5 simple tips for nailing a job interview

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Interviews are one of the single most nerve-wracking tasks you will ever complete. They can be degrading, trying, testing, and numerous other sanity-challenging adjectives. Most schools (especially those of a business nature) try hard to prepare you for what’s to come. Unfortunately, schools cannot teach you everything. There are some skills that simply come from experience. One such skill is the art of the interview.

Interviews are not something you nail just by showing up. You must treat them with the care and respect they deserve, otherwise that job you so desperately want will wind up going to someone other than you. Don’t worry – there are steps you can take to prepare for those interviews that will give you a leg up over your competition. These steps, most likely, will not have been taught at your school of business and some might even be a bit out of your comfort zone. However, if you follow them, you’ll nail those interviews every time.

1. Prepare physically

This is going to sound strange, but you should never go into an interview without first getting your body and voice ready for the task at hand. Just like you’d stretch and warm up before an athletic event, you need to get your interviewing instrument ready to take on whatever is on deck. This means stretch your back, your legs, your arms and your neck. If you have the ability, get a massage the morning of. The last thing you need is to walk into that meeting with a knot between your shoulder blades causing you unwanted tension. If you can’t afford a massage, have a friend work over those muscles.

It’s also crucial to warm up your voice. You’re not preparing to dive into an aria from Cosi Fan Tutte, but you need to at least have your vocal instrument ready to speak without cracking or without having to speak through mounds of phlegm holding tight to your chords. Hum some scales, do a few tongue twisters (“The big black bug bled blue black blood” is one of my favorites), or sing a few songs. Don’t let the first words out of your mouth be inside that interview office. Walk into that office with the confidence that your physical tools are ready for the task.

2. Dress professionally

I have witnessed an inordinate amount of people walk into interviews under-dressed. Yes, you might be in IT and the normal attire is casual – that doesn’t mean you dress that part for the interview. Those doing the hiring like to know you take the prospect of employment seriously. To that end, break out your suit, get it dry cleaned, press your oxford and your tie, and step into the interviewer’s office ready to knock them dead. While you’re at it, shine your shoes and sport a nice watch. One of the first two things business men see are shoes and watches. Do not overlook the importance of the right accessories and footwear.

NOTE: This doesn’t mean you have to drop a grand on a new interview suit. So long as your current suit fits (and it doesn’t look like a leisure suit extracted from the ’70s), you should be good to go.

3. Groom well

Two days before you go into that interview, get your hair cut. You don’t want to do this the day before – especially if you’re going from long or shaggy hair to short. You’ll need the extra time to get used to styling the new coif and your hair is going to want to get over what is often referred to as “scissor shock.”

The grooming should not stop with your hair. If you have a beard, get it trimmed. If you do not sport facial hair, do an especially good job of shaving the morning of the interview. Make sure to pay close attention to under your jaw line, as this area can often get overlooked. Finally, clean and trim your nails. Nothing can ruin a clean, professional look faster than dirty nails. You want to display the ability to pay close attention to details.

4. Practice, practice, practice

If you’ve never interviewed before, you need to practice. If you don’t have a friend (or family member) who is accustomed to doing interviews, find a friend who’s willing to do some improvisation with you. Have them come up with questions for you to answer while in an environment similar to what you’ll be in for the actual interview (in other words, an office). That practice will help ease your nerves so you can go in relaxed and ready. Make sure the practice interviewer throws a few curve balls your way. You need to be prepared for anything. Do this a few times, with different questions and, maybe, different interviewers.

5. Get plenty of rest

Your instincts may be to party one last time before you embark on your career. That career, however, has not started yet – and it may not if you don’t get plenty of rest the night before. Plenty of rest will help calm your nerves and keep you alert. That good night’s sleep should also prevent you from walking into the interview with bags and/or dark circles under your eyes. You do not want to step into an interview session only to give the interviewer the impression you don’t care enough about the prospective job to prepare yourself. Nothing says “unprofessional” more than showing up with “I partied too much last night” written all over your face.

The interview doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration and brain-numbing nervous energy. With just the slightest bit of preparation, you can walk into that interview ready to “wow” the person responsible with hiring. Take advantage of these five tips and your next interview may well be your last.

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Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award winning writer of technical content and fiction. He has been covering Linux and open source since the late '90s and just about every conceivable topic since. His fiction breaks ground in the post apocalyptic genre as well as horror, thriller, and science fiction. For more information on Jack, check out his site, Get Jack'd at getjackd.net.