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It took me many years, and many failed interviews, before I finally figured out what I needed to do to have a successful interview that I could feel good about.
It really isn't that difficult to figure out, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in thinking about the position we are applying for that we forget to do our homework to ensure we get the position. Competition is intense, and many people are graduating from universities and looking for positions to start their careers, so in order to secure the position you are dreaming about, maybe a few things need to be taken care of first.
Step 1: Get on your computer and do research about the company you are applying with.
This one step could help you more than you think. Take some time and research the company you want to work with. Find out what they do in depth, how long they have been in business, what changes have been made along the way, and how many people they employ. If it is a large company, see if there are branches in other areas of the country, or even internationally. Find out if this is the only business that is run by this company, or if they own other interests as well.
If it is a small company, find out if it is family owned, and how long they have been in business. See if the people who own the company are working for the firm, or if they have hired out all positions and simply wish to stay informed of the bottom line. See how many employees they have and if they are family, outside help, or a mixture of both.
Step 2: Do some research into the employees who hold high positions, such as CEO's or CFO's.
It is a good idea to know who the key players are in a company, and if possible, find out certain details, such as how long they have been with the company, what type of experience they have, if they are married or single, and their opinions on key subjects that pertain to the company. See what policies they have for their employees, especially managers.
If the company is small, or family-run, it is the same principle, just on a smaller scale. Be careful not to dig into delicate information, and never mention anything that is personal or not your business in the interview.
Step 3: If given an opportunity, find out how the employees feel about management, and the company in general.
If given the chance, getting to speak to some of the employees is a great way to find out how the people working with the company feel, and what their biggest complaints or compliments may be. It's a good indicator of how the management treats people who work for them. Also, find out what the turnover rate is for employees and managers. See if people are being advanced in the company or if they stagnate at a certain level.
Step 4: Make sure you look professional when interviewing.
The statement, "first impressions are important" is very true when interviewing for a job. If you live in a tiny town, and are interviewing in a firm that is casual with their work attire and more laid-back, then dress for that type of atmosphere. No, don't interview in your old jeans and shirt, but take the time to get an idea of what they would be looking for in a future employee, and dress to fit that idea.
Of course, if you are interviewing in a larger company, it is more likely that you will be expected to dress up more. Take a look around when you go online and see what some of the executives are wearing now for work. Try to go with this idea when deciding what is appropriate to wear, and try to find something you feel good wearing. It will make a big difference in your level of self-esteem when you get to the interview.
Always show up neat, clean, and polite.
Step 5: Be pleasant, but also professional when interviewing.
Being professional includes shaking hands, not interrupting the interviewer, paying attention to what is said, and really listening when being spoken to. Do not be afraid to speak up if there is something within the terms of the position you do not agree with, or would perhaps like to see changed. This doesn't mean you make demands. And those terms should not be approached until the position is offered to you.
When asked a question about your experience or education, be open, honest, and thorough when explaining your past, but do not become a braggart and start telling everyone how wonderful you are, or how the last company you worked for couldn't get along without you.
Be sure to ask questions, and this is where all that research you did comes in handy. You can ask questions that show you know something about the industry, and that company in particular. It shows you have taken the time and interest to find out who they are and what they do.
Don't be afraid to ask for the position, and let them know you are very interested. Thank them for their time when leaving.
If you follow this advice, you should have a successful interview, which doesn't always mean you will get hired, but at least you know you did everything in a way that would ensure you the best chance at landing the job you really want.