A job interview is your chance to show an employer what kind of employee he or she will get if you’re hired. That is why it is essential to be well prepared for the job interview. Preparing means knowing about the industry, the employer, and yourself. It means paying attention to details like personal appearance, punctuality, and demeanor.

Knowledge is always your best weapon and so you should arm yourself with plenty of it.

Research the Employer Before a Job Interview

Before you begin to think about how you will dress for the interview, or answer questions, you should do your homework. Gather as much information about the employer as you can. Not only will you appear informed and intelligent, it will also help you make a decision if the employer eventually makes a job offer. Gathering employer information is not always an easy task, especially if the employer is a small private company, but the Internet has made it much easier than it was previous.

Learn About Yourself Before a Job Interview

In order to effectively answer questions on a job interview, you are going to have to know a lot about yourself and know how to present that information to an interviewer. To prepare for answering questions about yourself start by listing your attributes. Think about what you can bring to the employer. To help you come up with your list, talk to former co-workers with whom you worked closely. Ask them to list some traits about you that they most admired — work related, of course.

Once you come up with a list of attributes, try to find some faults. You won’t, obviously, spontaneously tell a prospective employer about these faults, but you may be asked to. One question that sometimes comes up in an interview is “What is something that has been a problem for you at work?” By studying your faults, you will be able to choose one that is somewhat innocuous or could be turned around into a positive.

Practice, Practice, And Then Practice Some More

You want to seem somewhat spontaneous when answering questions on a job interview, but that doesn’t mean being unprepared. If you have to take a very long pause before answering a question, you won’t sound as confident as you should. Before you go out on interviews rehearse, not exactly what you will say, but how you will say it. Many people find it helpful to practice answering questions in front of a video camera. Study your posture, the way you make eye contact, and your body language. If you don’t have a video camera, a mirror will do. Have a friend do mock job interviews with you. The more you repeat a scenario, the more comfortable you will begin to feel with it.

Dressing For a Job Interview

Appearance counts whether we like it or not. It’s the first thing people notice about us. That is why how you dress for a job interview is so important. You don’t want your appearance to take away from your performance or from what you can bring to the job.

Dress appropriately for your line of work. If those working in your field wear suits, then that is what you should wear to a job interview. Even if the typical work attire is slightly less casual than that, you should still wear a suit for the interview. However, if is a very casual dress, for example, jeans, is the norm, wearing a suit will make you seem out of place. Still, you should get a little more dressed up and wear something nicer than what you would wear for a day at work. Still unsure about what to wear? Stake out the employer’s front entrance a few days before your interview to see what people are wearing to work.

Good grooming is essential. Your hair should be neat and stylish. Your nails should be well manicured and clean. Men’s nails should be short. Women’s nails should be of a reasonable length and polished in a neutral color. Women shouldn’t be heavily made up. Avoid perfume or cologne since people find certain scents offensive.

Establish Rapport on a Job Interview

Your resume tells a prospective employer about the skills you will bring to his or her company. You obviously have those skills or you wouldn’t be going on the job interview. Now the interviewer must make sure you are a good fit for the job. Will your personality mesh well with his or her other employers? Will he or she like working with you? You obviously want the interviewer to relate well to you. You must establish rapport with him or her (or they, if it is a panel interview). Doing that begins the instant you walk in the door. Let the interviewer set the tone. For example, wait for him or her to extend his hand for a handshake, but be ready to offer your hand immediately. Some experts suggest talking at the same rate and tone as the interviewer. For example, if the interviewer is speaking softly, so should you.

Body Language

Body language gives more away about you than what you say. Making eye contact is very important but make sure it looks natural. A smiling, relaxed face is very inviting. Hands resting casually in your lap rather than arms folded across your chest also is more inviting. If you normally move your hands around a lot when you speak, tone it down some. You don’t want to look too stiff, but you don’t want to look like you’re a bundle of nervous energy.

Answering Interview Questions

When answering questions, speak slowly and clearly. Pause slightly before you answer a question. Your answers will seem less rehearsed and it will give you a chance to collect your thoughts. Keep in mind that a very brief pause may seem like an eternity to you. It’s not.

Prepare answers to some basic questions. Use the list of attributes you put together earlier. There are several books on the market that list questions and sample answers.

Asking Questions

When he or she is finishing questioning you, the interviewer will probably ask if you have any questions. You should have some ready. As in every other aspect of the job search, you want to demonstrate how you can fill the employer’s needs. Ask about a typical day on the job or special projects you would be involved in. Also, ask questions that will help you learn more about the employer and will let the interviewer know you are interested in working there. Use what you learned about the company through your research as a stepping off point. Don’t ask about salary, benefits, or vacations, as those all imply “what will you, the employer, do for me?”

Money Questions

The interviewer may ask you what your desired salary is, so prepare to answer this question. Find out what typical salaries are in your field. Always give a range, not an exact number. This will help keep you from pricing yourself out of a job. You don’t want the employer to think they can’t afford you, but you also don’t want them to think you are a cheap commodity either.

After the Job Interview

Post-Interview Followup

Within 24 hours of going on a job interview, send a thank-you note to follow up. This is your chance to reiterate something you mentioned on the interview or bring up something you forgot to mention. It is also a nice gesture and a simple matter of politeness.

Send a note to each person who took part in your interview. If you don’t remember the name of each person, call the receptionist for some help. Type your note and keep it brief. Sending your note by email is fine as long as you’ve communicated with the employer that way before. Sending a thank you note sets you apart from everyone else who forgot to or chose not to do this.

Waiting to hear back from an employer after a job interview can be torturous. Generally, wait a week after your interview before you call. However, if the employer told you when you could expect to hear something, don’t call until after that date.

Good luck!

By Lizette Ibarra, CEO & Partner at Bleumind