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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Career—Job Interview

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Getting an interview for a job is usually the last of a number of difficult steps that might produce a job offer. This is showtime — an opportunity for you to sell yourself. You will probably come up against a professional who knows the difference between glib catchphrases and substance, so be prepared to leave the interviewer with no doubt that you are the best person for the job. Here's how to give yourself the best appearance:


  1. Find out everything you can about the company. This will demonstrate a genuine interest in the organization and an affinity for the things that its employees do. Your research should include information on the nature of the business; how well the company is doing; changes in the industry, with particular focus on things that could influence your job; the size of the company; and the diversity of products and services provided.

  2. Create a list of questions you want to ask. You should avoid asking about salaries at an early stage. Your questions should instead reflect an interest in the company and an awareness of your contribution to its future. Questions could include:

    • How is the organization doing?

    • What is the outlook for business over the next five years?

    • How would you describe the culture here?

    • How do people get recognized for superior performance, outside the formal compensation system?

    • How important is teamwork in your organization?

    • What kind of training does the organization provide?

    • How readily does the organization embrace new technology and other improved working systems?

    • How are employees kept informed of changes in the organization?

    • What would be the primary reason for people leaving the organization in the last year or two?

    • Are there some characteristics common to people who have been promoted in the organization?

  3. Review your resumé to ensure that it contains as many things that could be of interest to the company as possible.

  4. If you do have more than one interview, schedule them with sufficient time in between to avoid rushing from one to the other.

  5. Collect and organize all supporting documentation, such as certificates of your professional qualifications and references.

  6. Be sure you have accurate directions to the prospective employer, to ensure that you don't spend time searching for the place and arriving stressed.

  7. Consider doing a role-play with a friend. Have him ask you some challenging, open-ended questions that require on-the-spot mental acrobatics. Questions could include:

    • "In your last job, what would be the one thing that your peers most disliked about you?"

    • "What would be your single most important achievement in your last job?"

    • "How would you describe yourself?"

    • "What type of training could the company provide you with, to make you a better contributor?"

    • "What attracted you to this job?"

    • "What do you know about the company?"

    • "What would you like to tell me in support of your application, other than what is on your resume?"

    • "Can you give me examples of initiatives that you have taken in your previous job that were above and beyond what your job description required you to do?"


  1. Dress for success.

    • Make sure that you are well groomed. Your hair should be neat and you should be cleanly shaven.

    • Your clothes should reflect the fact that you are a neat person. They should be clean and well pressed. Be sure to fix any loose buttons and hems.

    • Avoid outlandish hairstyles and body ornamentation that may not be in keeping with the culture of the organization you want to work for.

    • Avoid clothing that is too revealing, frilly, or makes you look much taller than you actually are.

  2. Leave yourself extra time to get to the interview.

  3. Have all supporting documentation ready, including your resume, references, and non-confidential documentation of work you have done that would demonstrate your ability to do the job.

  4. Bring writing materials so you can make notes on important issues. Don't rely on your memory, particularly if you have any other interviews on that day.

  5. Introduce yourself. Give your interviewer a firm handshake. Smile. Look relaxed. Make small talk to establish rapport that seems genuine, such as "I love this location! It's so easy to get to." Or "It must be my lucky day. The traffic was so much lighter than usual coming in."

  6. Let the interviewer control the discussion. Listen carefully to her questions. Show that you understand by nodding and paraphrasing difficult questions.

  7. Do not ramble when responding to open-ended questions. Try to be as direct as possible. If you are not sure that you have answered the question, ask if the interviewer has the answer that he was looking for, and if not, what he would like you to deal with.

  8. Look and act interested. Sit slightly forward and maintain eye contact, without staring.

  9. Pay attention to what the interviewer says. Equally important, watch non-verbal cues. Look for facial expressions that might indicate confusion with your answers, such as loss of eye contact or change in voice pitch. Crossing arms or legs may mean resistance. Leaning forward or nodding might mean enthusiasm. (See Communicating: Reading Body Language.)

  10. Project a great attitude. Show your "can do" enthusiasm by

    • always accentuating the positive;

    • giving examples of the good things you have done.

  11. Project positive body language. This will mean that you

    • smile warmly when greeted;

    • maintain eye contact, without staring;

    • greet people with a firm handshake;

    • stand tall or sit up straight, so you project enthusiasm and confidence;

    • avoid putting your hand in front of your face while you are talking or fidgeting when you are listening;

    • never smoke or chew gum.

  12. Speak to impress by

    • articulating key ideas with a firmer voice;

    • avoiding rushing through answers and rambling;

    • avoiding slang or swear words;

    • avoiding annoying words such as "like" at the beginning, middle, and end of each sentence.

  13. Listen. Make sure you answer all questions adequately. When you are not sure if you have done this, ask, "Have I answered your question?" This will indicate that you care about responding fully.

  14. If you don't understand a question, ask for clarification.

  15. Stay calm and confident. You got the interview, now get the job!

  16. Use examples wherever possible. This will demonstrate a "can do" approach. It will also increase the interviewer's confidence that you can do the job in practice, rather than in theory.

  17. Close the meeting decisively. Consider using a sentence such as "I've enjoyed the discussion. Where do we go from here?"


Here is a list of questions that you could be asked in an interview. Having answers for them will put you in a high state of readiness.

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