Look the part, act the part, get the part

As you can see from the story on page 15, employers may be desperate, but they're not stupid.

They're willing to pay top dollar, but they want new hires who can earn it.

So it pays, literally, to be extremely well prepared before showing up for an interview.

Everything counts - how you look, what you say, what you don't say, even the questions you ask.

Recruiters want to be dazzled. Here are a few tips to help you polish your performance:

*Do your homework. Research the company as well as the position you're interviewing for. Virtually every company has a Web page, so there's no excuse for not knowing the size of a company, location of its offices, major products, key people, even major competitors.

*Dress for success. You don't win points for clothes, but you can loose points. A wrinkled shirt, no tie, scuffed shoes, or a stain on your jacket - it all matters.

Even if the firm has a "business-casual" dress code, leave the khakis in your drawer. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Wear a suit or you'll be remembered as the person who didn't.

*Ask questions. Have five good ones ready. One or two should be about the job itself: Do we work in teams? The rest should focus on the company or industry.

*Forget the money. Don't talk about salaries, benefits, or vacation unless the interviewer initiates the topic.

*Prepare for behavioral questions, such as: Describe a time you made a decision or solved a problem that required a lot of hard thinking and careful analysis; describe how you went the extra mile to do something, even though it wasn't your responsibility; tell me about a time when you weren't pleased with your performance: What did you do about it?

*At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for her or his time. Reiterate interest in the job.

*Write thank-you notes. It could influence a decision in your favor. It should be short and typed on your rsum paper.

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