You have your job interview scheduled—congratulations! Now it’s time to prepare for your interview to ensure you make the best impression possible and leave the hiring manager feeling positive about your candidacy.
In this article, we provide an overview of how to succeed in an interview, along with a detailed discussion surrounding each point for before, on the day and after the interview is complete.
Before the interview
In the days before your job interview, set aside time to do the following:
1. Research the company and interviewers
Understanding key information about the company you’re interviewing with can help you go into your interview with confidence. Using the company’s website, social media posts and recent press releases will provide a solid understanding of the company’s goals and how your background makes you a great fit.
2. Practice your interview answers
Prepare your answer to the common question: “Tell me about yourself, and why are you interested in this role with our company?” The idea is to quickly communicate who you are and what value you'll bring to the company and the role—this is your elevator pitch.
3. Reread the job description
You may want to print it out and begin underlining specific skills the employer is looking for. Think about examples from your past and current work that align with these requirements.
4. Use the STAR method
Prepare to be asked about times in the past when you used a specific skill and use the STAR method to tell stories with a clear Situation, Task, Action and Result.
5. Practice answering questions with someone
Practicing your answers out loud is an incredibly effective way to prepare. Say them to yourself or ask a friend to help run through common questions and your answers. You’ll find yourself gaining confidence as you get more used to saying the words.
6. Prepare a list of references
Your interviewers might require you to submit a list of references before or after your interview. Having a reference list prepared ahead of time can help you quickly complete this step to move forward in the hiring process.
7. Be prepared with examples of your work
During the interview, you'll likely be asked about specific work you’ve completed in relation to the position. After reviewing the job description, think of work you’ve done in past jobs, clubs or volunteer positions that show you have experience and success doing the work they require.
8. Prepare smart questions for your interviewers
Interviews are a two-way street. Employers expect you to ask questions: They want to know that you’re thinking seriously about what it would be like to work there. Here are some questions you may want to consider asking your interviewers:
Can you explain some of the day-to-day responsibilities this job entails?
How would you describe the characteristics of someone who would succeed in this role?
If I were in this position, how would my performance be measured? How often?
What departments does this teamwork with regularly?
How do these departments typically collaborate?
What does that process look like?
What are the challenges you’re currently facing in your role?
After you’ve spent time preparing, you can be successful on interview day by practicing these tips:
9. Plan your interview attire the night before
If you speak to a recruiter before the interview, you can ask them about the dress code in the workplace and choose your outfit accordingly. If you don’t have someone to ask, research the company to learn what’s appropriate.
10. Bring resume copies, a notebook and a pen
Take at least five copies of your printed resume on clean paper in case of multiple interviewers. Highlight specific accomplishments on your copy that you can easily refer to and discuss. Bring a pen and a small notebook for note-taking. Prepare to take notes, but not on your smartphone or another electronic device. Write information down so you can refer to these details later in your follow-up thank-you notes.
11. Plan to arrive 10–15 minutes early
Map out your route to the interview location so you can be sure to arrive on time. Consider doing a practice run before your interview day. If you’re taking public transportation, identify a backup plan if there are delays or closures.
12. Make a great first impression
Don’t forget the little things—shine your shoes, make sure your nails are clean and tidy, and check your clothes for holes, stains, pet hair and loose threads. And remember to smile.
13. Treat everyone you encounter with respect
This includes those on the road and in the parking lot, security personnel and front desk staff. Treat everyone you don’t know as though they’re the hiring manager. Even if they aren’t, your potential employer might ask for their feedback.
14. Win them over with authenticity and positivity
Being genuine during interview conversations can help employers easily relate to you. Showing positivity with a smile and upbeat attitude can help keep the interview light and constructive.
15. Respond truthfully to the questions asked
While it can seem tempting to embellish your skills and accomplishments, interviewers find honesty refreshing and respectable. Focus on your key strengths and why your background makes you uniquely qualified for the position.
16. Tie answers to your skills and accomplishments
With any interview question you answer, tie your background to the job by providing examples of solutions and results you’ve achieved in your career so far. Use every opportunity to address the requirements listed in the job description.
17. Keep your answers concise and focused
Remember: Your time with each interviewer is limited so be mindful of rambling answers. Practicing your answers beforehand can help keep you focused.
18. Don't speak negatively about previous employers
Companies seek to hire problem solvers capable of overcoming tough situations. If you’re feeling discouraged about your current job, focus on what you’ve gained from the experience and what you want to do next.
After the interview
When your job interview is over, give yourself the best chances of moving forward by doing the following:
19. Ask about next steps
After your interview, it's appropriate to ask either your interviewer, hiring manager or recruiter about what you should expect next. This will likely be a follow-up email with results from your interview, along with additional requirements like an assignment or reference list or another interview.
20. Send a thank-you letter after the interview
If your interview is in person, ask for the business card of each person you speak with so you can follow up individually with a separate thank-you email. If you interviewed in the morning, send your follow-up emails the same day. If you interviewed in the afternoon, the next morning is fine.