Job interviews are one of the most important professional meetings you’ll have in your career. They’re your chance to lay the foundation, to make first impressions and to win the job and enjoy future success within the organization. Here are some ways to prepare yourself for your time in the spotlight:
- Visualize your success.
The key to any positive performance is to picture your success in advance. Before you pick out your suit or shine your shoes, write down questions you expect to be asked and take a few minutes to consider affirming responses that factor in both your strengths and your shortcomings. Reflect on how these characteristics are positive qualities that make you the perfect fit for the job and the company. Self-honesty allows you to be objective about who you are and sets the stage for confidently selling yourself during the interview. Next, jot down some keywords on a file card and then practice your responses aloud in front of a mirror. As you do, visualize yourself winning the interviewer’s confidence—and the job.
- Dress accordingly.
You’ve likely read all the fashion rules (which vary slightly, depending on the industry), but you can’t go wrong if you dress to impress. Pick an outfit for your interview that’s more upscale than what you expect to wear once you’ve landed the job. If the business trends toward casual attire, don’t wear Armani; what you wear to the interview should reinforce that you’re a good fit for the job. However, whatever you choose should be clean, pressed and flattering. Needless to say, your grooming should be impeccable—including your nails and hair. And, whether it’s in person, a video interview or even over the phone, be sure to dress the part. You’ll feel more confident when you and your interviewer first meet—and confidence is very appealing.
- Have your résumé updated and on hand.
It’s important to have your professional story—polished, organized and well-rehearsed—at your fingertips. Whether you bring a few printouts on high-quality paper, carry in a design portfolio or refer the interviewer to your website and blog, make sure your choices reflect your achievements and capabilities. For senior level positions, determine ahead of time if a customized PowerPoint is an appropriate choice. Whatever method you choose should clearly reinforce that you are the right candidate for the job and that your skills and achievements will advance the company’s business goals. If you are in iMeet, providing direct access to your LinkedIn profile allows you to seamlessly integrate your portfolio and samples as part of the conversation.
- Avoid business jargon and stereotypes.
The need for clear communication—for presenting ourselves clearly and authentically within professional settings and situations—cannot be over emphasized. Don’t try to affect a lofty vocabulary that exceeds the circumstance or your skills. Be natural, comfortable and aware of your audience’s professional expectations. With Millennials now populating the workforce in substantial numbers, you may find yourself face-to-face with an interviewer wearing a hoodie and sandals rather than a suit and loafers. Don’t assume that—because your interviewer is a generation younger than you or sports sleeve tattoos—that they lack professional judgment. New perspectives on collaboration and leadership are transforming corporate environments, and this includes shelving clichéd jargon during business conversations and—in many workplaces—ditching the monkey suit.
- Don’t talk too much.
By researching the company and visualizing how you’ll win the interview, you’ve determined how your own experience and accomplishments align with its current and future needs—this is particularly important if you are changing industries or career fields. To maintain a positive image during the interview, suppress the common nervous tendency to talk too much. Speak precisely, prepare key anecdotes that reveal your strengths and successes, but don’t recite canned responses; be naturally confident in who you are, what you know and what you have to offer. And by all means, make sure to listen as much as you speak.
- Ask thoughtful questions in reply.
If you do your homework in advance, you’ll have a good understanding of the company structure, products, and core business philosophies. Such knowledge will allow you to converse intelligently about how you are a good fit and pinpoint ways that you can add value to the company. However, many businesses have been affected by changes in the marketplace due to the economy, new competitors or reorganization. Track down recent press releases, business reports or relevant social media conversations. You have a right to ask—and a right to know—if you are investing your time and talent with a stable and fiscally healthy company.
- Be positive.
Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. You know how the old song goes, and the advice still holds true today. A person’s appearance, expressions, body language and manner of speech convey identifiable attitudes and feelings. If you demonstrate confidence, enthusiasm and motivation, your interviewer will be more likely to remember you when it’s time to pare down the candidate pool. Try to maintain a sense of humor during the interview, despite the butterflies and second-guessing. A sullen expression on a frozen face spells disaster. Just keep in mind that laughter can break the ice and connect you to others; however, too much can undermine your credibility and label you as a potential source of disruption as well as a hindrance to daily productivity.
Sure, the economy is tough but you don’t have to be. A job posting is like a casting call for the smartest, kindest and most gracious talent in the field—the kind of people most companies want working for them. Nevertheless, successful job interviews often come down to chemistry and a mutual gut feeling that you could happily spend nine hours a day in each other’s company.
You can be the chosen one, but it takes forethought, preparation and confidence. And, yes…a little luck never hurts either.