How to Prepare for Your Next Job Interview

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It’s always important to do well on a job interview, but especially in a struggling economy. The market is still tight and there are plenty of unemployed folks looking for work, which means there’s a lot of competition out there. In that kind of environment, you have to give yourself every advantage you can. Do the necessary research and prepare accordingly so the next time your phone rings with an opportunity, you can really knock it out of the park.

1. Plan to Arrive Early
Show up late to the interview and you may be out of the running before the conversation even starts. Get your directions from both Google Maps and MapQuest. If there’s a discrepancy, research it to find out which route is best. Make sure you give yourself an ample amount of time to shower and dress, and a few extra moments of relaxation certainly can’t hurt. Add an additional 15 minutes onto your estimated travel time in case you hit any traffic. If you do arrive early, give yourself a last-minute pep talk and try to relax and get in the zone.

2. Know What to Wear
A job interview is not the time to make a fashion statement or try out your latest trendy outfit. Think conservative in all areas – solid colors, limited jewelry and accessories, and nothing flashy. Your attire should be professional and should not in any way distract the interviewer from your most important feature – what you have to say.

3. Research the Company
A time comes at the end of every interview when the person sitting across from you asks if you have any questions. If you don’t, it’s an immediate red flag. Use the Hoover’s website or Dun & Bradstreet, or go directly to the website of the company to learn more about it. Look for recent achievements or areas the organization is looking to expand. There’s nothing wrong with introducing what you’ve learned during the heart of the interview, but definitely keep a few nuggets in your back pocket for the conclusion. Speak intelligently about the company and you’re going to show that you’re serious about landing employment.

4. Practice Your Responses
If you don’t already know some of the more common interview questions, do some Internet research and get yourself a list. Practice your answers with a friend or even in front of the mirror to sharpen your performance. Just be sure that these responses don’t come across as rehearsed during the actual interview.

5. Carefully Review Your Resume and Cover Letter
Take some time beforehand to carefully review both your resume and cover letter for stylistic issues and grammatical errors. A less-then-perfect resume likely means you can kiss your chances goodbye. If you’re not as well-versed in grammar, ask a skilled friend to help you out.

6. Touch Base With Your References
If it’s been a while since you’ve spoken with your references, now is a good time to check in with them. Let them know where you stand on your employment search and that you appreciate their assistance throughout the process. The last thing you want is for an employer to check references who are caught off-guard.

7. Address Your Red Flags
If your resume has no red flags, you’re in great shape. For most of us, however, it’s important to identify and decide how to address them. For example, if you were out of work for a long period of time be sure to have an explanation prepared. And don’t shy away from these issues during the interview. Address them head-on and make sure you communicate them clearly and confidently.

One key talent you need in order to perform effectively during an interview is self-confidence. Obviously, however, simply being told to “be confident” doesn’t necessarily make you so. Focus on your professional achievements and other successes, and always keep these in mind during the interview. We’ve all got certain talents and assets – it’s just a matter of learning to articulate them during an interview in order to boost your self-confidence, impress the interviewer, and land that job.

What preparation tips do you use for job interviews?

About the Author: Andrew McNeal shares tips for young people with their career development, job interviews, and resume preparation.

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