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Preparing for the Big Job Interview

May 4th, 2010

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The week leading up to an interview can be nerve-wracking, especially if you are trying to enter your first professional career or if you've recently lost a 20-year job and don't remember much about the interview process. Instead of wringing your hands and worrying, how about preparing yourself to handle the interview like a champ?

Before you do anything else, do some research on the company and fully understand the position you have applied for. This is important because after skimming newspapers and online job listings for weeks on end, all employers and the jobs they offer tend to just blend together into one mush pile in your head. Not only will the research help you prepare for the interview, but it will also help you be more prepared if your interviewer asks you why you want to work for his or her company.

Speaking of questions, it is a good idea to do some Internet research on commonly asked interview questions. Invite a friend over to ask you the questions and practice answering them. Most interview questions are open-ended so that the interviewer can learn as much about you as possible in every question, as well as gauge the strength of your communication skills. When role-playing your interview with a friend, try to find a happy balance between an uninformative one-sentence answer and boring the interviewer with your life story. Good interview questions to practice with include: Why are you a good fit for this position? Why did you leave your last job? and What does teamwork mean to you?

Another thing you should do to prepare for an interview is print off several copies of your resume and prepare a portfolio of the work you completed in college that's relevant to the career you've applied for. Having several copies on hand is important because it's becoming more common for new hires to be interviewed by a panel, rather than a single HR representative. Also, your interviewer may want an extra copy or two to pass along to his or her supervisors.

It's helpful before an interview to call the day before and ask the name and title of the person who will be interviewing you. Is it an HR representative, a department supervisor or the CEO of the company? You may be able to do a little research on the person and their professional accomplishments to discuss as an ice-breaker. Even a little information about the person interviewing you is useful so that he or she will not feel so much like a stranger and you will have a better idea of what to expect.

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