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The 4 P's of a Successful Interview


You've got the interview! Now you want to make the kind of impression that will get you the job. Using the 4 Ps will help you present yourself confidently and professionally.


1. Prepare

Being ready for the interview will boost your confidence and increase your effectiveness.

Find out about the organization and the job you're applying for. This will show the interviewer you're motivated and keenly interested in the position. Use the following suggestions to find the information you need:


  • Study the organization’s website. Get a feeling for how it operates and how it views its employees. Look for

    • the latest annual report

    • recent news releases

    • the vision statement and goals

  • If you can't find the information online, call or visit the organization and ask for the latest brochures, annual report and other publications.

  • Be sure you know what the position requires:

    • Review the job posting.

    • Ask the human resources department or hiring manager for a job description.

    • Find out more about the job from someone who works for the organization.

    • Talk to someone in your network who does similar work.

Identify the positive qualities you bring to the job. This will raise your self-confidence. Make a list of your

  • skills and knowledge

  • interests

  • values

  • personal characteristics

Identify your accomplishments and be ready to talk about them. Interviewers want to know about your track record—they often use your past performance to predict your future success. Here are some tips to help you prepare: 

  • Create a master list of accomplishments from your work, leisure and volunteer activities, and include the results you achieved.

  • Review your accomplishments. Which are related to the requirements of this position?

  • Put yourself in the interviewer's position and write down questions you would want to ask a potential employee. 

  • Describe situations that showcase your accomplishments using the Situation, Task, Action, Result and Skills (STARS) technique. To learn more about the technique, check out the Analyzing Your Accomplishments worksheet.


3. Present

How you present yourself in the interview—your appearance, attitude and body language—is vitally important. It's normal to be anxious but acting as if you're confident, even when you aren't, can have a positive effect on both you and the interviewer. Use these suggestions:

  • Dress the way you expect the interviewer to dress. Be clean, neat and well groomed. 

  • Smile, introduce yourself and shake hands firmly with the interviewer when you meet. Stay standing until you're offered a chair. 

  • Sit up straight with your feet on the floor. Leaning back can make you seem uninterested, while sitting on the edge of your chair can make you seem tense. 

  • Keep your hands still in your lap or on the arms of your chair, except when you're making a point. Don’t cross your arms. 

  • Make eye contact, and smile when it's appropriate.


4. Participate

The interview is also your chance to show your positive attitude and your communication skills.

  • Turn off your cell phone when you arrive at the interview and leave it off until you leave. Use a pen and paper to make notes, rather than a laptop or other device. 

  • Follow the interviewer's lead. Even unusual or irrelevant questions get asked for a reason. 

  • Listen closely to the questions so you can answer them accurately. If you don't understand a question, politely ask the interviewer to rephrase it. If you don’t know the answer, say so. 

  • Take a moment to think before you answer a question. Be pleasant, sincere and direct. Stay on topic. 

  • Avoid answering with only "yes" or "no." Try to figure out what the interviewer wants to know and answer with that in mind. 

  • Follow up after the interview with a thank you note or email that emphasizes 2 or 3 reasons why you're the best candidate for the job.

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