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October 2, 2012, by Sarah Kalish

Interviewing – Preparation is half the battle

Your resume is in great shape and you’ve got an interview! Now what?  An interview can be exciting but nerve-wracking, especially if you never interviewed before or if it’s been a long time.  Taking the time to prepare should help relieve some anxiety.

First, be knowledgeable about where you are going.  If time permits make a dry run to the office location and don’t be afraid to ask whoever invites you to the interview for directions and parking information if it’s not offered.  Allow plenty of time in case of traffic, but if you arrive very early, it’s best to practice or relax in your car or a nearby coffee shop.  Don’t enter the office for the interview more than 15 minutes early.  Being on time shows interest and promptness, but there is such a thing as too early.   Bring multiple copies of your resume with you, and if appropriate for your position, your portfolio.  An electronic copy is acceptable but I’ve seen laptops crash and batteries die in the interview – even if you plan to use your laptop, bring a hard copy just in case.  And while on the subject of electronics, turn off your phone.  No really, not on vibrate, turn it off and keep it in your purse or pocket or just leave it in your car.

Familiarize yourself with the company.  Read over the job posting you responded to and be prepared to discuss it.  You also should take the time to review their website, but don’t stop there.  See if you can find any press releases, awards or information on industry sites or in the media.  You will likely be asked what you know about the company and what attracted you to the position, and you want to be armed with information to show that you did your homework.  Responding with “I saw your firm was recently awarded Best Firm to work for in the city, that’s a great honor” sounds better than “I’ve checked out your website”.

Be prepared to answer all kinds of questions.  Interview styles can vary, from scripted questions to an informal conversation to a behavioral interview.  You may be asked a lot of open-ended questions and questions that start with “tell me about a time that you …”.  These are worded to engage you and learn about how you deal with certain situations, so you want to respond with details.  It sounds silly but it helps to practice answering questions out loud or with a friend.  In a creative environment such as the design industry, you could get questions that you don’t expect, such as “what kind of fruit would you be” or “tell me about the last book you read”.  As long as it’s not discriminatory, go ahead and answer honestly and have some fun with it.  There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, it’s just to see how you think on your feet.

A face to face interview is a great opportunity to not only show a prospective employer all that you have to offer, but also to see if the job could be right for you.  You should be prepared with some questions of your own.  This is a great time to learn about the culture of the office, why the position is open, or what type of training you’ll receive.  It’s not quite time to ask about salary and benefits, this can be discussed in a follow up conversation or second interview.  Don’t feel the need to discuss details of your personal life, even if the conversation turns informal.  Mentioning that you ran a marathon last weekend is fine, asking about leaving early to pick up your kids on your way to church can wait.   You can learn a lot about the culture and environment when you visit the office, and if you can, get a tour of the space.  You’ll be able to see for yourself if it’s collaborative, what the dress code and norms seem to be, and how well the office is cared for.

Now you are ready walk in to that interview poised and confident – good luck!