“Besides getting several paper cuts in the same day or receiving the news that someone in your family has betrayed you to your enemies, one of the most unpleasant experiences in life is a job interview.” —Daniel Handler (a.k.a Lemony Snicket), The Carnivorous Carnival

To say that job interviews are challenging is putting it mildly. Among many other things, a candidate must be articulate yet concise, enthusiastic yet genuine, and armed with facts yet engaging.

Even so, your job interview doesn’t have to be an hour of horror like Lemony Snicket’s description above. Check out this list of 20 dos and don’ts and learn how to prepare for an interview.

Interview preparation can be broken into two main parts: the steps you take focused on yourself, and those oriented toward your potential employer.

The “You” Steps:

DON’T choose your outfit at the last moment or automatically wear a suit to each interview.

No matter how elementary school it may sound, DO select the clothes you’ll sport and lay them out the night before. Remember to factor in the company culture if possible. (And it doesn’t hurt to check the weather beforehand.)

DON’T let your online presence make a bad first impression.

DO make sure to Google yourself routinely, and especially before  a job interview. Digital dirt is easy for employers to find and can negatively influence a recruiter before you even walk through the door.

DON’T see yourself as “on the hot seat.”

DO approach an interview as a two-way street. While the focus will certainly be on your skills and suitability, remember that you’ve got the opportunity to feel out the employer just as much as they’re examining you. This small mental shift can make a big difference.

DON’T just rehearse interview answers in your head.

DO take the time to practice delivering responses out loud. Talk to yourself in the bathroom mirror, call your mom, or even ask a trusted friend to conduct mock interviews! These tactics will help you not only become comfortable with your answers, but also give you the opportunity to assess how your voice sounds. Are you coming off confident? Do you ramble?

DON’T underestimate the importance of questions.

two things: research common interview queries posed by employers, and craft your own set of questions about the company, the job, and the work environment. Asking astute questions is one of the best ways to set yourself apart.

The “Them” Steps:

DON’T go into an interview uninformed. Liz Ryan of Forbes calls a job interview a “recon mission,” and lack of preparation almost always results in mission failure.

DO conduct 3 types of research:
1) Research the company itself. Use their website to become familiar with the mission, vision, and values they’ve crafted. If it’s available, find a list of the board of directors. You might know someone in a position of influence.
2) Find out how the company stacks up in the business world. Check out their most recent press releases and consult the all-mighty oracle Google for any pertinent news.
3) Take a gander at the organization’s social media outlets. This is an excellent way to discover the company branding.

how to prepare for an interview
Quality research of can keep you from freezing up in an interview. (Photo Credit: academics.triton.edu)

DON’T forget about the job description.

DO use Jobscan to identify (or revisit, if you used the resume analysis tool to land the interview) the most important keywords within the job description. The particular role you applied for is going to dictate the bulk of any interview. Keep in mind the essential duties and tasks for the job—and think about why you’re the best candidate to perform them.

DON’T walk into an interview of mystery managers.

DO find out who you’ll be interviewing with. Are you scheduled for a one-on-one session, or a pair of interviewers? Perhaps your qualifications will be under review by an entire team! Once you have those crucial names, take a few minutes to consult LinkedIn for clues about each interviewer’s background.

DON’T focus on your own goals too much as you think about how to prepare for an interview.

DO think about the interview from the employer’s perspective. They posted the job in order to meet a particular need. In this case, you’re the solution to their problem—and it’s important to frame yourself as someone capable of helping to reach their goals.

DON’T assume you’ll be able to shoot the breeze with your interviewer.

DO prepare for both types of interviewers: those who rely on casual conversation and those who only want simple answers. Trust yourself to feel out the mood of each interview as it progresses.

Interview prep seems daunting, but you can do it! Keep these dos and don’ts in mind as you head toward your next job offer.

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