If I had a nickel for every time someone asked younger me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or its adult counterpart, “What are you going to do with your degree?” I would be sitting in the middle of one of Forbes’ lists of the richest people in the world. Every single person has a dream job in mind, and although the particular job may change from age 12 to age 22, we spend our lives preparing for that special opportunity to arise. Now it’s 2014, and you have been called to come in for that dream job interview. So here are some tips to ace that interview and get the job you’ve been hoping for and working towards.

Practice potential questions before the interview

The internet is awash with potential questions from job interviews. From the most common job interview questions to the most peculiar, take some time to practice answering these questions, written and out loud. Knowing what to expect can put any fears and nervousness to rest, and set you up for a relaxed dream job interview.

Be punctual, presentable, and well organized

The interview process is not only about how you answer the questions. It also gives the interviewer a chance to view you and how you present yourself. It gives them a chance to gather information about how you would fit into their company. Therefore, it is important to BE ON TIME! Arriving late to an interview is a bad start, but not one that cannot be overcome. If an emergency occurs, relate that information immediately so that the interviewer knows that you are responsible and can communicate well.

Make sure that you dress appropriately for the interview, showing that you realize the importance of the interview. Whether it be suit and tie, blouse and skirt, or a pantsuit, a professional attire shows you take stock of your appearance and the message it communicates. The same message applies to how organized you are during the meeting. No one shows up to their dream job interview in pajamas and fuzzy slippers!

Have a compelling story to tell

The best interviewee is a person who can describe themselves well and in a variety of ways, interspersing their description of their skills with stories and examples as evidence. Interviewers do not want to be bombarded with data and figures. They want stories with emotional impact that hold their interest, convey meaning, and demonstrate your credentials to fill the position.

So take some time to reflect before your dream job interview, and hold in your memory the moment when the manager didn’t show up for work and you helped calm the storm by assuming some of his duties, even though you were only a cashier at the time. Think back on the time when the members of your planning project quit on you and what steps you took to see the project to completion. It is these compelling stories that will allow you to shine.

Study that industry well

Do your research! Take the time beforehand to look at the company’s website, where you can find information like corporate officers, the latest press releases, and the company’s annual report. Try to gather as much information as you can on your soon-to-be employer and their strategic goals, special projects, and new developments. Having a knowledge of company products, services, protocols and procedures shows the interviewer that you’re proactive, with an eye for detail and an appreciation for the power of preparation. You can get a glimpse of the company culture by perusing the company message board, and by reading the company mission, vision, and values statements.

And then bring the information you have gathered with you to the dream job interview (preferably in a nice portfolio or attache, presentation is important!), and WOW the interviewer with your preparedness.

Know how you can contribute

You have hunted down this interview for your dream job, and have prepared for it by researching the company. But why? Why should the company hire you over the other applicants who may want the job just as much, or be similarly qualified?

It is important to go into your dream job interview with a proper idea and assessment of how you plan to contribute to the company. Whether it is by aligning your skills with new projects and developments, or by providing a skill in an area where they currently do not reach, or by having a skill that you do better than anyone else they have or will hire, show the interviewer that you have already thought about how you will contribute and improve the company.

Have a professional online presence

Today, an online presence is more important than ever before! The difference between getting a job or not can simply be the pictures you posted after the four days of partying in Amsterdam, or your personal, R-rated rants on Twitter about that particular subject that gets you irate. Potential employers check all these things! Clean up your current social media accounts and tweak privacy settings to properly manage your online image.

The next step is to be consistent with what goes out from your online platforms. Whether it be LinkedIn, a blog you write, your Twitter or your Vimeo account, make sure that you are providing content that aligns with the message you are trying to get across. Creating professional pages on these platforms can help keep your personal and professional lives separate and still maintain your online presence.

Be honest

Honesty is extremely important in your dream job interview. Be honest about how you have handled previous work situations, personal problems on the job, why you were fired, and anything else that the interviewer might ask. Honesty in the answers to these questions, whether the answer is politically correct or not, shows the interviewer your humanity. Telling the potential employer about the situations that caused problems in previous positions will help them place you strategically to avoid negative situations from arising again. Honesty also eliminates the need for a “transition period,” or the time you spend on the new job trying to fit in and adhere to the “dream you” you fabricated in your dream job interview.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

This tip goes hand in hand with honesty. Self-awareness and the ability to self-assess are key in moving yourself to the top of the list of potential candidates. Know your strengths and be able to describe them, especially if they are in areas that are uncommon. Be able to describe how you excel in these areas even above others who may claim the same attributes.

No one believes you when you say your only weakness is “being a perfectionist.” Saying that only shows that you lack self-awareness or are putting on a front to get the job. Be able to accurately describe areas where you are not as strong as you should be, but without sabotaging your chance at getting the job.

Shine at your dream job interview not only by knowing your strengths and weaknesses, but having a plan in place to improve in all these areas. The plan to improve is the key interviewers look for in a potential employee.

Ask the right questions

Come prepared to interview the interviewer! While going through their gamut of questions, you get the opportunity to quiz them and assess how you measure up at that point in the process. Asking questions at the beginning of the interview allows you to tweak your future responses, adding in buzzwords and key phrases that show you possess all the qualities the position seeks.

Sarah Hansen nailed 10 questions to ask in an interview in her article. Here are some examples of her suggested questions to ask at the beginning of your dream job interview:

  • Can you tell me what a typical day in this position looks like?
  • Can you tell me about your company culture?
  • If you could create the ideal person for this position, what traits would they possess?

Or at the end:

  • In the beginning of our meeting, you listed your ideal candidate having the qualities of X, Y, and Z (repeat their words back to them that they used to answer to your opening question). Do you feel I have adequately shown you that I demonstrate these qualities?

These questions allow you to address any questions they might have concerning your hiring potential, to give evidence of your credentials in the traits they desire, and to assess how you would fit in this company if hired.

Send a thank-you note

Last, but definitely not least, say thank you!

It is important to either send a note, an email, a phone call, or any other form of correspondence you prefer (carrier pigeon may be overdoing it). The purpose is twofold: not only do you express your sincere gratitude for the opportunity to interview for your dream job, but you take the chance to remind the interviewer of who you are. Out of sight, out of mind? Not if you take the opportunity to say thank you and stay relevant as they complete their hiring process.

Any other tips for acing that dream job interview? Any funny, strange, or random interview stories? Share them below!

Here are five questions your interviewer should never ask themselves at any point during your meeting: 5 Common Interview Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Job Search

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