YOU never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you have done all the preparation and hard work to get the interview (networking, targeting, informational interviews, research) be sure to go into the interview with your best foot forward.

Here are some suggestions:

* Movements and mannerisms. No matter how nervous you are, do not clench your fists. Try to avoid fidgeting, scratching or playing with objects such as a pen or coins in your pocket.

* Manner of speaking. Don’t mumble or drop your voice to a whisper towards the end of your sentences. Avoid “sing-song” or monotone recitations, which will give the impression that you are over-rehearsed.

* Demeanour. Convey the appropriate amount of enthusiasm, warmth and sincerity to suit the dynamics of your interviewer. Be positive, avoid negative topics and don’t vent hostility. Remember to smile.

* Listening skills. Listen with full concentration and maintain eye contact 90 per cent of the time (without staring). Indicate attention and acceptance with nods and smiles, avoid interrupting and allow silence when thought and reflection are needed.

* Communication skills. Mirror the style and pace of your interviewer. Answer forthrightly and credibly and stop when you have answered the question. If you do not know something, say so. Clarify a question if you do not understand it. Listen before you talk and think before you speak.

* Practise your delivery. It is extremely important to have a “dry run”, both verbally and visually, before the actual interview. This enables you to test your answers and modify them if required.

One way to help minimise interview stress is to be prepared to field some of the more common and tough questions that interviewers like to ask.

Common questions

To build confidence for the interview, review the following eight questions and their suggested responses:

Tell me about yourself.

Prepare a short introduction of your education, hobbies personal strengths, work history and recent career experience. Keep your response to a two-minute timeframe so that you do not waffle on aimlessly.

What do you know about our company?

Research thoroughly the company’s products, services, reputation, competitors, culture, mission and goals.

While your answer should show that you have researched the company, do not overwhelm the interviewer with your encyclopaedic knowledge of the organisation.

Why do you want to work for us?

Your answer should also reflect your desire to contribute to the company and grow as a professional and match up well with your skills, abilities and past experience.

Why are you leaving your present position?/Why did you leave your last position?

This question must be answered briefly but positively. Position your response in terms of looking towards new challenges rather than lamenting on the negatives of previous positions.

Why should we hire you?/What do you bring to the table that is unique?

Talk about your record of getting things done in areas that relate directly to the most pressing needs in the department and organisation.

Cite specific examples of accomplishments from your resumé. If you have a special skill that truly sets you apart from others, now is the time to mention it.

What do you look for in a job?/What would be your ideal job?

The interviewer wants to know if there is a good fit between your skills and interests and the job. Your answer should therefore be made with this job in mind.

Describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision. What were the results of the decision?

To answer this question, choose a decision that was indeed difficult and challenging. Also, be sure it is one that turned out reasonably well. Ensure that you describe the actions that you took that contributed to the overall outcome.

Where do you see yourself in five years?/What are your long-range plans?

It is best to start by saying that your immediate goal is to perform excellently in the position at hand, and that you hope to be able to grow as you prove yourself and as opportunities open up in the organisation.

You might then ask the interviewer: “What kind of career path would be realistic for someone who performs well in this position?”

The right fit

An interview is an opportunity for both you and the employer to learn more about each other.

When considering new career opportunities, you owe it to yourself to try to find the best cultural fit you can within an organisation.

Therefore, clarifying your fit within the corporate culture of a prospective employer should be one of your top priorities during the interview process.