How to Ace Your Interview

1) Think of the interview as a process in which both parties are hoping for positive outcome. No employer likes to be interviewing countless numbers of candidates. Just as you are seeking a job solution, they are seeking a staffing solution. So view your interviewer as a friend -- not as a foe.

2) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Your degree of preparation speaks volumes about your interest level, conscientiousness, and ability to plan ahead.

In order to make the best case, you'll need information about yourself AND about the job, company and field. It's difficult to make a case for a match if you only have information about one side of the equation. So do your homework!

Research company history, and go to the company Web site and learn more about the company's goals, staffing needs and corporate philosophy. If possible, try to learn about your interviewer, too. In other words: know your audience.

Being prepared will increase your confidence, your ability to answer questions and your ability to ask intelligent questions.

3) Have Specific Answers for Why You'd Be Great. It s crucial, during an interview, to reflect on how your experiences have prepared you for the job you are seeking.

It can be awkward to talk about your qualifications. It's important not to sound arrogant. It's also important not to be too self-deprecating.

If you've thought through an answer as to why you'd be great for a specific job in advance, however -- and if you believe your own answer -- then speaking that answer in an interview won't sound arrogant or wishy-washy. It'll sound confident and honest.

If you cannot supply a solid answer to the question of why you should be hired, you won't be.

4) Walk a Mile in the Employer's Shoes. Before your interview, imagine if you were the employer. What questions would you want to ask an applicant? What would you want to know? What types of replies would you want to hear?

You'd probably want a candidate with a demonstrated track record of adaptability, progress, achievement, creativity, leadership, and responsibility. You'd want a good listener, team player and fast learner.

When reviewing your resume and thinking about your past, focus on experiences in which you exhibited these traits.

Your examples can come from many different experiences -- academic, athletic, artistic, community service and work. But have examples ready, and weave them into your answers during interviews.

5) Stay Positive. Let's say you are looking for a job because you don't like your current job. That's fine; it's even typical. But when an interviewer asks, "Why are you looking for a new job?" the truth will set you free -- from any chance of working for your interviewer's company, that is.

Telling a prospective employer about how much you dislike your current boss, or current co-workers, or current title/responsibilities is not a smart answer. Answers like these -- even if they are 100% honest -- translate this way to prospective employers: "Uh oh, potential attitude problem."

Take a positive approach.

Think about it. Who would YOU hire: an applicant that says, "I hate my current boss and I'm tired of my old job," or an applicant who says, "I'm seeking a new career path, and I'm eager to embrace the challenge of some new responsibilities."

Don't put down your current job/employer/co-workers. You'll lose big points.

6) Make a Strong First Impression. Most interviewers will admit (and research supports) that they have largely made up their minds about a candidate within the first five minutes of meeting him or her. So if you can keep it together for 300 seconds, you've got a shot!

Here are important "first impression" indicators: arriving on time, a firm handshake, sustained eye contact, a warm smile, good posture, and introducing yourself in a relaxed and confident manner.

A well-groomed, professional appearance is essential. Anything else will detract from your ability to "sell yourself."

7) Pack Wisely. Always bring extra copies of your resumé, something to write on, and a pen/pencil.

Always bring a list of 6-10 questions that you plan to ask the interviewer. It is important to have several questions prepared to ask -- just in case the interviewer answers some of your questions during the conversation.

8) Answer Questions Directly. When an interviewer asks a question, try to answer it as directly as you can.

Most interviewers aren't interested in anecdotes, or tangents, or non-topical banter. Most interviewers have just a few minutes to conduct interviews during their otherwise busy days. Don't be disrespectful and waste their time.

If you don't know the answer to a question, don't lie. Admit it. Say something like, "That's an interesting question. I m not sure I have an answer. But I am sure I could find one -- or learn how to find one -- if I had the chance to learn from and work with your team."

An applicant can't say "I don't know" to every question. But admitting a lack of knowledge once or twice during an interview is fine -- especially if it's couched in an "I don't know, but I will learn and find out" type manner.

No one knows everything. A person who is willing to learn, however, can learn anything.

9) Lose the Need for Speed. When you answer questions, talk slowly. You'll sound more confident.

It's acceptable to let a few seconds pass after each question is asked before you reply -- it will seem like you are carefully considering the question, rather than rushing to answer it.

If you don't know how to answer a question right away, don't panic. There are a few great time-buying tricks that can give you the precious seconds you need to come up with an answer.

You can always buy time by repeating or rephrasing the question while you think of an answer (i.e., "What is my experience in project management?").

Or, you can respond with a question of your own -- something like, "I want to make sure I understand your question fully. Are you asking me if I've ever managed large groups of people on major projects?"

Or, you can answer with an interrogative of your own, "What is my experience in project management? Is that something the person you hire for this job will be doing frequently?" (The interviewer will then answer, buying you time).

These time-buying tricks than can help you gather your thoughts, and can make you seem like a good listener, too. Don't overuse these tricks; but using them once or twice to buy a few seconds is fine.

10) It's OK to Be a Little Nervous. It's not easy meeting complete strangers. It's even tougher when they ask you to state -- and justify -- your life's achievements. But remember this: every interviewer, at one time or another, was an interviewee.

If you begin to feel extremely nervous during an interview and you are convinced the interviewer knows it, try spinning it this way: "I hope I don't seem nervous. I'm not. I m just excited about having a chance to interview with your company. I'd love to be a part of it."

11) Immediate Follow-Up. Never leave an interview without knowing your next step.

Your interviewer will usually give you that information. If he or she says nothing, you may ask, "How should we proceed from here?" or "When might I expect to hear from you?" You might also say something like, "If you have any additional questions for me or want any additional materials, please contact me and let me know." Then shake hands, thank them for their time, and leave.

Crucial: as soon as you can, write a few notes down about the interview. It s important to write down as many details as possible -- especially about what went well or what went poorly during the interview. This information will be valuable to you if you are invited back for a second interview.

Be sure to note what you learned about the company or the field, impressions of the people with whom you met, the correct spellings of their names and titles, your responsibilities as far as any follow-up call, and when you can expect to hear from them.

Writing a prompt thank-you note is a must. The note can be brief and should not exceed one page. Use the note to tactfully reconfirm your interest in the job/company, and to demonstrate that you listened carefully to whatever your interviewer had to say.

12) There Is No Rejection. Colonel Sanders went to 1,006 different investors before he found someone who would invest in his Kentucky Fried Chicken. He didn't get discouraged when his "interviews" didn't succeed. He kept learning from them, and eventually he became a multi-millionaire.

There's a man in U.S. history who declared two bankruptcies and suffered a nervous breakdown all before he was 30. Later, he ran for state office and lost. He may his way into Congress, but lost in his bid to become Senator. He then became President -- perhaps our greatest President. His name was Abraham Lincoln.

The point? No one succeeds every time. No one gets hired EVERY time he or she interviews for a job. That's just reality -- don't take it personally!

However, if you follow our twelve interview tips -- and stay positive -- you've got a vastly better chance of getting the job of your dreams. Good luck!