November 4, 2008

How to Ace Your Job Interview

As you probably know by now, Tuesdays are tip day at the JobMonkey blog.  That’s the day that I offer you all kinds of ideas and suggestions for making the most of your job search. 

We’ve talked about writing resumes, maximizing your job references, networking in person (and networking online) and more.  Today I’m going to look at the ultimate tip for landing a job: Acing your job interview. Here are five tips for making sure you nail your next interview.

1. Make Your First Impressions Count
Whether you are interviewing for a six-figure executive position or a minimum wage burger-flipping gig, first impressions are important.  You can make a good first impression by showing up well groomed, wearing neat (and clean!) clothes that are appropriate for the position. While a business suit is right for many places of work, more casual attire is perfectly acceptable elsewhere. Make sure that your hair and any facial hair is neatly kept and that make up, if worn, is subtle and professional.

Beyond your physical appearance, you can also ensure that your first impression is good with your warm, friendly smile, your firm, confident handshake and your punctual, professional manner. Tardiness definitely does not impress interviewers — in fact, it makes them suspect that you would often be late to work.  Plan to arrive a few minutes early so you can catch your breath before being called into your interview.

2. Do Your Homework
Before you show up for your interview, learn everything you can about the company or organization you are interviewing with — and the person who will be interviewing you.  Thanks to Google, a quick 20 minutes on the Internet should net you all you need to know.  Stay tuned to this column in the coming weeks for more on how to research a potential employer, but here are some things you will want to be sure to look up:

•    The general picture of the industry and key words/”jargon” used by those in the industry
•    All products or services offered by the company
•    Major competitors
•    Any recent local, regional or national news stories about the company
•    Recent staffing changes (if the company is large enough, they will likely have released press releases about new hires — which will show up in a Google search)
•    Professional background of interviewee — where was s/he before his/her current position (LinkedIn is a great resource for this kind of information in the professional sector

Reliable sources of information can come from the company’s annual report, newspaper articles, trade journals and trade/professional associations.  You might also want to search for key company players on LinkedIn, Facebook and even Twitter. Industry bloggers may have reliable information — or they may have a lot of scuttlebutt.

3. Come Prepared
If you are interviewing for a professional position, carry a briefcase or portfolio in which you have several copies of your resume, a sheet with your references and any writing samples or other documentation requested. 

Also bring along a notebook and pen so you can take notes during your interview.  Print your documents on high quality paper from a laser printer, if you can afford it.

4. Practice Good Non-Verbal Communication
When seated, maintain good posture and open body language.  Face your interviewer(s) and smile or nod while they are talking to you.  When answering questions, take a moment to gather your thoughts so that you don’t have to rely on time fillers (“ummm, ummmm”).  Be sure to maintain good eye contact throughout your interview; if more than one person is interviewing you, look at each person for a few seconds during your answers.  Use your hands when speaking, if that is your natural pattern, but otherwise hold yourself still.  If you’re a fidgeter, this advice is especially important!

5. Be your own best advocate
Remember that what you say during your 15-45 minute interview is critically important. Give detailed information and examples that relate to the questions but don’t ramble. If you are uncertain as to how to answer, ask the interviewer to clarify their question.  Be honest and positive in your answers.  Speak confidently about your experiences, but do not lie about (or even overstate) your skills.

For more do’s and don’t’s on interviewing, check out JobMonkey’s extensive collection of Job Interviewing Tips.

And finally, this has nothing to do with interviewing, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this: If you haven’t already, please, go out and vote!

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