The 7-Step Interview Playbook

US News

Whether you're a recent graduate new to the job search or a veteran desk jockey looking for a career change, getting an interview is only half the battle. Without knowing the basics of what leads to an offer and what tanks one, your time spent enhancing your online job search and networking may be wasted.

Need a crash course in job interviewing 101? Try these seven steps explain exactly what you need to do before, during and after meeting with a potential employer.

The Week Before Your Interview

Getting an offer begins long before you're seated across the table from the hiring manager.

Prepare for tough questions. If you lack conviction when responding to a hard interview question, you may kill your momentum and cause the hiring manager to decide against you. Avoid getting thrown off by anticipating typical toughies and thinking through your responses in advance. One topic that rattles many candidates is being asked to describe failure. "The key to this story is to demonstrate that you have the resilience and insight to utilize failure as an opportunity for learning and personal-professional growth," says Susan Jewkes Allen, a career counselor.

Understand the players. Social media has raised the bar for job seekers, increasing expectations of recruiters and hiring managers that you've done ample due diligence. Therefore, it's crucial during the week before your interview to thoroughly research the position, company and your interviewers. Author and consultant Brad Harker suggests seeking answers to the following questions before your interview:

-- What does the company do?

-- How has the company performed?

-- Who are the interviewers?

-- What are they looking for?

-- What can you learn about the job?

-- What have you done that is similar?

Find out everything you can from the job listing, but check other online sources as well, including LinkedIn and the company's Facebook page.

The Morning of Your Interview

How you spend the hours before your interview can set the tone for your performance.

Prepare physically. Interview morning is the time to gather your materials, dress the part and put on your game face. Belinda Plutz, president of Career Mentors Inc., advises packing several clean copies of your résumé, your portfolio, pen and notebook before you head to your meeting. Selecting your interview outfit is also important, because first impressions are powerful. "You must look as if you will fit into the organization. But if they are very casual, you need to dress up and not be too casual," Plutz says. "Be well-groomed and businesslike."

Prepare mentally. Don't wing it when it comes to the attitude you bring to your interview. Take time before you leave the house to regroup mentally and get into a professional mindset. "You should be upbeat, enthusiastic, positive, eager and factual," Plutz says. "If you believe that you are the ideal person for the job, you have a good chance of convincing the interviewer. An interview is the primary opportunity to sell yourself."

During Your Interview

You've done everything right leading up to the interview -- now it's show time. To avoid blowing your moment of truth:

Treat your interview as a conversation. While conventional wisdom dictates that a job interview puts the candidate on the hot seat to be grilled by a potential employer, effective interviews should really be a two-way street. "Try not to just sell yourself, but find out if the position and company you're applying for are the right fit for you," says Heidi Baldwin, account supervisor at J Public Relations. "Ask about the culture, what qualities are needed in an ideal candidate, what a typical day in this position would look like and the manager's expectations."

Connect with the interviewers. Research has shown that differing too much from your interviewer can backfire when it comes to landing a job. Instead, demonstrating similarity to the hiring team can help create alignment with the decision-makers. If you did your research the week before the interview, this step should be easier. "Quite often, when it comes down between choosing Candidate A or Candidate B, it's a matter of how well the candidate connected with those interviewing," says leadership coach and author Keith Wyche. "In the back of their minds, they are all asking the question: How well will this candidate fit within our company's culture?"

After Your Interview

You think you've nailed it -- but you're not done yet.

Send thank-you emails to every interviewer. A well-timed and thoughtfully crafted thank-you message can help seal the deal for a candidate who interviewed well. There's no need to send thank-you cards via snail mail; emailing thanks is common practice today. Elizabeth Famiglietti, senior vice president of human resources at PAN Communications, emphasizes the importance of sending a personally targeted message to each person who interviewed you.

"Do not send the same email to each person (yes, we share this info)," Famiglietti says. "Show you are a good listener and call out at least one thing that was specific to that interview with that person in your thank-you note. Show your enthusiasm for the company and joining the team, and offer to provide any additional info if needed."

Acing the interview is a job in itself. But approaching the interview process in stages of actions to take before, during and after your meeting can raise you above your competitors and help you win the job you want.

Robin Madell has spent more than two decades as a corporate writer, journalist and communications consultant on business, leadership, career, health, finance, technology and public-interest issues. She serves as a copywriter, speechwriter and ghostwriter for executives and entrepreneurs across diverse industries. Madell has interviewed more than 200 thought leaders around the globe, winning 20 awards for editorial excellence. She served on the board of directors of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association in New York and San Francisco. Madell is the author of "Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30" and co-author of "The Strong Principles: Career Success." You can reach her at robin.madell@gmail.com.



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