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Preparation is the key to interview success

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 11:01 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 11:02 a.m. CDT

Did you watch the Olympics? If you were like me and my family, we were blow away by the talent and guts of the athletes at Sochi. The flips, twists and speed achieved from years and years of practice on ice and snow were just incredible. And just like those athletes didn’t just show up on the day of their event, you too should put thought and effort into preparing for your important event – your job interview.

Do research

It’s critical that you invest the time to learn about a potential employer. The best place to start is the web. The Company’s home page will usually contain ‘history’ or ‘about us’ information. Facebook and Twitter are also great places to check a company’s recent activity. You don’t have to memorize this information, but it is critical you educate yourself. If you don’t express an interest in the company, don’t expect them to express an interest in you. In a survey of 2000 bosses, 47 percent said “having little or no knowledge of the company is the most common mistake job seekers make during interviews.”

Have questions

The worst – and I mean worst – thing you can do is to not ask any questions during your interview. This is when it will be obvious if you did any research. It will absolutely show in the quality of your questions. If you are meeting with more than one person, it is OK to ask a few of the same questions to each, but you should tailor your questions to the interviewer’s position. General questions about the company are good for human resources, while questions concerning actual job duties are great for the hiring manager. It is acceptable to have your questions written down in a notebook or portfolio. But you also want to be spontaneous. At some point, someone should say something you would like to know more about, and it’s a great time to ask. For example, if an interviewer speaks about a current project or strategy, you could pose a question like, “Could you tell me more about the online marketing plan you mentioned?” It not only demonstrates your ability to think on your feet, but that you have been attentive and focused during the interview. That is what a hiring manager is looking for and what will most likely set you apart from other candidates.

Look your best

I always have this conversation with any of my candidates, whether they are entry level or have been in the workforce for 20 years. It may sound simple, but I can’t tell you how many people fail to physically prepare themselves for an interview. Even though today’s corporate dress code is much more relaxed, interviews still require a suit. Think black, gray, or blue. Be careful of new or ill-fitting clothes as it may make you fidget unintentionally. Even though oversized accessories are trendy, they can also be distracting. Unless you are interviewing for a job in the fashion industry, let your skills and abilities stand out, not your clothes.

Your attitude

You can look your best, and still blow an interview by your behavior. From the way you greet the receptionist to your body language, your verbal and non-verbal actions have an impact on your interview. Be enthusiastic, but not fake. Don’t crack jokes, but it is ok to smile and be gracious. Make eye contact. Although it sounds simple, for some it is very difficult. Practice if you have a hard time. If you only take one thing away from all of this, leave your cellphone in the car. Do not put it on silent or vibrate, do not bring it into your interview. I have seen all types of professionals lose opportunities because they answered a call or texted during an interview.

Even though job interviewing does not qualify as an Olympic event, it is still a competition. With preparation and effort, you can be the one who wins a new job.

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