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Acing the Interview

So, you’ve almost made it to the job of your dreams. Ace the interview and you’re hired. With so much pressure, it’s no wonder many think of interviews as interrogations. But that’s not what they are. Ultimately, they’re a chance for your prospective employer to get to know you as well as for you to get to know them. It’s about finding a fit that works both ways.

1. Do your homework.

“It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.” – Judith Martin

Spend time beforehand looking into the industry, company, and specific job you’re applying to. Use their website (especially the ‘Careers’ and ‘About Us’ sections) or resources like Monster.com. Contact the PR department for a copy of their annual report or download one online.

Read about industry trends and jargon in a trade magazine. Better yet, search for existing employees on a professional network liked LinkedIn so you can talk to someone who already works there. Discovering the organisational culture and getting an initial sense of “fit” can save everyone a lot of time by knowing if it’s right for you both. Remember, there must be a match. If not, move on.

2. Know what to expect.

Who will be interviewing you? Will you be alone or in a group? Will there be testing involved? Are you required to bring extra copies of your transcript or CV? Get these clear so you aren’t caught off guard. Know what you’ll be wearing (not too much make-up, jewellery, or fragrance) and make sure your clothes are professional and clean.

Two things that helped me in previous interviews were taking a practice trip to the location at the same time as the interview would be so I didn’t have to worry about directions and asking the HR department to call me beforehand for my telephone interview to make sure the quality of the line was clear. Don’t leave anything to chance!

3. Be confident.

Arriving early gives you some time to take a few deep breaths, clear your mind, and relax. Be confident in yourself and all you have to offer. You wouldn’t have made it this far otherwise. Know that you’ll be just fine. When meeting the interviewer, shake hands firmly, maintain eye contact, sit up straight, and smile.

Don’t be still like a robot but don’t fidget too much either. Strike a balance based on how he or she behaves. Even though a sense of humour has its place, being sincere is probably better than simply trying to wow them with your forced charm. Fact is, they’ve probably already made up their mind and the rest of the process is simply to confirm the fit (or lack thereof).

4. Plan your answers.

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” – George Orwell

Attending a mock interview or rehearsing the answers to some basic questions is a good first step but you’ve got to go further. Make sure you know your CV thoroughly (have a copy and “cheat sheet” in front of you if you’re interviewing over the phone) so you don’t end up contradicting yourself. Everything you say needs to be a reflection of your best (but not cocky) self. It’s about providing proof that demonstrates your ability to overcome challenges and ultimately do well even as the environment will change.

Come prepared to talk about how you’ve dealt with and overcome significant weaknesses and failures. What did those experiences teach you and how could that be applied elsewhere? Also come prepared with concrete examples of successes and achievements. How have you influenced others, shown leadership, exercised creative thinking, or achieved difficult goals? By imagining questions that could be asked (and anticipating legitimate reasons you shouldn’t be hired), you develop a sense of objectivity that allows you to address these concerns.

5. Listen carefully.

Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase a question if you’re unsure. And always take a second to think before yapping away. Speak slowly and clearly, keeping your responses relevant and to the point without giving yes/no answers or talking too much.

There’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t have much experience in an area as long as you’re willing to learn. And there’s nothing wrong with having only a vague idea of where you plan to be five years from now because nowadays nobody knows for sure. At least have a general idea of why you applied for this position and what makes you the best candidate for the job.

6. Ask relevant questions.

When it comes to asking questions, don’t talk about money or other perks. Instead, ask about corporate culture and opportunities for personal development. What are the people like? What makes this company so much better than all the others? Referring to something they mentioned earlier is a great way to show you were listening.

Focus on all you’ll be able to give and not simply what you’ll get in return. Show them that what you have to offer matches what they need, ultimately benefiting you both. As long as there’s something valuable in it for them, making it worth your while probably won’t be too much of a stretch.

7. Get feedback.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Spend some time after the interview thinking about what happened. What went well that you can feel proud about? What went wrong that you can work on for next time? Learning is so important here. Send the interviewer a thank you email and ask if they’re in a position to give you feedback too. Getting an objective perspective about your performance is highly valuable. It also shows you’re the type of person who cares about personal development, which is something they’ll likely remember you for.

8. Finalise the offer.

If all goes well, it shouldn’t be too long before they make you an offer. Ask for something in writing if what they gave you was simply an informal and non-binding acceptance over the phone. Once you’ve received your contract, review it for a day or two (with a lawyer if you need to) and gain clarification on any terms you’re unsure about. There may even be room to negotiate things you’d like to include. Remember that it’s not about the money; it’s about landing a job you’ve worked hard for and will allow you to grow.

9. Move on.

By Eugene Yiga can be found at http://varsityblah.com/: Of course, there’s a chance they might say no. It’s nothing personal. Perhaps they don’t see you fitting in with the organisational culture, which means they’re doing you a favour by saving you the frustration and pain. Or maybe they’re making a huge mistake. Never stop looking! Know that you’re competent and talented. Know that there are great companies out there that would be lucky to have you. Know that there’s always something somewhere that will work for you.

BoomersNextStep Guest Author

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