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Tips for preparing a successful interview

Your hard work sending out all those applications has finally paid off - you've been called in for a job interview. Congratulations! But now is not the time to sit back and think about how you're going to spend your new salary. The better prepared, the better your chances are of walking out of the interview with a confident smile on your face. Here are a few important tips to help your next interview lead to your next job:

Do your homework. Research the company beforehand so that you can demonstrate that knowledge to the interviewer. This will increase your credibility and will help you to formulate questions.

Look the part. Your clothing should be professional looking. As it can be difficult to know the culture of the office environment beforehand, remain on the side of conservative. Even if everyone's wearing jeans when you arrive, you're still probably better off having shown up in a suit.

Rehearse beforehand. Prepare answers to questions the interviewer is likely to ask, such as What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why do you want to work here? Why should we hire you? and the ever popular Tell me about yourself. Conduct a mock interview with a trusted friend as practice.

Secure references. Find at least three key people - former supervisors or colleagues - who are willing to serve as your professional references. Be sure to secure their permission beforehand, and be certain that they will speak highly of you if contacted by a potential employer.

Bring necessary documentation. Make a checklist of documents that you will need for the interview, and make sure that you have them handy. These documents may include extra copies of your résumé, a passport, a portfolio of your professional work, certificates.

Sell yourself. The interview is your chance to shine. Develop a short sales pitch that sings your praises. In business this is called an "elevator speech," a compelling overview of why you? that can be recited in the time it takes to ride the elevator. It should include your strengths, your abilities, and what sets you uniquely apart from other applicants.

Do ask questions. Based on your earlier research, ask how the responsibilities of the open position relate to the company's goals and plans for the future. Interviewers are often favorably impressed by candidates who show that they are knowledgeable about the organization.

Follow up. After the interview, don't forget to send a note or email thanking the interviewer for his or her time and consideration, as well as restating your interest for the position.

Remember: every interview is a valuable learning experience. Even if you don't get this particular job, you'll be better prepared and at ease with the whole process. Good luck!

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