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Ten tips

How to cope with a tough job interview

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 31, 2002

As if job interviews aren't stressful enough, what if you have to deal with an interviewer who is hostile, distracted or overly chatty? These tips can help you salvage the interview or steer clear of the company.

1. You can't prepare enough. In years gone by, it was enough to research the company and its mission before your interview. But today, it's wise to gather intelligence about your interviewers. Also, learn as much as possible about the person who held the job before you.

2. The hostile interviewer. If your interviewer seems irritable or antagonistic, stay calm. The mood swings probably have nothing to do with you; the interviewer might simply be having a rough day.

3. The chatty interviewer. You may not have much of a chance to sell yourself, but you can leave a good impression; look for opportunities to make the conversation more interactive; show an interest in the company; and say as much as you can about yourself without interrupting.

4. The group interview. If you're being bombarded with questions by a room full of people, remember to remain cool and collected, breathe before you answer each question and make eye contact with all the interviewers as you speak.

5. The wrong interview. If you get the sense that you're interviewing for the wrong position, speak up without being defensive. For instance, you can clarify the job description by saying, "I think I must have misunderstood . . ."

6. What would you like to tell me about yourself? It's one of those inevitable questions that could make or break the interview for you. Prepare for it by crafting a brief description of who you are professionally and what your greatest strengths are.

7. Why should we hire you? This is another tough question that opens the door for you to sell yourself. In two minutes or less, match your unique skills and abilities with the list of the job requirements for the position. Be clear and specific.

8. Remember who's in charge. Experts say it's almost always a mistake for the job applicant to try to take control of the interview. Even if the interviewers seem inexperienced and are botching things up, they have the right to steer the interview.

9. Affect the direction of the interview. That said, nothing prevents you from asking good interview questions yourself. Your questions should reveal your understanding of issues at the company, which could turn the discussion toward your abilities to help solve problems and provide fresh ideas.

10. Decide whether to salvage the interview. If you leave the interview cringing because it went horribly, relax: It's probably not that bad. Send a followup note thanking the interviewers for their time and stressing your interest in the position. But don't forget to ask yourself: Do I really want to work here?

-- Sources: Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine;; and The Career Coach: Winning Strategies for Getting Ahead in Today's Job Market by Gordon Miller.

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