15 career interview tips

These basic tips will help you prepare for a job interview, by pointing out common mistakes that happen when job seekers get nervous.

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  • Chances are there is a lot riding on your job interview. Perhaps you have been unemployed for a while and endured countless dead-end interviews, or hardly any at all. Maybe you’re desperately seeking a career change to help you get on a new path. Whatever your situation, every interview is an opportunity, at the very least, to practice your interviewing skills.

  • First of all, have confidence. Employers won’t waste their time with applicants who are unqualified, so the fact that you have secured a few minutes for an interview is already in your favor. An interview is just the next step in the process. You may be surprised how many highly qualified candidates don’t get past the interview process because they failed to adequately convey their best attributes. Look over the following tips to help you land the career opportunity you deserve.

  • Get to know the company

  • Almost half of employers surveyed indicated that not having enough knowledge about the company is the most common mistake job seekers make. Make sure this company is one you want to represent. Using their website is a great resource and get your hands on any publications they create. Know their mission statement and compare it to your own. Become aware of how this company gives back to the community — that topic can be a great conversation piece later in the interview.

  • Dress professionally and not too flashy

  • Sixty-five percent of employers surveyed said clothes could be the deciding factor between two similar candidates. Professional dress is encouraged, regardless of the type of job. Fashionable, trendy and flashy clothing is discouraged. You want your clothes to subtly emphasize your professionalism, but not to be a distraction.

  • Know how to explain why you left your last job

  • This question is very common, so be prepared to answer it in as few words as possible and with a positive spin. Be sure you approach it without resentment or frustration. Showing respect to your former employer is a testimony to your integrity, regardless of the situation.

  • Make eye contact

  • Stay engaged, even if you are nervous. Lack of eye contact can show a lack of interest and prevents a connection from occurring with your interviewer.

  • Smile

  • A lot. Show your potential employer that you are a joy and are enthusiastic about the opportunity.

  • Be aware of your body language

  • If you walk into your interview with a welcoming posture, you will naturally avoid pitfalls like crossing your arms over your chest or slouching.

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  • Bring humor, warmth and personality

  • Good interviewing means striking the balance between professional rigidity and personal sloppiness. Be prepared to talk about the interviewer’s photo of his family. Share a funny story about your own. Make a positive comment about a sports team represented in their office. Keep it short, but engage your interviewer. Remember that you are there to sell yourself.

  • Be prepared to give an “elevator pitch.”

  • While you want to let your potential employer “drive” the interview, be ready to explain your qualifications in two to three minutes. Likely, he will ask specific questions about your qualifications. Be prepared to give a concise account of why you are perfect for the job. Prepare ahead of time so you won’t be stuck with a lot of “and ums,” or leave out something important.

  • Don’t fidget

  • Try to avoid nervous habits like tapping your pen on the desk, playing with your hair or bouncing your leg under the table. Take deep breaths before your interview to relax. Remember, be confident.

  • Bring a copy of your resume

  • Even if your interviewer has already received a copy, bring an extra. In the event he left it in the other room, or needs a copy for another supervisor, being prepared will show him how you are already making his job easier.

  • Know your resume

  • Make certain you’ve taken the time to update your resume. Many employers use your resume as an interview outline, so be ready to show you know your own stuff.

  • Ask questions, but don’t focus too much on what you want

  • When you get to a point in the interview where you can ask questions, take advantage of this time as an opportunity to show your potential employer that you are curious about how you can benefit the company. Ask about their business philosophies and management style. Try to make your questions about their business as much as possible. Don’t use this time to start digging about personal benefits, vacation time, or salary. There will be an opportunity for that if you make an excellent first impression.

  • Solid handshake

  • It may seem odd, but the handshake is crucial, according to many employers. A flimsy handshake shows a lack of initiative and confidence while being too firm can be seen as aggressive. Practice a happy medium that conveys your readiness to be an essential member of the team. Most importantly, don’t forget to shake your interviewer’s hand.

  • Remember to ask for the job

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  • Something we often forget to do, but it will make you stand out. If you get to the end of the interview and you know you want the job, don’t be shy about asking for it. It is also perfectly fine to ask your potential employer when you might hear something back from him about your interview.

  • Thank the interviewer for his time

  • Tell him it was a pleasure meeting him. Again, showing your potential employer that you value the job he does is a sure-fire way to make a great impression. And it might just get you asked back.

  • Many of these tips are common sense concepts that go straight out the window when interviewees get under pressure. Ask a family member to do a mock interview with you once or twice so you can make these suggestions second nature. The most important thing to remember is to be your confident, professional self. After all, it is the real you that you’re selling. Best of luck!

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Margaret Crowe is a poet and mother of two from Charlotte, North Carolina. 

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