When the job market is tight and competitive like it is currently, it’s especially important for job seekers to come prepared to each and every interview. And part of being prepared is knowing how to act competent, friendly and generally likeable to your prospective employer. Keep in mind, employers hate passive interviewees who just wait for the next question and give two-word answers. They also dislike braggarts and those with know-it-all attitudes. So, how should you act in the interview?

First, put yourself in the employers’ shoes. They want to hire an employee who is a good representation of their health organization—they want a smart, trustworthy person who will get along well with the other employees. So in order to “prove” yourself to the interviewer you have to possess all these attractive traits and make it look effortless at

the same time. How do you accomplish this? It’s easy; you just have to follow a few simple rules:

What to Do. What Not to Do.

Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to make it to the interview. You don’t ever want to make the employer wait because you’re caught in traffic or do not have their address right. Also, once you finally find the building and get inside, it may be tough to navigate your way to the interview room, so it helps to give yourself some extra time. Remember, being late to an interview pretty much knocks you out of the competition even if you’re perfect for the job.

Don’t dress like a student. Instead, both men and women should dress professionally in a dark suit. Employers want to hire a serious professional. Even if you will wear scrubs or a white jacket on the job, for the interview, make an effort to press your shirt and shine your shoes.

Don’t arrive to an interview without first researching the organization. At the very least, check out their Web site or find their company materials at your career center. Find out general information about the organization, like what services they provide and how they’re growing. Don’t every try to just “wing it” during an interview!

Start off right. Initial impressions really do count. In fact, employers can often make their decision within the first five minutes of meeting you. Interviewees can get clues about how to act by observing the interviewer. Whether they’re extroverted or introverted, imitate them—don’t play their opposite. Upon your initial meeting, introduce yourself by pronouncing your name clearly. Tell the interviewer that you’re pleased to meet him or her, and repeat their name so you don’t forget it.

Interviewers usually ask the obligatory interview question: “Tell me about yourself”, so it’s important to make sure you have a prepared answer for this question. Remember, they don’t want a run-down of your entire life! What they do want to know is what you’re interested in and what you’re like.Interviewing is not like taking a test. There are really no short answers and no wrong answers. But you have to learn how to present what you’ve learned, what you’re interested in learning more about and what you’ve done to show how you can contribute to the employer’s organization.

Beforehand, select some hobbies, favorite courses and volunteer work to discuss during the interview. And remember to connect your experiences to why you chose the field of allied health for your profession. For example, if you volunteered in a hospital during high school and fell in love with health care, this is the moment to share that experience. Don’t hesitate to repeat what’s on your resume, but go further by explaining what your experiences mean. If you worked part-time, took an internship or were part of a club, talk about how you followed directions, were responsible and made improvements.

Don’t forget to always back up your answers with specifics. If you wrote an outstanding paper or assisted a professor, give details about the experience. I once overheard a recruiter ask a senior what kind of student he was and he answered “ok.” I knew he was doomed. He should have answered with specifics about how he tackled assignments, which subjects he excelled at, a paper or project he learned from or volunteer assignments that he enjoyed. Don’t ever feel bad about “tooting your own horn.” Employers won’t know about all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished unless you tell them! This is not the time to be shy.

Nor is it the time to dominate all the spotlight. You can ask the interviewer questions too. Ask where they went to college, what they majored in and about major turning points in their career. Don’t neglect to ask about the organization—what their goals are, what new products and services they are planning, who you might report to, and how they develop people and talent. Always listen carefully to their answers and don’t interrupt.

Don’t ask about salary or benefits until the interviewer brings them up first. If they ask what salary you are looking for, suggest a salary range that you know is fair. (Make sure you’ve researched this well in advance.) Shoot for the mid-range salary level for your field and location. You can always negotiate the number later in the interview process, or if you have to, accept the entry-level rate.

At the end of the interview, thank the employer for their time and if you’d like to work for them, say so. Then ask what the next step in the interview process will be. Remember to take the interviewer’s card—it will help you get their name, title and address correct when you write a thank-you note or email. And persistence pays off! Call the employer back within three to five days to see how the process is going.

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