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Tips For Interview Preparation

Updated on January 31, 2010

I decided to do this hub on tips for interview preparation as a companion to my interview questions and answers hubs to help you get a job. It is only logical to prepare in every way that you can for the interview. Some of you reading this may have already been on multiple interviews, and you've not received call backs or otherwise any notification of how things went. These days with the hunt for jobs being so competitive, you are likely to be up against some stiff competition. There are probably people who used to be hiring managers themselves vying for the same jobs. These people used to be on the other side of the desk giving the interviews, so they know what to do and how to impress.

Those tips for interview preparation really came in handy!
Those tips for interview preparation really came in handy!

Your interview is your one shot. These tips for interviewing are things that are simply prudent and helpful. Since I have some experience with hiring myself, I thought you might benefit from an insider's perspective to help you to be on the right track. It is truly up to you, but do not discount the value of preparation for your interview. It's like studying for the big test. You may not like to or want to do it, but it is undeniable that you have a better shot at an "A" with preparation than without. A job interview is no different. As interviewers, it is pretty easy to tell who isn't ready and prepared, and the chances we are going to call you with an offer are pretty slim, even if your qualifications are good. So, if you're on board with using these job interview tips to help you prepare for the big day, then let's dive in.

Next Up, Tips for Interview Prep

Before your interview, there are some definite steps you can take to prepare:

  • You should take the time to learn about the organization. Do a little research into the company. You should try to find out how big they are, some financial information (easy if they are a publicly traded company), and who their main competition is. Also, if you are not completely familiar with their product or service, you are going to look like a rube when asked a question during the interview about it.
  • You should have a specific jobs in mind. In other words, don't just go in and say any job is okay, even if that is how you feel about it. This makes you look desperate and also speaks to a lack of preparation. Take a bit of time to delve into which positions you are most interested in, even if they have only posted one opening. Sometimes an interviewer or HR, may feel you might be suited for a different available position.
  • Go back over your resume and review your qualifications for the job. Just make sure you can connect the dots.
  • This is an adjunct to the previous tip: you need to be ready to describe your experience briefly and be able to show how it relates it the job you seek.
  • Be ready to answer broad questions, such as "Why should I hire you?" "Why do you want this job?" "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" For tips with this see the hubs on Frequently Asked Interview Questions and Interview Question and Answers.
  • Practice interviewing with a friend or relative. This is the best interview preparation there is. If you don't have anyone, then you should do it in front of the mirror. I don't care how you think it looks, if you've practiced answering the questions, you won't be caught off guard when they are asked in the real interview.
  • Your personal appearance and the impression it gives are extremely important. I cannot stress this enough. As interviewers we don't have much to go on. If you miss this, your answers to the questions we ask may just be a secondary formality before we bid you a good day.
  • You must, absolutely must be well groomed. Take a shower, shave, put on deodorant, comb or brush your hair. To many people it may seem like common sense, and truly it is. Unfortunately, I could fill up several hubs with stories about the poor people who were ignorant of these facts. Not a single one of them heard from me again. Sorry, but there are always people who follow the rules that we can choose from. Unless your job is very specialized and you are in high demand, you need to fit in rather than try to be a rebel here.
  • You need to be appropriately dressed. Another common sense rule that, unfortunately, many have a problem following. One rule of thumb I have always heard is that it is better to be overdressed for your job interview than under-dressed. From my perspective, this has always been true. I would have thought less of someone interviewing with me in a tuxedo, than the countless people who showed up looking like they were going to the grocery store for eggs and milk in the middle of the night. Okay, so that's a little exaggeration, but you get the idea.
  • Don't smoke or chew gum. Even if you are going for a low end job, this is still a bad idea. Our building has always been no smoking as are many places indoors these days, so that's never been a problem. I would still say, though, that if you are a smoker try not to smoke at all after you've gotten dressed for your interview. Non-smokers can easily smell it on you, and it's almost never viewed as a positive. The gum chewing, not be be sexist, but it was always the ladies who came for an interview with gum. Never have I had a male interviewee chewing gum. Again, not a positive thing. Don't do it.

Interview time:

  • Be early for the job interview.
  • If possible try to learn the name of your interviewer beforehand and greet him or her with a firm handshake and eye contact. If you are usually bad with names, make sure you remember their name when they tell it to you. Say it several times in your head so as not to forget it. Also make sure to thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you.
  • Be polite and use good manners with everyone you meet. You don't want anything said about your demeanor afterward to affect your chances at getting the job.
  • Be cooperative and show enthusiasm.
  • Relax. Breathe deeply and fully exhale a few times before the interview. Visualize yourself doing well, and being on the ball. Take the time to answer each question concisely and completely. Don't rush and make an effort not to talk faster than normal.
  • Use proper English, and avoid the use of any slang. Also, don't use jargon unless you are very familiar with the industry, and your resume shows it. It just makes you look like you're trying too hard.
  • Use body language to show interest. An open posture is best, don't cross your arms. Use eye contact and don’t slouch. Also, avoid nervous tics such as foot tapping and crossed legs with ankles waving back and forth. This is distracting and poor form.
  • Try to ask questions about the specifics of position and the organization, but avoid any questions whose answers you could just as easily found on the company web site. This shows interest, but you still want to show that you have done your homework.
  • Don't ask any questions about salary and benefits unless a job offer is made. This may be hard, and often people don't want to waste their time when a job doesn't pay what they were hoping. The interview is not the time, though, unless the person giving the interview brings it up.
  • You should thank the interviewer a second time for meeting with your when you leave and shake hands.
  • Send a short thank you note following the interview. This is not at all cliche. In all the interviews I have given, I have only received a thank you note a handful of times, but I was always impressed by it. Perhaps it was because so few took the time.

Depending on the company and their hiring procedures, you could possibly get an offer and begin filling out paperwork after the interview. In case this happens, you want to make sure you bring the following items:

  • Social Security card.
  • Government-issued identification (driver’s license).
  • Resume or application. The interviewer may already have this, and you may have filled out an application first before getting the interview. You still should be able to furnish the interviewer information about your education, training, and previous employment if needed during or after the interview.
  • References. Three references is customary. You need to get permission before using anyone as a reference, and talk to them to make sure that they will give you a good reference. You should not use relatives as references.
  • Transcripts. Employers may require an official copy of transcripts to verify grades, coursework, dates of attendance, and highest grade completed or degree awarded. This is on the bottom of the list because this if often obtained by the employer when following up on your references and application information. If this is needed, you are likely to be informed of the need beforehand.

And that is it for this list of job interview tips. Just another helpful bit of advice: treat the interview like you would a big test. Get plenty of rest the night before, and eat a good breakfast before going. This should keep you alert and able to think quickly to give the best answers to those questions. Good luck on your job interview!

Job Interview Advice Books


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