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The Perfect Interview-Putting Yourself Above the Competition The Second You Step In The Door

Updated on June 2, 2008

Getting The Job in One Swift Kick

Although most people say public speaking is their greatest fear, going to a job interview surely comes in at a close second. The thought of sitting down in front of someone, or several someones and talking about yourself for 30 minutes is a smaller scale of public speaking that most people dread, but will inevitably have to endure. The good thing about a job interview is the subject you will be talking about is one that you know more about than anything else: yourself. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get asked for an interview from the first few resumes you send out. According to Patricia Noel Drain in her book “Hire Me! Secrets of Job Interviewing” (Price Stern Sloan, 1992), it takes 32 resumes to get one response, and on average it takes 21 interviews before you will get an offer. So, be prepared to invest several hours each week sending out your resumes, and by the time you get to your 21st interview, you’ll be such a pro, you could write a book about the perfect interview. The interview itself is a 3-step process (be sure to check out my Resume Tips post to find out how to put yourself above the competition before you even walk through the door).

Before The Interview

The number one thing you can do to prepare yourself for an interview is to research the company and people you will be meeting with. The easiest way to research the company is the all-mighty internet. Get to know the company’s website inside and out. Don’t log onto their website fifteen minutes before you’re supposed to leave for interview, this won’t do you any good as far as getting to know your potential employer goes, and it will really just stress you out more.

A company’s website can tell you a lot. If the website is well built and boasts impressive features like flash movies and sound, it’s a good sign the company is technically driven and/or has enough revenue to spend on extras like advanced website design. If the website appears to have been made on a home computer by a beginning design student, you may want to reassess your interest in being hired by that company.

Explore every link on the website. Make notes on important information like key company management and press releases pertaining to the company’s acquisitions or ventures. Your interviewers may be the people you read about on the website, and knowing something about them and what they do at the company before you walk through the door will help you give intelligent answers, and ask intelligent questions.

Don’t just look at the company’s website, though. Google the company to see what other people are saying about it. There are several websites like that offer company and employer rankings, and allow people to post their experiences working with the company.

If you know who you’ll be interviewing with, don’t be afraid to Google his or her name. A MySpace page or a profile on will give you an inside look into who you’ll be talking to.

During the interview, don’t be afraid to directly mention you’ve spent time researching the company. Talk about some of the specific points that caught your eye, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the information you found there. Doing your homework and talking about it will show the potential employer know you’re not just a “9 to 5-er,” and you’re willing to go the extra mile to get the job done, and come out on top.

Be aware that the company may be doing its own research on you. Make sure any social sites you have a page on are up to date and boast information that a potential employer would want to see. If you have trouble controlling the content on your personal pages, shut your account down. Getting the job is more important than having 600 friends on Facebook.

My best friend recently made an interview suggestion to me that I thought was ridiculous until I went on my next interview. She suggested memorizing the answers to some of the most asked interview questions like “Tell me about yourself,” and “What are your weaknesses?” You’re going to be nervous anyway, and mumbling through a response certainly isn’t going to get you the job. Don’t just memorize your answers, though, write them out and have several other people read them and make suggestions before you start memorizing. Practice reciting the answers to friends and/or family and get their opinion on your delivery. Like I mentioned before, a job interview is related to public speaking, and you’d certainly want to go up to the podium with some type of cheat sheet before giving a big speech.

There are lots of materials you can use to help you prepare for the interview. Books like these are available on for as little as $5.

301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions  by Vicky Oliver  $10.36
301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions by Vicky Oliver $10.36
The Everything Job Interview Book by Bob Adams  $14.95
The Everything Job Interview Book by Bob Adams $14.95

There are several websites that also offer free advice and practice questions like:

1. Describe what you've accomplished toward reaching a recent goal for yourself.

2. Why did you decide to seek a position in this company?

3. Describe a situation in which you found that your results were not up to your supervisor's expectations. What happened? What action did you take?

During The Interview

Now that you’ve been asked to come in for a formal interview, don’t depend on you resume to do all the talking. One study says a person formulates a first impression of you based 55% on the way you’re dressed and your attitude when you walk through the door, 38% in the quality of your voice and overall confidence, and only 7% on what you actually say. You’ve already given a preview of what you’ll be talking about, so your first job interview impression is all about how you look and act.

Be sure to wear an outfit the interviewer will find memorable. This is one of the key tips to setting yourself apart from the dozens of other people going for the same job. Women could make an outfit memorable by wearing a bright but tasteful blouse, and men could highlight a bold tie with a darker suit. The idea is to get the interviewers(s) to explicitly remember you later as they’re doing a final review of candidates. It’s easier for someone to remember “the man with the yellow argyle tie than the man with the gray button up shirt.”

A suit like this is more liable to get you remembered.
A suit like this is more liable to get you remembered.

Also remember to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. It never hurts to mimic the boss when it comes to your clothes (You may just have to buy them at discount stores like Ross or Marshall’s!).

Now that you’re dressed and ready, be sure to have several copies of your resume on hand, preferably in a nice ledger or folder. I’ve been on interviews where the interviewer didn’t have my resume because of an HR miscommunication, and it is much easier to tell someone about yourself if he has a detailed history in front of him.

Arrive at the interview 10 minutes earlier than your scheduled appointment. Not only will this show you are a punctual person, but being there and prepared will help calm any nerves. This will also give you time for one last bathroom stop and a quick drink at the fountain.

Now you’re ready to fulfill the other 55% of the the largest percent of your first impression. When the interviewer walks through the door, greet him or her with an outstretched hand, a genuine smile and eye contact. Speak in a clear voice, introduce yourself, and thank the interviewer for taking time out of his schedule to meet with you.

During the interview, maintain an upbeat, attentive attitude. It’s ok to take a few seconds to answer a question. Your potential employer would rather see a candidate who thinks things through rather than one who rushes through. Try to guide the interview in a conversational manner rather than making it into a question and answer session. One of the worst mistakes you can make is thinking too far ahead and not staying focused on the current conversation. The best interviewees are those that can go with the flow and easily adapt to the interviewer’s style.

It doesn’t hurt to use some industry speak during the interview, but don’t go overboard and end up speaking in code.

Use the research you did before the interview to form intelligent questions if the interviewer asks if you have any. It’s a good idea to make a small mental list of potential questions before you go into the interview. Telling an interviewer you don’t have any questions is like telling him you don’t really have an interest in the company.

At the end of the interview, be sure to ask when an employment decision is expected to be made, and if you’ll hear back either way. There’s nothing worse than waiting for weeks not knowing if you got the job, and when you should give up hope.

Get the interviewer’s business card, and exit the room exactly like you entered with an outstretched hand, genuine smile and eye contact. Thank the interviewer again and tell him you look forward to speaking with him soon.

After The Interview

Now that you’ve given your best impression and told the potential employer why you would be their best employee, it’s time to write the thank you card. Do not send an email. A hand written card will make a far greater impression than an email, which could potentially get filtered into a person’s spam box. As a professional, you should have a set of stationery made that has your name or initials imprinted.

Websites like and let you customize your stationery to best express your personality for a reasonable price, and you will find more uses for the stationery than job interview thank you notes. Proofread your note to be sure you spelled the interviewer's name correctly as well as any other company-related words. End the card by saying you look forward to hearing from him or her soon. Mail the card as soon as possible. A slow thank you card will be wasted efforts, as it may reach the interviewer after he or she has made a decision.

If You Get Rejected

Even the perfect interviewee gets denied the job (I would know!). If this is the case, and you still have an interest in working at the company, don’t give up, there are ways for a second chance. Wait a few months and send another note to the person who interviewed you. The note’s message should talk about experience in your current job that could be relevant to a job with the desired company, congratulations on any impressive ventures the desired company has made, and well wishes for the interviewer as well as expressing your desire to keep in touch. Three months after my best friend was rejected by her dream company, she sent a letter to the PR manager she interviewed with. A few weeks later she got a call from the HR department there saying the manager suggested her when a new job opened up. They offered her $11,000 more than what she’s currently making to go for them. So, even if you don’t get the job the first try, at least you got your foot in the door.


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    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I'm trying to get a job as a waiter and these tips you've uncovered are really helpful. Clear and concise; great job.


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