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Leslie Gilmour

How to Set Yourself Up For a Successful Interview

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Every student knows that sudden feeling of dread that comes after they leave their protective university bubble.  For many graduating students, this is where the real world begins.  One of your first tasks as a recent graduate is to hit the job market with a string of sent resumes, endless phone calls and just a little touch of groveling.  

Eventually, the time will come when an employer will be impressed by your tenacity and will set up an interview.  This is where the real work begins.  To ensure that you are putting your best foot forward, follow these simple tips to help you come one step closer to a career.

Be Prepared

Before you step foot into whatever work environment you are hoping to join, prepare yourself.  While it is a good motivator to always aim high, be realistic about the job you are applying for and make sure it matches your skills.  It is also important that you have some university training in the job you want, this is especially important if you majored in general studies.  For example; if you are looking for a job in the cosmetology field, one great way to prepare yourself is to take a short makeup course or workshop so that your potential employer will note that are willing to further your education.

Another great way to be prepared for an upcoming job interview is to do your research.  Study up on the company you are hoping will hire you so that you know what you are in for.  This is also a great way to impress potential employers.  The more knowledgeable you are in an interview will show them that you have great instincts and that you are truly interested in their business.

The Day Before

The day prior to your job interview is the day when you should lay all of your plans out.  It is better to have everything ready to go the day before so you are not rushing before your interview.  This also gives you time to relax and get your head in the game.  Carefully choose and lay out the clothes that you are going to wear.  Always dress better than you think you should, even if you are applying to a more casual work environment.  This will show your interviewer that you are professional and that you are taking the job seriously.  Don’t over dress as this may come off as too eager which is something you should avoid.  Finding the perfect balance between motivated and humble is critical.

Have your resume printed on cardstock or high-quality paper.  Even if you have already sent your resume in prior to the interview, it is a good rule of thumb to bring an extra with you.  You never know if they will ask you for your resume again.  To go the extra mile, you can even have some personal business cards on hand that list your contact information.  These little touches will help to ensure that potential employers will remember you.  The job market is a competitive field, so if there is an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from the pack, seize it. 

Interview Day

Wake up early.  Even if your interview is later in the day, start your day off right.  Mornings are the perfect time to set a precedent for the rest of your day.  It is important to take the time relax so that your head is in the right place.  Interviews are stressful and you will naturally get nervous, so find a way to expel that nervous energy and try to channel it into something positive.  This way you can walk into your interview confident and strong.  When you are confident in what you are saying, your interviewer will get pick up on it and it will set your interview off on the right foot.

Always get to the job interview early.  Try to plan on being there 10-15 minutes earlier than scheduled.  This shows that you are punctual and are taking the interview seriously.  Many times a great interview will be clouded by a tardy appearance.  If you know that your interview is during a time where traffic is high, prepare for this and adjust accordingly.  Try to avoid get there too early.  There is such a thing as being overeager and this can often read as desperate which is never a good look.

Be clear in the things that you say.  To make sure that your point is coming across, truly listen to the questions you are being asked.  Take a mental second to gather your thoughts before speaking.  This will show that you have great communication and listening skills which are two major components to being successful in your overall career.  The best way to show interest through words is to ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer specific questions about the company as well as the job itself.  This will show them that you have a great interest in the job at hand.  Make eye contact.  Indirect eye contact is one way to show people that you are not confident or do not believe the words you are saying and this is the last thing you would want a potential employee to think of you. 

Don’t be afraid to be yourself.  While humor is often a defense mechanism; it is also a great way to showcase some personality.  Make sure that the humor stays on the appropriate side of the scale; the last thing you would want is for them to think that you will be an HR nightmare.  When leaving your job interview you should have just as strong of an exit as an initiation.  Shake their hand firmly and thank them for their time.  This is their last impression of you, so make it a good one.

Follow Up

Some people are wary about whether or not to follow up after a job interview.  As long as you are not hounding your interviewer, it is perfectly okay to follow up.  The best way to do this is to wait a day or two and send them an email thanking them for their time and stating how you look forward to hearing from them in the future.  Even if you don’t end up getting the job, they will remember you for reaching out politely to them.  This will help to keep you in their good graces in case another job opens up in that company.  The last thing you would want to do is burn any professional bridges before you ever even officially enter the job world.

Don’t Give Up

It isn’t always the case that you will land your first job right out of the gate.  While if it does happen, take the time to celebrate, but you should also never let a rejection slow you down.  Take each job interview as a lesson to be learned and apply that education to the next interview.  Over time you will find that each time you step foot in an interview room you are more confident and prepared than the last time.  As long as you stay motivated and vigilant, the only thing that is stopping you from landing the perfect job is you.  Good luck. 

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