There's no back door or short cut. The best way to feel confident when you walk into your next interview is to practice for it ahead of time.
But Judi Perkins, founder of the career-coaching service Find the Perfect Job, says that in her 22 years of recruiting, one of the most common mistakes she sees job seekers make is failing to prepare.
"A successful job search is like building a house," she says. "It needs a foundation, a vision of what the final product will look like, and blueprints and a plan for getting there."
Follow this guide to ready yourself for your next interview:
1. Craft stories about your past work history. To help your interviewer see that your past experience has groomed you for this opportunity, Perkins suggests that you examine the job description and think about specific stories of your accomplishments in relation to each requirement. For instance, if the job posting calls for social media coordination, Perkins recommends crafting a concrete story highlighting your strong work ethic and results.
"My team put together a Facebook page and by the end of month one, we had 900 likes. Over the next six months the 'likes' increased 200 percent because of the apps that we added," Perkins suggests.
2. Figure out your biggest weaknesses. Hiring managers want to see that you're self-aware and realistic about your weaknesses. This is often the toughest question for job seekers to answer, Perkins says. "Some may know their biggest weakness," she explains. "But they're afraid if they say it, they won't get hired. So they tend to give an answer that sounds good."
Instead of glossing over your shortcomings, you should genuinely share them, followed by your proposed methods of self-improvement. For instance, Perkins suggests you say: "I tend to become very involved in a project and lose track of time. This can be tough when a deadline is looming. What I've been doing for that is to plan time points and where I should be at each of those time points."
3. Cyber-stalk your interviewers. If your interviewer is public and active on Twitter, you've hit the jackpot. Read everything they have recently shared to get a good idea about the issues they care about. Cover all your social-media bases to gain as much info as you can. Casually mentioning an interesting article that your interviewer shared, for instance, is a great way to show that you're resourceful and share similar interests.
4. Research the company. Set up a Google alert for both the company and their top competitors so that you're in the loop. Learn about the company's goals and values, which are usually listed on its official website. If you can, set up informational interviews to soak up knowledge from someone who works there. Your aim is to learn exactly what the company values.
5. Craft smart questions to ask. Employers also judge you by the kind of questions you ask. Smart queries prompt the employer to give you an in-depth understanding of the role, which reiterates your interest.
6. Pinpoint your desired company culture. The job interview is a great time to ask about the company's culture. But be clear about the environment you're looking for before you're lured into a workplace misfit. Perkins suggests examining your previous jobs to get an idea about what you want: "Do you function better in a large environment or small? Corporate or non-profit? Team-focused or self-motivated? What did you and didn't you like? Why?"
7. Clarify your long-term goals. Now that you have a handle on the company's goals, it's time to identify your own. During the interview, you need to be clear and concise about how the position would be a step toward your goal. Employers want to be assured that there's little to no chance that you'll jet as soon as you realize this isn't what you want to do.
8. Practice common interview questions. Be able to knock the most common interview questions out of the park. Some you've already prepared (particularly if you've perfected and practiced Nos. 1, 2, 5, and 6 above). Once again, when you're answering the questions, it's best to craft stories that explain why you're qualified and point to hard facts and results.
9. Record yourself for fluency. There's nothing like a rude awakening that comes from hearing your own voice. Is it shaky? Are you saying too many filler words? Conduct a mock interview in which you record, playback, and repeat. It's a surefire way to improve.
Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.