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6 Essential Tips for Job Interviews

See also: Employability Skills

Job searching is a stressful time that can leave even the calmest individual sweaty and anxious at the thought. Many dangle on clichéd promises, not knowing if they’ll actually be given the opportunity.

However, navigating your job interview doesn't have to be the worst experience of your life.

With some careful preparation, you can reduce the stress you experience before going to your interview and increase your chances of landing the job you've applied for.

Here are six essential tips for your next job interview and why they make all the difference:

1) Do Your Homework

Before you leave for your interview, you should know something about the organization you're applying for, as well as the position and its requirements.

Take some time to become familiar with the organization's mission statement, top management, organizational structure, and the specific branch at which you're applying, if applicable.

In addition, you should know what position you're applying for and its requirements. Study the position description carefully, and use a search engine to see job responsibilities, necessary skills, and ideal candidate profiles for the type of job you're applying for. Going in to your interview with this knowledge will help you come across as capable, informed, and dedicated to the organization, and will give you an edge over less prepared applicants.

2) Dress Appropriately

We've all heard the advice "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have", and this is especially important for interviews.

Your interviewer will make snap judgements about you based on your appearance, so it is critical to present yourself as neat, clean, responsible, and well-dressed. If possible, scope out the organization before you go for your interview. Are the employees dressed in casual clothes or business attire? Are open-toed shoes visible? Use the information you gather to style your own interview outfit.

No matter where you're applying, you should always avoid overly revealing clothing, clothing featuring sexual or crude material, and anything torn. In addition, make sure your hands and nails are clean and appear maintained, and keep any makeup simple (should you wear makeup at all). You might also consider wearing a watch, as many managers consider individuals who wear a watch more responsible and prompt.

3) Be Prepared

The night before your interview, lay out your outfit and make sure it matches, isn't wrinkled, and has no holes or stains. Pack a briefcase or professional bag with copies of your cover letter and resume, multiple pens, and a pad of paper to take notes. If you are applying for a job which requires specific skills or certifications, ensure the documentation for those skills is included in your bag. This may include logbooks, licenses, certifications, etc.

Arrive at your interview at least 5 minutes early, and make sure your cell phone is on silent and you dispose of any gum you may be chewing.

Finally, take a quick peek in a mirror just before meeting your interviewer, if possible, to ensure you look your best.

4) Be Polite

This doesn't just extend to your interviewer. Treat everyone you encounter as if they were interviewing you.

Some organizations will ask around for their employee's opinions of you before extending a job offer, so make sure you leave a good impression on everyone from the parking at attendant to the doorman to your interviewer. Greet everyone, shake hands firmly, and make eye contact. Never brush off someone you encounter or act haughty or snide towards them, as this could hurt your image at the organization.

5) Sell Yourself

An example of strong job interview skills consists of acting as if you are a product you're trying to sell to the organization. Highlight your skills, strengths, and your genuine personality. Always remain truthful when asked questions, and keep your responses concise and focused.

Brushing up on your job interview skills a few days before using a mirror or a friend willing to provide honest feedback is a great idea to ensure you can navigate at least some of the questions thrown at you with ease. By having prepared answers to questions you're likely to be asked, you can focus more on answering organization-specific questions that you may not be prepared for.

In addition, you should be mindful of your body language during the interview. Sit up straight, don't slouch. Maintain eye contact, don't look off into the distance. Try to avoid fidgeting, chewing gum, and inactive listening. Finally, avoid bad-mouthing previous employers, co-workers, or organizations, no matter how much your interviewer may bait you. 

6) Finish Strong

The last questions you ask your interviewer should revolve around the next steps and their expected time frame for making a decision.

For sales jobs or other positions that require aggressive techniques, you might consider directly asking for the job. It would be wise to factor in the tone of the interview and how sure you are that aggressive techniques will wow your interviewer, however – if the interview was shaky, it might be best to skip this step altogether.

Finally, thank your interviewer for their time. A nice add-on step might be to send a thank you email and a handwritten thank you note a few days later, to express your gratitude for the opportunity to interview you. This will help keep your name fresh in your interviewer's mind as they review applications and interview details.

Overall, interviews aren't something you can go into flying blind. With careful preparation, a bit of rehearsal, and strong job interview skills, however, you can greatly increase your chances of landing the job you've applied for.

About the Author

Paul Langdon is the Job Connection Program Manager. Langdon joined Goodwill Industries in 2013 and has worked tirelessly in the employment program to help people find work.