Preparing For An Interview

Shaking hands with your interviewer allows you to be sure you leave a good impression.

Shaking hands with your interviewer allows you to be sure you leave a good impression.

Preparing for an interview can be a daunting task. You can outshine the competition with a little preparation:

1. Research the company's profile and background. Start by looking into their future goals and plans. Conducting the interview with this in mind will make you seem like a good long-term investment. You should also be ready to talk in depth about the industry, the organization, and the position you are applying for.

  • Learn your interviewer’s name and job position before going to the interview. You may need to call the company to find out.

  • Talk to current employees. Show initiative while getting a feel for the office environment.

  • Know as much about the company as possible. You can't change your employment history or your qualifications, but you can work harder than every other applicant by being supremely knowledgeable about the company. Use the company's website, their annual report, and newspaper/business magazine articles to gather as much information as possible.

2. Think of questions to ask your interviewer. Participating actively during the interview gives a good impression of your level of interest in the job. It's a good idea to come prepared with at least three thought-provoking questions to ask your interviewer.

  • Ask questions that reflect your interest in future prospects. “Which are new markets the company is planning to explore in next couple of years?” or “What are the chances for professional growth in this job opportunity?” both show that you want to be on the same page as the people you’ll be working for.

  • Ask questions to bond with the interviewer and project your enthusiasm.

  • Ask questions about what is discussed during the interview itself.

3. Anticipate questions from the interviewer. It’s best to prepare for a wide variety of questions by thinking about your own career goals, long-term plans, past successes, and work strengths, but you should also brace yourself for the deceptively simple questions that most employers like to throw at their interviewees.

  • “What’s your biggest weakness?”

  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

  • “Why do you want this job?”

  • “Why did you leave your last job?” is a common question that shouldn’t be hard to answer provided that you didn’t have a major blowout with your previous employer. If you did, be honest (without being bitter or laying blame, as this will make you look ungracious and hard to work with) and try to put a positive spin on things.

  • Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know something.

4. Dress for the interview. As a rule of thumb, you should dress for the interview the way you would for the job itself. Avoid wearing perfume, after-shave, or scented lotion (but do wear deodorant).

  • Applicants in banking or wealth management, business, academia, politics, and health-related sectors should show up for an interview in business formal clothing unless otherwise noted. For women, this means a skirt suit or pant suit in a dark color, along with closed toe shoes and subtle makeup. For men, this means a dark-colored suit and tie and dark-colored shoes.

  • Applicants in the service sector are usually invited to wear business casual to an interview, although business formal is optional. For women, this means a simple, knee length dress with conservative shoes (no jeans). For men, this means dark or khaki pants with a collared button-up and leather shoes.

  • If you're unsure of the customary interview clothing expected by the company, simply ask the HR rep or interview liaison.

5. Show up in the best possible shape. Make sure you know exactly how to get there and just where to park so that you can arrive 15 to 20 minutes before the scheduled interview time. Go to bed early the day (or the days) before the interview so that you look rested and healthy on the big day. Bring an extra copy of your resume, CV, and/or references in case your interviewer wants to go over any points with you or neglects to bring their own copy.

  • If the interview is in the morning, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. This is not just an empty suggestion. A breakfast high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and foods high in vitamin E, such as nuts and seeds, will help improve brain function and leave you feeling more alert and invigorated.

  • Consider exercising before the interview to annihilate stress and increase blood flow. Shower after exercising

6. Show courtesy to everyone during the interview. This means everyone from the reception staff to the interviewer herself. You never know who has input in the hiring process, and you can only make a first impression once.

  • Look everyone in the eye and smile.

  • Speak clearly and say "please" and "thank you."

  • Don't noodle around on your phone or electronic device while waiting.

7. Be honest. Many people think that an interview is the perfect time to embellish. While you want to structure your answers so that your best, most qualified aspects take center stage, you don't want to deceive or outright lie. Companies do perform background checks, and lying about your experience is simply not worth it.

8. Keep things simple and short. Talking about yourself can be very difficult to well: You're trying to convince someone you don't know that you're qualified for a position without sounding too cocky or pompous. Stick to what you know well, and keep things short and sweet.

  • Structure your answers so that you're talking in 30-90 second chunks.

  • Don't use slang or off-color humor during your interview.

  • Talk about what other people think you do well.

9. Be personable. Try to come off as a genuinely likable person if you can. Being personable is about getting the interviewer's emotional side to like you and believe in you. Employers don't always hire the candidates most qualified for the job, but rather the candidates they like the best.

10. Shake hands with the interviewer and exchange pleasantries. Try to invest some feeling into the handshake and pleasantries, even if you think you bombed the interview. The interviewer should give you a time frame for when to expect to get a callback, if applicable.