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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

Get Interview-Ready! 5 Essential Prep Tips

If you’ve just found out you’ve landed an interview, you’re probably pretty excited, right?

That is, until the terror sets in.

Don’t worry: It happens to all of us. And, while I can’t completely eliminate your pre-interview jitters, there are a few steps you can take that will put you at a significant advantage—both for the job and in terms of your emotional wellbeing. Try these tips and get ready for interview success.

1. Be the Publicity, Marketing, and Sales Department of You, Inc.

It’s a no-brainer that you should research and learn as much as possible about the company you’re interviewing with, but don’t forget to do a little digging into your own profile as well.

While it may sound silly, believe it or not, most of us aren’t all that great at talking about ourselves. Many of us have been trained that it’s impolite to “brag” about our accomplishments, which makes talking about ourselves in an interview surprisingly challenging.

But, if you take the time to master the art of talking about yourself and your accomplishments, you’ll show both your confidence and why you’re such a good fit for the position. And that’ll give you a huge boost among the other candidates.

There are two strategies that are helpful here: First, do as many mock interviews as you possibly can with a friend. You’ll be much better at answering, “So, tell me about yourself!” and “What would you bring to the position?” the 100th time you do it than the first, right?

Secondly, don’t forget about the numbers! Finding some numbers, percentages, increases, or quotas you can use when talking about your responsibilities and accomplishments really sweetens the deal and helps you tell a hiring manager why you’re so awesome without feeling like you’re bragging. Don’t just say, “I increased sales”—try “I boosted our sales numbers 75%,” and you’re sure to be remembered.

2. Look the Part

We all know to dress for success in an interview, but what does that mean, exactly? Well, my first suggestion is to do a little pampering, because looking your best helps you feel your best. If that means you need a manicure, facial, haircut, razor shave, or even a new interview outfit, then by all means do it! Feeling good about yourself will boost your confidence—and I probably don’t have to tell you that confidence is key in landing your dream job. Think of it like this: Your new job is right around the corner, so treat yourself for it today.

If you can’t afford the five-star pampering before every interview—don’t be afraid to get creative. Instead of a new suit, for example, try accessorizing with a fresh new tie or a great necklace to bring your old outfit up to date.

3. Pack Your Resume Right

You probably know you need to bring a resume to the interview, but don’t forget to package it the right way, too! Think about it. You’re showcasing all your greatest accomplishments and skills. Why wouldn’t you want to put that on a pedestal? Show your resume the respect it deserves by dressing it up, and your interviewer will, too.

In other words, forget the bulky briefcase or paper folder, spend $10-$20, and invest in a sharp-looking padfolio. (Think sleek, black or brown, and free of any company or brand logos.) Stock it up with your resume (no less than five copies, in case you’re asked to meet with a few more people!), letters of recommendation, and samples of your work. And don’t forget paper and a pen (make sure it works before you go!).

4. Be Remembered for the Right Reasons

Have you ever smelled something that immediately brought on an old memory from years ago? Well—that’s exactly what you don’t want when you’re interviewing. I know it’s tempting, but hold off on splashing on a dab of your favorite cologne or perfume, because you might be surprised to find your future employer isn’t a fan.

It also goes without saying that your breath should be minty fresh. But, just brushing your teeth beforehand isn’t going to cut it. Whether you realize it or not, most of us get a little self-conscious about our breath (after all, who really is going to tell you it’s awful?) and that’s not how you want to kick off an interview. My suggestion? Bring along some small mints, like Altoids—not gum—and pop one in about 10 minutes before the big meeting. You’ll assure you’re not chomping down on something while trying to talk, and you’ll be confident your breath won’t distract your future boss.

5. Be Early—Really Early

Obviously, being on time for an interview is pretty important. But being early—really early—is a pro maneuver.

What do I mean by really early? Well, it’s a generally accepted rule that you should arrive at the office 10-15 minutes before the interview. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be at the coffee shop down the block half an hour before that! Think about it: If you only give yourself enough time to arrive 10-15 minutes early, you’ll be rushing up the elevator and arriving a bit frazzled, and if you’ve been navigating public transit or hoofing it across town, you'll probably be a tad sweaty, too. Not a good look.

Instead, plan to arrive within a block or so of your interview location 30-45 minutes beforehand. Just relax, read a book, or call a friend, letting yourself mentally prepare for what’s ahead. You have enough stress on interview day—the last thing you want to do is add to that by rushing. Get in the zone first, then, 10 minutes before your scheduled meeting, get in the elevator.

Your performance in an interview depends on about a zillion different factors, but none of them are going to do you much good if you don’t prepare yourself first. Follow these simple tips to present your most polished, fresh, and focused self to your future boss, and I know you'll ace it.

Want to learn even more about setting yourself up for interview success? Check out my recent webinar, How to Ace Any Interview!

Photo of woman interviewing courtesy of Shutterstock.