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Have Some PASTA with Your Interview

By:  Barbara Snyder

When cyclists prepare for a big race, they always make sure they load up on the carbs. It is not uncommon to have a pasta feed the night before an important event so that the athletes can store up some of the carbohydrates they will be burning up the next day. The same goes for preparing for an interview. A candidate for a job, preparing for that all-important interview, needs to take in some PASTA. However, it isn’t the same kind of pasta, but it is something that will energize, fortify and maximize a person’s chances in having a successful interview.

Here is the PASTA that is being suggested: P, prepare thoroughly; A, attitude adjustment; S, start the interview off smartly; T, tips to be followed; and A, after-the-interview follow-up. These five steps can provide a level of preparation, comfort, and professionalism that should impress the decision makers with your performance under pressure and to demonstrate your abilities and attributes in the best light.

How does one prepare (P) for an interview? You would be surprised how many people do absolutely nothing or very little in this realm. However, this is the one thing that you have completely in your control. Consider the following tasks that can be done in order to be more prepared than your competition: anticipate a question as an opener about qualifications and background ; anticipate a closing that will allow for you to wrap up and review your qualifications; write out the answers to the anticipated questions; practice or rehearse how you will deliver those answers; re-read your application; and visualize how you will present yourself verbally and non-verbally. Spending time on this first step will give you confidence and practice that will help you relax, or at least curb some of the nervousness during the actual interview.

Attitude (A) or your overall demeanor is a dominant factor that will influence how the interviewer or panel perceives you and your personality. It is important to be positive in all ways that you express yourself and to always be courteous to everyone with which you come into contact. It is a good thing to be mildly assertive, but not aggressive or arrogant. Show that you believe in yourself and know that you are being judged on your attitude, work ethic, intelligence and honesty. In establishing your positive attitude think about what the employer wants in their employees, which will most likely include all or some of the following: self starter, dependable, easy to work with, works well under pressure, manages time effectively, could handle a crisis situation successfully, could handle constructive criticism, and concentrates on the needs of the company over personal needs.

Starting the interview (S) is the precise point where a first impression will be made. Many times a candidate thinks that the first question of the interview is the actual beginning of the interview. In reality it begins when the candidate enters the room and is introduced. It is important to be on time, even early, to mentally prepare to be called into the interview room. Remember that there will be small talk that the interviewer(s) will remember. The handshake, which should be firm, and the smile, which should be sincere, go a long way in establishing a rapport with the decision makers. In addition, grooming and appearance will be two areas in which to take extra care and time. It will pay off big dividends. Make your first impression a positive and pleasant experience.

The tips (T) that can put professionalism into actual responses to questions are cloaked in many details. They are small, but extremely significant, elements in the overall interview process. Realize that your articulation and vocabulary is being scrutinized thoroughly. Using "kinda, yeah, and gonna” are some words to avoid. Make sure your responses are concise, specific, and not rambling. Your responses, as a rule, should be no longer than 2 minutes. You need to make sure that you are honest and focused. It is important that abilities and accomplishments not be exaggerated. Your demeanor should be one of openness, confidence and enthusiasm. Eye contact is a must, along with natural gestures that help you establish a connection or rapport with the interviewer(s). If you are asked to tell about what a former employer would say about you, put it in quote form to specifically provide details of their assessment of you. Above all, do not ever use the phrases, "To be honest or in all honesty." It could give the impression that you aren’t honest in other areas. Picture yourself confident, leaning forward, chin up, not fidgeting. Visualize success.

After the interview (A), a follow up routine can be most impressive to the interviewer(s). Besides thanking them at the interview when you stand up to leave, following up with a personalized letter is a very appropriate thing to do. If you do not get the position, it is also appropriate to ask for feedback on how your interview could have been improved. Many human resources administrators will willingly schedule an appointment to review the strengths and weaknesses of the interview.

If you didn’t get the position, don’t burn any bridges with the company or organization. Just because you did not get the first one for which you applied, does not mean that you won’t get another position that opens up. A lot has to do with whether you are perceived as "a fit for the particular position." Always try to understand whether your particular qualifications and experiences are a good match with the expectations of a specific position. Staying with the five steps (PASTA) will help you prepare and help you get an edge on those who are just relying on luck. Get prepared and remember the fundamentals.

Copyright usage: No permission is needed to reproduce this story. The About the Author statement with hot links must remain in tact. Request for reciprocal links will be considered. mailto:barb@sbmag.org.