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Dos and Don'ts for Acing an Interview

You just landed the interview of a lifetime. Now what? Consider
these tips and common pitfalls so you can put your best foot forward in hopes
of landing the job.

Before the Interview

Without a solid understanding of the organization and an
ability to concisely answer the interviewer's questions, you won't be able to confidently
present yourself as a qualified candidate. Thus, preparation is the key to a
successful interview.

Start by thoroughly researching the company by visiting its
Web site, reading the company's postings on social media sites, reviewing news
article about the company and analyzing its financial performance. If you know
someone who works for the company, definitely call him! An inside source can
provide valuable insight and can put in a good word for you.

Next, prepare
a list of tough interview questions such as the infamous "Tell me about
yourself," "Why did you leave your last position?" and "Can you explain this
gap in your work history?" Develop succinct answers and practice answering them
in front of a mirror until your voice, facial expressions and gestures flow naturally.
If you have a hard time coming up with tough questions or replies to them, do
some research online. A simple search of "tough interview questions" will yield
lots of food for thought.

Keep in
mind that you may encounter a Behavioral-Based Interview (BBI) which is based on
the belief that past behavior predicts future performance. You can prepare for
a BBI by crafting responses to questions such as "think back on a situation
where..." The interviewer will want you to explain the situation, the actions you
took and the outcome in terms of dollars saved, revenue generated and other
quantifiable metrics.

you've done your homework, consider how to dress and what to bring. No matter
what the position, you want to appear professional so opt for business attire.
Ensure your outfit is ironed, properly fitted and not flamboyant or
distracting. You want the interviewer to remember your skills and capabilities,
not that your tie was too loud. Also, plan to take a list of references and
several copies of your resume in case you are interviewed by a panel.

The Interview

When the
big day arrives, plan for traffic and allot time to park, go through security
clearance, and find the exact location of the interview. Never assume you can
pull up to the door and bolt straight in. The last thing you want is to start
with an apology for being late. Also, be courteous to everyone you meet, not
just your interviewer. You never know who is standing next to you in the

want to greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake as you look her
in the eye to show that you are poised and confident. Remember, your goal is to
convince the interviewer that you will be a great asset to the company. Focus
on your strengths while leaving your ego at the door. Admit to room for growth
and a desire to collaborate. Avoid going off on tangents. Ask questions. Make
the interview an intelligent two-way engaged conversation, not just a Q&A
drill session.

If you're
caught off guard, repeat the question to give yourself time to think. Remain
calm and composed. It's better to take a moment to collect your thoughts and
answer intelligently than to quickly blurt out a reply that you immediately
wish you could recant.

On the
flip side, you shouldn't leave the interview wishing you had shared something. Even if you're not asked directly about the
time you saved a big account or improved profitability by implementing creative
cost saving measures, you can create the opportunity to share these experiences
by simply finishing a reply to her question with, "Your question made me think
of another situation when..."

Interview No No's

are many easily avoidable ways to land at the bottom of the list of applicants.
In addition to showing up late or slovenly dressed, chewing gum, using your
cell phone, telling jokes and bad mouthing past employers all send the wrong
message. Imagine the horror you'll feel if you criticize your last boss during
the interview, only to learn that the interviewer and he play golf together
every weekend.

Follow Up

of how you feel about the interview when you leave, send a thank you within 24
hours. Don't hesitate to use e-mail, as many hiring managers prefer it over snail
mail for timeliness in delivery (some company mail rooms are notoriously slow
routing external mail) and the ease of storing and sharing it electronically. If
you referenced an article you wrote or recently read during the interview,
include a link to it. This simple act will exhibit your follow through skills
and attention to detail. It will also keep you at the top of the interviewer's

matter how you dice it, the interview is critical. Take the time to prepare
yourself and let your confidence and capabilities shine!