Job interviews can be very stressful. Solid preparation ahead of time can greatly reduce your anxiety during an interview and will allow you to introduce yourself effectively. Your preparation should include research on the company and the position, a thorough review of your résumé, and attention to your appearance and the way you present yourself.
Before your interview, be sure that you have researched both your prospective employer and the position you are seeking. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the company's history as well as any recent news about their products and services. If you have contacts in the company, you might reach out to them informally to discuss the open position. Do not ask for confidential information such as salary ranges or who else is being considered for the job. Read the job posting thoroughly, and make sure that you have a good understanding of the job requirements and how they mesh with your own background and skills. If you do this research properly, you will be able to ask informed questions during the interview. This will help you sell yourself as a great addition to the company.
You should always review your résumé before an interview. Employers will often ask you to walk them through your work history and describe each of the past positions you have held. Taking some time beforehand to review your former jobs will allow you to do this more easily. If you have significant gaps in your work history, or if you have been downsized or fired from a job at any point, you should be prepared to address these issues with the hiring manager. You should aim to be honest, avoid negative comments about past employers, and emphasize how you have grown as a result of your past experiences.
Another important preparation strategy is to become familiar with the most common questions asked during interviews and practice answering them. You should be prepared to describe how the position
for which you are interviewing fits in with your general career goals. Many employers will also ask behavior-based interview questions in an attempt to learn how you might handle various situations that could arise on the job. A hiring manager might ask you, for instance, to describe a time when you had too many things to do and had to prioritize tasks in order to manage them successfully. You can find examples of common behavioral questions on career-building websites. While you may not be able to anticipate every question you will be asked during an interview, thinking about the type of job you are pursuing can help you anticipate the kinds of behavioral questions you might encounter.
The term “body language” refers to the nonverbal cues that you communicate to others during interpersonal interactions and may include things such as posture, gestures, and eye contact. According to some experts, body language typically accounts for approximately 50 to 70 percent of all communication. It's a good idea to consider body language basics when preparing for a job interview.
Posture, or the way you hold and carry yourself, is one of the key aspects of body language. Posture conveys information about mood and personality and is one of the things you should pay attention to during an interview. Sitting up straight indicates focus, for example, while slouching or slumping may suggest boredom, sleepiness, or a lack of confidence. The position of your arms and legs may also convey information to others. Crossing your arms is generally taken as a sign of defensiveness, while an open chest suggests confidence. While seated, crossing your legs and pointing them away from others implies discomfort or a desire to avoid conversation.
Eye contact and facial expressions are also an important part of body language. Eye contact is generally taken as an indication of interest during conversation, but excessive eye contact, especially when you are not speaking to the person you are looking at, can be unnerving to others. Smiling also generally indicates interest, but too much smiling can be considered inappropriate, especially during an interview.
While your prospective employer will naturally place a lot of emphasis on your résumé and on the way you answer interview questions, your body language will also play a role in your overall presentation. It's common for hiring managers to ask the company's receptionist or other front-office person for their first impressions of candidates, so you should monitor your body language from the moment you arrive for the interview.
Once you are in the interview room, you should put your bag or briefcase on the floor. If you're at a table, it is permissible to put your portfolio or anything else you'll be presenting on the tabletop, but you should avoid putting items in front of you in a way that blocks your interviewer's view. Again, be sure to maintain an erect and open posture, smile, and make good eye contact. It's fine to make gestures as you speak, but you should keep your hands close to your midsection and avoid raising them above your shoulders, as large gestures may seem overly dramatic. You should also be conscious of too much movement. While it is normal to be nervous, it's important to avoid discharging your anxiety by fidgeting or nodding excessively in response to your interviewer's comments and questions. As a general rule, career experts suggest that you pay attention to and mirror the body language exhibited by your interviewer.
When the interview is over, you should gather up any items you brought with you, being mindful to keep one arm free so that you can shake hands. If more than one person is present, you may not be able to shake hands with everyone, but you should aim to do so with the hiring manager at a minimum. While it may be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief as you exit the interview room, it is important that you maintain a strong, confident demeanor as long as you are on your prospective employer's premises.
To determine what you should wear to an interview, you should consider both the position and the company. As a general rule of thumb, you should dress a bit more formally than you would dress for a day of work at that job. When in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of overdressing. If you are already employed in the same field, you will likely have a general idea of what to aim for when selecting an outfit. If not, you should do some research to see if you can determine what kind of attire is typical. It's fine to call the company and ask the receptionist what is generally recommended.
For executive and managerial positions, a suit is almost always appropriate, especially in traditional industries such as banking. For most other positions, a slightly less formal approach may be fine. When in doubt, you can bring a jacket along with you to “dress up” your outfit if necessary once you see what others in the workplace are wearing. Business-casual outfits are usually fine for entry-level positions in fields such as food service and retail.
Choosing your entire outfit ahead of time is important. You should make sure that your clothes are clean and pressed and that they fit well. Your shoes should also be clean and free of scuff marks. If possible, you should try your outfit on the day before your interview, particularly if the clothes are new or if you haven't worn them for a while, to make sure that everything fits and that you are reasonably comfortable. Be especially careful to verify that you can walk comfortably in the shoes you have chosen. Tight shoes can hobble you, making you appear less confident as you walk around the employer's offices.
In addition to being thoughtful about your interview attire, you should be sure that you are well groomed. Getting a haircut before an interview can help you make a better impression, and you should make sure that your nails are clean and well trimmed. While you should avoid chewing gum or eating mints during an interview, a mint or breath freshener before the interview can be a good idea.
In terms of grooming, experts suggest that both men and women stay away from strong scents. Men should not have bushy or unkempt facial hair, and women should not wear too much makeup. Both men and women should stick to minimal jewelry, staying away from pieces that are excessively large and flashy.