Today's Job Interview

By Valerie Lemke

May 7, 2010 5 min read

Gone are the days when the major steps in preparing for a job interview were to dress in a dark-colored business suit and put an eager smile on your face.

Now one of the most important tactics is doing your homework prior to the interview, according to Rebecca Mazin, management consultant and human resources blogger for AllBusiness, an online media and e-commerce company that offers business professionals solutions to workplace problems.

Your r?sum? often makes your first impression. In addition to your background information, education and previous employment, be sure to include your attributes and qualities that pertain to the specific job for which you are applying. You also want to make sure you choose your references carefully.

"Guide the reader toward references that will indicate examples of your special skills," Mazin says. "Don't forget volunteer positions and extracurricular activities you've been involved in. Sports coaches, rabbis or priests can attest to what you did, for example."

Mazin cites a situation her son used in a r?sum?. "As a member of a youth group, he had worked on a carnival at a homeless shelter. He planned, created and followed through on his portion of the event," Mazin says. The potential employer learned of this when he called the boy's rabbi, who had coordinated the activity. In addition, her son was able to address his involvement personally during the job interview.

Make your cover letter testify to your abilities, too. Address it to the person who will be interviewing you, and make it specific. For example, address the job for which you are applying. "Have an objective and a summary, and offer something you'd like to add to the company, such as 'I'm an experienced human resources professional looking for a job where I can help grow the company,'" Mazin says.

In preparing for the interview itself, you need to research the company and the person who will be interviewing you. "Go on Google and Facebook," Mazin says. "Then, during the interview, refer to the university the interviewer attended, for example. Do anything to personalize the interview."

You'll need to research yourself, too. "Check out your Facebook (page)," Mazin says. "Be sure it doesn't say anything you don't want a prospective employer to read." If you're in a hunting club, for example, either don't go for a job with PETA or remove the reference.

Another tip is to plan your wardrobe. "It's always safest to be over-business-dressed, but if you absolutely know everybody wears jeans, it isn't necessary to wear a suit," Mazin says. "Good pants and a casual jacket will work."

Just don't be ostentatious. "You want to be remembered as the candidate who looked sharp, not the one with the pink hair," she says.

And have a dress rehearsal in your interview clothes before the appointment, she says. Sit down in the outfit. Are the garments comfortable or too tight? Are there wrinkles, tears or stains? You don't want any wardrobe malfunctions during the interview.

Online exercises in the form of aptitude tests or personal questionnaires are current techniques used by some businesses. If unexpected, they may make the applicant apprehensive. Mazin's advice: "Don't over-think the exercise or assume they are trick questions. Your best bet is to answer all of the questions and answer them honestly."

Another bit of advice from this professional is to read current events in the newspaper. "It makes you more comfortable in understanding the world. And if you think there might be some math questions and you're nervous about simple math skills, make up some flashcards and rehearse the answers at home."

When the time comes for this all-important interview, you also want to be able to nail it when the interviewer says, "Tell me about yourself."

"Make your answers two-part," Mazin says. "They should be about what you can do for the company, as well as what you can do for yourself."

Think of specific examples that show your capabilities, such as "I bought and prepared food for 25 people on a three-day hike and came in under budget." Such a description illustrates planning, mathematics and follow-through.

If you're nervous and unsure of what to say when asked a question, take a deep breath. Saying "give me a moment to think about that" allows you time to compose your response. And when you have a good answer to something, don't be afraid to repeat it.

Visit for more tips on interviewing.

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