Make a great impression

In most situations in life, preparation and presentation can mean the difference between winning and losing. Interviewing for a job is no different. It is vital to make a great impression. It’s going to take more than luck to be a rock star during your interview. Taking the time to prepare for your interview is the best way to put the odds in your favor to land your dream job. This article will help pave the way for you to demonstrate your professionalism, while capitalizing on your ability to land the job by preparing for a great interview!

Be an Eagle Scout!

There’s a reason why Eagle Scouts are able to set up a tent on a dark and stormy night and prepare a four-course dinner using aluminum foil and twigs: they prepare and train for all possible scenarios. The main guideline for acing an interview is that there’s no such thing as being too prepared for an interview.

First, spend some time soul searching on the parts of the interview process you find most challenging. Do you choke up at the ubiquitous “So, tell me something about yourself!” Do you cringe at the mere thought of whether or not your response to “What’s your biggest weakness?” is appropriate? Once you have an idea about where your weakness is, you can tailor your preparation to build up those muscles.

There are numerous tools out there to assist you in learning critical information about the company you’re interviewing with, along with resources that offer you the inside scoop and competitive advantage about culture and environment.

The Internet is also full of information, and all of it isn’t necessarily accurate, so use the Internet selectively to start researching the company. First, if you don’t already know, study the company’s business and mission statement. What are they in business to do? Study the company’s main projected goals and objectives. Does the company website indicate any new initiatives, product launches, or potential mergers? These are all clues for potential interview questions. Also, learn as much as you can about your interviewer’s role.

If you’re meeting with the HR professional or recruiter, this meeting is usually both a job-related and culture-fit assessment. The recruiter will be assessing your overall ability to fit into the culture and determine if your skills are applicable for the role. This should go without saying, but always be extra polite to the HR professional or recruiter you’re working with. The opinion and assessment of these individuals plays a huge role in whether or not you get to the next stage in the hiring process. Taking the time to know who you’re meeting-while minding your manners–will give you a strong advantage.

You may be working with a staffing agency like Artisan. If so, take your recruiter up on it if he or she offers to prep you for your interview. Your recruiter will share critical information that will give you a competitive edge for your interview. Ask your recruiter for cues for the type of office you’ll be going to. Is the dress attire business professional or casual? How many people will you be meeting with?

Preparation is Everything

After you’ve started your research, compile two or three intelligent, well-thought out questions to ask your interviewer when she says: “So, do you have any questions?” Don’t use this opportunity to immediately propose questions about the position’s salary, vacation time, and retirement options. Unless those issues are brought up, cool your jets with these questions until you’re through with the first round. Instead, write down two or three thoughtful questions that you may have, either about the interview process itself or the company’s background.

Prepare and practice answers to common interview questions such as why you left your last job, or “Tell me something about yourself.” Omit negative responses or long stories about your evil former boss or coworkers. Never discuss controversial views or politics. Keep things in a positive light and focus on elements in your background that directly relate to the position at hand. Tossing in fun information about your appropriate hobbies will also help the hiring manager or human resources executive remember you after you’re on the train back home.

Also, use an online mapping tool to plan your route so you know exactly where you’re going ahead of time. A sure way to bomb an interview is to be late. Bring your contact’s name and phone number along with the exact address of where you’re going. You may have been in “the area” years ago to visit a long lost friend but the landscape has changed: highways have been constructed and new roads paved, so use observant caution and online mapping tools to help you find your way.

On the day of the interview, time yourself so you get there about five to ten minutes ahead of time for your interview. Any earlier than that is inconvenient to your interviewer. The person you’re there to meet has set aside a predetermined block of time to meet you. Arriving 20 or more minutes early puts both of you in an awkward position.

If you’re out in your car waiting for 30 minutes you may encounter scrutiny. Find a spot where you can sit and “hide out” in case you arrive way too early. Keep in mind that your interview actually begins the moment you exit the elevator: all eyes are on you. If you’re adjusting your clothes when you exit the elevator you might catch your interviewer on his or her way into the office–first impressions count.

First and foremost, be polite to the receptionist. The receptionist isn’t just a receptionist but actually is a First Impression Specialist. How you treat this person is part of your overall assessment and will be reported back to the assessment team.

Wait, Presentation Counts Too!

Much like a doctor’s visit, an interview includes a chunk of time spent waiting. So try your best to look calm but busy. Don’t just sit there doing nothing. If there are magazines on a table in front of you, pick one up. Busy yourself in a professional manner—don’t chew gum, make a last-minute cell phone call, or pester the receptionist.

Bring along a copy of your resume for each interviewer along with your portfolio. Don’t carry too much stuff–a pen, portfolio, and binder are all that you need. When your interviewer walks to meet you, greet this person with a warm smile and a genuine handshake–you’re on your way to acing your interview!

Okay, you can relax now knowing that your preparation and presentation for the interview is complete.

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