Job Interviews 101: Basic Components and Key Skills for All Clients

Preparing for Job Interview: Calendar and PlanThrowback Thursday: a classic Higher blog post about a fundamental of our work.

How many times have you helped clients land a job interview only to have them freeze and lose out on a job they would have rocked? There can never be too much interview preparation – for general skill building and specifically for a targeted position.

Job readiness training or other group classes can help convey the basics, but it takes repetition and individual practice to gain confidence in interviewing.  Even when you have the inside track based on employer relationships, poor interview skills can still cost clients jobs.

Most job interviews include three basic parts: 1) Establishing a Positive First Impression; 2) Demonstrating a Good Fit; and 3) Confirming Interest in the Position.  Keep this three-part framework in mind to help clients synthesize information from different sources (e.g. job readiness classes, one-on-one interview prep and real interview experience) and deepen their skills over time.

1.   Establishing a Positive First Impressions:  Confident Greetings and Introduction

For clients with very low English language skills, first impressions are especially important. Building their confidence is the key to helping all clients demonstrate their language skills English by introducing themselves (Hello, my name is…) with a great smile, firm handshake and good eye contact.  Appropriate attire, interview etiquette, posture and personal hygiene are also important parts of this basic preparation to succeed in interviews and the U.S. workforce in general.

2.   Demonstrating a Good Fit:  Learning about the Job and Talking about Yourself

After greetings, interviews can include questions, a tour of the facilities or explanations about the nature of the position and company.  You can help clients prepare to experience different approaches and understand that the purpose is the same – to see if they will be a good fit for the job.

Clients  are seldom comfortable with self-promotion, which can feel like boasting or bragging in the context of their home cultures.   Explain that employers look for qualities and characteristics as much as concrete skills and experience.

They may hear different questions, but their answers should emphasize the qualities and characteristics they offer, including relevant skills and experience.  Clients need to be able to convey a positive attitude and energy that shows why they will be a good employee.

Interview practice questions may include:

  • Why should I hire you (and not someone else) for this position?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What makes you the best person for this job?
  • What motivated you to apply for this position?

Some typical qualities employers look for include dependable, reliable, on-time, friendly or other customer service traits.

3.   Confirming Interest in the Position:  Asking Questions and Confirming Next Steps

Job interviews usually end with the opportunity for the candidate to ask a question. Not doing so can cost your client the job. Explaining the importance of taking the chance to demonstrate interest in the job, company or some aspect of the opportunity is the best lead in to practicing possible questions.

It’s also important to outline what questions they should NOT ask.  For example, emphasizing break and lunch times and compensation can create the impression that a candidate will not be a “good worker”.  Other questions that express worry about how to find the right bus stop or getting to work on time are better addressed outside of the interview.  Everyone wants to know if they got the job, but it’s helpful to explain that asking about “next steps in the process” is a more acceptable way to ask that question.

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