A Job seeker with a plan will get the job they want, and get it faster than one who doesn’t know where to start. Try this three-step process to establishing your plan and getting to the interview. Next week, I’ll discuss how to ace that interview.

Step One — Know Your Target

Companies know the kind of employees they want. Someone who is punctual, shows initiative, works well in a group as well as on his or her own – someone like you! Employers are impressed with applicants who know the kind of job they want, people who have done some preparation and planning before arriving at the interview. Candidates who demonstrate job skills such as initiative will always leave a better impression than one who only ‘talks about‘ what they can do. Make the effort to research your target employer, and you’ll find yourself ahead of the competition.

You can find out about larger organizations by using the internet. Web search engines can help you find the targeted employer’s Web site. If your target company is small or doesn’t have a website, see the career counselors at the One-Stop Job Center to give you some insight to the business and the services or products they provide. You could also visit the library and ask the research librarian for help. A fact-finding trip to the company ahead of time will always reflect positively on you.

As you do this research, make note of the organization’s purpose, products or services, chief executive’s name, and any recent news or company developments. If you speak to someone at the worksite, mention their name in the interview. Take your notes to the interview, and use them ahead of time to develop questions of your own. The extra effort is sure to show . . . and the demonstrated initiative could land you the job.

Step Two — Know Yourself

In the interview, you’ll be “selling” your skills and your ability to get along at the worksite, so you need to know precisely what you’re selling. Once you define that, you can apply these insights to the needs of your target company. Connecting the two successfully is the best way to get yourself hired.

In preparation, think about your accomplishments at previous jobs. Did your past jobs require sensitivity or persuasion with customers? Were you given special assignments or extra responsibilities? Did you have perfect attendance? Basically, make a list of ways you were effective and “profitable” for your previous employers. Review your list, and refine your skills into a “package” you can explain easily in a minute or two. Businesses want honest, smart, friendly, motivated, and responsible employees. Do you deal well with people? Are you flexible and open to learning? Be prepared to use these terms in the interview and to offer examples which demonstrate these talents. Above all else, be honest. Most employers can sense if you’re sincere and truly interested in the job.

Step Three — Practice

You can make all the lists you want, but there’s no substitute for rehearsing. Ask your parent, sibling, spouse, or best friend to be the interviewer, and give them a list of questions to throw at you. No two interviewers are the same, but most will ask questions like, “Tell me about your education, skills and experience. What are your greatest strengths (and weaknesses)? What kind of work do you like best? What do you do in your spare time?” Practice answering these and other questions before going into the interview and your confidence will soar. Free workshops are also available at the One-Stop Job Center to help prepare for your interview.

Body language is the other thing to practice. If you have a video camera, use it to see how others see you. Another way to look through the employer’s eyes is to practice answering interview questions in front of a mirror. Hand and arm movements shouldn’t be too noticeable. Try not to appear nervous or fidgety. Your posture should be relaxed, but alert. Don’t slouch. Keep both feet on the ground. You’ll generally look more interested and “engaged” if your hands are on the table, rather than under it. If you look bored in the interview why would the employer think you’d be any different on the job? Communicate interest and energy; and be yourself.

Practice does make perfect; it works for interviewing!