You’ve worked hard to get here. You’ve sent out 31 resumes, networked, attended job fairs, enrolled in school for more education – you’ve taken all the right steps.
Then, one afternoon the phone rings. “Yes, we’d like you to come in for an interview. Is next Tuesday at 10:00 alright with you?” Alright???!!! You can be there in 10 minutes! But you gather your composure, pretend to rifle through your “appointment book” and calmly reply, “Yes, Tuesday at 10:00 works for me. See you then.” Now what?
The sequence goes like this: the resume gets you an interview; the interview gets you the job. This is when you become more than a bunch of employment dates and workplace accomplishments. This is your opportunity to shine. It’s show time!
Go in cold and you’re working at a disadvantage. You prepped the perfect resume, now it’s time to prep for that all-important interview. Here are ten steps you should take before you show up at the interviewer’s door.
1. Review your resume.
Sure, you know it by heart. But what was it that caught the eye of this recruiter or the HR pro? Specialized experience? Unique training? A steady history of career advancement? Revisit your resume from the point of view of the interviewer. It may provide insight into the company’s employee needs – something that would certainly be advantageous to know going in.
2. Get back on-line.
The Internet served you well in the preparation of personalized cover letters targeted at the recipients’ needs. Okay, visit the company web site again and start taking notes. Corporate officers, the latest press releases, the company’s annual report. Gather as much information as you can on your soon-to-be-employer.
3. Study, study, then cram.
The more you learn about your callback company, the better you’re going to feel walking in that door. Knowledge is power. Knowledge will make you more confident in your attitude and your answers. You know this stuff. You’ve studied it! Knowledge of company products, services, protocols and procedures shows the interviewer that you’re proactive, with an eye for detail and an appreciation for the power of preparation. In other words, you’ll make a positive impression.
4. Rehearse your interview.
How can you rehearse for something that doesn’t have a script? Write one. You know the typical questions you’ll be asked so write down some of your most insightful, witty thoughts regarding the state of your industry and profession. Be prepared to describe past positions, responsibilities and accomplishments. This is not a time for false modesty, so don’t be afraid to highlight your professional strengths and play down your terrible typing skills. Remember: it’s no brag if it’s the truth. Ask your spouse, your child or a friend to play the role of interviewer so you become more comfortable speaking about yourself in front of others. Again, this is a confidence builder. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be.
5. Develop your list of questions.
Your interview shouldn’t be seen as some type of interrogation. It’s a “getting to know you” meeting, so feel free to ask questions. However, your first question shouldn’t be “How much do I get paid?” or “How’s the 401k plan, here?” Instead, ask questions that show you understand the job and the company’s needs. Be quick to pick up on the interviewer’s comments and ask relevant questions.
Interviewer: We’ve had some issues with field reports coming in late recently.
You: How are the reports transmitted?
(Oh, you’re good. Very good.)
6. Dress for success.
An interview is a performance with people playing different roles. Your role is successful job prospect. Play the part. Whether you’re female or male, the conservative business suit is the recommended attire for any interview. If your business suit needs a pressing, send it to the dry cleaners. If you don’t own a suit (you’d be surprised at the number of us who don’t) go out and get one. It doesn’t have to be an $800 designer suit, but it should be conservative black, blue or gray
7. Get cut or coiffed.
You’ll have 15 minutes to make a good impression. Treat yourself to a visit to the local hair stylist. You bet looks matter. They’ll be plenty of time to show your talent once you land the job. For now, look like a success, feel like a success – be a success.
8. Practice positive visualization.
Professional athletes do it. So do actors, yoga instructors and new age thinkers who sleep under makeshift pyramids to absorb that mystical energy. It’s called positive visualization – and it works. It really does. In the days leading up to the interview, picture yourself sitting opposite the head of HR. Picture yourself relaxed, comfortable, at the top of your game. Play that clip over and over in your mind until it becomes so familiar, it actually becomes a part of your self-image. It simply can’t be stated too often – your confidence during an interview should be obvious and genuine.
9. Gather your materials.
The day before the interview, gather your materials and place them in a briefcase or attaché. Don’t have one? Buy one or borrow one. It’s another opportunity to project that professional image you wear so well. Bring extra copies of your resume in a manila envelop. Bring a pad and pencil to take notes. Bring a calculator (you never know). Bring your address book and copies of your business card. If you’ve been asked to provide additional information (school transcripts, e.g.) make sure you’ve got clean copies ready to hand over.
10. Sleep tight.
You’ve done it all. You’ve prepared yourself; you’ve built your confidence so you can look the interviewer straight in the eye. You are ready to rock ‘n’ roll! Okay, too psyched. You’ll never get to sleep. The night before the interview, go to bed early. Have some warm milk, coco or herbal tea (stay away from the 3rd scotch). Relax. Set the alarm and sleep comfortably in the knowledge that you’re as prepared as you’ll ever be. No, not every interview will be a success. You won’t get the job every time – but don’t take it personally. It’s not about you; it’s about the needs of the company. However, you can increase the chances of success by presenting a professional, prepared, and confident you to the interviewer. That’s how you turn an interview into a job offer.
Teena Rose is a columnist, public speaker, and a professional resume writer with Resume to Referral. She’s authored several books, including “20-Minute Cover Letter Fixer” and “Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales.”
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