It doesn't matter where you went to school, how dazzling your resume is or who you know on the "inside." Getting your next job comes down to just one thing -- the interview.
Ace the interview, and you get the job. Blow it, and you're done. There are no second chances.
If so, why do I get emails like the following almost every week, from job seekers who failed the interview because they failed to prepare?
"They loved my resume and called me for an interview -- apparently they only interviewed three people! Unfortunately, I was nervous and the questions were very involved. Needless to say I did not get the job. Oh well, better luck next time." -- Michelle (last name withheld)
To keep this from happening to you, here are three tips to help turn your next job interview into a job offer ...
1. Practice your answers to standard questions
There's a core of 10-20 interview questions you will almost always be asked. So practice your answers to these "golden oldies" until you have them down cold. Examples include "Tell me about yourself," and "Why should we hire you?"
If you and the interviewer both know you'll be asked these "standard" questions, it's unforgivable if you flub them. So ... practice, practice, practice.
A good starting place is this list at Monster.com – http://interview.monster.com/articles/iq/. And don't forget to search at www.google.com for Web sites that list typical interview questions and answers.
2. Research the company
It amazes me how many job seekers walk into an interview knowing almost nothing about their potential employer. This is a cardinal sin, especially with the ocean of information available online.
When you research a company before your interview, three things can happen -- all of them good: you can answer their questions more intelligently, ask your own smart questions and offer suggestions for improving their business.
The more you know about your potential employer, their products/services, customers and competitors, the better you will interview. Period.
Start your research at your target company's Web site. Read their annual report, press releases, mission statement and bios of company officers, for starters. You may learn that the person interviewing you had the same major in school -- talk about an ice breaker!
Don't stop there.
Search using www.newslink.org to comb through a mountain of newspapers at once. Ask your local library if they subscribe to www.hoovers.com -- a great source of corporate info. And don't forget the old standby, www.google.com
3. Negotiate from strength
To win a higher salary at a new job, you must prove your value. So bring proof to the interview.
I recommend you bring along a portfolio to document how much money you've saved or earned in past jobs or internships. Your portfolio can contain testimonial letters, photographs, work samples -- anything that fits in a three-ring binder and backs up your claims.