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A Winning Job Interview

Come prepared with questions and be ready to show off what you know

Combine your personal knowledge with what you've learned about the company to play up your strengths. If the employer believes in customer service that's warm and welcoming and you've spent years in hospitality management, share a story about how you resolved a customer issue and improved the company's brand image.

Remember, you're not the only one being interviewed; you're interviewing the employers, too. They want to know if you're right for them — but is the company right for you? Ask the interviewer what he or she thinks makes the company successful and how, based on your credentials, you could add value.

Dress professionally and appropriately for the type of work you're applying to do. You may not need a suit for an interview with a plumbing company. A button-down shirt, casual slacks and comfortable work shoes (not sneakers) may be fine — a neat, clean look. Make sure your look is up-to-date, including your hairstyle and eyeglasses. Gentlemen, if you have a beard, make sure it's neatly trimmed. Ladies, don't overdo makeup.

At an interview you're a full package when you walk through the door. That first impression is critical, but there's no need to break the bank for a presentable, contemporary look that complements your effective work and communication skills.

All of this advice applies whether you're recently unemployed or you've been searching for a while. It's especially important if you're weary from the process and haven't gotten offers yet. In a previous column, I touched on the hazards of coming across negatively, jaded or desperate when interviews haven't panned out over a long period.

A great resource for interview and job search preparation is Marva Goldsmith, an image, marketing and branding consultant. Her books — Branding Yourself After 50, Marketing Yourself for the Future and Branding You, Inc. — have excellent information. Plus, AARP is here to help. Visit AARP's work channel and read my next column about different ways to look at the job search process.

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