Some people can walk right into an interview and knock it out of the park without even raising their heart rate. (Wouldn’t we all like to have that kind of confidence?) But if you’re anything like the average job seeker, interviews aren’t exactly high on your list of fun, stress-free things to do.
The good news is, there are some practical steps you can take to help you prepare for an interview—so you can go in excited and ready to ace it. Here are my top nine tips for preparing for an interview!
1. Study the job description.
Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding the role you’re applying for. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s position: Would you want to hire someone who just went ahead and applied for the heck of it without really knowing what they were applying to do?
Really take the time to learn what they want and expect from a candidate for this position. And if you have the specific skills and qualities mentioned in the job description, be intentional about working those into your interview!
2. Find out who the company is.
Notice I didn’t say “what the company does”—you (hopefully) already know that. I mean find out who the company is at their core. What are their values? What’s their mission statement? What do they believe in? Why do they do what they do?
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You can find answers to all these questions by doing thorough research on the company. Scour their website, read any materials they’ve published, and check their social media accounts. You can usually tell a lot about a company just by looking at the stuff they choose to post online (maybe they’re super buttoned up and professional, or maybe they sprinkle some jokes in their feed). All of these are good details to keep in mind.
So, what do you do with this information once you have it? Well, first of all, use it to determine if this company is truly a good fit for you. If you’re finding out some things about their culture you just can’t get behind, then why even bother going through with the interview? On the flip side, if you’re discovering the company’s values and mission line up with what you’re passionate about, it will be that much easier to bring passion and enthusiasm into the interview process. Any hiring manager would love talking with a candidate who’s genuinely on board with what the company’s doing and how they’re doing it. That can give you a huge advantage!
3. Ask about interview format.
There are all different kinds of job interviews these days—phone, video, traditional, competency-based (where you’re asked specific questions to determine your skill level), panel, group, and the list goes on. Don’t be afraid to ask about the specifics of the interview so you can prepare accordingly.
Most hiring managers will offer this information ahead of time, but regardless, it’s always a good idea to get clarification. There’s nothing like getting dressed up and driving somewhere for an in-person interview when it was really supposed to be on Zoom, and you could’ve been wearing pajama bottoms the whole time (kidding—you still need to dress well, even over video).
4. Make connections.
I’m a firm believer in the power of relationships and their ability to help you land the right job for you, so put some effort into making real connections. Find current or past employees via LinkedIn or by reaching out through mutual friends and ask if you can take them to coffee to get their insight on what it’s like to work for the company. They can help you get a feel for the company culture, and it never hurts to see a familiar face on the day of your interview.
5. Use the product.
Every company has something they do, sell or produce. If possible, do whatever you can to use the product or interact with it in some way before your interview. That could mean reading their books, listening to their podcast, watching their YouTube content, shopping at their store, downloading their app—you get the picture.
Of course, this will be easier to do with some companies than it will with others, but the point is to have firsthand experience with their product (or at least have more than a surface-level knowledge of it). This will set you apart because it shows you’re serious about the company and care about seeing things from the customer’s perspective.
6. Practice answering interview questions.
Yes, really! As weird as it might seem at first, practicing your interview with a friend or mentor can help you feel way more confident on the day of the interview (but pick someone who won’t make you laugh the whole time). Give your mock interviewer a list of common interview questions and ask them to throw in some curveballs so you can practice thinking on your feet. Then run through it just like a real interview!
This will also give you a chance to prepare and practice some questions you’d like to ask the interviewer since they’re pretty much guaranteed to ask you if you have any questions at the end. Here’s one word of caution, though: Practice is great, but a robotic and rehearsed-sounding answer isn’t. Focus on getting comfortable with the interview scenario rather than memorizing what you’re going to say.
7. Decide what to wear.
Pick out an outfit a day or two before your interview. It will help you make sure you’re not scrambling around on the morning of, trying to find matching socks or that blazer you only wear once a year. Plus, you’ll have plenty of time to dry-clean, repair or iron anything that needs it. Keep the company culture and dress code in mind when choosing your interview outfit. But if you don’t have access to that information, think smart casual or business casual.
8. Print copies of your resumé.
Obviously, since you’ve been asked to interview, the recruiters have already seen your resumé.
But it’s still a good idea to print out several copies and bring them with you in a folder! This will help the hiring manager to have a quick point of reference when they’re asking you about your work history, and you’ll look super prepared and professional. Win-win.
9. Figure out logistics.
Knowing exactly where you’re going and how to get there will help avoid a lot of jitters when you’re on your way to an in-person interview. Take the time in advance to get the exact address of the interview location and look up directions (you could even drive there the day before to scope it out). Ask your point-person at the company for details on where to wait or check in once you get there and make sure you have their contact info handy in case you get lost. If it helps you, write an itinerary for yourself that spells out where you need to be and when—especially if you’ll be interviewing with multiple people in one day. And as always, leave your house with plenty of time to spare so you can arrive early, breathe, focus, and be ready to nail it!
For more in-depth advice on winning the interview, check out my free Interview Guide! And keep in mind that following up afterward is almost as important as the interview itself.