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Preparing For Your First Job Interview

Job interviews are easy if you approach them the correct way. When you do something for the first time, it shows. Just like everything else a little bit of practice and preparation will go a long way to improving your chances. Granted, nothing can guarantee you success - only you control that. However perfect practice makes perfect. This is not an attempt to fit you in to a mold and assembly line the folks going in to interviews. The following tips are designed to help you practice and when you do show up for your interview you won't appear inexperienced but prepared.

Get a Haircut

First impressions matter. It was difficult for me to put aside this resentment. It bothered me because there is no way I can summarize myself in five or ten minutes. I find behavior based questions shallow. My experience with interviews improved immensely when I stopped looking at the interview as a formality and treating it like a trial. You've got, at times, just thirty minutes to show this person the best of you. You're going to be judged as soon as they see you. I've seen candidates with stellar backgrounds get denied jobs just because they didn't take the interview seriously. It's easy to fall in to a slump after interview after interview but the least understandable are recent college grads. The interview is the culmination of all that you've worked for to this point. Unless you come from a wealthy family and are using your degree for status while you jet set around the world performing philantropic deeds without a job after college why go to college in the first place? The way you present yourself isn't just an impression, it's a courtesy. Your interviewer is representing their company. Yeah, yeah corporations aren't people but the people in the corporation serve different functions. If you are interviewing with human resources you are dealing with the part of the company that interacts with people. They should be showing you the idealized version of an employee. That includes hygiene. There's nothing I would love more than to work for a company that let's me come in and wear whatever I want. It's natural for me to cut my hair every other season. It's a sacrifice I make because I haven't found that company that can pay me a salary I want and I haven't figured out a way to start my own that would be comparable to what I have now. This is just one of those “The world is not a perfect place” moments. In reality, this is a small sacrifice. Go out, get a nice haircut so that on interview day you appear well-kept. Even if it isn't how you normally look at least show that you understand how the game is played. Whatever you do, don't think that you are an exception or that for some reason the person across the table from you is going to expect anything less than what they would expect from anyone else. This one cheap investment is no excuse for being a qualified candidate but it is a step ahead of everyone else who does not do it.

Take Your Suit/Dress to the Cleaner

Unfortunately I am only male. This entire section is devoted to suits. I cannot help you with dresses.

I like ironing my own suit. It's a kind of zen motivation for me to put on music and go to work making my things nicer. Partly this is because I know that I take great satisfaction from creating things with my hands. If I have time and the tools and the materials to do so I like to create things. Ironing a suit isn't creating so much as it's improving but it's fun going Don Draper for a half hour and ironing my suits while smoking a cigarette. Especially late in the evening while the sun is setting. But that's enough of my romance with my clothing. Take what you plan to wear to the cleaners. If you can afford it, take your backup in too. I had no suit to wear to my first big interview. I found myself at Macy's putting together a suit at the last minute. Luckily I could wear what came off the rack with ease, if I had needed a tailor I would have been in a lot of trouble. There's a saying I have heard with respect to suits and business - “Never wear a suit for business that you would wear to a funeral.” While it's not entirely true (I've worn my black pin strip to both) I would stay away from wearing all black and a red tie. Red ties are cliche. Everyone knows “Red ties symbolize strength.” And it's stupid. For my first interview I picked out a nice black pin strip suit with a gold tie. The nice thing about gold ties is everyone wears them but they aren't overdone, we've got the red time stigma to thank for that. For an interview this was perfect, later I branched out in to grey and I've been eyeing up a nice blue suit for some time now. If you're curious about how you will look and want a preview look up your body type on google and doing simple searches like “Grey suit blue tie” will give you plenty of ideas. Odds are, when you're new to dressing for corporate functions there aren't many original ideas. The majority of innovation comes from putting new spins on these timely ideas. On that note, don't try to break the rules or be innovative. You may be very good at it but is it worth it? You aren't getting style points you are giving an impression. If you like skinny ties and vests I won't tell you not to wear them but if you turn the interview in to a fashion statement it's a great way for an organization to lose interest in you.

Lay Everything Out the Night Before

This is the easiest one. Everything you plan on wearing and take with you to the interview you should put on and collect the night before. Get fully dressed, grab your bag with your resumes and work documents. Walk out the door and get in your car. Go through each step and think about what you are taking with you. Are you prepared? Do you have everthing? Come home and do everything in reverse. Set all the things you are taking with you beside the door. Leave you tie tied. Hang everything up in one spot for you the next morning. I'm terrible with anxiety the night before an interview. In fact, for any big event it's fair to assume I won't be sleeping much if at all. My strategy is typically to stay up as late as I can, go through the motions of dressing and leaving multiple times and then catching - maybe - an hour of sleep at my desk. It's not that I'm worried. I know that if I get a full night sleep I am groggy for hours afterwards. When I get less than four hours I will awake and super alert for at least the next three hours. I crash hard in the afternoon but that's enough to get me through my interview. If I have to power through I just start drinking coffee and chain smoking (be careful though, smelling like smoke can put some people… ok most people off. Normally I said screw those people but if they can hire you be accomodating). This is probably the most important thing. I allocate oodles of time to get to my interview. I usually plan for at least one big mistake that would put me back 30 minutes. I don't care if I make it to the interview early. I can sit in my car, or wait in the lobby or appear over eager but if I'm late I cannot control that.

The goal of these tips is not to prepare but to show your interviewer you were prepared. That's the most important thing. Not everyone goes out looking for a corporate job and every organization is completely different. Use what you know about the company to guage how much effort you should put in to each of these tips but remember that you can only control yourself. If you overdo it that's, maybe, a loss of a couple hours of your time. If you don't do them or you fail because you ignored them then you could be losing your employment.

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