Think About It: OIWC asks, what does it take to ace an interview?

Make a good first impression and land a new job by combining confidence, preparation and etiquette during -- and after -- your interview.
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Your resume rose to the top of the pile and the date of your dream job interview is fast approaching. Your emotions swing between excited and anxious and from optimistic to overwhelmed and for good reason: an interview is one of the most important steps toward a new job. "It's your first impression with the company," said Lori Harrod, founder of plum, an outdoor-industry headhunting firm, who is leading a webinar about interviewing for OIWC on June 23.

With so much riding on the face-to-face time, you've got to make the most of it and a standout interview will set you apart from the competition. But what will help you make the best impression? Confidence, preparation and a sincere follow-up are three of the keys to coming out on top -- and with a job offer on the horizon.

Confidence is key

Remember that your prospective employer already thinks you are qualified or they wouldn't waste time with an interview. Even if you're applying for jobs that push your comfort zone or require new skills, "you have to assume that you're the perfect candidate for the job," said Megan Michelson, who noted that interview experience in her previous job helped her land a new position as the freeskiing editor for ESPN.com.

In addition to a confident presence, a firm handshake and thoughtful answers to interview questions, Michelson's interview experience showed her that giving a positive and specific response can also deflect potentially confidence-busting questions. "You shouldn't hide or lie about your weaknesses," she said, "but you can compensate for them in the same sentence." If you don't know their software, for example, add that you've mastered other programs quickly and name transferable skills that directly relate to the program's function.”

Come prepared

Preparation is another way to ensure confidence when you go into an interview, and thoughtful research will give you an advantage over other applicants. Dig into the company's culture and product, and have an opinion about how things are run and the direction it is headed. The interview is an opportunity to examine "fit" on both sides, said Harrod, so you'll want to have a well-honed list of questions for your interviewers as well. If you know how the job you're pursuing fits into the company's plans and goals, you can target your answers and highlight skills that will increase your value to the company.

Harrod also recommended using personal and professional networks such as LinkedIn. "You may find that an interviewer went to your alma matter, worked at a company where you worked, or that you know the same people," said Harrod. "Once you find a connection, use it!" She also recommends role-playing and practicing your interview with a friend or mentor, "especially areas that might make you nervous like compensation, why you left your last job or why you were fired."

Follow up

Making a good impression goes beyond the initial meeting and following up is an important way to remind your interviewers of your potential and communicate that your interest in the job is serious. "It's important to thank the company and individuals for their consideration," said Harrod. She also suggested asking for a timeframe for and permission to follow-up during your interview. 

For Michelson, the follow-up allowed her to make up for mistakes she made during the interview itself: "There were two questions I didn't answer as well as I wanted," she said of her two-hour interview with ESPN.com. "In my follow-up, I provided more information, clarified my responses and made up for the fact that they caught me off guard." 

More than just talking about yourself, the interview is a chance to interact with your future employers to make sure it's a place where you'd like to work. "You never have a second chance to make a first impression," said Harrod, "so make sure it's a good one." She offers these additional tips:

Do:

- Research the company, function and people involved in your interview.

- Give specific examples of how your experience "connects" to the position for which you are applying.

- Listen (you are learning as much about them as they are about you).

- Be positive.

Don't:

- Share job search woes or exhibit a negative attitude.

- Be overly casual (no matter how the interviewer acts); everything you do/say is being assessed.

- Give the impression that your top job-change motivations include: salary, job location, stability.

Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition is a membership community of professionals in the outdoor industries united to provide power, influence and opportunity for women in outdoor-related businesses and to generate champions to inspire other women. For more information, visit its website at www.oiwc.org.

This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at oiwc@snewsnet.com

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