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Five Tips for a Successful Job Interview

by Chris Zuercher, director of Prairie View’s Vocational Service Program

For those with a severe and persistent mental illness, finding employment can be challenging, but possible.

Consider these job interview tips:

  1. Be brief, concise and on target with your answers.
  2. Make the conversation about the employers’ needs.
  3. If you have a “past”, address it. Nobody’s perfect.
  4. Don’t exaggerate your skills.
  5. Follow up after the interview. It’s a fine line between being overly aggressive and too passive. Shoot for being assertive, but not a pest.

And the most important and easiest technique to use? Just relax and be yourself.

For one woman anxious about the job-seeking process, listening to her favorite music while going through a practice interview helped to calm her nerves. She then played the same music in the car on her way to the official interview. Feeling relaxed and confident, she was hired!

Since 2002, the Prairie View Vocational Services Program has served approximately 500 people. Over 20 actively working individuals in the program are currently earning over minimum wage with a median wage of $8/hour. For clients who wish to retain some benefits and earn working income, this is a highly successful outcome. For clients wishing to work full time to become more self-sufficient – independent of government benefits – the sustainable living wage is $12.02/hour. We currently have participants earning at or above this wage, and expect this number to grow in the near future.


Bolles, R. (1995). The 1995 What Color Is Your Parachute?A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Wenzl, R. (2014 September 2). The Job Hunt: Interview can make or break your chnaces at a job. Retrieved from