thing as an "ideal interview personality." The person you are is a reflection of your life experiences. Make an accurate assessment of yourself and relate that honestly to the interviewer. Personality does pay - let your personality show!

Some companies will even ask you to take a personality test to gauge your core personality. Sometimes people try to act like a chameleon during the interview. Do you remember those little lizards at the zoo when you were a kid that you couldn't see because they changed their colors and faded into the tree branch or disappeared in the leaves? Chameleons adapt to the situation by changing their true colors. If the personality test comes out that you have a totally different personality style than the interviewer sees, it is going to send up a red flag and you more than likely won't get called back for another interview. Potential employers want to see your true colors.

Some things to consider about your personality in the interview:

  • Nobody is perfect, and don't be afraid to admit it. If you have made mistakes in the past, don't try to hide it. Discuss what happened and focus on what you learned from the experience. Follow up by highlighting your strengths.
  • If you are nervous during the interview and it shows, own up to it. Say something like, "I apologize, I am very excited about this job and am a little nervous. Do you mind repeating the question?"
  • There is an old saying that "enthusiasm is contagious" - is yours worth catching? This statement has never been truer than in an interview environment. If you are someone with a great sense of humor, use it (where appropriate). If you are not one of those people with a naturally outgoing, gregarious personality, then don't try and pretend you are. Remember that interviewers can usually sense people who are acting fake!

Rather, use the skills you do have to show your enthusiasm. Ask well thought-out, pertinent questions about the company and the job responsibilities. Show interest by researching and discussing interesting facts about the company. Demonstrate why you should be hired based on past accomplishments. And remember that many times the interviewer is just as nervous as you are!

Skills Test Anxiety

So you are excited about the job opportunity, the interview is going well, and suddenly the interviewer tells you that you have to take a skills test… yikes! If you are like most people, having to take a test creates unwanted stress and apprehension. Follow these simple rules and "take charge" of managing your test anxiety


  • In case you are asked to take a skills test, always get a good night's sleep before an interview and arrive with a full stomach. This will provide energy and ensure you are at your best.
  • Think positively! If you tell yourself you are going to do well, then you probably will. Try to maintain an "I will try and do my very best" attitude, rather than an "it must be perfect" attitude.


  • Carefully read all instructions twice to make sure you didn't miss anything.
  • Budget your time and divide it evenly among the various sections of the test.
  • Answer easy questions first to build confidence and ensure easy points.
  • Focus only on the test at hand. Concentrate on the process of answering the questions, rather than on the end result.
  • If you draw a blank, skip the question and move on.
  • If at any time you have questions, do not hesitate to ask for clarification. It shows you are concerned about doing well and eliminates the risk of missing something simply because you didn't understand what the test was asking.
  • Change positions periodically to help you relax. You cannot think well if you are tense or tight. If need be, set your test aside, and take slow, deep breaths.


  • Go back and answer the difficult questions you skipped the first time.
  • Review the test to make sure you didn't skip any questions or mark any answers incorrectly, but do not second guess yourself and change your original answers. More than likely, your first guess is correct.

To find that perfect job, pick up a copy of this week's edition of The Employment Guide at locations all over the Charlotte area, including all Petro Express stores, or go online at www.employmentguide.com/.

For more information about The Employment Guide call us at 704-676-0051 or 877-676-0051.

Still have questions? Want to add something? Leave us a comment!

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