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Positive Body Language
Without opening your mouth, you convey messages and attitudes by how you sit, stand, use your hands. Be sure the message is a positive one and works for you. Here are some tips for doing this:
Remain standing as long as the interviewer is standing.
When you sit down, avoid slouching.
Do not put your arms on the interviewer's desk. On the other hand, leaning slightly forward in your chair indicates interest.
Avoid crossing your arms or assuming any confrontational poses. Crossed arms, fidgeting, and crossed legs create a "closed" appearance, despite your positive verbal communication.
Do not gesture during the conversation or make emphatic hand movements.
Do not cover your mouth when you speak.
Avoid gazing off when you answer a question. While you may think this reflects serious thought, it can seem very artificial or even condescending. And although you should not stare, it is appropriate for you to make frequent eye contact with your interviewer.
Men should keep their hands out of their pockets when speaking.
Women should avoid twisting their hair or making any other distracting movements.
Other Important Personal Traits
Here are some other positive traits that interviewers have identified:
Verbal communication with: good diction, proper grammar, and no slang
Enthusiasm and energy
Flexibility and adaptability
Imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness
Logical and well-organized thinking
As you review this list, you will notice that a person's professional competence is not included. What that indicates is that it is given that you are a good worker and that you are qualified. Your resume should attest to this, and you should be able to convince the interviewer of it. The traits listed above are those personal and professional characteristics that will determine whether you fit in, whether you are the right person for the job, and therefore, whether you should be offered the job. These are traits that all employers value highly. Some of them you will develop with experience; if you identify any of these areas as your own personal weaknesses, you can take steps to turn them into positive qualities. But you must begin with an honest self-evaluation and then move into directions you can take to improve yourself. Once you develop these qualities your level of self-confidence will soar and employers can spot that quality immediately.
One interviewer summed it up by saying that he looks for "presence" in a job candidate, an indication that the applicant understands what the job entails and is confident that he or she is the best person to do it.
You might say that during an interview lasting one-half to an hour, no one could possibly detect all of the above qualities and others as well. But you would be surprised at how many of these qualities quickly come to the surface in a brief interchange of ideas. And remember that an interviewer is looking for those particular qualities. How you look and what you say may not be the only index to your personality and your qualifications, but this is the only opportunity your interviewer has to find out about you.
The intangible qualities of sincerity, poise, alertness, and thoughtfulness cannot easily be analyzed. It is usually a combination of elements such as posture, reaction, and attitude in general that creates a personal dynamic or chemistry that will sell you as an applicant.
No one wants to hire a negative, pessimistic person, no matter how impressive his or her credentials are! On the other hand, you harm yourself if you try to develop an unnatural or flamboyant personality. What you must do is recognize your own style, try to eliminate your personal weaknesses, and develop your unique strengths. It all comes down to learning how to be confident in you and developing the skills to convey this confidence.
Here are some tips for a successful interview:
Develop a good as well as a firm handshake.
Avoid stammering. It is far better to indicate that you would like to think about the answer to a question if you do not know it.
Observe your interviewer's interests and background. You may want to use some of this information in your follow-up letter.
Listen. Try to find out what happened to the last person in this position; this can be an indication of how rapid the turnover is, unless it is a new position. Find out about the company's method of handling finances, budgetary policies, and any other details that pertain to the job you want.
Have questions prepared to fill in gaps of long silence. It is perfectly acceptable to come prepared with a small notebook in which you have written your questions or in which you might jot down questions during the interview. Use good judgment, and avoid being conspicuous if you do this.
Interest and enthusiasm are important, but no matter how much you may want the job, it is usually unwise to accept any offer, no matter how attractive it looks, on the spur of the moment. An employer will not rescind the offer if you request some time (a few days or a week, at the most) to think about it. That will give you time to come up with any question you may have.
On the other hand, do not hesitate to ask, at the end of the interview, what time limit they have set on making their decision for hiring.
Finally, it is a good idea to scout out the location of the interview, including where to park, and travel time, if you are not familiar with the area. Do this before the day of the interview. Doing so will lower your stress level before the actual interview.
Here are some things you will want to take with you when you go to an interview:
Take a leather portfolio or briefcase, similar to one you will actually be using on the job. Make certain it is leather, even if you have to borrow it from a friend.
Take a professional-quality pen that works. Try it before the interview.
Take a notepad for jotting down notes during the interview. You may also have a list of your own questions on this pad.
Take extra copies of your resume that are printed, not photocopied. Five or six copies are sufficient.
Take a list of your references, with addresses and telephone numbers. The paper should match your resume.
Take a sheet with all the dates of employment, with specific salaries. You may not need this sheet, but it could be useful in negotiating your salary.
Take writing samples, articles you have written or co-written (or articles that mention you). Sample briefs from your paralegal training courses are also useful.
Take money for parking and change for phone calls.
Some women have carried extra pantyhose, to avoid embarrassment if they snag or run their hosiery.
While such precautions may seem excessive, remember that more you prepare for your interview, in ways that you can prepare, the less anxiety you are going to have!
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