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How to Land and Ace a Job Interview

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In the midst of a job search, there are many avenues one can take to find employment. And unfortunately the unemployment rates are still pretty high, so there is some steep competition out there for positions. Here are some tips for standing out from the crowd and impressing your interviewer.

Spend a lot of time on the cover letter

How to Land and Ace a Job Interview

Imagine sifting through hundreds of cover letters and resumes that have come in for one position. Imagine all of the generic, nonspecific cover letters you would see. If you are the one writing the cover letter, do NOT let it be yours! I have spent as much as 2-3 hours working on a cover letter before, which includes the time spent researching the company, checking out their website, their members’ LinkedIn profiles, and articles on that company. Making the cover letter unique and memorable is key for setting yourself apart from all the rest, and making an impression on the hiring manager.

Spend even more time researching the company

Go through their website from top to bottom, and also run other searches on search engines to read articles, blogs, and anything else you can about the company. Research the CEO and the person who will be interviewing you. Familiarize yourself with the company’s history, and you’d best know their mission statement by heart. When you go in for an interview, you will be grateful that you spent so much time researching the company because you will not ask questions that blatantly reveal that you did not do your homework.

Come with questions

How to Land and Ace a Job Interview

That being said, come prepared with some good questions, but nothing that you could have punched into a search engine and found on the website. Questions like where the future of the company is headed, if that isn’t clear, or what the opportunity for professional growth is are more the direction you should go with questions. I’ve read time and time again that interviewers see asking questions as a sign of the interviewee’s interest, obviously a positive quality.

Practice interviewing before the interview, and come up with basic answers

If you are not prepared to answer questions such as, “What is your biggest weakness?” or “Tell me about a time when you had difficulty working with a coworker?” then you are not nearly prepared enough. Research the top ten questions asked at interviews and practice them with somebody. You’ll want to have specific examples in mind, but do not by any means make the answer sound too canned or scripted. Be yourself, but be prepared. If it appears to the interviewer that you have not even thought about answers to such basic questions beforehand it will become completely evident that you did not prepare for the interview, a surefire sign that you did not care enough to put some time into getting ready for it.

Be punctual but not too early, and never late

From all my research and past experience, the key to punctuality for an interview is to be 10-15 minutes early on the nose. Any earlier and it can actually have the opposite effect of being impressive; it can come off as annoying, especially if the interviewer has to interrupt something she or he was doing early to come out and greet you. Chances are the person you are interviewing with has a pretty full schedule, so don’t be the person who shows up 30-45 minutes early while the interviewer is still with another candidate or is out to lunch. 10-15 minutes is just enough time to show that you care enough to be early, but is not so ridiculously early that it’s annoying. And never, EVER be late. If you’re unsure of what the commute will be like, leave yourself an additional half hour to arrive. If you do get their a half hour early, walk around the neighborhood or sit in a coffee shop until it’s time.

Answer questions the right way

Here is the wrong way to answer a question: give a vague answer, and then go off on a tangent about your previous job or position that doesn’t really give the interviewer a clear answer to his or her question. Here is the right way to answer a question: actually answer the actual question. Even if you need to take a minute to think about it, it’s better than jumping into a story that doesn’t have to do with the question at all. Use examples to illustrate your point, because examples show actual times of how you behaved in certain situations.

Be courteous and polite to everybody

That includes the receptionist and anybody else you may meet that day. I have a friend who is a District Trainer and Hiring Manager for a large furniture company with over 250 stores, and he asks for the first impression of anybody in the office who had any sort of contact with the interviewee, including the receptionist remember that.

Google yourself

That’s right, do it. Because chances are the company you are interviewing with is probably going to do it, or already has. Put your Facebook on lockdown and scour the internet for anything that would come up with your name on it. Spruce up your LinkedIn profile, delete your MySpace account, and even have a friend do a 10-minute search for you if you want to play it extra safe.

Work on your credit

Last but not least, you’ll want to work on your credit score, as strange as that may sound, if you are serious about securing employment with a company. Many employers have started running credit checks on potential new hires, to see what kind of history they have. It may or may not seem fair, but companies can and will turn down applicants if their credit history shows that they have not been responsible or reliable with finances. So get a free credit check as early into your job search as possible, so that you can have some time to actively build it up before you land your dream interview.