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Ace the Interview: Top 5 Dos and Don'ts

Getting a job--especially in today's economy, where high unemployment rates mean there often are many qualified people applying for positions--isn't all in the the resume. Many employers use resumes as a means of gauging candidate's education level and skills to decide who they want to bring in to interview for a job.

The real business of getting a job comes during the interview, when the boss or hiring manager decides if you would be a good fit for their company and if you are someone with whom they want to work. That said, there are some basic tenets of a job interview that can cast you in a favorable light and leave a strong impression on potential employers.

The Job Interview: 5 Tips for Presenting a Winning Image

Resumes can be doctored, polished--and embellished. There are many resume templates available online and in word processing programs that allow job seekers to fill in the blanks as they choose. However, it's much, much harder for most people to present a phony personal appearance and image. Bosses and hiring managers spend their days working and interacting with people; they can sniff through smoke screens created on resume templates. Job seekers typically are either poised, confident and believe in themselves because they know they have the skills and education level to excel in the position for which they are applying, or they are nervous and unsure of themselves and their abilities.

If your resume lands you in the office of a prospective boss or hiring manager, make sure you:

  1. Be direct. Begin introductions with a firm but not overpowering handshake. No one likes their hand put in a vice!
  2. Be confident. Make eye contact often--a must. It shows confidence. Remember the interviewer's name, and use it once or twice.
  3. Be prepared. Come prepared with as much information about the company and industry as possible. Prepare questions of your own. Good job candidates want to know that the company to which they are applying is a good personal fit as well.
  4. Be careful. Think before you speak! This might be the only chance you get to convince a prospective employer that you are the right person for the job. Your answers during the interview are as important as the image you cast.
  5. Be outgoing. Don't underestimate the power of humor. If you can subtly make your interviewers crack a smile or laugh--in an appropriate way--they may think you would be an enjoyable person to have in the office or on the team.

Finally, if the job is one you really want, follow up with a thank you note or email. This courteous gesture reconfirms your interest in the position and puts your name back in your prospective boss's mind.

Top 5 Job Interview Don'ts

Many people lose out to other job seekers for one or more of the following:

  1. Don't be late. Arrive early and prepared for the interview.
  2. Don't be pushy about money. Don't place a large emphasis on money. Some people might suggest leaving financial matters out of the entry level interview, which is good advice, but forming a baseline idea of salary potential helps determine if it's the right job for you.
  3. Don't talk too much. Answer questions fluently and concisely, but let the interviewers speak as well.
  4. Don't exaggerate. Stick to the abilities you have, not those you wish you had. If you are underqualified, you quite possible could fail in your new position.
  5. Don't over or underdress. You should determine beforehand if you should wear a suit and tie, or if a nicely pressed button-up shirt and slacks is appropriate. Polish your shoes either way.

Getting a job is as much a matter of marketing yourself to potential employers as it earning a college degree. This holds true no matter your education level, be it a high school diploma or graduate degree. Finally, remember that college programs or schools are no substitute for real-world work experience. If you have the ability to do a job, convincing an employer to hire you is all about how you demonstrate your past successes and skills.