Interview Preparation

Two people shaking handsThe time before your interview should be spent with detailed preparation. You will have to brush up on the employer by doing research, start a list of anticipated questions, and practice answering questions and interviewing.

You will have to make your personal appearance a priority and get into a mentally alert frame of mind before walking into an interview room to face someone who might be your manager someday.

You have to look smart, think smart and be ready. Benjamin Franklin probably offered the best summation for anyone pursuing a goal in life: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

Knowing the kind of information the employer is likely to seek will help you prepare for the interview.

Employers want to know your motivation for employment, your ability to do the job, how you will fit into the organization and how much you will cost them.

Being able to answer probing questions in these areas will make for a successful interview. And being able to ask good questions and look for opportunities to show off your knowledge of the company you're interviewing with can make all the difference in the world.

A great advantage is to have as much information as you can about the position before that first interview. It will help you to target your skills to the specific needs of the employer and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job.

Companies, after all, have limited information from which to make a decision — an application or resume, references and perhaps a brief interview. It's up to you to convince the employer you are the best person for the job.

Be prepared to relate your career, training and education to what the hiring manager desires in a new hire.

Prior to walking in the door, you should cover a few of the following areas on your own.

Do Your Research 

When on the phone arranging your interview, do a little interviewing yourself. Ask about the interview process, who you will be interviewing with (one person or a panel) and how long it will take.

Ask if you can see the full job description again and inquire if the company needs any supporting documentation. Get the address of the interview location. Companies may have multiple sites, and going to the wrong one is a major slip up.

Get the office and cell phone number of the interviewer just in case you blow a tire on the freeway on the way there.

On your own, study the company's website, brochures, annual business reports, trade periodicals, manufacturer's guides and any other materials you can find.

Good sources for finding that information are libraries, Minnesota WorkForce Centers and the Internet.

Match Your Skills to the Job 

Once you've gathered what you need to know about the employer, look at the job description again and study how your skills, experience and employment history match what the company requests.

By coupling your strengths with their list of desired traits, you might be halfway therewell, you must be, or they would not have asked you for the interview.

If you're deficient in an area, you must be ready to convince the employer you can and will learn the skill.

You could also show how your other skills will make up for this weakness or have non-work examples of the trait, such as being a volunteer leader of a nonprofit group or committee.

Another strategy is to have a plan of action to overcome the deficiency. Don't have Web design skills? Knowing when and where you can enroll in a Web design course in your community may convince the employer you're the right person to hire.

Find Your Attitude 

Employers are looking for people with a positive work attitude. Often employers emphasize attitude over skills, training and experience.

Look for ways to show your enthusiasm for the job, willingness to learn, spirit of cooperation and respect for the employer. Review your skills for reinforcement of your qualifications. Rehearse how you'll present yourself. Be positive, truthful and realistic.

Athletes call it their "game face." And make sure to have it for the interview, says Letetia Klebel, human resources manager of Pro Fabrication in Madison, Minn.

Klebel says she sees many people who haven't interviewed in 15 years. She suggests coming in with a good attitude, and try to be relaxed. And be willing and able to ask questions. "I can't believe how many people come in for professional jobs and don't have any questions for us, says Klebel. You should always come prepared with a couple of questions to ask us about the company and our jobs."

Look Good 

An important part of the impression you make on an employer is your physical appearance.

An employer might reason that the person who doesn't care about her/his appearance won't care about the job. Neat, clean and conservative is a safe standard for dress and grooming.

No matter what kind of job you are applying for you should look as professional as possible. You may not be applying for a job that requires a suit, but for the interview you may want to try to be, for a day, the best-dressed person to visit the employer's office or plant. Here's an introduction on looking good:

  • Get a good night's sleep
  • Take a shower the morning of the interview
  • Shave
  • Brush your teeth
  • Comb your hair
  • Clean your fingernails
  • Wear clean and pressed clothes
  • Wear proper clothes for the job
  • Conceal body piercings
  • Clean and shine your shoes
  • Avoid smoking before the interview
  • Do not chew gum during an interview
  • Do not wear sunglasses

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