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Q. I’m a finance professional who was recently laid off from my employer. Before that painful day I was gainfully employed since college, which was 21 years ago. The good news is that I’ve been selected to interview for a position with a well-established company. The bad news is that I’m very nervous and haven’t been on an interview in over 10 years. What can I do to prepare for the interview so I hit a home run?

A. First, research the company. Check out their website, Google the company and their core management team for information about everything. Find out the names and titles of all interviewers. Why? You need to research each person (LinkedIn and Facebook) you are interviewing with to understand their history, interests and to establish mutual interests. There’s no excuse for going to any interview cold.

Some points to know:

• Vital statistics: company size in both number of employees, revenue and locations.

• History of mergers and acquisitions.

• Ownership; privately held or publicly traded.

• History and notable milestones.

• Products and services.

• Who are their customers?

• Industry trends.

• Any bridge-building personal connection or common background with interviewers.

• Several formulated questions to further your understanding of the company, its current challenges and future goals.

Secondly, research yourself. What are your requirements for changing positions and employers? Are you open to changing industries? What type of culture do you work best in – fast pace vs. slow pace or start-up vs. mature company? What is your commute tolerance and are you willing to travel or relocate? What level of compensation are you seeking – is this a lateral move or are you looking for an advancement in your career that merits an increase in salary and incentives? Can you answer these questions with conviction, “Why are you looking?” or “Why did you leave your last employer?” Be prepared to walk someone through your history from college to your first and last position. Most companies are looking for people who have consistently advanced their career through education and promotion.

Third, be aware of the information employers may seek as part of a background check. Be prepared to address any questions, but know the legal aspects to background checks.

Now that you have prepared, how should you handle the interview?

First and foremost: Do not go on an interview unless you are absolutely prepared to present yourself 100 percent professional.

Dress sharp and on the conservative side.

Be on time. Try to relax and take deep breaths while you are waiting. Make eye contact, smile and if appropriate, shake hands with any support staff assisting you before the interview, as well as with the interviewer or interviewers if it’s a team or panel.

Remember: This is your opportunity to sell yourself. You are the product and the service. The employer has a problem, and you as the candidate could be the solution.

After the interview, write thank you notes to all interviewers, thanking him or her for the opportunity to meet, and send by post or e-mail. Remind the interviewers how your background and experience applies to the position and how you can solve their problems.

Finally, if you don’t get the job, find out why. Ask your recruiter or hiring manager what skills you may be missing or what exactly eliminated your candidacy. Be sure to thank the interviewer for this information. This one simple practice can frequently lead to other opportunities.

Good luck.

•••

Jennifer Laxton is a senior partner and executive coach with Executive Search Associates in Santa Rosa, www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-217-4535 or jklaxton@esa.com.