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Do you want to nail your next interview? You have repeatedly researched the company’s Web site. You have triple-checked their annual report and the stock performance, but so have many of the other candidates interviewing for the job you want. Here’s how to take your research to a higher level. This research will separate you from the pack.

Hoof and mouth research is walking the walk and talking the talk. It’s research conducted over and above the expected effort. Walk in the company’s shoes. How do they go to market? What do their customers think? Sample their products or services. For a food or beverage company, buy and taste their leading products. If a deodorant company, use it under each arm. If a pet food company, feed your dog or cat. Not a pet owner? Feed a friend’s pet and get feedback. For a hotel or hospitality company, book a reservation and spend a night. If you don’t want to spend the money, sit in the hotel lobby, feel the energy and level of service. How were you treated? For a bank or finance company, ask about a loan application and visit a couple locations. What was your first impression? How does their web site work? If a retail outlet, think like a mystery shopper and rate your treatment...was it good, bad, ugly? Sharing your research results tells the interviewer you want the job.

If your work experience has no relevance to the job requirements or industry, conduct a field survey to find out how the company sells its products. Talk to their buyers, ask their distributors about their relationship and how they’re treated. Compile a short spreadsheet report of your findings. During your interview, find a segway to present your report. The interviewer will be impressed and this extra effort can make the difference in getting the job offer.

References Available Upon Request is the catch phrase at the end of many resumes. You must be ready with a current list. Everyone on your list must be updated prior to a job search. Confirm titles and telephone numbers. Your list should be former bosses and clients. Avoid using friends and co-workers because they have less credibility. Be sure to ask for confidentiality. It can be a small world in your industry and you must protect your current job. A reference can casually mention that you are on a job search. If your company finds out it could jeopardize your job. The first rule of every job search is to protect your current job.

QUICK TIP: When starting an active search be sure to personally contact your references. A quick telephone call will refresh your contact information. When you are down to the final stages with a company and are expecting a job offer, after your references are checked, call your references again and inform them they will be called by that company. Be 100% confident your references will always say great things about you.

My candidate was a young, bright, marketing MBA junior executive. He worked for a global Fortune 100 company. To a recruiter, he was a slam dunk candidate for placement. After a successful phone interview, he flew to my client’s corporate headquarters for a full day of interviewing. He was scheduled for a breakfast meeting at the hotel, then off to headquarters for more interviews. Early on, things started to go wrong.

First, he was thirty-five minutes late to breakfast. He was supposed to meet the HR Manager at the front desk, but instead, he waited in his room for a phone call to come down to the lobby. In itself not a big deal, just a misunderstanding. He should have gone downstairs, but he thought they would call his room.

Soon, things got worse, he didn’t wear a suit; he didn’t even pack a suit. The daylong interviews were conducted as planned. The next day, my client’s feedback was positive in that he was a bright young man, but would not get a job offer because my client could not get over the fact that he did not dress appropriately. His casual dress was interpreted as a casual attitude. My candidate’s response was, "During career days in college most students dressed business casual." I thought, "Welcome to the real world of career building!" Casual attitudes usually lead to casualties.

Every candidate must understand the rules of interviewing engagement, stay mentally sharp and understand that business casual is not the dress code for interviews.

Your cell phone has become one of your most important business contact numbers. The national directory of cell phone numbers is about to be published. Once this happens, telemarketers will have access to your cell phone number. Your privacy and independence will be jeopardized by this new directory being released. Take the listed steps to protect yourself. These calls will use cellular minutes. In a few weeks, numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will begin receiving sales calls. To block your phone number, call 888-382-1222 from your cell phone and follow the easy prompts. When completed, you will be listed for five years.

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.