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Preparing for a Job Interview – Tips for a Great First Impression

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I’m very excited. The two telephone interviews I had last week went well, and the company wants to meet with me for an in-person job interview! A different company also contacted me this week to set up an interview. I like having options!

Both positions offer more responsibility and growth opportunity than my current role, and I am excited about these interviews. Luckily, I was able to schedule both interviews for the same day. What’s even better is that the companies are located near each other, so I will only have to take half a day off work so I can do both job interviews without missing much time from my current job.

Preparing for a job interview

Preparing for a job interview

Come prepared or don’t come at all!

In my opinion, preparation is the most important thing you can do for an interview. It will give the company a good first impression of you, and that is half the battle. I’ve been going over my notes from the last time I went through a round of job interviews, and I’ve been practicing scenarios and possible questions.

Here are a few other tips for preparing for an interview I’ve gathered along the way:

Research the company and the position. This weekend my plan is to research the companies I will interview with and come up with a list of possible questions to ask my interviewers. I’ll be sure to research both companies’ current operations as well as the roles and responsibilities for the positions. I’m sure I won’t ask all the questions I come up with, but I would like to have a few different questions in mind based on which direction the job interview goes.

Know your career history and professional goals. Your resume probably doesn’t have everything you’ve ever done on it, and unless you’ve recently thought about everything you’ve accomplished in your career, you may not remember all the projects you’ve lead or participated in. A great way to keep track of everything you’ve done is to create a career file that tracks everything you’ve done. Review it prior to your interview so everything will be fresh. It’s amazing how much you can forget!

Be sure to have a clear idea of your professional goals as well, as this is sure to be a question during the interview. Even if it is not a question in the interview, you should have an idea of what you want to accomplish and where you want to go with your career. Otherwise, you may take a job for all the wrong reasons.

Practice interviewing with a friend or relative. I’m one of those people who can line up everything perfectly in my mind, and then when I try to say it, the words come out jumbled. Sometimes all it takes is verbalizing things once or twice for me to really grasp the concept and speak more smoothly and professionally. Asking someone to help you with a mock job interview is a great way to handle this. Another tip is to practice your elevator pitch – the 30-60 second introduction of who you are, your career goals, and why you are a good fit for the company. This is often a great way to introduce yourself during the interview.

Bring everything you need. Bring a briefcase or portfolio to carry a notepad, pen, business card, and several copies of your resumes (printed on high quality paper). I recommend leaving almost everything else behind. You don’t want to present a cluttered image, or be distracted while interviewing. The cell phone? Leave it in your car, or turn it off.

Prepare your wardrobe. Call ahead to find out your prospective employer’s dress code and make sure you dress at or above that level. In my area and line of work, that means going to an interview in a suit and tie (a sport coat would be acceptable, but since I have a full suit, I will go with that). It is important to be aware of your wardrobe requirements in advance so you can buy the appropriate attire if necessary. The good news is – it is possible to build a professional wardrobe on a budget. Oh, and if you have a suit you haven’t worn in a couple years, be sure to make sure it still fits, and consider taking it to the dry cleaners!

Know the route to the job interview and be on time. The last thing you want to do is show up late! Plan your trip, do a practice run if necessary, and whatever you do – show up on time! Even being a few minutes late gives your interviewers a bad impression of you. If you don’t care enough to show up to an interview on time, how will you perform on a daily basis?

Know your market value, but don’t talk salary. I prefer not to discuss salary during the job interview, if at all possible. I would rather talk numbers with the HR rep. But sometimes hiring managers will want to discuss salary numbers first – just so they have a better idea of whether or not both parties are in the same ballpark. So just in case, you should be prepared and know your market value, and have an idea of your salary range and desired benefits package. Payscale.com and Salary.com are great resources to get a ballpark idea, but keep in mind these may vary substantially from what you are offered or what your market will support.

Preparing for a job interview is just as important as doing the interview. You can’t do well in an interview without preparation. If you want the job, take the time to properly prepare for the job interview. It will show as soon as you sit down with your interviewers.

I’ll be sure to follow this up with another article with the lessons I learn during my interviews.

What not to do in an interview…

Glblguy, from Gather Little By Little, is a hiring manager at his job and he wrote a great list of things not to do in an interview. These are good things to keep in mind before and during an interview. I will be sure to review this list prior to my interviews next week, and I won’t do any of these!

Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations


Published or updated December 26, 2012.
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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jesse

Good luck Ryan, kill it! :)

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2 Dividend growth investor

Good luck as well Ryan! Practice telling stories in a behavior based format using the STAR approach :-)

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3 Shanti @ Antishay

These are great suggestions! I am a good interviewer and your list is spot-on. I don’t interview with a friend though, I just interview myself aloud when I’m alone ;)

Good luck!

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4 KMC

That’s awesome, dude. Good luck!

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5 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

Hey congratulations and thanks for the tips!

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6 Ryan

Thanks for the well-wishes everyone. :)

DGI, I’ll check out that STAR approach.

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7 Ryan

Shanti, I sometimes talk aloud to myself as well, but practicing with someone else is also a great way to go. I don’t generally have a problem speaking in front of people, so for me, it is mostly gathering my thoughts and knowing how to verbalize them.

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8 fathersez

Good luck!

You have prepared yourself well.

Regards

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9 Writer's Coin

Good Luck man!

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10 Ken Clark - CollegeSavings.About.com

I have a “two sentence” rule… Don’t offer more than two sentence responses to any one question… keeps me from over-selling myself or sticking my foot in my mouth!

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11 Ryan

Good rule, Ken. I haven’t heard that one before. :)

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