Acing the Job Interview

When you get a job interview, you have already invested a significant amount of your time, effort and money into obtaining the opportunity. The last thing you want to do is make an easily avoidable mistake which hurts your chances of getting a job. The adage is true – an ounce of prevention (read: preparation) is worth a pound of cure (read: excuses).

Let’s say you get the call for the interview and agree to the date and time offered. Don’t hang up the phone just yet. Do you have the company’s exact address? What about the suite number? Who do you ask for when you arrive? Do you know how to get there? Do you know what cross street is nearest to the building? Would they mind sending you a press/investor kit or other information on the company? Asking any of these questions now is not only OK, but expected. Not asking them can mean that you miss important information you need to know. Having an online map is also a handy tool. My favorite is the Rand McNally StreetFinder(TM). It allows you to find an address or business, search by zip code and find nearby hotels and restaurants (in case the interview is out of town). They also have some similar services at their web site: http://www.randmcnally.com.

But wait – don’t sign off the Internet just yet. Before you go to the interview, visit the company’s web site. Also do searches with several search engines using the company name. The goal is to learn all you can about the company. (You’ve already provided them with quite a bit of information about yourself just by sending in a rÃ?©sumÃ?©. Now, it’s time to even the score!) Who is in their executive suite? How do they run the company? What is the company’s history? What does the web site say about employee benefits? What do third parties – investor sites, general media and others – say about the company? With so much information at your fingertips, there’s no excuse to walk into an interview uninformed. Privately held companies may not be as prolific on the web as publicly traded ones, but you can probably find out what products they offer and what third parties say about them.

Next, what clothes are you wearing to the interview? Conservative business attire – that ubiquitous navy blue suit – is not necessarily required, but be absolutely certain less formal dress is OK. It can be difficult to tell, as even an informal company might expect interviewees to suffer through the torture of wearing more formal attire. When in doubt, dress in conservative business attire. If you’re overdressed, you might be subjected to some good-natured kidding but it won’t count against you. If you’re underdressed, you are telling the interviewer a lot of things about yourself, none of them positive – “I’m unprepared,” “This interview/company isn’t worth dressing up for,” etc.

Lastly, rehearse the interview. Have a friend play the role of the interviewer and ask potential interview questions. Don’t allow your friend to just ask the easy ones either – be sure they get some real zingers in, maybe even a question or comment that shouldn’t be said. (Hopefully, the interviewer knows enough about interviewing – and is enough of a believer in basic civil rights – that they don’t go into illegal territory. But if they do, and you don’t want to walk out of the interview, what would you say? Rehearse saying that the question is illegal and you would now like to move on to the next question.)

There are some outside resources to help you prepare. Online, check out http://www.job-interview.net. This site offers interview questions, advice on answering them and which questions are illegal and why. The day I checked the site, it offered a link to Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions, by Matt and Nan DeLuca, an excellent book for anyone who is interviewing for a job. Another book you may want to read is Reading People, by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, Ph.D. and Mark Mazzarella. The authors’ insights into what people reveal by their appearance may give you some insight into presenting yourself for an interview, as well as reading non-verbal cues given by your interviewer.

The day of the interview, give yourself enough time to allow for possible detours or transit delays and still reach the interview site about 20 minutes early. When you arrive at the building, look around: What can you tell about the company as you walk in the door? Are they scaling back or expanding? Is the building in the heart of the business district or in the industrial area of town? Before you open the door to the office, find a restroom and check your appearance. This is important: First impressions are gained in as little as seven seconds. As you walk through the door, remember to smile – after all, you’ve done a lot of groundwork and are confident the interview will go well.

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