Interview preparation is something that few people do correctly. Writing down the address, contact info and grabbing a few extra resumes doesn’t cut it in today’s highly competitive job market. You should plan on spending at least two full hours preparing for an interview. If you haven’t interviewed for a while, you’ll want to spend an additional two hours doing things like having mock interviews and researching the latest interview techniques in your field. Once you’ve set aside that time, here are five things that you should do before an interview:

1. Plan Your Route:

It’s tempting to rely on your GPS, but at the very least, search for the interview site the day before using online maps such as Google Maps, MapQuest or Bing Maps. If you take just five minutes looking at the route (and another minute or two to print out the directions in case your GPS can’t find a signal), you can save yourself a lot of frustration.

Also, if you have an older GPS, the maps may not be current so it’s good to research the route ahead of time. If possible, do a test run to the location during the same time of day so you can estimate how much travel time you need.

2. Dress for Success:

The morning of an interview is a bad time to choose an outfit. Pick your outfit a day or two before and make sure it’s clean and neat. If it has stains, holes, doesn’t fit right or has any other problems, at least you have some time to get a new outfit.

Remember that you should always dress professionally for an interview. If you’re not clear what the appropriate dress is, ask the person setting up the interview or a recruiter in your field. Some basic tips:

  • Your outfit should be clean, neat, fit well and have no wrinkles.
  • Cover up any tattoos if possible.
  • Wear minimal jewelry.
  • A business suit is most appropriate. Men could also wear nice slacks with a jacket and tie. Women could wear a dress or skirt (below the knee) with a blouse.
  • Make sure your shoes are polished.
  • Women should not overdo it with makeup.

For what constitutes proper interview dress, check out Dressing for an Interview.

3. Study Your Resume

I have interviewed more than a dozen job candidates that couldn’t explain something they had on their own resume. “Gosh, that was a long time ago. I don’t remember,” is not an acceptable way to clarify something on a document that’s supposed to sell you. Read your resume and make sure you can accurately describe each and every bullet point on it.

Bonus: Visit the company’s website and spend 20 to 30 minutes surfing it. Learn about its products/services, the people that work there anything it does for the community. Also, look at the job listings — especially for the job that you’ll be interviewing for.

4. Practice Some Interview Questions

A recruiter in your field is the ideal person to give you a list of practice questions. While each interviewer has their own style, someone with experience in your field or with the company you’re interviewing with can also help. They know which common questions are asked, whether you’ll be quizzed about your knowledge or if you’ll be asked behavioral questions. Here are some generic questions that you might be asked:

  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Tell me about your last job.
  • Tell me about a project that you worked that was a success/failure.
  • Tell me about how you handled a problem at work.
  • What do you know about {skills on your resume}?

Also, look at our articles on interviewing for more ideas.

5. Visualize Success

Most people find interviews stressful and get nervous beforehand. That’s completely normal and many interviewers understand this. To help give you an edge, visualize yourself having a successful interview. Imagine yourself as you confidently walk into the interview room. Practice that walk. Practice introducing yourself to the interviewer. Use a firm grip (don’t crush the interviewer’s hand) and clearly state your name. “Hi Mr. Interviewer, I’m James Feudo and I’m excited to be here.” Smile.

If you take these five steps, you’ll find yourself ahead of the pack. I am shocked at how many people I’ve talked to who don’t prepare for an interview at all. It does show during the interview and in most cases, the interviewer won’t be impressed. So take a few hours, it could be enough to give you that edge to get the offer.

Job Interview Success: Five Things to Do Before a Job Interview

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