Somehow, it would help if you convinced someone to hire you based on one meeting, your job interview. How do you make the best impression possible?

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

You’ve been invited to interview for a job, so now all you have to do is show up, right? Wrong: your first task is to find out as much as possible about the company. Pretend the company is a person: what questions would you ask it? What does it do? How long has it been operating? Who started it, and where? Are there branches; if so, where?

Brainstorm, and if necessary, ask someone for help in compiling a list of questions. The more you know about the company, the more you will be able to converse intelligently with the interview. More importantly, you will impress this person with your knowledge and interest.

Make Yourself a Crib Sheet

Please make a list of the kinds of questions you might be asked at the interview, then answer them in detail. Then, when you are faced with them in the actual interview, you will smoothly provide the requested information. The objective is to appear self-aware and comfortable.

Some typical questions and ways to answer (or not) include:

  • What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Try to think of two to three original qualities that are as particular to you as possible. In other words, what makes you different from other interviewees? Be truthful and resist the urge to exaggerate. Always turn a weakness into a strength. For instance: One of my weaknesses is that I tend to procrastinate, but I do better work under a tight deadline.

Think carefully about the inevitable, “Tell me about yourself.” This subject is one you are intimate with, so be creative. Do not assert, “I’m dependable, I’m always on time,” or any other quality that an employer would expect from an employee.

While conversing with your interviewee, look him or her in the eyes. Smile. Ask questions if the opportunity arises. Do not fidget, and be aware of your body language. Sit up straight, cross your legs comfortably, and lay your hands on the chair armrests or lightly in your lap. Or you can hold a pad and paper to take notes, but take care not to spend too much time doing so. Direct your attention to the person interviewing you.

Prepare yourself mentally for the possibility of being interviewed by more than one person or by being introduced to a variety of people in the office. It cannot be very comforting, but if you know it might happen, you can relax when it does.

Dress for Success

How you choose to present yourself for your interview communicates essential information to the prospective employer. Men, wear a suit and tie; shine up a pair of leather loafers, and do not wear earrings to the interview if you have pierced ears. Do not use cologne.

Women wear pants, suits, or skirts. If you choose a dress, make it no higher than the knee, and wear pantyhose and low, close-toed shoes. Remove extra earrings and do not wear a lot of jewelry. Do not wear perfume.

Everyone, of course, should be freshly bathed and groomed, with neatened hair pulled away from the face. Make sure you brush your teeth and do not smoke before your interview. Do not chew gum during the interview. Shake hands when you introduce yourself to your interviewer.

The Early Bird Gets the Job

Arrive 20-30 minutes before you are scheduled to interview. This way, you will leave early enough to compensate for heavy traffic or other delays. When you get there, you will have time to catch your breath and think over your strategy while you wait, rather than rushing into the interview as soon as you walk in the door.

Take time to chat with the office staff if you have the chance. You can find out how people like working there, which can help you decide to work there.

If you show up late, don’t bother to go in. You’ve just demonstrated that you are careless about time.

It Ain’t Over Until

Write thank-you notes, by hand, to the interviewer as soon as you get home or shortly after that. Not only will you be showing common courtesy, but you also will be bringing your name back into his or her consciousness. Two to three weeks after the interview, call and ask if a decision has been made. Again, you are inserting yourself back into the interviewer’s awareness; sometimes, interviewers do not let everyone know the position has been filled.

Practice Makes Perfect

The more you interview, the better you will get at this unique skill. Practice in front of a mirror, have a friend role play with you or visit a career center. If you can appear comfortable in the interviewee’s role, you will increase your chances of being hired. Your comfort level will increase if you are prepared, so get started. The sooner you start, the sooner you will find yourself a job.

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