Continuing my focus on employment, I present Job Interviews: before, during and after. This information is taken from the talks I give to IPRT clients seeking to find work. It will be contained in my self-help book, "Life Will Tell You: On Living Well With Schizophrenia."
Before the Interview:
First, you'll want to buy two good suits to alternate on interviews. Navy Blue is classic and implies you are trustworthy. Grey is neutral and suggests you are fair and impartial. Women can wear black to convey you want to be taken seriously.
For women on a low income: log on to http://www.dressforsuccess.org/. This worldwide organization gives you free, gently used professional clothes and offers job success workshops and mentoring. For men on a low income: log on to http://www.careergear.org/. This is the male version of Dress for Success.
Once you have the suits, set up a professional e-mail with your full name. It can be Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail. Note: e-mails called "bigdaddy" or "foxymama" or "john2372" or "desperatehousewivesfanatic" will rule you out from the beginning.
Google your full name in quotations to see if anything potentially embarrassing comes up. If you have a MySpace account or a personal blog readily viewed by anyone on the Internet, it should be obscenity-free and nudity-free and not politically charged. To be on the safe side, set up your account so that only the people you allow to see it, can see it. Yes, employers have been known to screen people out based on these obvious liabilities that you are in control of.
Know the law: employers can't ask on a job application if you have a mental illness. They can ask if you've been convicted of a crime. What you claim on the application can get you fired if your new boss finds out you lied.
That said, if you have gaps in your employment, consider finding someone who can say you worked for her if she's a professional or has a demeanor that is beyond reproach. Note: you aren't going to pretend you did something you obviously wouldn't have been able to do, like design websites when you barely know how to turn on a computer. Brainstorm with a trusted therapist or vocational counselor a conceivable, believable former job. My first therapist allowed me to write down that I was his receptionist and answered the phone, set appointments and did light typing.
The best option: Do volunteer work or get an internship while you collect disability benefits. Both are reliable sources of work experience to place at the top of a resume if you don't have significant paid employment. Volunteer work is altruism that aids you as well. An internship is either paid or not, and is an introduction to the field you'd like to work in, where you assist the people who have the kinds of jobs you'd like to do.
Lastly, before you go on interviews, line up three trustworthy references, including their job titles, names, addresses and phone numbers to use on a job application. Always inform them before each interview you go on, so they're prepared to give a glowing review. Also, give them a copy of your resume, let them know the types of jobs you're applying for and what skills are required, so they can custom-tailor their praise.