Do your homework! –You must research the company and know what they do, what they stand for and more importantly what value you can add to the company. Know their products, their competition and the names of the top leadership. Know their successes and products failures. And make sure they know it! Tie in a surprising fact or statistic so that it shows you’ve done your homework. Do you know who will be interviewing you? Find out and then do a little research on them. You need to be able to speak knowledgeably about the company in order to create the idea that you’re a good fit for the company.
Assess your social media presence. When employers google your name (and they will, it’s the 1st step in weeding out potential interviews from the masses), what will they find? Photos of you drinking beer? Delete. Bikini shots? Delete. Selfie shots with a lot of cleavage? Delete. Your on-line photos are a representation of who you are and by extension the company or brand you work for. Remember that nothing is private anymore and if you get hired you must make sure your social media will never embarrass the firm. Join LinkedIn and make sure you have a catchy/creative headline that immediately lets people know who you are and what you’re interested in. (E.g. “Up-and-coming sociologist with a contagious passion for gender studies.”). Make sure all your social media outlets are linked together, look professional and you’re your messaging is on-target and consistent.
Develop your elevator pitch. This is so important, and it’s shocking how many people have no idea what their elevator pitch is. You will miss out on crucial networking opportunities and chance meetings if you don’t have a perfected elevator pitch. This is a 30-60 second moment to impress.
Bring copies of your resume/CV/cover letter. Always have extra copies on hand (literally in a file folder that’s easily accessible). Don’t go rummaging through your bag looking for a copy. You never want to make them wait. Look prepared and professional. Make sure it’s a clean copy that’s not bent or crinkled in any way. Also bring multiple copies of your list of references.
Prepare answers. Having a prepared answer to the most common interview questions is a basic prerequisite. Do not try to “ad lib” on the spot. Ever listen to wedding speeches that tried to just “wing it”? Brutal. They’re the worst, and the person always sounds like an idiot. Write down your answers and practice saying them aloud. Then practice in front of others. You never want a situation where you’ve thought of the best answer AFTER the interview as you’re driving home. Be prepared, sound prepared. You need to explain, demonstrate or even convince the employer you’re the right candidate for the job, especially if you don’t have all the required experience or education. It’s your job to draw the connections between you and the job, not the employer.
Prepare questions of your own. Always have a few thoughtful and insightful questions (1-3 questions maximum) prepared to ask your potential employer. This shows initiative and professionalism. You will be asked at the end of interview if you have any questions of your own. Count on this. It always happens, so prepare for it. There are 2 big mistakes people make: (1) not having any questions of their own; and (2) asking inappropriate questions. Never, ever, ever ask about salary, benefits; vacation time, dress code or days off during your 1st interview, because it will be your last! Ask questions about products, day-to-day requirements of this position, who you’ll be working with. Remember, this is a two-way interview; they’re trying to figure out if you’re the right fit, and you should be figuring out if the company is the right fit for you, so ask questions that will help you decide.
Prepare for the different types of interview formats. You’ll always be told in advance what type of interview it is. If not, make sure you ask so that you can prepare. It could be a panel interview, a group interview, a mock-lecture interview, telephone interview, etc. Know the type and prepare for it.
Practice, practice, practice. The single most important thing you can do before your interview is to practice every aspect of it. Practice your handshake (see my post on this); practice how you’ll introduce yourself and give a sound bite or tag line (see my post on this); practice how you’ll sound answering the questions. Take a video of yourself and assess your tone, mannerisms and facial expressions. Practice your answers. Practice your closing statement and goodbye. Practice it all.