Dress-for-work. In any workplace, your wardrobe is a sign of your professionalism and is sometimes used to gauge your level of competence. When your coworkers and customers look at you, they should immediately feel comfortable working with you. It's easy to rule yourself out of a job just because you didn't take care of your appearance. As a rule of thumb, you should dress for the interview the way you would for the job itself. If the job is unusually casual, however, you might want to show up in business-casual clothes, but it's always better to be formal. Both men and women should choose subdued colors (blues, browns, grays, black) which make a professional impression. Make sure that your clothes are lint- and wrinkle-free. Avoid wearing perfume, after-shave, or scented lotion (but do wear deodorant).
Be personable. Try to come off as a genuinely likable person if you can. If you're cynical, pessimistic, and absolutely disabused of any faith in humanity, try to tone it down during the interview. 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.
You’ve made it to the interview stage! But before you step through that door, make sure you know the basic steps of a successful job interview.
- Learn about the company and the position. Check their Web site, use online corporate directories such as Hoovers.com or Yahoo Finance, or request information from the company’s public relations department. Your school’s reference librarian can help you track down all sorts of useful information, such as the company’s size, history, main products and services, the names of top executives and current news stories.
- Rehearse with mock interviews. Check with your school’s career planning center to see if they offer a program to help you improve your interview skills.
- Doublecheck the time and location of the interview. If it’s in an area that’s new to you, consult a map or take a test-run the day before to make sure you know how to get there.
- Prepare what you want to say in the interview. Think about your greatest strengths and weaknesses, your most significant work or school experiences, your future plans and your ideal job.
- Review your resume and think about how your experiences can be matched up with the job’s requirements.
- Dress appropriately. Choose conservative clothing and keep jewelry and accessories to a minimum.
- Be punctual. Arrive a little early to allow yourself time to relax and focus.
- Bring along some basic interview tools: extra copies of your resume, a notepad and a pen. Take notes on any interesting points or questions. Your notes will come in handy when preparing for a second interview or writing a follow-up letter.
- Be sure to listen actively throughout the interview. It’s easy to spend all your time planning your answers, but remember, this is a conversation. Listening carefully helps you to respond appropriately.
- Avoid generalities and cliches (“I’m a people-person”). Give concrete examples when describing your work experience. And always be positive. Don’t be critical of previous co-workers or bosses. The way you talk about your former or current boss may be seen as an indication of how you will talk about your future boss.
- Demonstrate that you have thought seriously about this career path and this company by asking intelligent questions about the position. Draw upon your research about the company, or ask about the working conditions, the chances for advancement and major projects your prospective job would entail.
- Ask your interviewers for their business cards to ensure that you have the proper contact information when you follow up.
- Afterward, send a follow-up letter. Thank the interviewer for taking the time to speak with you and let them know that you are still interested. Demonstrate your interest by describing how you could contribute to the company’s future.
- Review what you’ve learned. What were the strongest parts of your interview? What were the weakest? Were you asked any questions you hadn’t anticipated? And what did you learn about this company or career track? Even if you don’t get the job, you can learn a lot from every interview.
Keep this outline in mind and you’ll be ready to ace your next interview.
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