Interview Preparation: Your Presentation
You have written your answers to common interview questions and printed clean copies of your resume. You have reviewed the published job posting ensuring the requirements are fresh in your mind. What can you prepare, before, during, and after the interview, to present yourself as the fully capable and hard-working individual you are?
You should be prepared to demonstrate the technology that you use for work or will need to bring to the interview. Create a checklist that lists all of the devices (high- and low-tech) you would use on the job. Next to each device listed, indicate whether you will bring the actual device or what you will bring to explain or provide as an example. It’s ideal to bring the devices with you, but if you can’t, bring pictures of the device, video, web site links or a description of each one. The ultimate purpose is to demonstrate your methods of accessing information and completing work tasks.
We always have to keep in mind that most employers do not know how people with visual impairments perform jobs. It’s best to be able to show these methods or technologies quickly and efficiently. It’s less likely that an interviewer will review these materials at a later point in time.
Dressing appropriately can make the difference between getting a job or being eliminated as a candidate. Wear clothing that is clean (no stains), neat (no holes or tears), pressed (not wrinkled), and appropriately sized. Use a person you trust to view your clothing to see if it fits well. You should go to stores and try on clothing to find out what looks good and is comfortable. Trying on clothes is a necessity because clothing from different brands will fit differently even in the same sizes.
Different employers will have different dress codes. If you can ask someone what the dress code is before your interview, do so. If you can’t, always err on the more formal/professional side.
Role-playing an interview is a great way to practice your interview skills. Find a friend, family member, teacher, rehabilitation professional, or other person you trust to help you—someone who has experience with interviews, and who will be comfortable giving you constructive feedback that identifies your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have found someone willing to help, prepare information on a job that you would be interested in getting and provide it to him or her, so that your helper can accurately represent the kind of interview you might encounter. Ask your helper to come up with a range of interview questions, from the most basic to the most challenging.
A mock interview is a more formal role-play with someone who will be nonpartisan and more critical of you as an interviewee. Preferably, your mock interviewer will be someone you do not interact with often. Use your personal network, friends, and family to find a business professional who would be willing to do a realistic interview with you. It would be preferable if the person has experience with interviews, either as an interviewee or interviewer. Provide your mock interviewer with as much information as possible about the job you’re interested in, and make sure you answer any questions they may have about the exercise before beginning the mock interview. Your mock interviewer should understand the goal is to make the exercise as realistic as possible, and you should explain that you are looking for feedback on any and all aspects of your interview skills, from appearance and first impression down to how you answer specific questions.
The mock interview should be a full run through, with no stopping. The more authentic the experience, the more valuable it will be. Dress appropriately, arrive on time, and conduct yourself from start to finish as if you were in a real interview.
Once the interview is over, get your mock interviewer’s feedback, whether directly or through another person. It may be helpful to get written notes or points to improve on, as well as areas in which you excelled. It is extremely important not to take any notes for improvement personally or to get upset if the mock interviewer has identified an area of your interviewing skills that needs work. The information provided by your mock interviewer is valuable and, if you pay attention to it, can help you grow as an interviewee.
Write a Thank-You Letter
Sending thank-you letters or e-mails to interviewers is a social expectation when interviewing for a job. It’s also another way you can stand apart from the rest of the candidates. Thank-you notes give you the chance to demonstrate proper etiquette, writing skills, and follow-through, and also show that you are aware of, and grateful for, the time and energy people have spent helping you and considering you for a position.
Write and send these thank you letters or e-mails promptly (within 48 hours of the interview), and compose them in a professional format. The recipients are not your friends and one of them may hold the key to you getting the job, so be formal, polite, and respectful. Send a message to each person you interacted with during your interview, including assistants and secretaries. You never know who has influence in the hiring process.
Follow up After an Interview
Following up with an employer demonstrates your interest in working for them and eagerness to get started. Not all employers contact you to let you know their decision or where they are in the process. Be proactive in keeping in the communication loop.
There are standards to follow when following up after an interview:
- Unless advised otherwise during the interview, it is typical to wait three days after the end of interviews to contact the employer.
- If you have been communicating mostly by e-mail, it is acceptable to follow up via e-mail—though typically businesses will share more detailed information over the phone.
- At a larger organization, contact the personnel or human resources department.
- At a smaller organization, you should reach out to the person who has been your main point of contact.
- Be polite and gracious when speaking to anyone at the business.
- If they do not have an answer for you when you call, but say that they will call you back, ask for a timeframe to expect a response. If you don’t hear from them within the timeframe, follow up again. It’s important to appear eager and enthusiastic but not overly aggressive or demanding.
- If you are accepted for the position, be calm and express gratitude. Inquire about details such as a starting date, benefits, and payment (if not previously determined).
- If you are not accepted for the position, express gratitude for having been considered and interviewed. It is appropriate to ask if they keep applications and resumes on file for future openings.
The Job Seeker’s Toolkit
This article is based on the AFB Job Seeker’s Toolkit, a free, self-paced, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the employment process. Set up a My CareerConnect account to get started with the Toolkit—it’s an easy and fast process that will give you access to many helpful job hunting resources!
This article and The Job Seeker’s Toolkit are based on the 2nd edition of The Transition Tote System, by Karen Wolffe and Debbie Johnson (1997, American Printing House for the Blind).