Preparing for an Interview

By Barry Solomon , last updated June 27, 2011

When you are seeking a job in this very competitive job market, nothing is more important than thoroughly preparing for the interview. This begins with your doing exhaustive research prior to sending in your resume and introductory letter to the company. There are many resources available to you to learn about a company. If the company is public, you can get a copy of the annual report to shareholders. Look over the company's web site. These resources will talk about the company's mission and give you a good idea about its various lines of business and the strategic directions that it is planning to pursue in the future. Look for official company blogs, Facebook or Twitter pages, or YouTube channels, as they will give you further insight. And don't forget any personal connections that you might have with employees of the company. Network at sites like Linked In to find these connections as they will have the most up to date information about the company.

You can also search online for analyst reports on the company to get expert reviews of the business and its potential performance and future direction. Use the same resources to get an overview of the industry and the competition. Carefully read the requirements and training for the position and then write your cover letter to best place yourself as a good target for their human resources department to identify. Reflect back key words from the job ad itself. So many of these systems are automated and look for certain key words in order to identify candidates and single them out to the human resource representative who will determine who to call for an interview.

Once you have secured a job interview, it is a good idea to make a preliminary trip down to the location to get a sense of the corporate culture of the company. Finding the building and making yourself familiar with it will eliminate one source of stress for the day of your interview. Also find out online as much as you can about the products and services offered by the company. Go to retailers that carry their products and look them over and compare them with competitors' products as well. Observe the style of dress at the interview location. Keep this in mind when you are selecting your wardrobe for the job interview. Always look as professional as possible but also be sure that you are dressed in a way that makes you feel comfortable and attractive.

The most important element that interviewers look for is confidence. Many of them perceive their role as trying to shake your confidence and seeing how you respond in a stressful situation. In this market, the company will most likely get a large number of applicants for any decent job offering. They definitely want to get the sense that you are being selective and that you are pursuing the job because it fits in with your career goals and aspirations. They are going to make an investment in training you so they want to feel that you will remain with them long enough to justify that investment. Be interactive with your interviewers. Ask them questions about the job and the company. Talk in broader terms about the value of the position in terms of a career at the company. Find out what the opportunities are for growth. But, don't lose focus on the fact that this is primarily for them to determine if you are the right candidate for this particular job, They are looking for certain skill sets and for the right orientation to the tasks that are inherent in the position. They want to make sure that you will fit in with their particular corporate culture.

If you get past the preliminary screening interview, the second interview will most likely be with the supervisor to whom the position reports. Search online for any information that you can find about the supervisor. Learn about his or her background and how he or she rose to the position. Try to figure out what attributes are most important to him or her in a candidate. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and why you left your last job. You will probably be asked why this particular job interests you, and you must be prepared to give an effective response. Keep your answers professional and don't look for any personal connections with the supervisor unless he or she opens the door. And always place a high but realistic value on yourself. If you get this far, they know that you are a desirable hire and they will want to compete, within reason, for your services.

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