By Theresa Sweeney-Smith
Congratulations, Class of 2014!
As a Human Resources Director for 26 years, and a visually impaired member of the workforce, I would like to offer some tips for when you are interviewing for your first job.
* You do not have to tell the interviewer over the phone that you have a visual impairment. If you arrive at the interview with a friend or family member, do not invite them to attend the interview, if you want the interviewer to take you seriously. If you need a helper to guide you into the office, make sure they know they need to wait outside the office, so there is not an awkward moment.
*When you meet the interviewer, extend your hand and shake hands firmly. No two-finger hand shake or knuckle bumps.
*Ask for a job description before the interview so you can determine how you will answer questions about tasks that may be difficult for you.
*Tell the interviewer how you can effectively do the job you are applying for and refrain from telling them the things you need changed to do the job.
*If the interviewer asks you about adaptive technology, have a concise short version response prepared. Remember: you want to focus more on the position. Getting too detailed in your explanation of adaptive technology may take away time that you could be using to share your education and experience.
*Monitor your breathing when you begin the interview. Take some deep breaths when you sit down, and it will help you relax.
*The interviewer is not a friend of yours. Conduct yourself professionally. Sit up straight, use a positive tone in your voice, and look in the direction of the interviewer’s voice. Do not use slang expressions, and try to refrain from saying, “Umm, or Like” when starting a sentence.
* Be prepared. Have your letter of application and resume, copies of your transcripts and degree, letters of recommendation, and contact information for both personal and professional references in a folder for the interviewer. Even if you sent this information on line in advance, you will be professionally prepared.
* If the job relates to your degree, be prepared to discuss what classes were most effective in making you a great fit for the job. If the job does not relate to your degree, share what made you interested in the position.
*Do not tell the interviewer that you have applied because you need a job. This is their career choice, and they are passionate about it. If you want the job, you also must show your interest in their product or service.
*When the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, ask questions about the job or company before asking about wage and benefits. If you cannot think of a question, ask the interviewer what has kept him/her passionate about this company. It shows your interest, and something they may tell you may encourage more questions from you.
Finally, be your own best salesman. Send the interviewer a “thank you” note for taking the time to meet with you. Include a recap of the interview like, “As we discussed in the interview, I believe I would be an asset to your team because….”
I encourage you and wish you a successful career!
Theresa Sweeney-Smith lives in Wind Lake, Wisconsin.