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5 Strategies To Prepare You Better For Your Job Interview

May 19, 2008
There are a host of practical steps that you can take to enable yourself to prepare better for your interviews. By preparing properly for your interview, you will control your nerves and allow yourself to sell yourself better at your interview. Below are a list of not-so-obvious quick wins:

1. Prepare to Arrive on Time
Arriving late for your interview is career suicide, yet it is surprising how many candidates fail at this early hurdle. You can easily place yourself in the top 90%, by actioning a few simple tasks.

Create a folder into which you will place all the documents that you have been asked to present on the day (identification, qualifications, etc.) That way you won't be looking for them all over the house on the morning of the interview.

Download a map of your route and of the interview setting and place the printout in your folder.
Mentally - or even practically - rehearse the route you will take from your front door to the interview room and try to anticipate any possible problems and work out what your secondary plan will be. So if the train is cancelled, what will you do? If the traffic on that route is heavy, what will you do?

Even if you don't need to use these plans, taking this time will help to alleviate many of the interview anxieties that may be at play in your mind as you realize that there is always another way.

2. Anticipate Questions Through Your Research
Analyze the company that your are applying for and their competitors. Ensure that you have a handle on the products and services offered by both your company and their competitors.

The interview panel will primarily be trying to find out about three aspects of your candidacy. They want to know about your level of competence, drive and team play. So, their questions will be designed to help them work out how competent, driven and team orientated you are.

So, whilst you are reading about the company, keep in mind how you might use this information in an answer to a question that they may throw at you. With the internet, you can now find out a huge amount about a topic in a relatively short space of time. Download the company reports. Find out about the people there, the markets they serve and the products and services they offer. Try to figure out what problems the company is facing and work out how you could help solve them.

Then, get prepared to turn the conversation to these areas in your interview, so that you can highlight what an asset you could be to their company.

3. Dress to Fit in
You should dress as smart as you can afford. I would always recommend a suit as it is always better to overdress than underdress at an interview.

For men - wear a dark blue suit, with a blue or white shirt and a patterned tie. Ensure that the suit fits properly - this is the most important aspect of the suit. Wear a belt, black socks and polish your smart, black shoes. Clip your nails and organize a haircut for a week before the interview.

For women - ideally wear a suit. You should aim to be conservative with the style of your attire and a useful rule is to only show the skin over your face, neck, hands and lower calves. Ensure that your suit fits properly. The color should be dark, but chosen to suit your skin tone and hair color. Wear smart, medium heeled shoes. Apply your make up with subtlety. Wear a minimum of jewelery and don't use a perfume that is overbearing.

4. Body Language
Remember that 90% of your communication, will be conducted non verbally. You should control this is much as possible.

The two aspects of body language, which correlate most strongly with a positive outcome at interview are eye contact and smile rate.

Ensure that you maintain eye contact. When candidates are nervous, they tend to look away. Display your confidence and honesty through your ability to maintain eye contact with the interviewer. If there is an interview panel, reserve the majority of your eye contact for the panel member who asked you the question, but glance at the other panel members from time to time. If there is only one interviewer, then try to look at their eyes for 80-90% of the time. Don't stare at them incessantly, or they may feel uncomfortable! If you find it difficult to look at somebody's eyes, then look at their nose or ears. If you are more than 1 meter away - they won't be able to tell.

Smiling conveys a likable and trustworthy personality - both of which are aspects of your candidacy that you want to put across. Candidates often forget to smile when they are nervous, so if you can focus on this action, you will elevate your chances of success greatly. Remember to smile with your teeth exposed.

When shaking the hand of the interviewer, remember to achieve four outcomes - a firm hand grip, eye contact, smile and say your name confidently - clearly and at a natural pitch (not too squeaky).

Sit upright on the chair and lean forward slightly to convey energy and interest. Sit with your back against the back of the chair to give you stability - candidates sitting at the edge of the chair have been known to fall off (ouch!) or physically rock back when they are given a difficult question.

Nod your head from time to time to convey interest and your ability to listen well. Keep peripheral movements to a minimum - resist the temptation to "talk with your hands". Keep these movement to a minimum. Don't fidget. Plan to keep your hands on the desk or on your lap, if this helps you to stop playing with your hair or swinging your arms about.

5. Attend to Your Voice
Candidates often don't think about their voice in an interview, so here again is another opportunity for you to move ahead of your competition in a relatively easy way.

Your goal is to talk CLEARLY. Nervous candidates typically talk too fast and too quietly. Aim to talk loud enough for them to hear you at the back of the room. Talk slowly enough so that an elderly aunt could follow you. We typically talk at about 220 words per minute.

Radio newsreaders are trained to talk at about 150 words per minute - so aim to talk at about 2/3 of your normal speaking speed. Use pauses to emphasize important points.
About the Author
Dr Nalin Wickramasuriya is a consultant paediatrician based in the UK, who also specializes in coaching doctors and medical students to interview more successfully. His website has more free interview advice
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