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Job interview preparation is essential for a job seeker who wants to appear professional, confident and ready to go to work. A few important interview tips and tricks can put you on the right track.
1. Study the Job Announcement
The job announcement will outline the skills and requirements for the position. Think about what you have to offer an employer that will match or exceed their expectations. Look in the newspaper or online for job announcements for similar positions. You’ll gain an understanding of what’s typically expected of employees in a particular industry or job title.
2. Study Your Resume
Be able to explain and provide details about anything in your resume. You may be asked for an example related to a specific skill or to give more information about responsibilities you had in a job many years ago.
3. Prepare Answers to Common Job Interview Questions
Although you can’t know everything an interviewer is going to ask you, recruiters and hiring managers typically use similar job interview questions, including:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why should I hire you?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What do you know about our company?
- What are your goals?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Why did you leave (or are leaving) your job?
- What do you have that other candidates don’t?
- What salary are you looking for?
- What’s your salary history?
- What five words best describe you?
- What are three positive things your previous boss would say about you?
- Can you describe a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?
- How do you handle stress?
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
- What motivates you?
- What did you like most about your last job?
- What did you like least about your last job?
4. Prepare a 60-Second Sales Pitch
It’s almost guaranteed that an interview will ask you to tell them about yourself. Develop a 60-second answer that highlights who you are and why you’re right for the job. Write out your pitch. Practice saying it aloud, but don’t memorize it with the idea of reciting it word for word. You want to sound confident, but conversational and natural.
Here are some phrases you might want to include in your response to “Tell me about yourself”:
- “I have a solid background in...”
- “I have a good working knowledge of...”
- “My strongest skills are...”
- “My experience includes...”
- “I would like the opportunity to...”
- “I’m interested in...”
- “I’m currently studying...”
- “I graduated (or will graduate) with a degree in...”
- “My goals are...”
Here’s an example of a 60-second introduction by a candidate applying for a position as an administrative assistant:
“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me today. I graduated two years ago with an associate’s degree in business administration. Since then, I’ve been working in the office of a small manufacturing company, helping members of the management team stay organized. I maintain their schedules, prepare correspondence, and screen their calls and mail. One of my proudest achievements was helping to train employees on a new software system that was installed for scheduling and inventory control. I’ve enjoyed the job, and I feel I’ve done very well in it. But I’m looking for a position with a bigger company with room for growth. I’ve taken some additional courses in marketing and finance, and I’m ready for additional responsibilities.”
5. Plan What You’ll Wear
A few days before the interview, plan what you’re going to wear. That will give you enough time for dry cleaning or repairs if necessary. Make sure the clothing you wear fits well, neither too tight nor too loose.
Unless you’re applying for a job in a corporate environment, such as law or finance, business casual dress is acceptable in almost all industries. Find out what’s the norm at your prospective place of employment and plan your interview outfit accordingly. It’s better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed at an interview.
What Is Business Casual?
It’s a neat, professional look that’s comfortable and not too formal. Women can choose a tailored dress or skirt no shorter than knee-length. Dress pants are also acceptable. Pair a skirt or pants with a long-sleeved button-down shirt or simple blouse with a modest neckline. Avoid overly-bright colors and big prints. You can add a tailored cardigan or blazer to upgrade the look. Wear neutral hose with simple black or brown pumps or flats. The shoes should have closed heels and toes.
Business casual for men is a long-sleeved button-down shirt in light, neutral colors. A knit tie is a nice addition, but not necessary. You can also add a sweater, blazer or lightweight sport coat. Choose light-colored cotton pants or well-pressed chinos. Dress socks should match your pants and reach calf height. You can wear loafers or lace-up shoes in black or brown; just make sure they’re polished.
6. Create a Professional Appearance
In addition to selecting the right clothing, pay attention to accessories and grooming for your interview. If you wear jewelry, keep the pieces small, and limit the number you wear. Your hair should be clean, simply styled and away from your face. Beards and mustaches are acceptable for men as long as they are neatly trimmed. Pay attention to your hands and nails, as they will be on display during the interview. Avoid excessive length and specialty nail treatments, as they may convey the impression that you’ll be too worried about your manicure to do your job. Refrain from using perfume, cologne or aftershave.
7. Know the Interview Location
Print out directions so you know exactly where you need to be. Make a test run ahead of time, if possible, so you’ll be prepared for traffic, construction or potential delays. Know where you need to park and whether you’ll need change for a meter or cash for a pay lot.
8. Get Ready the Night Before
Lay out your clothes and gather together everything you’ll need to take with you: glasses, car keys, wallet, a copy of your resume and, if appropriate, a portfolio of work samples. Get to bed on time and set your alarm so you can get up a little earlier than usual. You don’t want feel rushed.
9. Interview Time!
Plan to arrive no more than 10 to 15 minutes before your interview is scheduled to start. Be polite to everyone you meet, acknowledging them with a smile and a simple greeting such as “Hi” or “Good morning.” You never know who is observing you and who will have some influence on the hiring decision.
Greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake. Be sure to make eye contact and maintain it throughout the interview. Sit up straight in a chair, leaning forward slightly. Rest your hands lightly in your lap.
If you’ve planned ahead, you should be able to provide solid answers to most job interview questions. The interviewer may ask if you have questions, too. Prepare one or two questions ahead of time, such as “What do you like about working here?” or “What do you think the future looks like for this company?”
10. After the Interview
Follow up with a thank you. You’d be surprised at how many people forget this step, but it’s one of the most important items on any list of interview tips and tricks. Send a brief email within 24 hours of your interview, thanking the individual for their time. Send unique emails to each person involved in the interview process if you met with more than one. Stand out from other job candidates by sending a handwritten note by regular postal mail.
- Monster: Answer to 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions
- Indeed: 22 Most Common Interview Questions and Best Answers (with Tips)
- University of North Carolina Wilmington Career Center: Your 30-60 Second Commercial
- Stetson University: Developing Your 30-Second Commercial
- Indeed: How to Give an Elevator Pitch (with Examples)
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.