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What are good job interview tips?

Find job interview tips and be prepared for interviews.

Those attending a job interview should dress in a neat and conservative manner. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Those attending a job interview should dress in a neat and conservative manner.

Anticipating and preparing for a job interview is usually a nerve-wracking experience. One way to ease the tension and boost your self-confidence is to review our interview tips and strategies, especially if you're new to the job market, if you haven't had a job interview recently or if you'd like to improve your performance from your last interview.
One of the most important job interview tips is to prepare as thoroughly as possible. You can never know exactly what an interview will be like, but preparation can help you take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself.

Six Job Interview Essentials

Present yourself in a favorable light during your next job interview with the following tips:

  • Research the company that's going to interview you. Know what they make, what they sell and what services they provide. Look for background information on the company's Web site and in local newspapers and business magazines like Crain's.
  • Review your résumé and spend time thinking about the experience and responsibilities you had at each of the positions you list. Think about how you can bring your past experience to bear on the position for which you're interviewing.
  • Develop a list of potential interview questions and think of the answers you can give. Outline answers for open-ended questions that may be asked, like "Tell me about yourself," or "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"
  • Thank about what you'll wear ahead of time. Don't wait until the last minute to find out that your favorite dress shirt no longer fits.
  • Plan exactly how you'll get to the interview, and try to figure out how long it will take to get there. Showing up late could ruin your chance at the job before you begin.
  • Turn off your cell phone so that you're not interrupted during the interview.

What to Wear to a Job Interview

These days there are fewer and fewer companies with rigid dress codes. In most lines of work, traditional suits and dresses are a thing of the past. This is great for personal comfort and freedom of expression, but not so good when you're interviewing for a new job; after all, even relaxed dress codes have rules, and there are still expectations about what a job candidate should wear to an interview. So how do you know what to put on when the big day rolls around?

Unfortunately, there's no single outfit that will work for every interview situation. What you should wear depends on the dress code and culture of the company interviewing you. If you don't know what that is, it's acceptable to ask (if you have a contact in the Human Resources department, he or she is probably the best person to talk to). But even if the company has a casual-dress atmosphere, you should still dress up for the interview unless you're explicitly told not to. For an interview at a more casual company, you can easily dress up without wearing a suit: men can wear dress pants with a collared shirt and a sport coat or blazer, for example, while women can wear a (not-too-short) skirt, jacket and blouse.

Here are some other tips you can follow for almost any kind of interview:

  • Shirts, skirts and pants should be ironed, shoes should be polished and everything should be clean.
  • It's safer to dress conservatively. Save that flamboyant tie or skin-tight denim for another day.
  • It's better to be overdressed than under-dressed.

Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

If you're preparing for a job interview, be ready to ask questions as well as answer them. A hiring manager will usually first tell you about the company and about the position before moving on to specific questions about your employment history and relevant experience. When the interviewer is finished questioning you, he or she will usually turn the tables, asking if you have anything you'd like to ask. As tempting as it may be to refuse the opportunity and end the interview, asking questions of your own will demonstrate your interest in the job as well as your understanding of interview etiquette.

In general, it's a good idea to ask questions that will solidify your understanding of the position and its responsibilities, as well as of the company as a whole. Here are some tips to help you think of questions to ask interviewers:

  • Look at the big picture. How does the position fit into the department or the overall company?
  • Look at the details. What is an average day like for someone in your desired position?
  • Look at the past. What happened to the person you're replacing? If this is a new position, who did the work before you?
  • Look at the future. Is there room for advancement in the company? What does the future look like for the company or for the industry?

Improving Job Interview Techniques: Practice, Practice, Practice

If you want to improve your interview technique, there's one aspect more important than any other: practice. Interviewing for a job is a skill like playing a sport or performing on a musical instrument, and it develops only with practice. Try to make your practice as close to real life as possible. Rehearsing your answers with a mirror is good, but delivering them to a friend is better. Best of all is a mock interview -- an interview dress rehearsal, videotaped and conducted by a professional who will review the tape with you and offer feedback and constructive criticism. The career development offices of many colleges and universities offer mock interview programs for students, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity while you have the chance.

Even if you don't have access to a professional mock interview, your friends or family can help. Find a list of commonly asked interview questions on the Internet. (To get started, here's a list of 100 potential interview questions from Monster.) Have a partner ask you questions from the list and practice delivering a response. The more seriously you take your practice, the more comfortable you'll be when it comes time to do the real thing.

Good Sources for Job Interview Tips

When you're looking for interview tips, it's important to focus on quality information and not waste your time on fluff. With that in mind, here are some good places to start:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor publishes a list of job interview tips. The list is dry and to-the-point, as you might expect coming from a government agency. Don't worry if it seems too bureaucratic; it gets more interesting from here.
  • Business magazines and newspapers speak to career-focused audiences, so they're a great place to look for articles about interviewing or job hunting. The Wall Street JournalForbes and BusinessWeek are publications that have articles on interviewing and landing a job.
  • Job search websites aren't just for "help wanted" ads -- many of them also have helpful background information for job seekers. Yahoo Hotjobs and Monster are two examples of career sites that have a variety of articles and tips to help you on a job interview.
  • It's never a bad idea to hit the books. There's probably a shelf full of career books at your local library, and the reference librarian can point you in the right direction.

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