Feeling nervous ahead of a job interview is normal. There’s a lot on the line! You’ve dedicated time and effort to preparing your resume and sending out applications, and now it’s time to seal the deal by nailing the interview. Put your pre-interview jitters to rest and set yourself up for success by following the steps in this interview preparation checklist.
How to prepare for an interview
1. Review the job description
Job postings offer a wealth of information about what the hiring manager is looking for, which can help you formulate the strongest possible answers to their questions.
Review the job description and take notes on the keywords, skills, and qualities most emphasized. Refer to these as you create talking points and rehearse interview answers (more on below).
2. Research the company
Interviewers almost always ask what you know about the company. This helps them understand what you value in an employer and gauge your investment in the position.
Use Google, the company’s website, social media, and news outlets to research the organization. While you won’t be expected to know about the company in intimate detail, you’ll want to understand what they do, how the business is structured, where your role fits in, and any recent company developments.
3. Research your interviewer(s)
Learn as much as possible about who you’ll speak with on interview day. Salespeople do this all the time to refine their pitch, tailoring their selling points to the needs and preferences of their target customers.
Use LinkedIn, Google, and bios on the company’s website to find out your interviewer’s job title, role within the organization, background, and level of interaction with the job you’re seeking. Use this intel to help you prepare.
In addition to helping you come up with better answers, knowing your interviewer can help you anticipate what kinds of questions to expect. If you’re interviewing for a software engineering role, for example, the head of HR will ask different questions than the CTO.
4. Create a list of talking points
Using the information you’ve gathered on the job, the company, and your interviewer, create a list of the most important talking points you want to discuss during the interview. This could include highlights from your background, your top professional accomplishments or contributions you hope to make in the role.
Write or type your talking points on a single sheet of paper and keep it handy to reference during the interview. While you don’t want to read directly from the sheet or look at it constantly, it’s a helpful safety net if you get tripped up by a question and need to get your train of thought back on track.
5. Rehearse with frequently asked interview questions
Some questions are almost guaranteed to be asked no matter what job you’re applying for. Here are a few examples:
- Why do you want to work here?
- What do you know about this company?
- What is your biggest strength?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Why are you leaving your job?
Think through how you’ll answer these, working in your talking points where possible.
It’s a good idea to rehearse your answers out loud. Try saying them in the mirror, on camera so you can watch them back, or even by practicing with a trusted friend.
6. Prepare your own questions
Another very common interview question: “What questions do you have for me?”
In addition to giving you all the information you need about the job, the questions you ask give the interviewer additional context on what’s important to you and where your head’s at.
Jot down a few questions to help you decide if the position is right. If you don’t have many questions, it doesn’t hurt to come up with a few anyway that will reflect positively on you as a candidate.
Here are some good questions to ask an interviewer:
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What kind of professional development opportunities does the company offer?
- How do you define and measure success in this role?
- Can you tell me about the team I would be working with?
- What are the next steps in the hiring process?
Unless you’re in the advanced stages of the recruiting process, this is not a good time to bring up questions about salary, time off or perks. Those topics are best discussed once you’re at or near the point of receiving an offer.
7. Choose your interview attire
The appropriate attire for an interview will depend on your industry. In fields like legal and finance, a full suit is a norm, whereas, in more laid-back fields like tech, a button-down and dark jeans may be acceptable. In most cases, the right outfit for an interview will fall somewhere between business casual and business professional.
Wash and press your interview outfit in advance and lay out all the pieces the night before. This will ensure there are no fashion emergencies like being out of clean socks or discovering a missing button on your suit jacket the day of your interview.
8. Print several copies of your resume
Even though the application process may have been fully digital, most hiring managers like to have a hard copy of a candidate’s resume in hand during an interview. Print out three to five copies and bring them with you to your interview in a neat folder.
If you’re applying for a job requiring a portfolio, you’ll also want to prepare a hard copy.
9. Pack the essentials
While you don’t want to show up to an interview with an overstuffed bag, coming prepared with a few essentials is a good idea. Pack a notepad, pen, and water bottle in a professional-looking bag, briefcase, or purse. It’s also advisable to stock your wallet with a little cash in case you need to feed a parking meter or tip a valet.
10. Review the directions
If it’s an in-person interview, go over the directions and ensure you understand how to get to the correct location. If it’s a video interview, ensure you have all the technical details covered, like installing the correct video conferencing app and having the meeting link handy.
11. Prepare physically
You’ll perform your best when you feel your best. Directly before your interview, get a good night’s sleep so you’re well rested and have a light meal that’s rich in protein to help you feel energetic and focused.
If you’re traveling to get to the interview, leave the house earlier than you need to. It’s far better to arrive 10 minutes early than 10 minutes late.
Finally, don’t forget to take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Landing an interview is a great step in the job search process; regardless of the outcome, it’s good practice. The more you hone your interviewing skills, the stronger they’ll become and the more likely you’ll be to land the job you want.