Welcome to the Real World: What You Need to Ace Your Interview

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[Life after college is hard. Like really hard. But it’s not so hard that you should curl up in a ball and watch E! marathons all day long. Not only are we covering the experience from a first-hand perspective, but we’re now covering it from a how-to-survive-it perspective. Every week, we’re going to bringing the best advice to getting through your first post-grad year. Because sometimes, your grandmother’s “just go to law school” advice just doesn’t cut it.]

Ladies, let’s be real: finding a job is tough stuff. Before you get to sending those resumes out, before you worry about which job-related websites to start checking religiously, make sure you’ve got your basics covered. After all, what’s that they say about a good foundation being the key to a solid…something or other? It’s not just a nice platitude that encourages you to order an extra basket of nachos before a night of heavy drinking. This common sense can also be applied to…wait for it…matters of the Real World.

So what, you ask, are the key ingredients to kick of a successful job hunt? As someone who has been in and out of job interviews at the same rate that LiLo checks in and out of rehab, trust me when I say preparation is everything. And to ensure that you are prepped like none other, I present to you the ultimate job search checklist:

The Outfit
You want to come off confident and capable, but not overtly sexy or worse — dowdy. Try not to over think this one, as you might easily find yourself standing naked in front of your closet, tossing outfit after outfit on the floor. Remember it’s best to stick to the timeless elements of a successful casual-but-not-too-casual/dressy-but-not-too-dressy ensemble.

Grab some well-fitting black pants (nothing wide-leg, nothing wool, nothing pinstripe) like these hip-yet-professional skinny pants from The Gap, pair them with a bright silky top, toss a cardigan on top and add in an edited selection of accessories. Easy as pie! And don’t be afraid to drop a little extra cash on your interview look– you’ll get plenty of wear of out it, and you can later translate the various pieces into different office-ready outfits when the time comes. (For more in-depth advice, check out which color is best to wear at an interview)

The Bag
It’s not so much what bag you choose to bring with you on your interview that matters, as what you’ve got stashed inside. First and foremost, bring extra copies of your resume. You never know whom all you’ll be speaking with and if they’ve got your credentials committed to memory.

And speaking of speaking, pack a bottle of water. Most interviewers will offer you something to drink, but if they don’t, it’s best to enter prepared. You’ll be doing a lot of the talking, so having some H2O at the ready will sidestep those awkward, thirsty tongue-tied moments.

Finally, always have a pen and some paper. Even if you don’t use it, employers will be impressed that you thought ahead and attempted to keep your thoughts organized.

The Mindset
I cannot stress this enough: Know the company you’re interviewing for. Check their website. Read their founder’s bio. Look up their clients. See what projects they’ve been instrumental in. Find out their long-term goals. The more you know, the better. Be sure to identify ways in which you can be irreplaceable to that specific employer and highlight your best qualities.

Maybe you’re applying to be an assistant at a major PR firm — tell them about that insane project you headed senior year that, with the help of your stellar community outreach skills, raised $10,000 for the local children’s hospital. Or maybe you’re looking to score an internship at your dream magazine. After you’re done imagining yourself as Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, get your head out of La La Land! You’ll most likely take more trips to and from the office fashion closet than you will to Paris Fashion Week, so get ready for the reality that is Vogue, Elle, Cosmo, etc.

While it’s good to tell an interviewer all about your high hopes and dreams, it’s also important to keep a level head and express to them that you are in fact interested in paying your dues and learning the company.

So before you enter the crazy world of unemployment this summer, get your wits about you and enter the scene prepared. There’s nothing you can’t conquer with the right tools.

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