There’s plenty to remember before heading in for your important interview. Josh Tolan the CEO of Spark Hire, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews discussed with mashable (http://mashable.com/2013/01/19/guide-to-job-interview/) an essential guide to interviewing. If you follow his advice, you can dramatically increase your chance of  landing your dream job.

The Obvious: Dress to Impress 

Dress the part: Keep in mind that you want to make a professional first impression, and always dress for a position several notches above the one for which you’re interviewing. If you’re interviewing at a creative, casual agency, make sure the attire you settle on is professional and conservative (although perhaps don’t show up looking like a Wall Street power broker). If your interview is through online video, you might think you can dress down a bit and worry a little less, but this certainly isn’t true! Dress just as nicely as you would for an in-person meeting. Wait until you’re hired to show off your more fashionable and fun side.

Colour me good: Pay attention to the colors you choose before heading out the door or turning on your webcam. This isn’t a fashion show, and some colors won’t be right for an important job interview. Stick to conservative and neutral colors like browns and blacks. If you want to throw a little color in there, think about green, which is the color of money and can send a subconscious message that you’ll be able to bring real dollar value to the company. Stay away from bright primary colors like red and yellow because you want your interviewer focused on your words, not your outfit.

Go the Extra Mile

Dig deeper into the organization: Read the company’s stated values and objectives on its website. Search on the web and in trade publications to see if the company has achieved anything noteworthy recently, whether an industry award or opening a new branch.

Dig deeper into the industry:  Look at the larger issues in the overall industry and compare your company of choice to see how they stack up. All of this research can give you great ideas for tailored questions to ask about the organization when the interviewer turns the floor over to you at the end of the meeting.

Dig deeper into their company culture: Perhaps another employee’s experience can help you avoid a huge misstep or prepare you better for tricky questions. Ask questions on social sharing sites like Quora and LinkedIn Answers to see what experiences others have had at the company. You might also want to see what users have posted about the company on Glassdoor, where employees and candidates alike go to share information about companies from interview tips to salary ranges.

Dig deeper into their internal operations: You can also use social media to connect with current and former employees to get the inside scoop. Send a polite message asking the contact if they have time to discuss the company and then pick their brains about the organization. This will help you get a better view of what the day-to-day life would be like at your dream job. Make sure you ask good questions, but always be tactful. You don’t want to phrase your questions too negatively for fear you’ll get evasive answers.

Dig deeper into their leadership style: You might also want to consider asking those current and former employees you connected with about their working relationship with the boss. The leadership style of the boss can really impact the company culture, whether negatively or positively, so this is important information to know before heading into your interview. You want to enjoy your job, after all, which might be hard if you’re managed by The Office’s Michael Scott.

Research your interviewer: Finally, it’s also important to do some research into your interviewer. Look them up on the web, read their company bio and find them on social media. Their social media presence might even help you gain insight into their interview style. Will they be more conversational or stay by-the-book and stick to their questions? Looking at an interviewer’s social media profile can help you gauge how to interact with them in the interview setting. Plus, social media can help you connect with your interviewer before ever stepping foot in the office. You can share an interesting article or even discuss a recent trend to make a connection before the job interview begins.

Prepare for the Curve Balls

Companies from Google to Amazon like to use tough questions to get candidates turned around during the interview process. This is because companies want to see how well you think on your feet under pressure. If you get a question about filling a bus with golf balls or what kind of animal you would be, don’t panic.

Make sure your answer has some form of real-world value and show the employer how you think through a problem. For the animal example, you might say you’d love to be a cat because you like to work independently and set your own goals. You’ve now answered the question and brought it back to your own skills and qualifications, instead of just providing a wacky answer.

The most important thing to remember with tough questions is to always remain calm and collected. If you seem like you’re going to pieces, the interviewer will think you can’t handle the stresses of the office.

The Questions You Absolutely Must Ask

It’s just as important for you to use the interview to find out about the company as it is for the employer to test you. Here are five questions you should make sure you ask to discover a little bit about the company culture before mentally decorating your office.

What do you like best about working for the company? The answer to this question will tell you a lot about the company culture and the interviewer in general, which is important if your interviewer is also destined to become your boss. If the things they name off sound completely unappealing to you, this is probably not an organization you’ll enjoy spending your 9-to-5.

How would you describe your company culture in five words? This question might seem a bit obvious, but it’s also helpful in learning just what the company values. The five words your interviewer chooses will most likely be the most important and prevalent aspects of the company culture.

What is the growth opportunity like for this position? You want to have room to grow, learn and achieve in your new position. Asking about growth opportunity is both a good way to find out how much you can achieve and also brand yourself as a forward-thinking candidate. If the interviewer is a little light on details for how you can grow in the position or acquire additional education and training, perhaps career growth isn’t in the cards at this company.

What are the qualities of your most successful employees? This question will tell you the most important qualities you should possess in order to succeed in the company environment. For instance, maybe the ability to multi-task and thrive in a chaotic environment is essential. Or perhaps the ability to work as a team and communicate clearly is key. Listen carefully to these ideal qualities and consider what they reveal about the overall organization to see if you’d fit in.

What’s a common misconception about the company you would like to clear up? Almost every company is the victim of common misconceptions, whether it’s about the company itself, the larger industry, or a specific department. For instance, a startup company might seem like all fun and games from the outside, but this just covers up the long hours and high stress levels of employees. Don’t let perks like free lunch or an office gym stop you from finding out what life is really like at the organization. Your interviewer’s answer will tell you both how the outside world views the organization and also how the company views itself.

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