Strategy, skill and knowledge are crucial for developing an interview savvy and a style that “works.” Ignore even one and the door that opens when you receive an invitation for a job interview can close quickly and most likely, permanently. Proactive interview preparation – which includes following advice on how to avoid the 10 most common mistakes -- will help you create a good first impression, increase your confidence level and decrease the chance of knee-jerk reactions that can result in a “thanks, but no thanks” result.
1. Familiarize yourself with the industry, history and culture of the company with whom you are interviewing. Background information not only prevents you from committing two common mistakes -- going into an interview unprepared and displaying disinterest – but also allows you to speak intelligently with your interviewer. Search the company website, social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook and business-profiling sites such as Hoovers. Also, talk to people who can provide this type of information. Know something about the company’s executives, products, customers, competitors and involvement in the community.
2. Create a list of answers to common interview questions, questions specific to your profession and create a list of questions of your own. Preparing in advance to answer standard questions relating to your strengths, weaknesses, career goals and expertise within your field can help you avoid common mistakes such as talking too much without really saying anything and failing to connect your skill set and abilities to the requirements of the position. Having one or two questions of your own to ask is another indication of interest in both the company and position for which you are applying. Visit the career advice section of sites such as Monster.com for help in this area.
3. Assess your wardrobe and “dress for success” rather than according to everyday company dress code standards. Dress and groom yourself conservatively – a two-piece matched suit in dark gray, navy or black is the best choice – keep cosmetics, jewelry and accessories to a minimum and avoid heavy perfume or cologne. Finally, pay attention to details such as loose strings, lint and wrinkles. Lay out your clothing the night before, and make sure you have enough copies of your resume and that your references are in order.
4. Focus on logistics. Consider distance, destination and traffic patterns and then make a plan to ensure you arrive on time -- about 10 to 15 minutes before your interview appointment. If you are unfamiliar with the location, conduct a “test drive” prior to your appointment – ideally under conditions identical to those you will be traveling under on the day of your interview -- to ensure you know how to get there and know how much travel time to allow.
5. Conduct practice interview sessions from start to finish. Start with your arrival at the location. Before entering the building turn off your cell phone – or better yet leave it in your car. Check in at the front desk and then have a seat in the waiting area. Pay attention to your body language, making sure to use good posture and sit quietly as you wait. Once in the interview room, stay in the moment by focusing on the question at hand rather than trying to anticipate what the next question may be and do not ever interrupt your interviewer. Ask for a business card to ensure you have the correct spelling and contact information for your follow-up thank you.
6. Be yourself, be honest and be respectful. Keeping in mind that the interview is more about how you can benefit the company rather than how the company can benefit you, keep questions about compensation and/or benefits to yourself until and unless the interviewer addresses the issue on her own.
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