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15 Tips To Mastering Your Interview

Contrary to popular belief, the primary purpose of an interview is not to get a job.  While the ultimate purpose is to receive an offer for the position, the more immediate objective is for the hiring executive to know you better – and for you to learn about the organization.  Everything you do regarding an interview should address these two objectives.

Never forget what’s at the heart of an interview: two parties seeking a mutual solution to each other’s needs.  The interview is not the beginning of your relationship.  It is better seen as a midpoint.  The relationship started when you submitted your resume and the organization decided to invite you in for a closer look.

Always remember that it is the organization that invited you to the interview.  You would not be there if they were not already interested in you.  Compose yourself accordingly and see yourself as a welcomed, first-time guest.

When you reach the interview stage, here are several suggestions:

1. Research the organization:  If an employer has committed time to you, make the same commitment to them.  Learn about the organization.  Their website is an obvious starting point, but dig deeper.  This kind of preparation demonstrates interest and initiative, and will influence their interest in you.  Being able to speak intelligently will create a very favorable impression.

2. Prepare:  Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, your skills and talents, your ambitions, your experiences, and your values.  It is important to have a clear idea of who you are, what you want, and where you want to go.

3. Be on time:  Fifteen minutes early is a good rule.  This will allow you to present yourself in a relaxed and composed manner.

4. Appearance:  Present yourself professionally and conservatively.  Remember, the organization is interested in finding someone who is comfortable with their culture, not someone who is interested in making a fashion statement.  Avoid the heavy use of cologne/perfume as it will not help and may hurt.  Your appearance is an expression of your inner state of mind.  In other words, “dress for success”.  You only get one chance to make a positive first impression.  Interviewers will size you up within 30 seconds.  The first impression is a lasting one.

5. Greeting:  Be pleasant and engaging.  Maintain high energy and enthusiasm.  Good eye contact, a firm handshake, and a confident smile will get the interview off to a good start.

6. Keep your composure:  It is natural to be nervous for an interview.  Just remember it is a meeting of those with a mutual interest.  You are there at the interviewer’s invitation.  Once seated, maintain good posture and natural body language.  A pleasant, engaging manner on your part will make it easier for both of you.

7. Engage:  Always concentrate on the fact that an interview is a “getting to know you” exercise.  Interviewers may ask many questions, but they are generally interested in having a conversation so they can determine what you know and what sort of person you are.  Think of each question as a discussion point, and avoid responses that seem canned.  Guard against a “data dump” of facts.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions in return as this helps promote a dialogue and provides an insight into how you think.

9. Be prepared to talk about yourself:  Some interviewers will give you a chance to make an opening statement.  Take advantage of this because it allows you to lead the discussion.  But never take more than 5 minutes, and don’t waste that time simply reciting your resume.  Discuss your career accomplishments, what attracts you to the position, and how you see it fitting with your career goals.

10. Stay positive throughout:  During the interview, if your instincts tell you that the position is not right for you, stay positive throughout the discussion. Upon further evaluation, if you still feel the position is not a good fit, make certain to remove yourself from consideration professionally.  There may be exciting future opportunities, so burning bridges at this point is not a smart move.

11. Ask your own questions:  Be prepared to ask several questions at the end of the interview, but avoid questions about compensation or benefits.  If asked, be honest, but indicate that you do not want to discuss salary expectations until you know more about the opportunity.  While compensation is clearly important, what should be most important is the quality of the work and the impact you can have on the growth and success of the organization.

12. Express interest:  At the conclusion of the interview, if you remain highly interested in the position, clearly express that you want to pursue the opportunity and ask what the next step will be.

13. References:  Have a list of professional references available if requested.

14. Send thank you notes (email is fine)

15. Practice:  Have a friend or family member conduct a few mock interviews with you.  Get accustomed to hearing a variety of questions and turn those into an opportunity to let the interviewer learn about you.

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