Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Prepare for a One-On-One, Phone, Or Panel Interview

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So you've gotten your resume past the scores of others in the HR department, and now you're on your way to an interview with the company of your dreams. Congratulations!
You probably put hours into your resume, perfecting every little detail, and preparing for an interview requires the same diligence. Depending on what kind of interview you're doing, though, you may need to prepare differently. Here are some tips to help you knock the socks off your interviewers, no matter where you'd meeting or speaking with them.

Preparing for a One-on-One Interview
The on-on-one interview with an HR representative or your future boss is fairly standard, so standard, in fact, that many job seekers don't properly prepare for it. If you're going in for a one-on-one interview, you want to make sure you've got your ducks in a row.

First: Be over prepared. Make sure you have multiple copies of your resume printed on nice bond paper. Bring any relevant materials you've worked on, such as brochures, annual reports, website landing pages, photography portfolios, etc. (There's nothing worse than telling an interviewer that you have a great marketing campaign you worked on that you'd like to show him or her, but that you forgot to bring it.)
Second: Do you research. Make sure you know the company you're interviewing with: what their mission is, what their goals are, who their customer or target market is. On top of that, prepare a list of benefits you can bring to the company. These are the things you may have rehearsed over and over in your head, but that a case of nerves can make you can forget the minute you walk into the interviewer's office. Also, brining a list of questions you have about the company, your position, and how you can help will further prove to the interviewer that you're really interested in and invested in learning more about the job, and figuring out if it's the right fit for you.

Third: Double check your appearance. If you don't have a nice suit, now's the time to invest in one. Dress professionally; bring a hairbrush, lipstick, mouthwash or whatever else you need to freshen up before the interview; and arrive early so you have time to relax and compose yourself. If you're a smoker, wait until after the interview to have a cigarette.

Preparing for a Phone Interview
The most important thing about a phone interview is having a quiet, comfortable environment to conduct your call in. Ideally, you'll be able to take the call from home. If that's the case, let others in your house know what's going on, and that televisions, radios, iPods, and any other noisemakers need to be off for the duration of your call. (If you have children, you may want to hire a sitter for your call, so you're not interrupted by any peanut butter and jelly emergencies.) If you have pets, put them outside or in another room where so they can't distract you by serenading the Doberman across the street during your call.

In addition to making sure your environment is quiet, you need to make sure that you've got all the regular materials that you'd take to an interview ready and accessible. Print off a copy of your resume and any other materials you submitted, such as writing samples, and have them in front of you for easy access. Pull the company's webpage up on your computer, as well as any other information you want to reference. Nothing's more distracting during a phone interview than telling the interviewer to "hold on" while you pull something up on your computer or ruffle through paperwork. (Also, don't forget to have a glass or water or a cup of tea or coffee handy in case your mouth gets dry.)

If you can't conduct your interview from home, try to find another quiet, isolated place where you won't be interrupted. Conducting a call from your own office might be stressful, especially if a co-worker stops by, and coffee shops and restaurants tend to be too loud. If you have a friend who works close to you, see if you can use their office or apartment for the duration of your call. Another option is to find out if your local library has business carells you can use. As a last resort, you can always drive to a quiet place, park your car, and take your call from there. (You may want to scope out the location beforehand to make sure there isn't any construction or landscaping crews working in the area.)

Preparing for a Panel Interview
Many of the rules for the one-on-one interview apply to a panel interview: making sure you look presentable, arriving on time, doing your research, etc. But because panel interviews tend to be less common, many job seekers aren't prepared for them. And sitting in front of a panel of people can be pretty intimidating.
To prepare yourself, stage a mock interview with several friends. Divide up a list of possible interview questions and let them have at you. It might seem silly, but it will give you practice addressing and answering multiple people, which is the hardest part of a panel interview.

Also, do research on the panelists beforehand if possible. Some companies will explain who you'll be meeting with beforehand-use that to your advantage. Check out the company's staff webpage, or use Linkedin, to find out a little more about who's going to be interviewing you. You don't want to come off like a stalker, but knowing that you'll be speaking with the director of human resources, the director of information technology, and the director of marketing will give you insight into what questions each panelist might ask, allowing you to prepare appropriately.

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