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Secrets to a Successful Job Interview

One of the most crucial steps in the job search process is the initial interview. This is where prospective employers will make their preliminary decisions about whether to invest additional time in you. If things go just right - it could even result in a job offer. Unfortunately, many candidates make innocent but costly mistakes - which ultimately work against them in the interview process. Most of these mistakes can be avoided with a little planning and preparation. By keeping the following points in mind and you will turn more of your interviews into job offers.

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Be Flexible

Remember that prospective employers may have to coordinate the schedules of 5 or 6 different managers and executives in order to get you through a typical interview session. A candidate who is willing to go out of her way to accommodate the schedules of those setting up and conducting the interviews will often receive preferential treatment and accommodations. At the very least she will be positively regarded relative to other interviewees who were less cooperative. Under these circumstances playing hard to get can prove counterproductive - especially when it creates hardship and inconvenience for those you are trying to impress.

Research the Organization

No matter how bright or articulate you are, a lack of preparation will show through in your interviews. Solid preparation in the form of significant, detailed research on the company you are interviewing with will demonstrate far more than interest - it will show that you approach important decisions with considerable thought and analysis. There are few things that you can do that will prepare you more for an interview than conducting some preliminary research on the company and then weaving that knowledge into the interview process.

It will be very difficult for you to convincingly articulate how you will bring value to the organization if you don't have a solid understanding of what the company does, where it has come from and where it is going.

Your research should be focused on things such as:

  •   Basic Product Lines
  •   New Product Development
  •   Financial Standing and Capability
  •   Growth History and Projections
  •   Market Position
  •   Organizational Structure
  •   Noteworthy Achievements

    Utilize the Library, the Internet, Annual Reports, magazine and newspaper articles, and other public information. Be creative. If you have friends or acquaintances that are employed by the organization, you should gather as much information as possible from them prior to the interview.

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    Come Prepared: Bring Notebook, Pen, and a Fresh Copy of your Resume

    If you do not own a nice folder, you should consider purchasing one. You want to appear as professional, polished and prepared as possible during the interview process. Walking into an interview with a yellow legal pad and a pen emblazoned with the logo of the local Holiday Inn is not likely to score many points with the interviewer.

    A professional looking portfolio / folder which conceals a notepad and has pockets for resumes and other information will help you look and feel organized. A nice pen will also add to your professional image.

    While it may be a safe assumption that interviewers will all be in possesion of a copy of your resume when you arrive at the interview it is not always guaranteed. Last minute schedule changes can often occur. It is wise to bring half a dozen clean resumes with you - just in case.

    Arrive on Time

    Above all else - arrive on time. There are few sins more greivous than to show up late to a job interview. Make sure you know where you are going. If you are not sure where you are going - get good directions and then leave early enough to find it. If you anticipate traffic - leave with plenty of time to spare. Also be sure to give yourself a few minutes to visit the restroom to perform last minute touch ups prior to the interview. You want to appear relaxed and presentable as you walk confidently into the reception area - right on time.

    Dress Appropriately

    This generally means dressing up. Occasionally you will be given specific instructions on how to dress. If this is the case, then you may dress accordingly. You should still err on the side of overdressing, however.

    Some employers will give you the option of coming to the interview in casual or professional attire. In such cases, you would be well advised to dress professionally - that is, dress up. You can generally count on the fact that the majority of applicants will be sporting their most professional business suits. And while you are certainly within your rights to dress casually, it is not a statement that you want to make in an interview setting.

    Avoid loud colors and faddish clothing.

    Conservative dress is always a safe bet. Leave the Looney Tunes tie at home and the wild socks in the drawer. There will be other opportunities to wear these things - but not at a job interview.

    Smile and Try to Relax

    Smiling tends to relieve tension and sends the message that you are confident, personable and excited to be there. Spend a few private moments immediately before the interview preparing yourself mentally. Review your notes. Breathe deeply and slowly for a minute to relieve built up tension and calm your nerves. Remind yourself that you are a winner and that you will succeed.

    Don't be Arrogant

    Self confidence is good and acceptable - arrogance is not. All too frequently in today's tight job market an otherwise worthy candidate will confuse confidence with arrogance. Confidence derives from a solid foundation of preparation, and is demonstrated by a comfort level in dealing with people, questions and issues under potentially stressful conditions. Arrogance, on the other hand is not grounded in preparation - but is based on the more shallow and generally erroneous perception of an elevated self-worth.

    Arrogance is often accompanied by an attitude of disrespect and indifference and is not likely to be met with much enthusiasm. The fact that the job market is strong, does not imply that professionalism and respect are not necessary elements of every job interview. An arrogant attitude can cost you an offer in spite of your qualifications. Don't let it be your dream job.

    Ask Insightful Questions

    It is important that you develop a set of questions in advance of the interview. Do not rely on your wits and memory - they may fail you at the conclusion of a grueling interview. The easiest time to prepare questions is during the research and preparation process. As you research the company, make notes of things that interest or concern you. Frame your questions carefully and write them down on a separate piece of paper that can be kept close at hand during the interview process. Rehearse the questions briefly prior to the interview so that you can ask them in an intelligent manner.

    Employers can often learn as much about you by the questions that you ask as by your responses to their basic interview questions.

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    Sell Yourself

    All too frequently applicants come to interviews woefully unprepared. During the interview they feel compelled to sit idly by listening to the interviewer tell them about the position and the organization in some detail because they failed to gather this knowledge in advance of the interview. Due to their lack of preparation they are unable to ask any insightful questions. As a consequence, the latter portion of the meeting is filled with pleasant but irrelevant chit-chat.

    As they think back on the interview, they feel good it. The meeting was cordial, informative, and in their mind, successful. What they don't realize is that in fact the interview was a total failure. The primary objective of a first interview is to inform the prospective employer of your qualifications and to articulate your vision of how you will add value to the organization. In short - to sell yourself to the employer. If you fail to demonstrate to the employer how the organization will benefit from having hired you - then you have missed the point of this first interview and probably missed out on an opportunity for a job offer.

    Don't be a passive bystander in the interview process. Come prepared to articulate your potential value to the organization in very clear terms. Selling yourself will require a certain degree of tenacity. You certainly don't want to overdo this, but it is far better to come across as overly-energetic than to be perceived as timid.

    Save Questions about Salary, Benefits and Vacation until after you Receive an Offer

    Focus your questions and discussion on what you can do for the employer - not on what the employer can do for you. It is premature and presumptuous to discuss the magnitude of potential offers, and enter into a line of questioning about the benefits of the position, vacation policies and promotional opportunities.

    There will be plenty of time for those questions if and when an offer is extended. Your objective here will be to move the interview process along. You either want to receive a job offer or a second interview - depending on the situation.

    Never Assume that you have the Job Until you have a Formal Offer.

    In other words don't stop selling until you receive either a verbal or a written job offer. Once you have a solid job offer in hand then the balance of power has shifted. You are now within your rights to request detailed information on the nature and scope of the position, the compensation package, relocation and benefits packages and the overall expectations of the job. A discussion about how the position fits into the overall company heirarchy and where the job leads is certainly appropriate and necessary at that point in time.

    Follow-up Prompty

    Take the time to write thank-you notes to those you interview with. Don't assume that because an interviewer is not a major player in the company that they have no influence on the decision process. The fact that they were assigned as part of the interview team should be evidence enough to suggest that their input will be taken seriously. This means that you must take them seriously and treat them as an important and significant part of the interview process.

    Preparing for a Successful Interview

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