8 Things to Do Before Your Big Job Interview

Female Woman Sitting At Interview

Landing that job interview is just step one on the road to new job success. Once your resume and cover letter have proven that you’re a worthy competitor, there are a few things you can do to prep before stepping foot into your interview that might help put you a step above the rest of the competition.

1. Research your interviewer … not just the company

Understanding the initiatives, goals and successes of the company where you’re applying to work is important, but it’s equally as important to do some background research on the person (or people) who will be interviewing you, especially if one or more of them will be your direct supervisor(s) or people you’ll be working closely with on a day-to-day basis. Remember that your job credentials on paper are what got you in the door — now it’s up to you to prove that you’re someone this person will want to work with day-in and day-out. Find out what jobs they’ve had in the past, what awards or achievements they’ve accomplished and anything else you might be able to bond with them over. (“You volunteered as a Big Sister for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program? So did I!”) Any little thing you can do to help your interviewer remember you from the slew of other people they’re likely interviewing will be a positive for your chances.

2. Spend some time coming up with smart questions

We all know that the portion of the interview where your interviewer asks if you have any questions is important, but it’s not just having questions that’s important, it’s the type of questions that you ask that can set you apart. Be thoughtful and deliberate in what you say. You’ll want to ask questions that convey your thorough research into the background of the company and what your position would be, as well as how you can help move the company forward (“I’ve noticed that the social media accounts for our company are only updated once a day. I was in charge of social media for my last job, and I’d love to help build out a schedule to increase engagement.”), as opposed to what you’ll be getting out of the job, solely (“What time are employees expected to show up in the morning? Do we work long hours?).

3.Prepare your look

It’s not enough to assume you’ll wear your best outfit on your interview — while it’s always appropriate to dress your best, you’ll want to try to fit in with the corporate atmosphere, as well. If you’re applying for a job at a food start-up, perhaps showing up in a tie and jacket won’t be necessary. See if you can find photos online of the office or employees of the company out at events to get a feel for how the workforce dresses, then plan to match that, but perhaps with a little added flare to stand out.

4. Make extra copies of your resume

Don’t assume that just because you’re meeting with three people you’ll need three copies of your resume. If things go well, you never know who else you might be meeting at your interview, and it’s always best to come prepared with extra resumes and business cards for a couple extra people.

5. Consider who your references will be and reach out to them

You’ll want to curate your list of references ahead of time so you aren’t stuck on the spot if you’re asked to name some during your interview. Be sure to include a mix of past bosses (to prove you’re both responsible and someone who’s worth staying in contact with even after you’ve left a gig), as well as former co-workers and colleagues who can vouch for what a great team player you are. It’s a good idea to reach out to these people ahead of your interview, as well, to let them know that you’ll be listing them as references and to give them a heads up that someone could be calling.

6. Ask if you can bring or prepare anything ahead of time

Never assume that an interview will take on the traditional form, and there’s nothing wrong with inquiring ahead of time whether there’s anything in particular you can bring with you or if there’s anything you’ll be asked to do. For example, if you’ll be spending a couple hours at the interview because they expect you to put together a mock front-page of the newspaper you’re applying to be an art director for (it happens), it’s a good idea to know that up front.

7. Come up with the “essence of your work self”

When it comes to interviews, specifics are always best. In that case, ahead of your interview spend some time thinking about your top two or three favorite work stories or accomplishments that best illustrate the skills you want to get across during your meeting. Then find a way to back them up with specific data and numbers to really drive home your point. (Going back to our previous social media example, you might say, “At my previous job I took on the role of social media editor along with my other duties, and I was able to grow our Twitter audience from 400 to 10,000 in a matter of one year.”)

8. Visit the building

This might seem silly, but showing up even five minutes late to an interview because you didn’t realize what a maze the parking garage was or that there was construction downtown can really look bad. If you take just a little time the day before your interview to actually scope out how long it takes to get to your interview, where you’ll park, and whether or not there’s a sign-in process to get to the right floor (don’t forget your ID if you need it to get in!), you’ll feel much better the day of.

If you’ll be heading out on an interview soon, you might also want to check out this piece about 6 interview mistakes people often make and how to avoid them.

The post 8 Things to Do Before Your Big Job Interview appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

6 Interview Mistakes People Often Make, and How to Avoid Them

Female Woman Sitting At Interview

Job interviews are stressful enough without considering the ways in which things could go wrong. Whether you’ve been on what feels like hundreds of interviews or you’re busy prepping for your first, part of avoiding common interview pitfalls includes understanding what they are to begin with.

To help with that, we consulted with some career experts, human resources reps and other experts in the field of job searches to find out what the most common interview mistakes are that they’ve seen, and how you can go about avoiding them.

Mistake 1: Overvaluing your educational experience 

Why it’s a no-no: While of course it helps to have a degree in the field you’re applying for and experience to back it up, at the end of the day, the person hiring you is most likely going to have to work with you day-in and day-out. This means a big factor (perhaps even bigger than your qualifications) will be overall personality. “It’s nice to attend a big fancy college and have years of experience related to the job you’re interviewing for, but the truth is, the most qualified person is not always the one to get hired,” says Devay Campbell, CEO and founder of Career 2 Cents, who is also a career coach with years of experience in Human Resources.

What to do instead: Campbell suggests turning on the charm in an interview so you appear likeable, as well as smart. “Laugh or make a joke when appropriate, smile often, be upbeat and energetic,” she said. “Keep in mind that everyone that is invited to the interview is qualified. Ask yourself what would make someone want to work with you? Bring those skills and traits to the interview, along with your qualifications.”

Mistake 2: Not following up

Why it’s a no-no: Believe it or not, this happens more often than not, says Trevor Simm, founder and president of OpalStaff and Talos Solutions. “This is extremely important because it reflects the kind of person you are,” Simm pointed out. “It shows that you value and appreciate the interviewer’s time, as well as have a genuine interest in the opportunity and the company. Also, it keeps the line of communications open to further discuss the position.”

What to do instead: Follow up with a brief thank you email in the hour or two after meeting, and then mail a thank you card as soon as you can to reinforce that you appreciate the time that person took to meet with you.

Mistake 3: Failing to have a plan

Why it’s a no-no: It’s never a good idea to go into an interview expecting the person who is interviewing you to guide the entire conversation. Not only may they have something else in mind entirely (“Why don’t we start by you telling me a little bit about yourself and why you’d be good for this position?”), but you’ll want to put some thought into how you’ll work in your best attributes throughout the short amount of time you have to impress.

What to do instead: The ideal strategy is to walk into the interview with five to seven talking points drawn from achievements on your resume, says Joni Holderman, a professional resume writer and founder of Thrive! Resumes. “No matter what questions the interviewer asks, adapt one of those talking points to become the answer,” she suggests. “Suppose you want to mention how you increased sales 47% at XYZ Corp. If the interviewer asks what your greatest strength is, you’ll say it’s increasing sales and mention that example. If they ask what the biggest career challenge you ever faced was, you’ll say it was stagnant sales at XYC Corp., and then discuss how you increased sales 47%.”

Mistake 4: Domineering the interview

Why it’s a no-no: This can be a particularly difficult problem for people interviewing for executive positions, although the same is true for any position, says Holderman. “At its core, business is collaboration,” she said, so you need to be able to share the spotlight.

What to do instead: As hard as it may be to wait your turn, patience is more than just a virtue when it comes to job interviews — it could be the difference between getting hired and not. “It’s fine to try to steer the interview,” says Holderman, “but when you talk over someone or talk down to them, you’re simply demonstrating poor collaboration skills.”

Mistake 5: Coming unprepared

Why it’s a no-no: These days it’s not enough to just know the basics about the company you’re applying to work for — everyone else who’s applying for the same job will be able to rattle off those same stats and statistics. Smart interview prep needs to go a bit deeper.

What to do instead: Interview preparation takes time, says Lynda Spiegel, an HR professional and founder of Rising Star Resumes. “Read everything you can find about a company — what it says about itself on its website, as well as how the press covers it,” she suggests. “Know its clients, products or services, and aim to demonstrate the value you’d add to its initiatives.”

Mistake 6: Using question time to only ask questions about how the company will benefit you

Why it’s a no-no: Barry Maher is a speaker, author and consultant who has consulted on many hires over the years, and he says the most common and damaging mistake he’s seen by far comes when the interview is almost over. “The interviewer asks if the person has any questions. Often you can see the applicant visibly relax. The worst is over. Then their questions show more interest in what the company can do for them than what they can do for the company.” For example, Maher said he was recently involved in an interview where the first three questions from the applicant were: “How much vacation time do I get?” followed by “How long do I have to be here before I’m eligible for vacation?” and then “How long before I start to accrue additional weeks of vacations?” Immediately someone who started off looking like a great applicant became someone who obviously couldn’t wait to get out of work.

What to do instead: The questions applicants ask during the interview often reveal their priorities in a way that nothing else during the interview does, says Maher, so use them thoughtfully. The best questions show not just an interest in the job, but an interest in helping the company accomplish its goals, such as: “What would the perfect employee for this job look like for you?” and “In the best of all possible worlds, what would you like me to accomplish for you? In three months? In a year? In five years?”

For more work-related advice, check out this piece about how to best handle awkward work situations, and this one for four things to do (and not do) when you want to switch careers.

The post 6 Interview Mistakes People Often Make, and How to Avoid Them appeared first on MagnifyMoney.