A job interview is a make-or-break part of the hiring process. Most employers only offer interviews to candidates that are being considered seriously for the position; when you arrive prepared, it demonstrates to the employer that you are equally invested. Advance preparation also helps you focus during the interview so that you use the time wisely.
1. Connect on Social Media
Modern companies conduct a great deal of business and relationship-building online. After you schedule a job interview, clean up your social media profiles. Then, like the company's Facebook page. If the company has Instagram or Twitter profiles, follow them as well. On LinkedIn, send requests to your contacts at the company, such as the hiring manager and the person who will be interviewing you. This process helps your potential co-workers get a sense of who you are; it also enables you to learn about the company in small, easily digestible increments.
2. Know What to Expect
Interviews can vary dramatically between companies; don't assume that your upcoming interview will be similar to past experiences. Take the guesswork out of the process by calling the hiring manager. Ask for the names and titles of the people who will be in the interview. The number of people and their importance within the company can tell you a great deal about what to expect. A session with an HR person is most likely a screening interview to ensure you meet basic qualifications. If you're meeting with the whole management team, on the other hand, you can expect tougher, more targeted questions. Reach out to your professional contacts to find others who have interviewed at the same company, and ask about the experience.
3. Experience the Company
As an employee, you must be able to make decisions that benefit the customer. Develop an insider's insight before the interview by taking time to experience the company from the customer's perspective. Buy and use one of the company's products. Walk through the quoting process online for a service, or test out the customer service platform. This type of firsthand knowledge makes it easier to give targeted answers during the interview; it also helps you think of smart, thoughtful questions and suggestions.
4. Visualize the Interview
Before a big competition, professional athletes often visualize the event to prepare mentally. The same process can help you prepare for a job interview. To start, sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Imagine yourself waking up on the day of the interview. Run through the day in your head, seeing yourself performing perfectly each step of the way. As you visualize, try to activate all of your senses; imagine how your morning coffee smells, and feel the breeze as you walk into the building. Feel your inner confidence as you answer interview questions and shake the employer's hand. This type of mental rehearsal helps prepare your mind and body, so you feel comfortable and less nervous on the day of the interview.
5. Attend Practice Interviews
Check with the careers center at local universities, business help centers or community colleges to learn about mock interviewing services. Provide the center with the job posting and basic information about the company, and sign up for a practice session. Treat the mock interview seriously, and focus on answering questions in a professional and approachable manner. This process helps you improve your communication and etiquette. By using a stranger instead of a friend for practice interviews, you can replicate some of the nerves and discomfort of the real thing.
6. Make an Emergency Kit
A last-minute mishap can sabotage your confidence and composure on the day of a job interview. A few days before the interview, make an emergency kit that can help you get past common disasters with grace. At a minimum, include a stain-removing stick, a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste, and a miniature sewing kit. If there's a chance of rain, include a small umbrella. Women can also include a small pack of makeup-removing cloths to fix smudged eyeliner or mascara.
7. Practice Breathing Exercises
Your preparation shouldn't stop when you get to the office. When you are sitting in the reception area or riding the elevator, you might begin to feel the effects of the job-interview nerves. Calm your racing heart and shaking hands by performing breathing exercises. Try taking slow, deep breaths for a minute. If that doesn't work, breathe in slowly as you count to five. Hold the breath as you count to seven. Then, let the breath out slowly as you count to nine. This process helps center your mind and body, so you can start the interview feeling calm and collected.
The job interview itself is a short, stressful period of time; the preparations you make in the preceding weeks and days can be the difference between success and failure. By starting early and breaking up the work into small pieces, you can prepare adequately without feeling overwhelmed by new information.
Photo Courtesy of Trainers Advice at Flickr.com