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The Five Most Important Things to Know When Preparing for a Job Interview

Approximately 20,000 jobs were created in February 2019, and the national unemployment rate dipped to 3.8 percent. It is a candidate’s market right now. What does that mean? You have the opportunity to go on interviews. As a recruiter, one of my favorite parts about my role is preparing candidates to ace their interviews. Here are my top five suggestions:

1. Have your materials ready. Preparedness is one of the first things an interviewer takes note of, and this could make or end the interview process.  Be sure to have plenty of copies of your resume. I recommend bringing one for each person you’re meeting with, one for yourself and one extra. Know the details of your resume thoroughly so that you can be prepared to answer any questions you are asked about your work history. In addition to the company basics, be very familiar with their mission, history and other unique points. Showing that you did your homework will get your interview off to a strong start. 

2. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. No matter what type of role you are interviewing for, professional dress is critical. I’ve had candidates tell me they have heard the culture at a company is laid-back, so they worry about being over-dressed. When it comes to interviewing, there is no such thing as being over-dressed. This is your opportunity to make a first impression and your appearance will be a big part of that. Be clean, pressed and polished. Dressing professionally will show you are serious about the job and about your career.

3. Be curious and inquisitive. I’ve heard too many times from employers that they enjoyed meeting with a candidate but decided not to choose them for a role because they didn’t seem interested. Why? They did not have questions to ask. Inquiring about the day-to-day of the position, the company culture, the challenges of the role and how to be successful is significant in the interview process. It is just as important for you to make sure the job is right for you as it is for the employer to make sure you are the right fit for the job. Don’t be afraid to write down any questions that come to mind during your conversation and ask them when you have the chance to do so.

4. Have answers ready. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Tell me about a time when you had to handle multiple priorities at once. What did you like most about your last position? These questions can be intimidating. Write down answers to the common interview questions ahead of time and rehearse them. Pull your sister, friend, dad or wife aside to role-play the interview with you so you can actively practice answering the more difficult questions. Focus on selling yourself and being genuine, but realistic. Employers can see through the “I work too hard” game. Be honest about your weaknesses and the challenges you have faced at work, but make sure to round out the discussion by sharing how you have worked to be better. If you get stuck on a question during the interview, it’s okay to ask to return to this question at the end so you can have more time to formulate the best answer. Don’t forget to be prepared to answer questions about your specific experience and skills also. Does this job require knowledge of a software program you are not familiar with? Rather than focusing on your lack of skills, instead focus on what skills you do possess. Come up with a response where you can talk about a time you were required to learn a new software and how you were able to do that. Your ability and work ethic will shine through.

5. Believe in yourself. Being nervous for an interview is normal, but remember that you have been invited to interview because the employer feels your resume is a match for the position. Think of a duck swimming on a pond: from the outside, it looks to be peacefully floating, but under the surface, its feet are paddling a mile a minute to stay above water. It’s easy to feel like everyone can see us trying to stay afloat, but they can’t! Try not to let your nerves get the best of you. Show your confidence: smile, give a good handshake and make eye contact. Additionally, do not be afraid to emphasize your interest in the position. Who doesn’t want to hire the person who will be excited to come to work every day? You will impress them. 

Interviewing is a skill and the more you do it, the stronger you become. Don’t be hard on yourself if you stumble. Learn from your experiences and use them to fuel your next meeting.

Resources:

National Unemployment Rate at 3.8 Percent Through February 2019, NCSL, February 1, 2019

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