1. Research the industry and company.


In today’s world, content is king. There are many companies in S.A. and abroad that publishes quarterly reports, Microsoft records its earning calls, and every startup has a blog. With so much out there, I’m baffled that few of us look past the company’s homepage. It’s like we’re writing an essay on The Odyssey without quoting a single passage from the book. An interviewer may ask how you perceive his company's position in its industry, who the firm's competitors are, what its competitive advantages are, and how it should best go forward.


2. Prepare for common interview questions.


Every "how to interview" book has a list of a hundred or more "common interview questions." (You might wonder just how long those interviews are if there are that many common questions!) So how do you prepare? Pick any list and think about which questions you're most likely to encounter, given your age and status (about to graduate, looking for a summer internship). Then prepare your answers so you won't have to fumble for them during the actual interview.


3. Make the most of the "Tell me about yourself" question.


Many interviewers begin interviews with this question. So how should you respond? You can go into a story about where you were born, what your parents do, how many brothers and sisters and dogs and cats you have, and that's okay. But would you rather have the interviewer writing down what kind of dog you have – or why the company should hire you?

Consider responding to this question with something like: "Well, obviously I could tell you about lots of things, and if I'm missing what you want, please let me know. But the three things I think are most important for you to know about me are [your selling points]. I can expand on those a little if you'd like." Interviewers will always say, "Sure, go ahead." Then you say, "Well, regarding the first point, [give your example]. And when I was working for [company], I [example of another selling point]." Etc. This strategy enables you to focus the first 10-15 minutes of the interview on all of your key selling points. The "Tell me about yourself" question is a golden opportunity. Don't miss it!


4. Speak the right body language.

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Dress appropriately, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, have good posture, speak clearly, and don't wear perfume or cologne! Sometimes interview locations are small rooms that may lack good air circulation. You want the interviewer paying attention to your job qualifications -- not passing out because you've come in wearing Chanel No. 5 and the candidate before you was doused with Brut, and the two have mixed to form a poisonous gas that results in you not getting an offer!


11. Review Common Interview Questions


Come prepared with stories that relate to the skills that the employer wants, while emphasizing your:

  • Strengths
  • Willingness to work and flexibility
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability and willingness to learn new things
  • Contributions to the organizations in which you have worked or volunteered
  • Creativity in solving problems and working with people

6. Clarify your "selling points" and the reasons you want the job.


Prepare to go into every interview with three to five key selling points in mind, such as what makes you the best candidate for the position. Have an example of each selling point prepared ("I have good communication skills. For example, I persuaded an entire group to ..."). And be prepared to tell the interviewer why you want that job – including what interests you about it, what rewards it offers that you find valuable, and what abilities it requires that you possess. If an interviewer doesn't think you're really, really interested in the job, he or she won't give you an offer – no matter how good you are!


7. Anticipate the interviewer's concerns and reservations.


There are always more candidates for positions than there are openings. So interviewers look for ways to screen people out. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they might not want to hire you (“I don't have this,” “I'm not that,” etc.). Then prepare your defense: “I know you may be thinking that I might not be the best fit for this position because [their reservation]. But you should know that [reason the interviewer shouldn't be overly concerned]."


8. Line up your questions for the interviewer.


Come to the interview with some intelligent questions for the interviewer that demonstrate your knowledge of the company as well as your serious intent. Interviewers always ask if you have any questions, and no matter what, you should have one or two ready. If you say, "No, not really," he or she may conclude that you're not all that interested in the job or the company. A good all-purpose question is, "If you could design the ideal candidate for this position from the ground up, what would he or she be like?"

If you're having a series of interviews with the same company, you can use some of your prepared questions with each person you meet (for example, "What do you think is the best thing about working here?" and "What kind of person would you most like to see fill this position?") Then, try to think of one or two others during each interview itself.


9. Practice, Practice and Practice

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It's one thing to come prepared with a mental answer to a question like, "Why should we hire you?" It's another challenge entirely to say it out loud in a confident and convincing way. The first time you try it, you'll sound garbled and confused, no matter how clear your thoughts are in your own mind! Do it another 10 times, and you'll sound a lot smoother and more articulate.


10. Be assertive and take responsibility for the interview.


Perhaps out of the effort to be polite, some usually assertive candidates become overly passive during job interviews. But politeness doesn't equal passivity. An interview is like any other conversation – it’s a dance in which you and a partner move together, both responding to the other. Don't make the mistake of just sitting there waiting for the interviewer to ask you about that Nobel Prize you won. It's your responsibility to make sure he walks away knowing your key selling points.


11. Send thank-you notes.

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Write a thank-you note after every interview. Type each note on paper or send them by email, depending on the interviewers' preferences. Customize your notes by referring specifically to what you and the interviewer discussed; for example, "I was particularly excited about [or interested by, or glad to hear] what you said about ..." Handwritten notes might be better if you're thanking a personal contact for helping you in your job search, or if the company you're interviewing with is based in Europe. Whatever method you choose, notes should be sent within 48 hours of the interview.

To write a good thank-you note, you'll need to take time after each interview to jot down a few things about what the interviewer said. Also, write down what you could have done better in the interview, and make adjustments before you head off for your next interview.