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Taking the time to prepare for an interview is one of the most important components of any job search.  How you perform will make a lasting impression on employers who have a large pool of candidates to choose from and fewer jobs to fill. Competition is fierce, but don’t feel discouraged.

Here are 8 interview tips to help you stand out:

  • Prepare and Practice your Success Stories: It is one thing to say you can do a job; it’s entirely different when you can back that claim up with real life experiences. Identify and practice (out loud) at least three success stories that highlight your qualifications and soft skills – including judgment, initiative, values, teamwork, and leadership. Be prepared to tie your successes to the core values and culture of the organization. Demonstrate hard-to-measure qualities and illustrate your responses through storytelling.
  • Be One with the Job Description: Potential employers put forth time and effort to identify exactly the type of employee they want to hire. Read, re-read, and memorize job descriptions. Become the applicant they seek by identifying the experiences, both personally and professionally, that make you qualified for the job. Customize your success stories, referring back to the job description and even taking specific terminology from the job description to tell your stories. Practice your stories, but don’t memorize them verbatim.
  • Research, Research, Research: Not only do you need to understand the specifics of the job opening, but you need to research the company and interviewers. What does the company have to say about itself on its website? Has the company been in the news recently? Find out who will be interviewing you, and check that individual out on LinkedIn and Google. Go the extra mile and schedule an informational interview with someone who works within the organization.
  • Be Concise: Listen carefully to the questions asked, and answer them – really answer them. Don’t take the long way home to your answer. Stay focused and don’t ramble. Be clear, concise, and to the point.
  • Be Prepared to Answer Difficult Questions: Be honest. If you do not have a particular skill required for the job, parlay it into something you have Do not try to cover up your lack of experience by talking and saying irrelevant things. However, don’t disqualify yourself, either. Let your interviewer determine if you are qualified to do the job. Offer to discuss related skills and qualifications you may have. Keep in mind, most companies provide on the job training as a part of the onboarding process.
  • Ask Questions: Write down at least 10 questions that you want to ask the interviewer. Don’t worry – you may not ask all of them. However, you do want to have questions on-hand not only to show you’ve done your research, but to demonstrate your interest in the industry, company, and position.
  • ALWAYS be Professional and Positive: Don’t let your guard down and don’t be negative. No matter how friendly the interviewers, remember they are not your friend.  Maintain your professionalism, do not talk about personal issues, and keep a positive attitude even if you are asked a leading question that may put you in a seemingly uncomfortable position.
  • Be Respectful: Treat everyone you encounter during your interview like they are the hiring authority, from the receptionist who greets you to the passerby in the hallway.  Don’t remove yourself from contention because of a thoughtless misstep. Remember, don’t let your guard down.

In addition to following these tips, get plenty of sleep, dress business professional, bring extra copies of your résumé, and know where you are going. If you play your cards right, a well prepared and informed applicant can be a well prepared and informed employee.

By Cortney Perez