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April 15, 2011
The Ultimate Interview Checklist

When you're interviewing, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the potential job and lose focus on the very basics that will help ensure you do your best to get the job. I've compiled a quick checklist below that you should follow faithfully, before each and every interview. Read on and you'll see much of it is, of course, common sense, but just like forgetting the most important item you needed from the market because you didn't write it down ahead of time, it's easy to forget one or more of these basics. So here is your list of the tried and true – check it twice and beat out your competition for the new gig.

  1. Do your homework and research the company. Review the website, blogs, social media presence, and then Google them for recent news.

  2. Ask ahead of time for a schedule of people you will meet with, and Google them individually, too. Make notes ahead of time and be sure to have them with you.

  1. Dress up – even if you know you're going into a casual environment, you've got to respect the process. You are not too cool to wear something nice, I promise.

  2. Have at least five questions ready, on paper. Also make notes on this page during the interview so your thoughts are all in one place when it's over.

  3. Have printouts of your resume and references ready, three copies of each. One set of portfolio pieces/writing samples will suffice. Ask the interviewer as the meeting begins if he/she would like a fresh copy of any of these items.

  4. Arrive no earlier than 10 minutes before start time. Circle the block or head to Starbucks if you've got time to kill.

  5. Enter the phone number into your phone before you leave for the interview so you can easily call if you run into an issue and will be late.

  6. Be aware that people are likely watching you while you're waiting. (One of my favorite horror stories on this subject happened a few years ago. After an interview ended, the hiring manager called me to give his feedback and although the candidate had a very good interview, she didn't realize that they were on the same elevator when she arrived and that he was treated to a 30-second show of her using the mirror to check out her own derriere and pick her teeth on the ride up to the office suite. She did not receive a job offer from that company.)

  7. No gum, no cell phone. Period. Turn the phone off before you walk into the building, and spit out the gum in the car.

  8. If offered water do accept, but don't drink until the end – you don't want to have to excuse yourself for a restroom break. And, it will give you something to do if there is an awkward silence (see #12).

  9. Always have these answers for these questions ready: 1) Why are you looking for a job now? 2) What interests you about this job? 3) What will you bring to the table? 4) What are your strengths and weaknesses? (With any luck, the strengths/weaknesses question will become extinct in our lifetimes). Have 2-3 stories related to your professional successes ready to tell.

  10. It's ok to be quiet. Don't feel like you have to fill every silence with your own voice. Some of the biggest mistakes interviewees have made involve saying too much. If you fall into this trap, you will likely say something you haven't thought through. TIP: If there is a silence, take a tiny sip of water (see #10).

  11. Try to talk about what you can ultimately do to affect the bottom line and keep the company's customers & clients happy. That's what every employee at any company should work toward.

  12. Be as honest as you can. Don't try to say what you think the interviewer wants to hear, because frankly, you don't know what that is.

  13. Ask about next steps and the timeline before you leave, and always express your interest in the position – even if you're not certain yet of your interest level. (You can always change your mind later.) It's also completely appropriate to ask about when you should follow up afterward. Just be sure to heed to what you're told.

I won't guarantee these tips will nail you the job, but I've seen them ignored or forgotten far too many times to keep them to myself. Now, go break a leg!

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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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