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10 best interview tips

Sweeping a hiring manager off their feet is a great achievement, but pre-interview jitters can make even seasoned job seekers fumble during a big audition. The best interview tips may vary in their techniques, but they all exist to help you bring your best self to the table.

The easiest way to calm your nerves and ace your next job interview  is to walk in 100% prepared. Following these 10 tenets will help you quash any anxiety you may be feeling and nab that coveted reward we call a job offer.

1. Do your research

Learning as much as possible about a company’s services, products, customers and competition will give you an edge in understanding and addressing the employer’s needs, says Carole Martin, job interview coach and author of Boost Your Interview IQ.

Go beyond reading what’s on the company’s website, recommends Lili Foggle, a job interview specialist based in Connecticut. Read news coverage of the company, check out the company’s social media feeds, and brush up on the key players—i.e., the company’s executive team.

“Look for the information that you can weave into the conversation,” says Foggle. (“I was excited to see your CEO talk about your company’s commitment to innovation on CNBC.”)

2. Look sharp

There’s certainly no shortage of advice out there about what to wear—and what not to wear—to interviews, but Karen Tucker, owner of job interview coaching firm InterviewOne, says it’s best to dress conservatively.

“Unless you work in a creative industry, the employer wants to know that you dress professionally—plain and simple,” she says. “As long as you look presentable, the interviewer is going to be paying attention to what’s coming out of your mouth, not what you’re wearing.”

Foggle says some job seekers make the mistake of donning distracting attire. “Don’t do anything to the extreme, unless you know that that’s the culture at the company,” she cautions. “Wearing too much perfume, too much makeup, too many designer logos—those are the things you want to avoid.”

3. Don’t show up empty handed

Part of arriving fully prepared entails bringing all the things that you need to make a great first impression. Make sure to take the following items with you to job interviews:

  • Several copies of your resume. You may meet more employees that you originally expected to, says Rachel Loock, a career coach at the University of Maryland.
  • Business cards. Providing a business card allows you to establish yourself as a professional.
  • Portfolio/work samples. This is a must in creative fields like advertising, journalism, graphic design, architecture, or fashion.
  • References. If the interview goes well, the hiring manager may ask you for them on the spot.
  • Pen and notepad. Taking notes shows you’re actively listening to the interviewer and engaged in the conversation.
  • Photo ID. You may need to provide identification to enter the building.

4. Arrive early

The last thing you want to do is show up late (or not at all), says Martin, so get to the building 10 to 15 minutes before the interview. Moreover, “having extra time means you can take a few minutes in the bathroom to check how you look—tuck in your shirt, fix your tie, comb your hair—and fine-tune the image that you want to present,” Foggle says.

5. Project enthusiasm

The hiring manager will want to see that you’re passionate about your field and the job that you’re applying for, so bring some energy to the room. “A firm handshake and plenty of eye contact demonstrate confidence,” Martin adds. “Speak distinctly in a confident voice, even though you may feel shaky.”

6. Listen carefully

Learning how to listen—really listen—is a powerful thing. Some ground rules to follow: don’t interrupt when the other person is talking; maintain good eye contact, lean forward, and face the speaker directly; and put away your cellphone—“no exceptions,” says Casey Carpenter, a trainer and coach with D.C.-based communications training firm Global Public Speaking.

7. Give specific examples

“The purpose of a job interview is for the interviewer to assess your skills,” says Tucker, “and anecdotes serve as affirmations that provide proof that you actually have the skills that you say you have.”

Select anecdotes that highlight quantifiable achievements. (“I’m highly self-motivated. In fact, recently our budgeting system didn’t pass muster for the sophisticated reporting we needed to do. I took the initiative to do some research and found an alternative that was 25% cheaper that integrated with our other software and could be implemented within six weeks.”)

9. Ask questions

Hiring managers often conclude job interviews by giving the candidate a chance to ask them questions. While you may be tempted to skip this part and run for the exist, it would be a terrible mistake. Take full advantage of this opportunity. A few recommendations:

  • Why is this position open?
  • What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?
  • Are there opportunities for additional training and education?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • How is performance measured in this role?

9. End on the right note

An essential step to nabbing a job is following up with the interviewer. “Your last question during an interview should always be, ‘What are the next steps from here?’” Foggle says.

10. Ace the follow-up

Following up is a critical part to getting hired, yet it’s often overlooked. The goal, Foggle says, is two-fold: to stay top-of-mind and restate your interest. For example: “Hi Tom, I’m just writing to let you know that I am still very interested in the position. Please let me know if I can offer any additional information, such as letters of recommendation, that might be useful.”

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