Avoiding Interview Dead Ends
Packing for a road trip includes at least a toothbrush, toothpaste and a change of clothes; for a successful job interview, we recommend a little more planning.
Having great references at hand, understanding the job you're applying for, knowing a few things about the facility--and having some questions to ask--are all important components of preparing for an interview. You should feel confident, but still be careful--there are a few common mistakes you still need to avoid.
In his book, Getting a Job In Healthcare (Delmar Learning, 2003) Robert H. Zedlitz recommends organizing your employment portfolio before the interview-get together copies of your résumé, cover letter, reference list and completed employment application.
As well, your appearance should be as put together as your application. "I wouldn't dress too casually for a serious interview," advised Dr. Grohar.
Lerner agrees. "You want to convey a sense of professionalism with the way you dress." She suggested that if you must come to an interview in scrubs, mention this when confirming the interview.
If you're a new graduate, you shouldn't go into an interview "with the idea that [you] don't have any experience," said Woodruff. Rather than focusing on the experiences you haven't had, he suggested emphasizing the life skills you've developed. Part-time work can be a learning experience. Working at McDonald's "can help develop organizational skills in a high-pressure environment." You can explain that you want to apply these skills to your healthcare career, he added.
Interviewees often spend a lot of time discussing skills learned in school and that's a given, Rios said. While you should emphasize your scholastic strengths, be sure to discuss life experiences--such as volunteer work--as well.
If you had a great clinical rotation or have a particular interest in a certain area, focus on that, advised Woodruff. This information will tell the interviewer that you paid attention during rotations, and developed interests and skills-signs that you're probably going to progress well in a clinical environment.
Maintaining a positive attitude is also critical. Beyond looking for someone with the right skill set, employers want new hires that show the ability to work within an existing group, Dr Grohar stated. Show your enthusiasm for teamwork and knowledge of where you see yourself fitting into the current structure.
Rios added, "What's going to help you stand out is to express your passion for what you're applying for. I think that's the number one thing that will make you stand out."
Another tricky aspect of an interview usually comes near the end--when a prospective employer gives you a chance to ask questions. If you go into an interview and your prepared questions are answered, you should be ready to expand on those or find other areas where you can request more information, Lerner noted.
At the end of the interview, if you're interested in the job it's important to state that, Woodruff said. This shows that "you're not just going through the process but are interested in accepting the position if it was offered."
While getting there is half the fun, planning a trip includes knowing how to get home again. Similarly, when you shake hands and part ways with the interviewer, your work isn't over. Follow-up can be the key to obtaining the job of your choice.
After an interview, sending a thank-you note is often the next step. This can help keep you in the interviewer's mind, says Rios. While this is starting to change, a hand written note to the person making the hiring decision is preferable to e-mail.
"It shows a very poised individual," added Dr. Grohar. "It's certainly not wrong and I think it would be a judgment call on the part of the interviewee.
If you're sending a thank-you letter, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- The purpose is to convey why, since the interview, you're sure that this is the job for you, said Rios.
- Thank the person for taking the time to meet with you and the opportunity to learn more about the institution, Dr. Grohar suggested.
- Emphasize your strengths and your continued interest in the position, wrote Zedlitz.
- The sooner you write the note the better. Woodruff recommends writing it immediately after the interview, while others suggest that within the week is sufficient.
- Make sure you proofread your note before sending it. "If you have an error on this follow-up letter, you could lose your chance at a job you want," Zedlitz wrote.
After you've sent your thank-you letter, it's time to consider your follow-up. If the interviewer doesn't provide you with a decision date, or if a decision date has come and gone without any contact from the employer, it is acceptable to follow up with a letter or a phone call.
"Don't be harassing, don't make several calls," Woodruff warned, but do use this as a chance to remind them that you're interested in the position.
Onward to Career Rewards
Following this map, you're ready to head out for your destination-your dream job. Line up references who can speak to your strengths, prepare questions that show you did your research and understand the job's requirements, create a follow-up plan and you're equipped to get your career going.
Excellent resources are available to help you create your career map, including career websites, magazines, books about your field and job fairs. These are all good ways to begin your search and polish your interview skills.
Nicole Benkert is on staff at ADVANCE.