Being prepared: Five gotta-haves for your next interview

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Whether this is your first time making the rounds of the interview circuit, or you are a grizzled veteran of corporate inquisitioning, candidates on the hot seat all too often are lacking the necessary preparation to face a career transition or job change. There are a handful of things every candidate for a financial services position should consider prior to an interview that can help land that next job.

Plot

Throughout your career, you may have followed many different directions. Be prepared to discuss the reasons for the twists and turns in your journey as well as any gaps there may have been. Few careers travel straight as an arrow, and the shifts in direction paint a unique picture of your career. How you reveal your story is your art. Be organized and unapologetic. It's important to touch on why you left a company, but you should never speak ill of the company or its employees. Stay professional and explain your choices and changes along the way. In whatever way possible, incorporate the story line of your background into their organizational challenges.

Worth

Research your market; know the value of your skills and position. Firms keep remarkably close tabs on what industry standards, or averages, are for similar positions. Your experience, contributions, skills and some intangibles are all computed, along with the company’s revenues, geographic location and needs. The salary range they have determined is rarely exceeded, but you should always seek the upper range when possible.

Evaluate

Defining the value that you bring to the company is one way to assure you get to the upper end of the salary range you deserve. Be ready to objectively evaluate and promote your skills and accomplishments, and to show how they will specifically benefit the firm to which you are applying. You can demonstrate your value with a few examples—case studies—that highlight your measurable accomplishments.

Estimate

Sometimes commuting time or distance is often overlooked. Consider the time and financial costs that will go into getting to this job. An extra 15 minutes each way is more than 100 hours a year "en route," and adding a toll road, bridge or another cab ride can add up too, as well as make bad weather more challenging. Determine what is acceptable before you take any position. Once you decide it is not a problem and take the job, don’t complain about it. It was your choice.

Balance

Travel can be a blessing or a curse. To whatever degree you find it appealing or necessary, be sure to cover that in the discussions before you accept a position. Whether you are single or have a family, travel takes away from your discretionary time, social life and rest. Like commuting, everyone’s tolerance is different, and whatever amount of travel you mutually agree to, you have to accept with the job and not complain about it. So be sure your work/life balance meets your requirements.

The key to landing a successful position is as much about knowing what you want or being willing to accept as it is about trying to get an offer. As one recruiter said: Go after any job like it is the only one you ever wanted, but only accept a job offer you know you really want.

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