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9 Tips for Nailing That Next Big Interview

Whether you're an established professional making a midlife career change or a recent college graduate trying to market yourself as desirable entry-level talent, your job interview performance can determine your future.

Approach your job interview with a confident mindset. Clearly, your resume or a personal reference made a positive impression that landed you the invitation to interview. But remember: You probably have a lot of competition for the job. When it's your time to shine in a face-to-face interview, position yourself as the candidate of choice for the role.

Woman shaking hands with a man in the office.

1. Plan your attire the day before.

Of course, you want to dress for success to ace your dream-gig interview, but you also need to be appropriate for the industry and workplace culture you're stepping into. Women can't go wrong with a well-tailored dark pantsuit or a tasteful skirt suit with a conservative knee-length hemline. Jewelry should be understated, and if you wear nail polish, be sure your manicure is fresh and flawless.

Men can put their best foot forward by going with a sharp-looking suit or a pair of flat-front trousers, a button-down shirt and a tie. Shoes should be polished and scuff-free. Either go with a freshly shaven face or neatly trimmed facial hair. The goal is to make sure your appearance doesn't distract from your message.

2. Arrive 10 minutes early.

Map out exactly where the building is and how long it takes to travel there from your home. You might even want to do a practice run to ensure you can get there with plenty of time to relax and prepare yourself mentally for the interview.

3. Bring a notebook and pen.

Make a great impression immediately by pulling out a small notebook and pen so you can jot down key points. You'll look attentive and engaged. You might also want to have a copy of your resume handy, on which you've highlighted specific accomplishments you plan to reference during the interview.

4. Let the interviewer lead the discussion initially.

Don't interrupt, and don't talk too much. Reply to all questions in a succinct, deliberate way. Be honest and authentic, while coming across as the sincere and thoughtful professional you are.

5. Be mindful of your body language.

Sit tall with your shoulders back. Keep your arms uncrossed and relaxed on the arms of the chair or in your lap. Maintain consistent eye contact with the interviewer and remember to smile warmly when appropriate.

6. Be prepared to answer difficult questions.

Practice answering some of the most common interview questions at home with a friend. When you're asked, "Why are you interested in this role with our company?" — you'll be ready to quickly communicate your skill set and the value you can bring to the company. When asked to share your biggest weakness, step right over that interview land mine with a reply that shows how you're turning a personal challenge around with commitment and creativity.

7. Come prepared with a set of smart questions to ask your interviewer.

A great way to demonstrate you've done your research on the company, its leadership and the position you're applying for is by asking savvy questions when it's your turn. A well-prepared list of intelligent questions points to your proactive personality and your sincere interest in the job. Good examples include:

  • "Can you describe what a typical day might look like for someone in this position?"
  • "What's the most important thing I can accomplish in this role during my first 90 days?"
  • "How will my performance be measured, and how often?"

8. Ask about the next steps.

Indicate your eagerness to join the company by asking your interviewer when you can hope to receive a decision. Will it come to you in a follow-up email? Does the hiring process require a second interview?

9. Write a post-interview thank-you letter.

Increase your odds of getting that job offer by crafting a professional thank-you email and sending it within 24 hours of your interview. A handwritten letter might take days to arrive, and it's not really necessary in today's digital environment. Be clear and concise in your word choice, and cover everything you want to say in a few sentences.

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