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How to Prepare for (and Ace!) an Interview

How to Prepare for (and Ace!) an Interview

Tips for recent grads (Part 1)

by Tim Strandquist, VP-Projects & Executive Search

Interviewing is fascinating to me. No two interviews are ever the same, and as an executive search director with JMFA, I get to meet a diverse group of individuals with their own stories and experiences to share. Yet, after years of meeting with job candidates, I can safely say that there are certain things that impress me and give me confidence in recommending them to my clients. Here, a 10-step path for every recent graduate looking to ace an interview.


1.  Research

We have tools in this modern age that college graduates and others are utilizing for research. Would you go on a date with someone without researching their social media presence? You’d want to at least find some common ground or topics of conversation. The same applies to an interview. What about the company do you like and agree with? Know that going in so you can speak to them about it. It shows that you have done your homework while also aligning with their mission and values.

2.  Arrival

Do not show up more than 20 minutes early (and do not show up at all if you are late). If you are running late due to an emergency, always call to alert the interviewer. Arriving 10 to 15 minutes early allows you time to get settled and get your bearings, but arriving any earlier can throw off the interviewer’s schedule. From personal experience, when I know I have someone waiting in the lobby, I feel obligated to stop what I’m doing and meet with them—and that’s not the first impression you want to make.

3.  Present Yourself

Walk in like this is your job to get. Wear a suit and act professional at all times. You never know who you need to impress, so impress everyone. When I was interviewing for my first job out of college, I met with a large company on a huge campus. I learned later that they asked the person at the front desk how I treated her and what her opinion was of me. Also, the person who came to get me was instructed to introduce himself and then not say another word to me on the long walk and escalator ride to the meeting room. They wanted to see how I would react to that and whether or not I would continue to try and create conversation. Present yourself professionally—you never know who is watching.

4.  Phone Interviews

If it is a phone interview, stand up. Unless they are playing the piano or cello, soloists and singers always stand up to perform and project better. Take a walk before the meeting; then, make sure it is quiet in the house and you have no distractions. Dogs barking or background noise is extremely unprofessional and can make it difficult for both parties to focus.

5.  Lay the Groundwork

When you enter the meeting room, greet everyone with a handshake and a smile. Have extra copies of your resume ready, along with the information you have prepared for the meeting. How you start the meeting is extremely important. Open up your portfolio and lay out your prepared questions (more on that later) along with your resume and any notes about your background or previous successes you have jotted down. You may also want to write a few notes down during the meeting, so bring a pen and paper. However, take notes sparingly to avoid distraction. Part of this whole exercise is showing how prepared and confident you are. Let the interviewer know you are setting the stage for an excellent meeting.

And just how can you have an excellent meeting? Stay tuned for Part 2, where I detail how to make a stellar introduction, what questions to ask, how to gracefully follow up, and more.


If you’re ready to put these interviewing tips into action and ace your next interview? We’re here to help you find the perfect fit. Check out our current Job Openings today!


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