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How to Prepare for a Job Interview

So, you’re getting a new opportunity. You applied for a job, and now it’s time for an in-person interview. This is your big shot — and you don’t want to mess it up.

The best way to go into a job interview is cool, calm and collected, and the best way to be cool, calm and collected is to properly prepare. If you’re wondering how to prepare for a job interview, here’s a look at the 5 key things you must do before arriving at the interview site.

  1. Research, Research, Research

You should learn everything you can about the company you’re interviewing to work for, and you should also know everything you can about the people you will be interviewing with.

Read the company’s website, take a look at any available collateral, review its press releases, and find news stories that report on its activities. If the company offers a product, test it out.

When researching the people you will be interviewing with, start by connecting with them on LinkedIn and checking out their profiles. Then, conduct a simple Google search to find out more about them. Have they been quoted in industry publications? Have they presented at conferences? Have they received any awards, honors or recognition?

Now, here’s the key question: What do you do with all this research? You should read and re-read it so that it’s internalized. But you should also pair up nuggets of information you uncover with questions you might be asked and answers you might want to give. Interviewers want to know that you’ve prepared, so think through ways you can share what you’ve learned in the natural flow of the interview.

  1. Questions (and Answers)

This is the most important step in preparation. There are only so many questions you might be asked during the interview, so think of as many possible questions as you can. Then, write out answers to those questions.

There’s a fairly recent trend in recruitment and hiring. It’s called “behavioral interviewing,” which is simply questions that begin with this: “Tell me about a time when …” Examples might include:

“Tell me about a time when you successfully led an inter-departmental team to achieve an ambitious goal.”

“Tell me about a time when you had to resolve conflict between 2 or more of your direct reports.”

“Tell me about a time when you innovated to deliver a solution your manager wasn’t expecting (but that he or she really appreciated).”

Be sure to think through answers to these behavioral interviewing questions. You’ll find that anticipating these types of questions and thinking through answers to them arms you with several quick case studies you can deploy during the interview.

  1. What to Wear

The answer here isn’t as simple as you think. Once upon a time, it was known and understood that interviewees should dress in a suit. But that may not be the right attire, depending on what type of company you’re interviewing with.

For example, a lot of creative agencies have casual dress codes. Showing up in a suit will make you look out of place and perhaps send the message that you won’t mesh with company culture. Of course, if you’re interviewing with a law firm, financial services company or a similar organization, go with the suit.

The key is to do your research first. You may be able to conduct some research that sheds light on attire at the company. In a pinch, feel free to ask the person who’s coordinating the interview about the company’s dress code and culture.

  1. What to Bring

Never show up to an interview empty-handed. Take with you some sort of folder or notebook — the nicer the better (don’t take a spiral notebook). Have a pen to take notes, and be sure to take extra copies of your résumé.

Also, think about things you can take that will differentiate you from the competition. Would it be appropriate to take a portfolio of your work? Would it be helpful to create a document that pitches ideas you could tackle if and when you start at the company? Could you even create an action plan?

  1. Time and Space

The last step is often overlooked, but it’s extremely important, too: Create plenty of time and space for yourself on the actual day of the interview.

First, make sure you get plenty of sleep, and make sure you have time to get your mind right before arriving at the interview site. If you’re leaving for your interview directly from your current job, give yourself enough time to clear your mind between departure and arrival.

And, finally, make sure you arrive early. There’s no greater sin than arriving late to a job interview, so give yourself a huge buffer just in case there’s a traffic accident, you get lost or some other incident delays your arrival.

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