THE BLOG
10/09/2013 09:48 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

How to Nail a Job Interview in 5 Steps

Okay, so the hardest part is over -- your foot is in the door, you got the interview. The date is set and you're meeting with one or more important decision-makers. Now it's time to plan your attack.

Sure, interviews can be stressful. Your entire history is subject to examination under a microscope, and you've got a small chunk of time to convince your potential employer why hiring you would be a fantastic business decision. With a little forethought, a bit of practice and the right attitude, you can walk away from that office expecting a good news phone call in the near future.

Of course, you've got to have the credentials they're looking for, and you've got to present all the facts in a way that is professional and near perfect. Not one typo on the resume. Format it beautifully. Spring for the thick resume paper. Make sure every detail of your appearance is flawless. Smile a lot. Make eye contact. Firm handshake. In addition to these commonsense strong interview tactics, there are a few other aspects of your time in the spotlight you need to focus on. Take these five suggestions to heart as you build your interview arsenal.

1. Do Your Homework
Find out as much as you can about the company and the people who run it. Review past press releases, new hire announcements, notable events they've hosted, nonprofits they support, etc., and make a cheat sheet of the most important or interesting points. The goal is to be able to speak on the company as if you're an expert on them (even if you just Googled them yesterday), which demonstrates you are already invested in their business and their continued success. Ask about upcoming goals, milestones and plans for expansion to show your interviewer you are thinking about the future of the company and your role in their growth.

2. Rehearse Your Responses (But Don't Make Them Sound Rehearsed)
It is especially important to be ready with quick comebacks for probing questions that might make a lesser candidate uneasy. Definitely have a good answer for the penultimate tough one, "What is your greatest weakness?" or the ever-popular, "Talk about a time when you resolved a conflict on the job." You never know how the interviewer will come at you, so be prepared for questions that are a little out of left field or even totally unrelated to the job, such as "What is your philosophy of life?" or "How do you handle stress?" Practice your responses based on a few bullet points, so your words sound clear and concise but not programmed. Remember to take thoughtful pauses to allow your interviewer to digest and respond to your thoughts.

3. Make Strategic Small Talk
When the time is right, usually before you get started or after the formalities, take the opportunity to connect with your interviewer on a personal level. Maybe he or she skis Aspen once a year or grew up close to your hometown. If it feels like a natural transition, use the small talk as a bridge to mention a specific part of your background that might apply to your role in the company. Maybe your interviewer has a kid who plays hockey -- which is funny, because you played left center in college, which really helped you learn the value of teamwork. Try to work in a particularly unusual experience that both demonstrates character and helps you stand out, such as your hobby of house flipping, your summer in Africa, or your new goal of doing a triathlon.

4. Interview Your Interviewer
No matter how badly you may think you want the job, or how amazing the position sounds on paper, keep in mind that the interview process is a time for both company and candidate to feel the other out and see if it is a good fit. How much of a time commitment does it involve? What are their specific expectations of you, and do these expectations fit into your lifestyle and life goals? How about job growth and future opportunities? When you ask questions about expectations, job mobility, and job environment, it shows that you value yourself and your time, and that you're looking for a mutually beneficial partnership.

5. Exude Confidence and Congeniality
Confidence is the ultimate companion of success, and congeniality is a surefire way to leave a lasting impression. Employers want to hire people who can positively influence others, who are confident in their skills and abilities, and who are just generally pleasant to be around. Before you step into that interview room, make sure you have enough warmth and personality to complement that professional, polished demeanor. Ease any anxiety by reminding yourself that your interviewers are most likely as positive and hopeful about finding a new member of their team as you are about landing the perfect job.

You've got this. You're ready. Now, go get 'em, Tiger!

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