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The Ace-Your-Interview Checklist

Congratulations! You’re scheduled for a job interview! The recruiter saw something he or she likes and wants to learn more about you and all the marvelous things you have to bring to the company. And you want to learn more and find out if the opportunity is the right fit for you. But now what? How can you be sure to put your best foot forward?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting your career or have years of experience in the insurance industry—or anything in between. There are some steps every job candidate should take to ensure both meaningful dialogue and a great first-impression making the interview a win-win for everyone. Let’s go!

Do your research. One of the top pieces of interviewing advice is to go into an interview with a working knowledge of the company. For instance, when interviewing with an insurance company, find out what type(s) of coverage they offer and what markets they serve. How big are they? Do they sell nationally or regionally? What problems are they solving for customers? Be sure to get a feel for their company culture. Look at their website, read a few blog posts, and explore their social media posts too.

Review your resume. Part of your interview prep should include connecting the dots between the job description, your professional experience and career goals. Even if you’re new to the industry or job category, you have valuable skills that transfer over to the new role. And remember that you bring soft skills to the table that may not be reflected on your resume. So while you may be a whiz working with spreadsheets, you may also be an excellent listener who knows how to motivate team members.

Make a list of questions. Consider what’s important to you and what you’re looking for in an employer. Ask yourself what you’re curious about that’s not clear in the job description or on the company website. The list of potential questions is endless, but might include: How is my performance going to be measured? How are employees rewarded and recognized? Is there room for growth?  What’s the next step in the process? This Forbes articlelink opens in a new window provides more questions you might want to ask.

Practice to make perfect (almost!). Sit yourself in front of a mirror or—better yet—enlist a friend or family member to help walk you though a “mock interview.” Practice answering standard interview questions, like, “Tell us how you solved a problem in your last job.” (Check out this list of common job interview questionslink opens in a new window from Monster for more ideas.) Not only will rehearsing keep you from stumbling during the real interview, it will help keep you cool and calm when you’re in the heat of the moment.

Plan your route. Don’t wait until the morning of your interview to determine where you’re going and how you’ll get there. You don’t want to risk getting lost or arriving late—that’s extra anxiety you don’t need right before meeting a potential employer. So look up those train times, fire up the GPS or do a preliminary drive-by…whatever you need to do to automate your day-of travel plans.

Dress to impress. It’s always a good idea to “dress up” for a job interview in the insurance industry. Take a look at some interview wardrobe advicelink opens in a new window from Careerbuilder, which includes erring on the side of overdressing and not wearing too much perfume or cologne.

Arrive early. Getting to your interview with a few minutes to spare gives you some time to sit down, relax, and gather your thoughts (and wipe off your sweaty palms!) before shaking hands and getting into the conversation. It also shows the company that you’re dependable and respectful of others’ time. About 5-10 minutes early is usually appropriate.

Put that phone away—and keep it professional. Before meeting your interviewer, put your devices on silent. A ringing or dinging smartphone is disruptive and sends the company the message that your personal calls are more important than taking this important step in your career.

Take a deep breath. Deep breathing exercises and even some gentle stretches can help you get centered before—and during—the interview. It’s natural to be anxious, so give yourself a chance to calm down. And give a few smiles, even when no one is looking, to get into a positive state of mind.

Listen and learn. It’s easy for some people to talk, talk, talk while they’re interviewing because they’re nervous. It’s a better idea to look the interviewer in the eye and listen…and then answer direct questions. Don’t stifle your personality—it’s a big selling point, after all—but when you consciously listen, you’re able to process information better and you’re in a better state of mind to calmly (and succinctly) answer questions, provide feedback and ask questions of your own.

Be pleasantly persistent. Immediately following your interview, be sure to send a thank-you email to anyone you met with during the interview. Include follow-up questions in your emails and offer to answer any other questions your interviewer may have thought of after your in-person meeting. If you don’t hear anything, be persistent. Send follow up emails 4, 6 and 8 weeks later. If they decide to go with someone else, let them know you are glad they found someone who is a good fit and that you would like to keep the door open for the next opportunity. Link up with your interviewers on LinkedIn, and tactfully stay in touch. 

No matter the outcome of your interview, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn something about yourself, your career goals and at least one company’s recruiting approach. If it doesn’t work out—and it’s just not the right fit—you’ll have the knowledge that you’re one step closer to the right opportunity. And if it does work out—and you’re called in for a second interview—read through this checklist one more time. Good luck!