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Navigating the interview process

Let’s be honest for a moment, nobody enjoys being interviewed. What makes being interviewed a particularly unpleasant experience really has nothing to do with the person interviewing you (there are exceptions!). It has nothing to do with the temperature of the office in which you are being interviewed (although, this could pose problems). Nor does it even have to do with the fact that you are going into a completely foreign (maybe even hostile) environment only to sit down with strangers so they probe the furthest reaches of your mind to find out not only your level of competency, but if your attitude and personality would mesh well with their corporate culture. No, what makes interviewing absolutely terrifying is the fear that comes with the knowledge that inevitably you will feel that you did something “wrong.” 

Though not everyone experiences this fear, for those that do, it can be particularly menacing due to its pervasive and haunting nature. And while the”What if?” question is inescapable, the inner voice that asks this question can be quieted. Walking out of an interview without being burdened by the “What if?” question requires that one go into an interview confident,  prepared, and ready to navigate the interview process. A few tips?

  • Do research.  Be sure not only to look at the description of the job for which you are applying (note: this is essential), but research the company to get a feeling for their corporate culture and values.  Interviewers want not only to be assured that you are qualified to perform a particular job function, but that you will “fit in.”
  • Dress the part.  First impressions are unbelievably important.  Make sure to wear a neutral colored suit and a tie, shine your shoes, and, perhaps most importantly, wear a smile.
  • Arrive early, but not too early.  Leave your house with plenty of time to get to your interview—you never know if you might make a wrong turn, or if Google Maps supplied you with wrong directions.  If you get to your interview really early (i.e. anything more than 5-10 minutes before it is set to start), sit in your car and go over your resume as well as the job description.
  • Don’t throw yourself under the bus.  While it is important to be neither snide nor arrogant, when answering difficult questions like, “Talk about your past failures,” or “Name one area in which you need improvement,” be confident and be your own best advocate.  Even though answering this question requires that you admit something negative about yourself, it is easy to turn this negative into a positive by talking about what steps you have taken to improve.  That is, in these instances, be sure to end on a positive note.  Just because you are being forced to talk about a failure or shortcoming, does not mean you can’t come out looking like a champ!
  • The handshake.  While the old adage, “You can tell a lot about a person by their handshake,” may or may not be true, perception is reality.  Do not shake too firmly, but also be sure not to provide your interviewer with a limp hand.  Give your interviewer no reason to doubt that you are the right person for the job!

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