Whether it’s your first or your hundredth and whether your rate of getting the job offer after the interview is 10% or 90%, preparing for an interview is always among the most nerve-wracking of tasks. Your stress level, however, will drop when you know you are ready for the interview. The following tips will give you the confidence you need.
1. Be prepared for a few basic questions, especially the negative ones like what are your weaknesses and why do you want to leave your current job. Once you’ve gone to a number of interviews, you will notice that certain questions, or at least certain types of questions, get asked on a regular basis. Be prepared to sound CONFIDENT, not perfect. The impression you want to leave is that you are competent and smart, recognize your weak points, and most importantly are actively working to address problem areas.
When you’re preparing for an interview, the most important question to think about is the one about your greatest weakness. Think about this one for a while. Make sure your answer to this question will be similar to the answers your references will give. It is okay to ask them what you think your biggest weakness is, in fact!
2. Know your interviewer. This doesn’t mean call him up and ask him out to coffee. It means you should call the place you’re hoping to be working at soon and ask the receptionist who she thinks your boss will be in that position. If she doesn’t know, you can ask for human resources and see if they will tell you. You do not have to give your name in this call, just say that you’re interested in the position and would like to send a copy of your letter and resume to this person in addition to the blank box address or human resources address given in the posting. Then follow up by sending that resume to that interviewer.
Find out, if possible, what your interviewer’s job is, and do a quick Google on their name to see if there has been any recent news. It’s nice to be able to congratulate them if they’ve won an award for instance. Don’t get creepy; going into Facebook to find out the name of their wife, daughter, and goldfish is too much. Keep it professional.
3. If you’re not a hundred percent certain what the job entails, find out. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call, seriously. You don’t even have to talk to your interviewer or prospective boss, though that’s not necessarily bad. Giving them a call before you go in does a few things. First, you can be informed about the job. Second, it gives you a chance to ask about other things that seem trivial until they come up: Where do you park? Is there a guard to check in with? Anything special you should expect? I once showed up for a 7:30 interview at a building that wasn’t unlocked until 8 am. The interviewer simply didn’t think about this, and sat fuming when I wasn’t there until she realized that I was locked out.
When you understand what the position will be, think about the company and the position. Can you project what they might want to be doing with this position? For instance, I once applied for a job teaching office skills to people moving off welfare into the workplace. Some research on this job told me that not only were they planning to continue this project, but they were also going to expand into the private sector and teach computer classes to local businesses. By knowing this, I was able to address their plans directly in the interview – before they asked. This let them know I was on the same page, career-wise, they were on, and I landed the job.
4. Wear comfortable shoes. No, this does not mean tennis shoes. Instead, you need to recognize that your attitude is going to be largely determined by how comfortable you feel at the interview. Too-tight pantyhose, a bra strap that slides down, shoes that pinch, pants that ride up – all these things are going to make your interview more difficult. Look good, but opt for interview clothes that don’t make you aware that you’re wearing clothes. This may mean that your second-best suit, or your mom’s great pumps, is what you need to wear.
As you prepare for your interview remember that your personal appearance is more than just clothes-deep, and looking comfortable gives you a completely different dimension. Make sure you feel good before walking in, so you can focus on the interviewer instead of wondering if you have a blister.
5. Use positive body language at every step. Your interview starts when you drive into the parking lot. You need to be completely aware of your surroundings and the attitude you are giving off at every step from that moment forward. (Yes, this also means wash the car.) Walk inside with confidence, and be kind to the receptionist. You would be surprised how many interviewers ask her opinion of the interviewee!