Best practices: Acing a job interview

In this tough economy, even getting called in for a job interview can feel like a major victory.
March 1, 2011

By Chris Palmer and Peter Kimball

In this tough economy, even getting called in for a job interview can feel like a major victory. And it is – it means your resumé was impressive enough to put you in the running and that you’re now that much closer to getting the job. Now all you have to do is confidently and concisely demonstrate that you would be the perfect candidate – exceptionally experienced and skilled, committed to the company, and a pleasure to work with. All in just a few minutes. Doesn’t sound too hard, right?

The most important thing you can do in preparing for an interview is not to freak out. An interview can be extremely stressful and it can feel like your whole life depends on how you perform. However, it is essential that you go into the interview with enthusiasm and a smile on your face. Sit up straight, dress well, and speak with confidence. It doesn’t matter who else is applying for the job; all that matters is whether you can confidently and clearly describe who you are and why that’s a perfect fit for the position.

In order to convey your confidence effectively, you must first of all know exactly what the company does and what its needs are. For instance, someone interviewing for a job as a camera operator for a production company would be wise to know what kind of projects this company normally does, what kind of clients they work with, what kind of equipment they generally use, etc. If your experience is in reality television and this company makes videos for museums, you might still be the perfect person for the job, but it will be important to explain why your experience will help you meet their needs.

Aside from someone who shows up drunk and disheveled to work, there are few things less attractive to a potential employer than someone who is not actually interested in the job. Maybe you actually just care about the paycheck and the insurance, but you need to be able to convince your interviewer that you specifically want this job and not just a job. Again, doing a little research into the company – which can generally be done by a simple visit to the company website – can make a big difference in demonstrating your commitment to the organization and the job. Be prepared with a few specific questions to ask at the end of the interview.

The question you should ask yourself as you prepare for an interview is: How have my education, work experience, and personal abilities made me the perfect person for this job? Whether this is your dream job or not, you need to think in those terms in order to be able to clearly explain why they should hire you. If asked about your last employer, never speak negatively. Even if you left that job because you hated everything about it, it is important that you still be able to explain how that work prepared you to be the best possible person for this job. Remember also that speaking negatively about anyone or any organization only reflects poorly on you. Stay positive.

No matter how well you perform in an interview, you won’t get hired every time. You might feel crushed every time you don’t get the job, but if you can confidently speak to your abilities and demonstrate a commitment to doing a good job, you will ultimately find the position you’re looking for. Just don’t show up drunk and disheveled on the first day of work.

Chris Palmer is the director of American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and author of the Sierra Club book “Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom.” Peter Kimball is an independent filmmaker and graduate student at American University

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.