A job interview is one of the most drawn-out and intimidating ways of making a good first impression to your prospect employer. However, it’s also your opportunity to get on an employer’s good side, which can give you a distinct edge over even those applicants whose credentials are better than yours. To prepare for a job interview, use these pointers.

ANTICIPATE QUESTIONS FROM YOUR INTERVIEWER

It’s best to prepare for a wide variety of questions by thinking about your own career goals, long-term plans, past successes, and work strengths, but you should also brace yourself for the deceptively simple questions that most employers like to throw at their interviewees.

  • “What’s your biggest strength and weakness?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • “Why do you want this job
  • “Why did you leave your last job?”
  • “What can you contribute to our company?”
  • “What is your salary expectation?”

PRACTICE WITH A FRIEND

If you have a friend who is also preparing for an interview, consider preparing together. Not only will this give you a way to structure your preparation, but it will also help you get comfortable with giving answers, telling anecdotes, and using appropriate terminology. Practice giving concise, complete answers and maintaining eye contact with the interviewer(s) while you give them. Make sure you aren’t speaking too slow or too fast and that your answers are stated with confidence.

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PREPARE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR INTERVIEWER

Participating actively during the interview gives a good impression of your level of interest in the job. It’s a good idea to come prepared with at least three thought-provoking questions to ask your interviewer. (Avoid asking anything that could be easily answered through a quick internet search, or you will simply come across as lazy.)

RESEARCH ABOUT THE COMPANY

Start by looking into their future goals and plans. Conducting the interview with this in mind will make you seem like a good long-term investment. You should also be ready to talk in depth about the industry, the organization, and the position you are applying for.

  • Learn your interviewer’s name and job position before going to the interview. You may need to call the company to find out.
  • Talk to current employees. Show initiative while getting a feel for the office environment. Learn as much as you can about the company from people who work there.
  • Know as much about the company as possible. You can’t change your employment history or your qualifications, but you can work harder than every other applicant by being supremely knowledgeable about the company. Use the company’s website, their annual report, and newspaper/business magazine articles to gather as much information as possible.

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DRESS APPROPRIATELY

In any workplace, your wardrobe is a signifies how professional you are and is sometimes used to gauge your level of competence. When your coworkers and customers look at you, they should immediately feel comfortable working with you. It’s easy to rule yourself out of a job just because you didn’t take care of your appearance. As a rule of thumb, you should dress for the interview the way you would for the job itself. If the job is unusually casual, however, you might want to show up in business-casual clothes, but it’s always better to be formal. Both men and women should choose subdued colors (blues, browns, grays, black) which make a professional impression. Make sure that your clothes are lint- and wrinkle-free. Avoid wearing perfume, after-shave, or scented lotion (but do wear deodorant).

SHOW UP IN YOUR BEST FORM

Make sure you know exactly how to get there and, if you drive, just where to park so that you can arrive 15 to 20 minutes before the scheduled interview time. Go to bed early the day (or the days) before the interview so that you look rested and healthy on the big day. Bring an extra copy of your resume, CV, and/or references in case your interviewer wants to go over any points with you or neglects to bring their own copy.

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SHOW COURTESY

This means everyone from the reception staff to the interviewer herself. You never know who has input in the hiring process, and you can only make a first impression once. Speak clearly and say “please” and “thank you.” Make sure the people you talk to during the interview can make out what you’re saying. Talking audibly, with good enunciation, tells people you’re confident, while good manners tells them you’re considerate of other people. Don’t noodle around on your phone or electronic device while waiting. In fact, leave it in your car. Even though it’s practically acceptable, playing around on your phone can communicate boredom and frivolousness (even if that’s not the case). Stick with a book or review your notes while waiting.

BE GENUINE AND HONEST

Many people think that an interview is the perfect time to embellish. While you want to structure your answers so that your best, most qualified aspects take center stage, you don’t want to deceive or outright lie. Companies do perform background checks, and lying about your experience is simply not worth it. Try to come off as a genuinely likable person if you can. If you’re cynical, pessimistic, and absolutely disabused of any faith in humanity, try to tone it down during the interview. Being personable is about getting the interviewer’s emotional side to like you and believe in you. Employers don’t always hire the candidates most qualified for the job, but rather the candidates they like the best.

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KEEP EVERYTHING SHORT

Talking about yourself can be very difficult to do well: You’re trying to convince someone you don’t know that you’re qualified for a position without sounding too cocky or pompous. Stick to what you know well, and keep things short and sweet. Structure your answers so that you’re talking in 30-90 second chunks. Any less and you’re likely to seem unqualified; any more and your interviewer is likely to lose interest in what you’re saying. In the “tell me about yourself” question, highlight 2-3 illustrative examples about yourself before wrapping up.