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Come prepared and stress less

By Kip Carlson

Even the most-experience, best-qualified job seeker can find a job interview to be a scary proposition.

What many candidates don’t know is that they can carry a security blanket into their meeting with a prospective employer.

We’re talking in the figurative, not the literal, sense. Your security blanket won’t be a fuzzy pink comforter but a notepad folder. This folder, and what you’ll have in it, will provide you some peace of mind that you won’t freeze up when asked certain questions or when they ask if you have any questions for them.

Let’s start with the folder. Find a notepad holder that folds over – the type where, when you open it, you have your notepad on the right and a pocket for papers on the left.

Be sure that it looks professional: black, gray, brown, dark blue – some conservative color, and no logos.

Now for the contents. It should contain the following elements:

  • A clean notepad.
  • Two or three copies of your application materials – at least your resume, references and cover letter, and perhaps any letters of recommendation you submitted. Have them stapled in sets, with one of each in each set: cover letter, resume, references, recommendations.
  • A page on which you’ve typed the following:
  • Six to 10 talking points about you and why you fit the job, items the employer has to know before you leave the room. List them as bullet points, with just a few key words that will remind you of what you want to say.
  • Bullet points with a few words to remind you of the answers to some common questions, such as “Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a coworker?” or “What is your greatest strength and greatest weakness?” or “Tell us about yourself” – things like that.
  • Bullet points with three or four questions that you want to ask the employer.

When you enter the interview, you can offer the packets of application materials. The employer may take them or decline them, but it shows a level of preparation for meeting them.

If it’s a panel interview, you can jot the names of each panelist on the top of the notepad, left to right, in the order they’re sitting across from you so that you can address them by name.

When one of your talking points comes up in answering a question, put an X through the bullet point. If they ask a common question, you can refer to your notes for a strong answer.

At the end of the interview, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be asked, “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?”

Take a look at your talking points, and if any of them don’t have an X through the bullet point, tell them about that point. You can refer to area you’d already come up with when they ask if you have any questions for them.

What that page does is allow you to relax a bit during the interview: You don’t have to worry about remembering the things you most want to say because you know they’re going to be said before you leave the interview.

The same is true the questions to ask the employer; it’s not a memory test when they ask. You can focus on what the employer is saying and what you want to say.

For more tips on successful interviewing, or to arrange a mock interview, you’re encouraged to visit Chemeketa’s Career Services staff. Appointments can be made on ChemekNet or by visiting our office.

Career Services is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in Bldg. 2-115.

Kip Carlson works at the college’s Career Services center on the Salem campus.

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