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Get Ready For a Really Important Interview Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Workopolis.com Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit www.CareerActivist.com.

Question: Dear Mark,

I have a really important interview coming up and I can't afford to blow it. What's the best way to prepare so I come off looking great?

B. Muskog, Vancouver
Dear B. Muscog,

Girding for a big interview is more involved than you might think. Many people do the basics: go over the resume with a fine tooth comb, rehearse answers to a few potential questions, choose a nice outfit for the day of the meeting -- then hope for the best.

Not that you should ignore these foundational steps. It's just that, if you really want to wow the interviewer(s), there are other steps you could take.

It starts when the employer's inviting you in for the meeting. Ask them who's going to be there (e.g. just your boss, or others as well?) Also, any background info you can get on the interviewers at this stage might be useful.

Next is researching the employer to have a better idea of their needs. What you're mainly looking for is information about their products and services, plus the issues they consider really important. Visit their website to look at the kinds of products and services they're highlighting. Then click on the 'About Us' or 'Investor Relations' link. Read their most recent press releases (or company news) to hear about what's of concern to them. Be ready to talk to talk about these issues at the interview.

If the website is sparse or non-existent, try stopping by and pick up some company literature. There should at least be some brochures. Publicly traded companies will also have an annual report.

Think you know the employer inside out by now? Good: now check out the competition. Find out who the top players are, and what their strengths and weaknesses appear to be.

At this stage it's time to turn the spotlight back on you. Review some difficult questions you might be asked, and practice 'behavioural' answers.

Now assemble a list of question you can pose to the employer when the time comes. Things like, 'what do you see as the main obstacles to doing this job effectively?', 'could you tell me a bit about your management style?', and 'how would you describe the ideal candidate?'

Finally, bring in some 'show and tell' if appropriate, like examples of your previous work, or endorsements from supervisors and colleagues. Just make sure you respect confidentiality. With all of this in hand, you stand a much better chance of standing out then those who'll do the minimum.

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