How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Job Interview Preparation Tips

Your demeanor before the interview could make the difference between an offer and continued unemployment.
Your demeanor before the interview could make the difference between an offer and continued unemployment.
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Your main responsibility at a job interview is to answer questions. Luckily, there are several common questions that you can expect to hear at most interviews. Practice answering these questions in a way that portrays you in the best possible light. You shouldn't lie, of course, but focus on the information that makes you look talented, confident and prepared for the job. Even if you're not looking for a job in marketing, this is the time to sell yourself [source: Hering].

Start with the most open-ended question of all: "Tell me about yourself." Remember that this is a job interview, not a date, so the focus should be on your relevant work history and experience, not your likes and dislikes. If you're short on experience, talk about your education, specifically courses and projects you feel have best prepared you for the job. Finish with a short blurb about your personal life --"I have two kids, a dog and a goldfish, and enjoy gardening" -- without getting too personal. Enlist a friend as a mock interviewer, and practice packaging your life story into a concise and compelling narrative [source: Fisher].

Practice answering some other common questions that can trip up a less-prepared interviewee. "Why did you leave your last job?" is a tricky one. Whatever you do, don't badmouth your last employer [source: Fisher]. It makes you look petty and vindictive. Even if you left your old job on bad terms, figure out a way to paint it in the best light. Talk about how you felt limited in the position and were eager to find a job where you could tap your full potential. Then segue into why you think your skills and aspirations are such a great match for the open position.

Because of the sagging job market, many applicants walk into interviews after months of unemployment. Be ready for the question: "What have you been doing since your last job ended?" Highlight volunteer work, personal projects like blogs, and anything that shows initiative and a spirit of entrepreneurship [source: Madden]. The take home message should be: Even though you weren't getting paid, you put your skills and creativity to work.

Another tip: Know what you're worth. If the interview goes really well, your interviewer might inquire about your salary range. Be ready to give a ballpark figure for your base salary, but be quick to add that it all depends on the rest of the compensation package: health coverage, bonuses and other benefits.

Lastly, remember that a job interview is a two-way street [source: Buhl]. Come prepared to ask some of the questions you developed during the research phase. Again, concentrate on questions that show a deep understanding of the industry and can spark an engaging conversation.

Even though there aren't any hard and fast rules for job interviews, the etiquette tips on the next page will help you make the best first impression.