Making a positive impression at a job interview is more critical than ever. As of July 2012, there were 3.5 applicants for every job opening, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Make yourself stand out from the competition by providing evidence that you know how to take initiative at work and by showing initiative during the interview itself. By doing so, you'll provide your potential employer with the evidence he needs to confidently make a hire.
Start showing initiative before you even walk in the door by finding out where the interview will be located and where to park. This helps to ensure that you won't walk in late due to last-minute confusion with your GPS or map. When you enter the office, let the receptionist know that you have an appointment with the person who is interviewing you. Walk into the interview confidently, and introduce yourself, offering your hand. Hand your potential employer your resume and references, which should be neatly clipped together or in a folder -- don't wait for her to ask for them.
Do your homework before you go to the interview. Learn all you can about the company -- who it serves, the products and services it is known for and the direction it hopes to take in the future. If you are unfamiliar with industry trends, read trade magazines to get a feel for current topics and concerns within the trade. While you are researching, think about how you can help the company meet the needs of the position, advises the Boston College Career Center. Once you're talking to the interviewer, use the knowledge you've gleaned to ask pertinent questions that demonstrate your knowledge and ability to apply it to the marketplace.
Bring a Portfolio
Don't be content to let your words be the only thing that represents you. Bring a portfolio to your interview and let your letters of recommendation, publications or any other work samples speak for you. Add only your best work to your portfolio. As many people do not think to put together this professional showpiece -- with the exception of people in artistic fields -- doing so demonstrates initiative and can make you stand out in the crowd.
One question interviewers like to ask is "Give an example of a time when you showed initiative at work." Answer this question effectively to further demonstrate your ability to take the bull by the horns in work situations, as opposed to waiting to be led. Provide an example of a time when you implemented a new idea and tell the interviewer how your idea led to increased sales, retention or another positive outcome relevant to your line of work. Employers want to see that you have the ability to adapt to new situations, identify "hidden" opportunities and turn your good ideas into reality.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.