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March 13, 2009
Nail the Interview
 
Interviews are your big chance to make it happen. A lot can ride on the outcome; often there's not a 2nd chance. But hey, no pressure right? 
 
A lot has been said and written about interviews in the past but I continue to receive questions about best practices and tips so it's obviously a timeless subject. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind, regardless of your level of experience or the type of position you may be seeking.
 
Hit the Library
Well we know it's all about Google now, but "hit google" doesn't sound as fun. The point is you must do the research. Know the company, their competitors, recent press releases, and as much information on the person interviewing you as possible. Gathering information on management is a good idea even if you're only meeting with HR so you can speak about the company's leaders given the opportunity.
 
Practice makes Perfect
It sounds corny, but practicing your answers out-loud is very helpful. You need to have your elevator-pitch down, and smooth answers related to the following: Why are you looking? Why did you leave your last position? Why are you interested in this company and position? What qualifies you for this position? What do you like to do outside the office? 
 
Behavioral Questions
Most interviewers will ask you to relate specific examples of how you have handled certain situations in your career. If you are in management, you can be it will be related to a direct-report, for example. If you're asked a vague question like: "Tell me a project you worked on where you were proud of the results" you had better be able to nail this. Conversely, be ready to tell the details of a failure in your career, how you handled it, and what you learned. Interviewers eat this up.
 
Nerves in Check
No matter how experienced you are, you should be slightly nervous in a job interview. If not, conjur up the adrenalin that accompanies those feelings so you can stay sharp and focused. The point: use it to your advantage. You shouldn't seem skittish, so if you tend to become overly nervous, just keep taking deep breaths. The physiology behind this does in fact work. But the last thing you want to do is appear too relaxed or laissez-faire. Eyes bright, sitting up straight, hands folded or being used to write notes on your notepad. These basics will never fail you.
 
Panel Interviews
Everyone hates them. So do I, in fact. But panel interviews will occur and you should be prepared for these as well. A good tip: on your notepad, write down the names and titles of everyone and their seating positions so you can quickly reference throughout the interview. Your brain should be working on answers to their questions and not remembering who is who. Without this distraction, simply proceed as in a one-to-one. Make frequent eye contact, equally with all.
 
Quick Do's:
 
·         Arrive between 5 and 10 minutes early - period
·         Dress up - even you Creatives. It's a sign of respect
·         Eat a breath mint
·         Be exceptionally nice to any receptionist or greeter
·         Bring pen/paper/copies of credentials - resume, writing samples, portfolio
·         Have a list of questions prepared
·         Accept an offer for water - you may get parched and need it
·         Shake firmly but don't try to be Stallone
·         Make steady eye contact
·         Take notes - or at least pretend to
·         Ask about next steps prior to leaving
·         Obtain business cards for following up
 
Quick Don't's:
 
·         Arrive more than 10 minutes ahead of time - circle the block if you need to kill the time
·         Chew gum
·         Drink all of your water - you don't want to have to ask for a bathroom break
·         Tap your feet or click your pen
·         Talk about your former employer until asked and never, ever, talk negatively
·         Get too comfortable - many of you will be interviewing in a casual setting - DON'T let your guard down
·         Joke about something that wasn't actually funny at the time - like if you fell asleep in a client meeting when you were a Junior. Trust me, if it wasn't funny then, it's not going to amuse a prospective employer.
·         Forget anything when you're leaving - check twice
 
And no matter what, even if you're unsure about whether you're interested in the job in the first 5 minutes, never forget that your goal is to obtain an offer. You can't decline an offer you don't receive, so keep up the interview game-face regardless of what you hear in the interview. You never know when you just might want or need that job in the future.

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Amy Hoover has been with Talent Zoo for more than 12 years. Considered an industry expert in employment practices and trends, she speaks often at events and is frequently interviewed by industry publications.

 
Amy was also widely read as the premier blogger on Hiring-Revolution for many years where she earned a reputation for wit, entertainment, information, and no bull. You can find her on Linked, friend her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
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