Congrats! Your resume has finally found its way to the top of the pile and now you're being called in to interview so they can see what you're really made of. The pressure is on, but you can thrive with proper preparation.
I've interviewed many candidates who admit to not having looked at my company's Web site. They assume we'll talk about the company during the interview. When I realize that, the interview is over. Don't wing it. Invest time by going to the company's Web site to learn as much about it as possible. Find about everything you can about its position in the industry in which it operates and any current news surrounding that field. Google the person you're meeting. Prepare anecdotes to defend your resume. Many times a savvy interviewer will say, "It says here you did X. Explain that to me." This is the easiest thing for you to bat out of the park, but so many people mess up here by not prepping in advance.
From "tell me about yourself" to naming your biggest weakness to revealing what you hope to be doing five years from now, it's often the most obvious questions that candidates spend the least time preparing. That's a mistake. Click here for a series of likely and potential interview questions.
By the time you've been called for an interview, an initial judgment has been made that you likely have the hard skills to do the job. Your education, experience and knowledge -- all of which are listed on your resume -- have given the employer reason to want to talk to you. A big part of the interview process is to size up your soft skills -- your personality, your work style and preferences. Will you be a good fit for the culture? Will they like working with you every day? How's the chemistry? It's critical to connect personally, which can be started through chit chat in the first three minutes. Find some kind of common ground -- local sports (wow, how about that game); a photo (oh, is that your toddler); even art or an award hanging on the office wall. This initial small talk can break the ice and set the tone for a more comfortable conversation.
This isn't the time to fear coming across as conceited or a show-off. Trot out your best ammunition to demonstrate why you'd be an asset to the organization. Your past performance is the best indicator of your potential for future success, so be willing to talk about your proudest professional accomplishments. If it's pointed out that you're missing a key skill, don't bury your head. Explain that you're a quick study and share an example of something you had to learn previously and how you did it. Don't hold back.
Unless the interviewer brings it up first, a first interview is not the time for you to bring up money, hours or special needs like flex time. Wait until they've established a strong interest in you. If you're already talking about the hours or your desire to work from home in the first 20 minutes, you're more focused on yourself and your needs than the needs of the employer. During that first meeting, you need to put them first, not you.