Preparing for Your Job Interview

Nancy Anderson
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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

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Emma so true. Clean up your social media accounts before you even submit that first resume. And let me add that you should always think about what you are putting on your accounts before you click that link to submit it. Honestly you never know when you might be on the unemployment line so why not just make sure, from square one, that you keep all of your accounts clean. @Erin if you can offer criticism in the form of "helping the company" it might work. Just use caution not to offend. @William cramming the day or two before an interview is fine. Jot down some of the things that you found and have that list in front of you during the interview. That will help keep you on track when the nerves try to get the best of you. There is so much that you can find out about a company if you just take the time to search.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    My favorite thing to do is cram my short-term memory for a few days before the interview. That means researching the company's website, the social media accounts of the people who conduct the interview and searching for any news articles. With the right Internet search, someone can find a ton of information.

  • Erin Jean
    Erin Jean

    Is it worth, when reviewing the process of a company's sales, offering constructive criticism in an interview? Would offering ideas on how to improve the process be considered insulting?

  • Emma Rochekins
    Emma Rochekins

    I would suggest cleaning up your social media profiles BEFORE you reach the interview stage. Before even applying anywhere, you probably should double-check that anything publicly viewable on your profiles, whether LinkedIn, Facebook or elsewhere, is appropriate for a potential new boss to view. Actually, LinkedIn should always be cleaned up, work-appropriate and up-to-date.

  • CATHERINE S.
    CATHERINE S.

    I love the suggestion of experiencing the company from a customer's perspective. This is especially applicable to the food and retail industries. I think managers would be very impressed with applicants who talk about their positive experiences of being a customer and how their knowledge of that perspective will serve them well if they are hired. This also gives applicants the opportunity to learn more about the work environment and the types of people that work for that company.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    I think suggestion 3 can be a double edged sword. You should definitely know as much about a product as you can if you know you're interviewing for a position directly related to it. But here are a some reasons why you might not want to go shopping before every interview. First of all you might not be able to afford it. Second, you might not like the product. Maybe your interviewer will welcome your feedback, or maybe s/he won't. In this case, it will be up to you to use your discretion about delivering your honest opinion.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Hema thanks for your questions. If you had been unable to clean up the spill prior to the interview, you should call and request another date or time. Now, that's if you spilled an entire cup of coffee on yourself right before walking in the door to the interview. A small stain that can be covered up is okay. Just make sure that your appearance is neat and clean. No one's hair stays in place all of the time so I wouldn't worry about that. It's not going to take you out of the running. Now if you sat in the interview and fussed with your hair or kept moving around to cover up the stain - that might take you out of the running.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    Before one of my job interviews I accidentally spilled water on my clothes. I was able to dry myself off, thankfully. What would have happened if I hadn’t been able to dry myself off? If I have a small stain or a hair out of place, does that automatically put me out of the running for a job despite my qualifications?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. The world as you knew it before 2007 has changed. Before this time @Abbey, you never would have heard of becoming a "customer" of the company in order to check it out and know if you really want to apply. If you are thinking about it, do some research on it. Check out sites like Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn. You can see what former and current employees think about their company and then judge for yourself. If you see one real negative among a group of positive reviews, then you know that person was probably laid off or fired. @Mike, if you kept a low profile prior to applying for the position and all of a sudden your name appears everywhere, the company will know. It's best to do a gradual infusion instead of one big blast.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    What kind of tips would you give to somebody who purposely keeps a low profile on social media? Although it's still possible to follow the social media accounts of the company, I wonder how much good that does beyond general research. How can somebody make up for the lack of presence on social media if the employer wants to get a sense of who you are before the interview?

  • Kristen Jedrosko
    Kristen Jedrosko

    I think it is a great idea to call ahead and ask questions about the people that will be interviewing you and their status in the agency. I do have one question though, what types of questions should you ask ahead of time and what types of questions would be too much? I think the unpredictability is a big part of the interview process and gives the interviewee a chance to show how they perform under stress and pressure.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I really love the idea of becoming a customer of the company. There is so much you can learn about a company by buying their goods or using their services, and some of these things can give you helpful insight into the company vision and beliefs. It's also useful when you actually get the job, as it's sometimes hard to understand and relate to your customers if you've never been in their position before. This is something I had never heard before, but you can bet I'll remember for the next time!

  • Kellen P.
    Kellen P.

    I totally agree with finding other professionals who have interviewed with the company before your interview! It's not always possible, but if you can manage it, you will have a nice advantage. I was "tipped off" by a former employee once about a "pop quiz" during a job interview, so I wasn't caught off guard by it. It was a huge help.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the questions. Don't fear the interview. It's just a way for a company to start to learn a little bit about you and to make the decisions if you will be a good fit. If you are terrified of the interview, it will show. There is no way to get questions ahead of time because, as @Katharine, each interview is different. When I go to an interview, I will keep a copy of my resume and other pertinent information in my lap or right there on the table where I can see it. It helps to refresh your memory and let's you answer with confidence. Yes companies do ask behavior type questions and maybe something over the top like - if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why. Kind of cracks me up. Makes me think of beauty pageants where they ask the contestants how they would bring about world peace. Just be prepared and be yourself.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    The one issue with the advice to visualize the interview is that it's so hard to predict what will happen- even if you do try to learn as much as you can beforehand. As many interviews as I've been on, I'm always surprised by what they ask or don't ask, and you need to be ready to roll with the punches. Expecting the interview to go a certain way could backfire if you get too thrown off when asked a surprising question.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    An emergency kit is a really great idea and something I haven't thought of to prepare for interviews in the past. I have a question about networking, though. When asking people about the interview process, is it too invasive to ask the types of questions to expect? I want to appear confident, yet inside information about interview questions would be helpful.

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