Part 1 in a series on how to prepare for an interview.
Have you ever run a race? If you just put on your shoes and went for it, chances are it did not go well. Whether it’s a 100-meter dash or a marathon, to be successful you must train and prepare. Interviewing for a new job is no different – you can begin training long before your first interview is ever scheduled. Interviewing is a perishable skill – just because you aced an interview years ago, you cannot bring your best this time around without getting back in shape.
If you are hitting the interviewing trail soon, here are three steps you can take to start getting ready for what lies ahead:
Look your best. For both men and women, have an interview suit prepped and ready to go. Make sure it fits well. If your best suit was 20 pounds ago, consider getting a new one – if you are uncomfortable in your clothes, it will show in your interview. Even if your clothes fit like they did back in 1988, consider updating. If you come rolling in looking like Gordon Gecko in Wall Street (or Melanie Griffith in Working Girl) you will look dated. Speaking of which, if you are of a certain age, consider updating your hair style, accessories, or cosmetics as well (within reason – stay true to yourself). If you are just starting your career, the same rule applies – get a conservative business suit that tells people you are a professional. Get a fresh haircut, shave or at least trim your beard. Details matter – wrinkled clothes or unshined shoes tell an interviewer the wrong message. Don’t wait until the morning of the interview to find your clothes don’t fit anymore or there is a nacho cheese stain on your suit from your cousin Becky’s wedding last year. Walking into the interview looking like a million bucks will boost your confidence and help you perform better on the interview.
Your papers, please. Start polishing your resume or versions of your resume. If an interview for a dream job pops up unexpectedly (because someone like me calls you out of the blue) you won’t have to scramble to update your resume. Instead, use the time to prepare for the interview. Line up 360-degree references – ask 2-3 managers, peers, and subordinates if they’d consider being a professional (and discrete) reference at some point during your job search. Get the best email and phone number to use. Sometimes applications and background checks will ask for addresses for the past 10 years or more. If you’ve moved a lot, tracking all that down is easier ahead of time than when you are at the interview and handed an application. Pro-tip: Your credit report will have your previous addresses if you cannot recall them all. If they do employment verification, you will be asked to provide a phone number for the HR department of any previous employers. Type up lists of references, former addresses, and company HR numbers to take with you to the interview if you are asked for them.
Practice Makes Perfect. If a teacher told you ahead of time seven of the ten questions that would be on the final, you’d be in idiot if you did not get those questions right. Interviewers are not that creative – chances are you will be asked the same questions in most interviews. You can practice your answers ahead of time. There more books on answering interview questions well than there are possible interview questions. Buy a few or get some from the library. Watch YouTube videos. Make flash cards. Have friends or family members quiz you. Do practice interviews with someone who can give you honest feedback. Record your answers and listen to them for both flow and time length. You are aiming for polished, not rehearsed.
Nine times out of ten, the job goes to the candidate who is most prepared for the interview, not necessarily the most qualified. You can control how prepared you are. The goal is to never waste an interview as a warm-up. Prepare well, and you will put yourself in the position of deciding if you want to accept an offer.
Thanks for reading. Our next post in this series will continue to explore how to best prepare for an interview. Consider subscribing so you don’t miss it.
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