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Professional Development: Mastering the Interview

No matter how great your education and work experience may be, how you perform in a job interview can make or break your chances of landing the perfect job. And in a competitive job market, you may not get too many chances to make that first impression.

When it comes to mastering the interview, there is one golden rule: you can never be too prepared! Career coaches often refer to the four P's of interviewing:

Preparation
Research the company you'll be interviewing with. Visit their website, Google them, ask around, look for recent headlines about them. When you're reviewing the website, take a look at the news releases and company news section so that you can be in the know during your interview.

Practice
Have friends and family members help you practice for the big interview, and ask for honest feedback. Are you speaking too quickly? Are you answering questions effectively? Have them ask you a series of questions from these common interview questions.

Personal Presentation
Be aware of how you present yourself. Try to find out what the dress code is in the office where you'll be interviewing, and bump it up a notch or two. You might videotape a mock interview so you can see how you look to others.

Pertinent Questions
Finally, consider your interview a dialog. If you prepare effectively, you'll be able to ask informed and effective questions. The person interviewing you will be more impressed with questions that show an understanding of their business.
Now that you know what to do, take a moment to review these common mistakes so you'll know what NOT to do as well:

  • Not dressing appropriately! Dress conservatively, and over-dressed is better than under-dressed.
  • Leaving the cell phone on! Don't just put it on vibrate, turn it off. Better yet, leave it in the car.
  • Letting them see you sweat! Being prepared is the best way to fight nervousness. Keep in mind that many of your speech ticks ("um" and "and") are signs of nervousness.
  • Not arriving on time! Plan to be 10 minutes early. If you're going to an unfamiliar area, take a practice drive a day or two before.
  • Being negative! Be careful how you talk about your previous employers. If you say negative things about them, your interviewer may question how you'll talk about them in the future.

In the end, being aware of what you're doing and how you come across in an interview is the best way to ensure that the impression you make is a good one!