Interviewing has become more competitive and challenging than ever. It is not as simple as filling out an application. Preparation is key.

1. Job Description – What position do you really want? Review job descriptions. Are you at least 80% qualified? What keywords are used in the job description? What knowledge, skills, education, and experience are required for the job? Map out how your background, experience, education and soft skills fit the position.

2. Research the Company – What do you know about the company for the position you are applying? Research the company website, reach out to your contacts, review the annual report if publicly traded. What is the vision, mission, and values? What is the size of the company? Who are the key people? What are the locations? Products and services? Arm yourself with information. Do you see yourself as a good fit?

3. Resume – Do not send out a generic resume for the jobs you are applying for. You will be wasting paper, an email or time. Tailor the resume to the position. Be specific in how you have contributed in your past. After you created the resume, run the resume through ONET to see if you have at least an 80-90% keyword match for the position. If not revise. Consider hiring a professional or at the very least have several people proofread the resume.

4. Cover Letter – Grab the attention of the employer is a positive way. Do not repeat what your resume states. Tell them interesting facts about you and how you can contribute to the organization. It is about them and what they need. It is not about what you want.

5. Social Media – Facebook-Make sure what you post is positive. Have a good photo. Do not post photos or use language that would detract from who you are. Facebook is great for social connections, but more and more employers are looking at you before the interview. Let’s make sure you do not do anything that keeps the interview or offer from happening. Remember, nothing is off the record these days.

6. Social Media – LinkedIn is the best professional social media platform. Make sure your profile is professional with a professional photo to start. Build your network carefully. Tell us something interesting in the summary area. This is not where your resume is to be placed. Fill in all areas. Reach out and ask for professional recommendations and be strategic. Think carefully about what you post. Start to position yourself as a “Thought Leader” in your field. Share posts that enhance the conversation.

7. Branding – Is more than dressing for success. Wear appropriate attire for the interview based on the company culture. Make sure your appearance is professional. Personal hygiene, hair, nails etc. must be immaculate. Branding is who you are, how you serve others, and your reputation.

8. Interview Questions – Prepare, prepare, and prepare. Those are so many great resources on the internet to review before going into the interview. Study generic questions as well as industry/job specific questions. Be prepared for behavioral and situational type questions. Practice. This is not the time to wing it.

9. Follow-up – Once the interview is complete, make sure you have the business cards of the people you interviewed with on that day. Immediately send a thank you email or hand-written note. It helps you stand out from the competition. Tell them why you want the position and how you see yourself contributing to the company.