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Top Interview Tips to Help You Land Your Dream Job

According to data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 2.87 million people will graduate from a postsecondary institution at the end of the 2018-2019 school year with either a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate level degree. This number is expected to grow in the years ahead and will reach approximately 3.2 million by the year 2027.

One reason people are pursuing these higher-level degrees in increasing numbers annually is because it boosts their earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median weekly income for individuals with no college at all is $713, which equates to roughly $37,076 per year. However, the average wage for those who hold a bachelor’s degree is $1,286 per week, or $66,872 annually. Those with higher level degrees earn even more.

Another reason people choose to obtain college degrees is that it often puts them in a better position to land their dream job. While getting the right education is a great start, it generally takes more than a degree to achieve this goal. It also takes acing the interview so that you’re the only candidate on the employer’s radar. Here are four key tips that can help you do just that.

1. Do Your Pre-Interview Research

Preparations for the interview should start long before you walk through your prospective employer’s door. This helps you learn more about the company to make sure it’s the right fit for you, but it also gives you the opportunity to ask questions about anything you want to know about the business that remains unclear.

Glassdoor shares that your pre-interview research should involve taking a closer look at seven different areas. They are:

  1. The skills and experience the company is looking for in the “perfect” job candidate. This enables you to highlight those same skills and experience based on your education and work history when talking to them in person.
  2. Who currently holds the top positions in the company, and their backgrounds. This information gives you a better idea of who you’d be working for and what experience they have in the field, both individually and as a whole.
  3. Who you’ll be interviewing with. Knowing beforehand who will be interviewing you gives you time to research this person so you can find areas where you might have a stronger connection. For instance, did you go to the same school or play the same sport at some point? If so, bringing it up in the interview can help you establish common ground, making you more memorable and more likeable.
  4. The company’s mission and values. These two statements can help shed some light on what type of culture the company likely has and what is important to the company moving forward. If these align with your mission and values, it makes for a better fit.
  5. Who the company’s clients are and the types of products and services they offer. This information provides you with a better idea of who you’ll be working with and for, as well as what type of job functions you’ll likely be asked to do.
  6. Whether the company has recently made the news and, if so, why. Showing that you’re current on the happenings of the company shows a higher level of interest. It also helps you talk intelligently about issues of direct importance to the company.
  7. What it’s really like to work there. It always helps to know what past and current employees think about the company, and you can typically find this type of information on independent employee review websites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Pay attention to the pros and cons of working there in addition to any themes that seem to exist from one review to the next. Some may be posted by past disgruntled employees, but if a majority share one particular company trait, then it has a higher likelihood of being true.

Granted, it will take some time to come up with all of this information, but when your dream job is at stake, it is time well spent.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

In an interview with Psychology Today, interview coach Barry Drexler says that when you’re faced with an upcoming interview, “you never want the answers you give to be the first time you’re thinking about them.” Instead, you’re better off practicing your interview answers beforehand with someone else so you know exactly what you want to say.

Of course, this requires having some basic idea of what types of questions will be asked. To this point, Drexler says that the questions you are most likely to face in an interview scenario usually fall into one of three categories:

  • Behavioral – These are questions about your ambition, work ethic, honesty, integrity, ability to work as part of a team, and ability to multitask.
  • Situational – These are hypothetical questions that typically center on how you would handle certain situations that could occur in that specific role.
  • Frequently asked questions – These questions are commonly asked in the interview process, such as why you want to work for the company or where you see yourself in five years.

If you know someone who works in the human resources field, ask him or her to sit down with you and run you through a mock interview. This gets you more comfortable with the process and gives you the opportunity to receive valuable feedback from someone who interviews others for a living.

Alternatively, if you need a lot of work or are super nervous, you could hire an interview coach to make sure you’re adequately prepared. Ask around and see if someone you know has used one. Or, you can also do a local search on a review-based site like Yelp to see if there is a reputable interview professional in your area.

3. Arrive Early and Dressed Appropriately

Most people know to arrive on time for an interview for their dream job, but career coach Deborah Shane shares with Business Insider that you should actually aim to arrive early because “few things can shake you more than running late to an interview.” However, this doesn’t mean that you want to go inside and wait when you arrive, because this could put undue pressure on the person who’s interviewing you.

Instead, Shane suggests that you wait in your vehicle or, if you’re really early, a nearby coffee shop or restaurant. Use this extra time to calm yourself down, take a deep breath, and, if you need, review your notes to make sure you’re ready. Shane says that it also helps to avoid social media and your email inbox while waiting so you don’t inadvertently read anything with the potential to “throw you off your game.”

As far as what to wear, Career Builder says this differs based on the company you’re interviewing with. That being said, one way to determine the appropriate attire is to check the company’s website and social media pages to see what other employees generally wear. If there aren’t a lot of photos or you’re still unsure, overdressing (dressing at least one level above what everyone else is wearing) is always better than the opposite.

Also, always try on your interview outfit a day or two before the interview itself. That way, you’ll know if one of the pieces doesn’t fit, has developed a rip or missing button, or otherwise needs to be replaced so you can make a good impression.

Don’t forget the smaller details that could potentially put off your interviewer. These include wearing too much cologne or perfume, having a stain on your shirt that you may have missed, and having something in your teeth. These may seem relatively minor, but they can leave a major lasting impression.

4. Show Your Confidence

Finally, if you want to ace your interview, be confident from the moment you walk in. In a post on Colorado Biz, Gale Dunlap, president of career coaching company Standout Strategies, says that a lack of confidence can really hurt you because it puts you in “get-me-out-of-here mode.” Ultimately, this inhibits your ability to think, listen, and respond appropriately and professionally during the interview process.

Of course, it’s common to be nervous in this situation, especially if you’re interviewing for the one job you’ve always wanted, but there are ways to curve those nerves so you appear more confident. The first relates back to knowing as much as you can about the company beforehand so you are properly prepared to effectively tailor your responses. Practicing before the interview can boost your confidence levels, too.

But Dunlap says that something else you can do to feel more confident when walking into an interview is “don’t always believe what you think.” In other words, if you start thinking negatively and become overly concerned about what others may think of you, shut those feelings down immediately.

Instead, continue to reinforce with yourself that even if someone else holds a less-than-stellar opinion of you, that doesn’t mean that they’re right. Simply remind yourself that you have value to offer and that you deserve to have the job. According to Dunlap, this tactic is often enough to increase the odds that you will, in fact, get the very job you want.

In the end, doing these four things—researching the company you’re interviewing with, practicing your interview skills beforehand, arriving early and dressed appropriately, and showing confidence in yourself—will put you one step closer to receiving an offer for the job of your dreams. Now all you have to do is decide what that dream job is and go after it!