Interview Success Is Often In The Small Things of Preparation

Even the calmest of the calm think interviews are stressful. How could they not? After all, it’s (hopefully) the closest most of us will come to being interrogated under a bright, hot light in a dark, smoky room. Plus, you’ve probably spent a lot of time researching the company, and you don’t want that time to be wasted.

All the stress and preparation make it easy to forget all the simple things that we might take for granted on a normal, non-interview day. But those details can make or break even the best candidate, so it’s important not to let them slip. Some of these ideas are pretty obvious, but that just makes it all the more important to make sure not to forget them.

Don’t wait until the last minute to get out what you are planning to wear to the interview. Nobody wants to find a pair of pants with a previously unnoticed grease spot, or a shirt that still has a stain from last month’s spaghetti dinner. Don’t forget about your socks, shoes, tie, and belt either. Make sure you shoes are shined, for example, and that you have a tie and a pair of socks that goes with your suit.

Don’t forget about yourself either. If you need a haircut, get one several days before the interview. Also, trim your nails before meeting with the interviewer. Your clothes and hair may look great, but if your nails are long and ragged that will likely count against you. If men have facial hair, it should be well groomed.

Don’t forget basic materials you’ll need for the interview. These might include copies of your résumé, references, directions to the interview, information about the company you are interviewing with, and a portfolio of your work if you have one.

Here’s something that’s easy to forget: Food. Don’t skip breakfast before morning interviews. And if the interview is in the afternoon, grab at least a light lunch. You certainly don’t want your stomach to grumble in the middle of an interview and low blood sugar – from not eating – will surely lead to a lack of energy, and an interview is no time for a nap.

So grab a bite, but keep it light, and go easy on the carbs. A plateful of pasta might also be a ticket to a carb-induced nap. Something like a small turkey sandwich for lunch or a healthy breakfast should be the recipe for a well-prepped candidate. One thing to definitely keep in mind, however, is to avoid foods like onions and garlic. Just to be safe, give your teeth a quick brush before going to an interview, and use a swig of mouthwash. Not an option? Go for a stick of gum or even better a mint that will carry you through the interview.

Unless your interview will take place in your backyard, print out directions at least the night before. It you want to be truly prepared, however, you will have already planned your route – and driven/walked it – well before the interview. Stick to that plan, and don’t decide to take a shortcut on your way there. Also, make sure where you are going once you arrive at the company as well as with whom you are supposed to be meeting. Some interviews might take place near the front receptionist, while others could be in the 12th floor conference room.

You need to be in “interview mode” before you pull into the company’s parking lot. Why? Well, any onlooker – a passing driver, someone in the parking lot, the person who gets a latte in front of you at the coffee boutique – could be one of your interviewers. You need to be “on” well before you are in the building. So be nice and polite to everyone you meet, from the barista behind the counter to the security guard who is patrolling the parking lot. You never know who will be consulted.