Career Guidance


There's a significant difference between a job and a career and this is nowhere truer than at FPA.

FPA looks at hiring as more than simply finding someone to fill a job opening but rather of finding the right person to join our team - and for the long term. To be successful when pursuing an open position we believe you need to make sure it's not only a good fit between you and the company but more importantly the right fit. For us, the right fit means someone who wants a career with us not just a job. So, to be successful when starting any long term employment relationship it's critical to come prepared, have done your homework, and be ready to invest your time in the process. It's with these thoughts in mind that we've put together some of the following Career Guidance:

Preparation and Practice

Think about what the hiring manager is looking for:

  • Your ability to do the job
    • Can you do the job? Interviewers want to know if you have the ability to perform the job. They’ll be interested in the skills you have and your previous experience, and will try to judge intelligently whether or not you would perform well in the position.
  • The “fit”
    • Nearly every organization, even the smallest of businesses, has its own style and corporate culture. A hiring manager is thinking, “Will this person be a good match?”
  • Your motivation
    • Do you want the job? Companies generally want to hire someone who is enthusiastic about the position. Your attitude, your interest in the position and the questions you ask will indicate your level of motivation.
    • Know the job description, have it printed out and in front of you for reference and be able to draw parallels between it and your capabilities
    • Know the difference between a job and a career (we are looking for career-minded professionals)

Do your homework:

  • Researching a prospective employer is not the same as cramming for an exam. You certainly won’t be quizzed on your knowledge. Still, reading up on the company before an interview and giving yourself time to let the information sink in will allow you to get a better feel for the organization. You will be more confident during the interview and able to formulate intelligent, well-thought-out questions.
  • Sources of Information
    • read company literature such as brochures and annual reports. You may be able to request these from the company itself.
    • Visit the library for any relevant business and trade journals and ask a reference librarian to help you find some background on the firm.
    • Ask your friends and contacts or someone who may have worked for the company.
    • Go online
      • Dun and Bradstreet Companies Online
      • Hoovers Online
      • Company website
FPA Career Guidance

Prepare for the interview - know yourself, be yourself and sell yourself:

  • Define and clarify your objectives
    • Decide what you’re looking for and in which environments you’ll perform best. Thinking about this in detail prior to your interviews will enable you to communicate more clearly in just about any situation.
  • Consider your values, skills and interests
    • Think carefully about your values, your skills, interests, job targets and what specifically you hope to accomplish in each job interview.

Hone Your Interview Skills

Prepare for your interview by honing and improving these interviewing skills:

  • Active Listening - focus carefully on what the person is saying without interrupting. Pay attention to the interviewer’s tone of voice and inflection and don’t let outside noises or conversations distract you.
  • Answer clearly and concisely
    • Be sure to let the interviewer know that you are listening. Nod when you agree and be careful not to appear as if you assume you know the rest of the question before he or she has finished speaking.
    • Take your time and give thoughtful, sincere answers. Don’t feel pressured to rattle off what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
    • Remember that you are there at the interview to talk about your accomplishments. Your goal is to sell them on your skills and experience. You certainly don’t want to come across as a know-it-all, still, most candidates tend to undersell themselves.
    • Keep your answers simple and focused. Limit the information you give to the question that was asked.

Positive body language

  • Always be aware of your body language: the message that your posture, gestures, eye movements and facial expressions are sending. Know which gestures are sending the wrong messages, and try to avoid them. (some examples)
  • Crossing your arms can make you seem defensive and is looked upon as a sign that you’re resisting or protecting yourself.
  • Avoiding eye contact signals that you are embarrassed or may not be telling the truth.
  • Persistent, hurried nodding can be an indicator that you are impatient.
  • Tense facial expressions, especially around your mouth, can convey your nervousness. Try to sense when your facial muscles are getting tense, and do your best to relax them
FPA Career Guidance

Common Interview Questions

  • Types of Questions: Open, Closed, Leading / Behavioral
    • Open questions require more than a one-word answer. Example: Tell me about your last job.
    • Closed questions require either a yes, no, or a one-word answer. Example: Where did you go to school?
    • Leading questions are a little harder to recognize, and can sometimes be attempts to encourage you to let down your guard and discuss something you wouldn’t ordinarily focus on. The key is to remain positive. Example: “Wow, you worked for the Acme Corporation in the early 1990’s. That must have been a hard place to work during that time….” A positive response might be, “Although the company was experiencing a major restructuring during that time, I had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and learn new product lines…”
    • Behavioral interviewing is interviewing based on discovering how the interviewee acted in specific employment-related situations. The logic is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future I.e. past performance predicts future performance.
  • Common interview questions:
    • Tell me more about yourself
    • Why did you choose this career?
    • Why do you want to work here?
    • What would you say are your strengths?
    • What would you say are your weaknesses?
    • What would your boss or co-workers say about you?
    • Why are you looking for a new job?

Hone Your Presentation Skills

Look and feel your best

  • The importance of a professional appearance
    • How professional we appear is an important part of the impression we make. If you consider the interviewer’s point of view, all he or she knows of you is how you look on paper (your resume). In the course of one or two interviews with you, this person may be making a decision that will impact both of you greatly. This makes presentation an important element of the process.
  • Appropriate dress
    • While appropriate dress may depend on the industry, keep one thing in mind: Your overall goal is to look the part of the job you hope to fill. In business, with very few exceptions, there is a standard or what’s considered to be the business world interview “uniform”. If you stick closely to it, you will seldom miss the mark.
    • For men, the safest choice is a dark, fairly conservative suit with a white or light-colored dress shirt and a subtle tie.
    • For women, choose a suite or dress that is fashionable, businesslike and appropriate for the season in which you are interviewing. Solid colors and classic designs are best.
    • Other tips for both men and women include keeping jewelry and cologne/perfume to a minimum, carrying a nice leather briefcase and wearing clean, businesslike shoes.
    • Even if your interview is on a “casual day” you should still plan to dress professionally.
  • Choices to Avoid
    • Avoid going overboard on expensive clothing or too many accessories. Dressing simply and professionally does not need to involve a major financial investment.
  • Keep the jitters under control
    • It’s completely normal to be nervous on the day of your interview and it’s actually healthy to have a little adrenaline going which will help you perform even better.
    • Be prepared and organized
      • Think ahead to all the things you’ll need to do before the interview. Go to the dry cleaner, fill the car with gas, get directions to the company, watch the weather report, etc. You may even want to make a trial run to the company if you’ve never been there before.
      • On interview day, give yourself plenty of time to get there. Consider the time of day you’re traveling, the traffic conditions and allow for unforeseen delays.
      • Give yourself plenty of time
      • Spend a few extra minutes to plan your outfit ahead of time, pack a few clean resumes in your briefcase and coordinate the logistics of your trip.

These steps will not completely safeguard you from the unexpected, but you will feel more relaxed, focused and in control when you arrive at the company.

Interviewing Strategies

Make a good first impression

  • Arrive on-time
    • Arrive several minutes early, but don’t arrive more than 10-15 minutes prior to your interview time. Getting there too early can make your interviewer pressured to see you sooner, and may even make him or her feel put out.
  • Be pleasant to everyone
    • Don’t assume the first impression begins with the hiring manager. Be pleasant and considerate to everyone at the company, including receptionists and other office personnel you meet before the interview.
  • Relax and review your notes or read company literature
    • Take a minute before your interview and take a few deep breaths. If you have to wait a few minutes, review your notes or read the company’s literature.
  • Let the interviewer take the initiative
    • A rule of thumb on shaking hands is to let the interviewer extend his or her hand first. The one exception would be if the interview is standing when you walk into a room and for whatever reason, doesn’t initiate the greeting. In that case, it’s appropriate to extend your hand and introduce yourself.
    • Experienced interviewers will most often try to put you at ease with comments about the weather, your trip to the company or a recent news event. This “small talk” gives you both an opportunity to break the ice. Participate in the conversation, and try to relax and be yourself.

Avoiding interview blunders

  • Asking questions that the interviewer considers inappropriate is as bad as giving inappropriate answers. The mistake some job candidates make is not seeing the forest for the trees. This is not the time to ask about how much vacation time you’ll get, the specifics of the benefits package, or whether or not you’ll get a corner office. Questions like these are not out-of-line if you’ve been given an offer, but in an initial interview they can quickly eliminate you.
  • Blunders
    • Dressing in the parking lot
    • Sales tags left on your clothes
    • Coming unprepared (no resume, no notepad, no references, not knowing the company)
    • Leaving your cell phone on
    • Answering your cell phone during the interview
    • Bringing friends with you
  • Asking questions
    • Ask pertinent questions about the job and company
      • Center your questions around the company, the position and the future
        • Where the company hopes to be in a few years
        • The interviewer’s own history with the company
        • The type of person who is likely to be successful in the company
        • What mix of skills and attributes are needed to be successful in the job
  • Ending the interview on a positive note
    • Thank the interviewer for their time

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