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Do Your Homework to Get Work

Knowing how to answer these frequently asked questions will help you ace your next job interview.

Interview Preparation
Before going to the interview, learn everything you can about the employer, the position, the people you will talk to, and the employer’s industry—including the major competitors in the field. Use the Internet to read about these topics. Go to the employer’s Web site and study every page. You will likely pick up some information, even language, you can talk about in the interview. Recruiters are impressed when you have obviously made an effort to learn about their companies.

Prepare questions to ask during interviews. Focus on positives, such as, "Will I be able to use the wide range of my abilities in this position?" or, "I see from your Web site that you encourage internal advancement; would there be opportunities for me to grow with you?"

Personality Tests
Some employers use standardized testing to evaluate applicants' personalities, personal attributes, and even behaviors. (At the extreme, some employers use handwriting analysis.) There are often no correct answers to these tests. Be honest, be yourself, but most important, think what answer the employer would prefer. I’m not suggesting you misrepresent yourself, but given a choice, give the most socially acceptable answer.

Interview Day
When the big day arrives, focus on the basics, including the following:

1. Rest: Get plenty of rest and eat well before the interview.

2. Dress for success: Be well groomed and well dressed. If you had been considering it, now is the time to buy a new suit or outfit. If you look sharp, you'll feel more confident, and you'll impress interviewers.

3. Be prompt: Get there early. Never be late or merely on time.

4. Bring an interview notebook: Prepare a small, three-ring binder that includes your research on the employer, extra résumés, and your questions. Don't go in with a big bag, briefcase, lunch bag, newspapers, or other "stuff." Single-minded, efficient, and organized are the character traits you want to convey.

5. Bring examples of your work: If appropriate, bring a portfolio of your work and some copies you can leave behind.

6. Connect with the interviewer: Open the interview with some small talk to get at ease with the interviewer. Ask about his or her background; that can be very flattering.

7. Eating and drinking during interview: If offered a beverage, it's most polite to accept (and it slows things down a little). If you’re invited to lunch for an interview, pick something easy to eat (pass on the finger food), and never, ever order an alcoholic drink.

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