Preparing for a job interview

prepare job interview tips

Today I have a job interview, the first of the season. I'm not nervous because I have plenty of experience with interviews, having done at least 10 every time I find myself unemployed. You would think that I would have the ordeal down pat, but there are still a few things that I'm figuring out, especially when it comes to answering questions such as "Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?" or "What are you goals?" (Do you mean in life, for this job, or what?)

In any case, I thought I would share some of the lessons I've learned over the years when it comes to job interviews.

- Prepare:
  • Know the company or institution you are applying to. What is their mission, vision and values? Who works there? Read through their website as well as any documents they produce and publish (reports, press releases, whatever).
  • Know who is interviewing you. If a secretary or assistant calls you to set a date and time, ask them who will be receiving you, then Google them. This will help you feel more comfortable when you arrive, and you could get some idea what kind of person they want on their team. Plus, you can start jotting down some questions you might want to ask them (more on this later).

- Grooming: How you look is definitely important. Whatever people tell you, first impressions are *always* based on looks, and you definitely want to win your interviewer over as soon as possible.
  • Attire. Your choice of clothes will probably depend on where you're applying to. If you're going to an interview at a government office, your clothing should be a lot more formal than if you're going to an NGO, for example. Your previous research should tell you; if you can't figure it out from their website, find someone who works there and ask them, or visit the offices beforehand to get an idea. Obviously, whatever your outfit, make sure it is clean and smart, and be comfortable in it! There's nothing worse than trying to answer cleverly when your sweater itches or your skirt rides up!
  • Hair and make-up. Keep it simple and sweet. Again, be comfortable; this includes feeling pretty or well-groomed, or whatever look you're going for, as long as it makes you feel good and professional at the same time. Skip the blue and glittery eyeshadow.
  • Shoes. Make sure your shoes are professional enough, clean, not scratched. If, like me, you're probably going to have to walk a lot, try to bring your interview shoes in a bag and change them before going in. Otherwise, chose something that's comfortable and makes you look good (flats, or shoes with a kitten heel are always a good option).

- Presentation: This goes beyond how you look; it's about your attitude and how you carry yourself.
  • Be aware. Sure, we're all nervous, especially if we're going after our dream position, or the one that best advances our career. If, like me, you begin to play with your jewelry or bite your nails, be extra aware of it and stop it.
  • Smile, especially when you first arrive. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and smile. 'Happy' is probably not the word that best describes you at this point, but fake it as much as possible. It helps not only to establish friendliness with your counterpart, but it makes you feel so much better.

- During the interview:
  • Give concise answers. Unless you're asked to specifically, don't give long, wound-about answers to questions. Stick to the point. You don't want to bore anyone, quite the opposite. If what you're saying is interesting or relevant, they will want to know more and you'll get that chance.
  • Ask questions. Interviewers will always ask if you have any questions. Take advantage of this to learn more about the company, the position, the people you will be working with and for, anything and everything. Try to go beyond the usual questions on salary and benefits. Be creatives! It makes for a good impression, since they will know you are definitely interested in working with them.

- Afterwards:
  • Breathe. It's over! Give yourself a pat in the back and go have some cake or a drink. You deserve it.
  • Follow-up. I haven't actually done this yet, but I've read in countless places that you should call (or e-mail, but preferably call) the company no more than a few days after the interview. I've always thought it was a bit of a desperate move, but I'm willing to try it now that I've seen it recommended pretty much everywhere.
  • Don't despair. Even if you don't get that job, going to the interview is preparing you for the ones to come. Plus, you're practicing confidence in yourself and honing your skills. Don't give up.

So, there it is. What do you think? Do you have any other tips or a routine that you do before a job interview? Is this helpful at all?

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