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Preparing for the Try out

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Like an athlete preparing for an event, you have to get in shape before the interview. This requires both physical and mental preparation.

Preparing Physically for the Interview

It seems obvious, but you must ensure that your clothes and appearance will not negatively impact on the individuals who will be part of the interview process.

That's not to suggest you look and dress like a movie star. However, it's recommended that you make sure your clothes fit and are appropriate for the audience.


Interviewers will excuse a shabby appearance because they know you are unemployed.


Sloppy dress makes a poor first impression that is hard to overcome, even if you interview well.

It's understandable that being unemployed creates certain mental and financial pressures that often result in stress-related eating disorders. Translated: You put on a few extra pounds in the wrong places.

Nothing is more distracting than to sit for an hour and look at someone dressed in a suit that is three sizes too small. Shirts that don't button at the collar and belts that are out to the last hole signal that one small facet of your life is out of control.

I remember one time when a slightly overweight gentleman came into my office for a screening interview. When he sat down, the first thing I noticed was his belly protruding between his shirt buttons. If you asked me today what I remembered most about this candidate, the exposed belly would come to mind. His poor appearance detracted from anything of substance he had to say.

If your clothes don't fit, either attempt to lose the weight or purchase new clothes that will do your physique some justice. The objective is not to leave the employer with the impression that you are a snazzy dresser but to neutralize your appearance so that it doesn't negatively affect the potential employer's perception of you. I have yet to see an employer hire someone because of his or her spiffy appearance, but many candidates have been disqualified because of shabby or poorly fitted clothing.

A final thought on dressing for the occasion. Keep track of the outfits you wear to each interview. Try to vary your wardrobe when the interview process requires multiple visits to the same office. Wearing the same maroon sports coat on three successive interviews


When you have to travel three hours to an interview, the people you meet will understand if you yawn.


Regardless of the justification, yawning is rude and can signal to an employer that you are bored or disinterested.

might lead the company to think you only have one coat-that you're really down on your luck and desperate for any job. Borrow an extra coat if you have to. Just make sure it fits.

Preparing Mentally for the Interview

To be ready mentally for the tryout, make sure you are:
  • On time
  • Rested and alert
  • Well versed on the company
Being on time for the interview

A late arrival shows disrespect, disorganization, a poor perspective, and immaturity.

Consider this plight. You're conducting screening interviews for a Midwest sales representative in a major hotel at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. You set your schedule to interview four candidates starting at 9 A.M. with two hours allotted for each. You have a 6 P.M. flight back to New York. Then the first candidate doesn't arrive until 10:15. His excuse: "Unbelievably heavy traffic." You are disturbed because you will be in a catch-up mode for the balance of the day. What kind of a review would you give the late candidate? A sales candidate who is over fifteen minutes late without notice will almost always be disqualified, regardless of the excuse.

If you know you are going to be late because of unforeseen circumstances, call and give the interviewer the option of having you come ahead or scheduling you for another date.


You can never over-prepare for an interview.


Too much information can be dangerous, particularly if it leads to in-depth discussions out of your area of expertise.

Being rested and alert

Driving four hours to an interview through traffic and rain will drain anyone's energy. You should attempt to set your schedule so the travel time to an interview is no more than one hour. You will look, feel, and perform better.

It is also very impressive when a company finds out you booked yourself into a local hotel the night before, ensuring that you arrive on time and alert. This action shows you're not afraid to travel, you plan ahead, and you care about the interview. It is a sign of respect and professionalism.

Researching the company

A company's primary objective during an interview is to learn about your personality and talents. The more time the interviewer uses to explain the company's background and products, the less time you have to make an impression.

The following background questions can knock you out of the running if you ask them during the early stages of the interview.
  • "So what do you guys make here?"
  • "Gee, until you called, I never heard of your company. Are you people a division of another company or something?"
There's the door. Any candidate who doesn't take the time to find out at least a little about the company shows a lack of initiative and concern.


Companies are reluctant to share financial and sales histories until they confirm that an individual is a viable candidate.


Most astute executives expect that management candidates will probe at the appropriate time for information that is important to assess the opportunity.

At a minimum, you should find out the following about a potential employer:
  1. Products or services
  2. Markets
  3. Annual sales
  4. Number of employees
  5. Perception in the market
  6. Potential for a buyout or merger
Armed with this information gathered from annual reports, industrial directories, and conversations with associates, you will be able to ask more pertinent and intelligent questions during the interview.

You should also be aware of the downside to over-preparing for an interview. Take the case of Dolores, a candidate for a market analyst position in a large chemical company. Since Dolores had a degree in accounting, she felt right at home dissecting the annual report and preparing an extensive list of questions for her interviews.

As part of the process, the last person Dolores met was the comptroller, who had recently been on the hot seat to get inventories under control. Well, you guessed it. Dolores started in on cash flow and inventory questions, irritating the man to the point where he cut the interview short. This top official was taking enough heat from the directors and didn't need additional pressure from a B.S. in accounting who was applying for a $55,000 job in the marketing group. Dolores never survived the final cut because her extensive preparation trapped her into a confrontational discussion.

However, when you are applying for a top-level position where a significant portion of your income will be derived from incentive compensation, tough questions are in order. Just make sure they are asked well into the meeting with the objective of learning about the company's financial and market conditions. At a high level, not asking these questions will raise concern about your street sense because some issues are expected to be addressed.

Being physically and mentally prepared for an interview will help bolster your confidence and self-esteem. When you feel good, you will perform well in the tryout.
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