Careers: Don't Just Wing It in All-Important Interviews

Article excerpt

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Don't look now, but you've blown your interview. Thing is, you probably don't even know it.

You arrived too early. You winged it. You told the interviewer everything she knew about her company. You were too informal. You forgot about some great work you did.

Jobs are scarce and competition is fierce. Nailing the interview is key to separating yourself from the pack and landing that next job. Making sure you're ready for the big day is important.

"Never go into an interview winging it," said Kristin Mortensen, the city of Sacramento's career coach for city employees. People who do "often regret that decision."

And many who think they're ready fall short.

Experts such as Jess Bushey, marketing director for the Sacramento office of employment agency Roth Staffing Cos., have seen it all too often.

Some job-seekers "think they know what they're going to say, but they haven't articulated it out loud," Bushey said. "Preparation. People still don't do enough of it."

Here are some do's and don'ts to help you ace that interview.

Practice, practice, practice: It's not only how you get to Carnegie Hall, it can put you in line for that next job.

When rehearsing, avoid buzzwords and empty phrases, Mortensen said.

Trouble comes when "you feel that it's somebody else's words you're regurgitating," she said. "You come up with what to say."

Bushey of Roth Staffing said she is often surprised how little interviewees know about their own work histories. "You want to know that resume inside and out," she said.

Beyond prior job experience and dates, Bushey tells prospects to prepare three universal examples of how they overcame challenges at work. "You want to cite examples -- a difficult co-worker or a project. ...

"It's an employers' market, and you need to stand out for the right reason."

Arrive on time: Being a few minutes early is fine. More than that is awkward -- and a little rude.

"The biggest one that sets interviewers off is definitely when you're more than 10 minutes early," Bushey said. "It's one of the biggest things I see -- 25 minutes early? Unacceptable. You've already got a big mountain to climb."

The reasons? Staffs are busier than ever. More anxious, too. Waiting in the lobby makes staffers uneasy and doesn't respect the interviewer's time, she said. …