You’ve done your research and networking.  All that hard work has finally paid off and you’ve scheduled an interview.  Congratulations!  A sense of euphoria and relief comes over you as you believe you have finally landed a job.  The interview is the easy part you think.  I’ll ace this and all will be right with the world again.  So you sit down, turn on television and kick your feet up until it is time for the interview.  That is the biggest mistakes you’ll make in your life when it comes to landing that job you’ve worked so hard to find.  But this is exactly what many people do after they schedule the interview.  They don’t prepare.  They don’t give themselves the best shot of impressing the employer so that they stand out.  And since so many people don’t prepare, if you do, you will stand out.  So, what should you do?

One important aspect of preparation is to review the job posting and take a look at what the employer is looking for in an employee.  Take note of the knowledge, skills and qualities that are necessary to be successful in this job.  With this information, you can begin to determine what questions will be asked and how you might respond to those questions.

One of the last things you want to do is go into an interview and ask the employer, “What does your company do?”  Wow…How unprepared do you look?  Is it possible for you to display more lack of interest about their company than with just one question?  It appears that you are just looking for a job; an impression that can stop many interviews in their tracks.  Always research the company.  This will not only help you determine what questions to ask, but help you prepare for questions which you might be asked.  Ask your network what they know about the company.  This may help you determine whether you will be a good fit in their culture.  Remember: You are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you so it goes both ways.  Go to their website and determine 4 or 5 questions you can ask about them their organization.

Take time to practice answering questions that you might be asked.  Not only will it help calm your nervousness, but you won’t be fumbling for words while you are responding to questions.  Practice with a friend or family member.  Think back about previous interviews and review those questions you believe you struggled to answer.  You’ll find it much easier this time around if you are prepared

Don’t wait until the last minute to choose your interview clothes.  That first impression should be a great one.  Have something ready to go so you don’t have to think about it when the time arrives.  Regardless of the position, dress in business attire.  If you are interviewing for a more casual environment, it is still important that you are well-groomed, neat, and tidy and present a positive impression to the employer.

It is now time to leave for the interview.  What should you bring with you?   You should bring a folder or something professional to carry a few items with you to ensure crispness with your presentation.  Bring that list of questions you have developed as well as a pen to record answers and highlights of your conversation.  You should also bring a list of references as well as a fresh résumé.   If they don’t ask, then you’ve lost nothing by being prepared and everything if they do.

It is also worthy to note what not to bring with you to the interview: your cell phone, a cup of coffee or soda, take your gum out of your month and anything else that is not part of your personal qualifications leave in the car.

Make sure you get directions before you leave for the job interview.  You should always arrive 5-10 minutes early for your interview.  Lateness is not the first impression you want to make with your prospective employer.  Some employers, if you are late, will cancel the interview.  Things happen, so it is important if you are going to be late, that you call and let the employer know and have a very good reason why.  I’m lost is not one of those reasons.  Many people do a dry run the day prior so they know exactly where they are going and how long it will take.

When you arrive, there may be other people whom you will need to make an impression on that may give feedback to the interviewer.  The first person is the receptionist.  Make sure you are polite, not overly enthusiastic, shake hands firmly and make eye contact with everyone you meet all the way through the process.  When you are in the interview, don’t slump in your chair, keep your feet on the floor and look interested.  You don’t want to appear too relaxed, too casual and disinterested as this will not make the best impression on the interviewer.

Of course, if you are not paying attention, you’re not going to be able to give the right answers.  You want to engage the interviewer.  Listen and take time to answer the question if you need it to determine the correct response.   If you believe this is the job for you, let them know.  Share your interest level with the interviewer.

Whew…The interview is now over, but you’re not done yet.  Everything could have gone extremely well, but you still have a chance to blow it.  Make sure you follow-up and send a thank you note telling them of your interest.  Restate why you believe you want the job, your qualifications as well as how you would be able to make an impact, etc.  I would suggest a personal hand-written note which is more personal versus an e-mail, but an e-mail is acceptable as long as you thank them for their time and follow-up.

With each interview comes strength.  If you don’t get the job and can get feedback, learn from your mistakes and apply those lessons to the next interview.  Don’t get bummed out because you didn’t get the job.  Yes, it is disappointing, but it is not the end of the world.  Competition is tough, especially today and the more you prepare versus “winging it” the better your chances will be to hear “Congratulations.  We’d like you to start Monday.”

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