How to Prepare for an Interview

Preparation is one of the most important keys to a successful interview and potential job offer. Most interviewers will decide for you in the first 30 seconds of the interview. Your level of knowledge, experience, professionalism, and mannerisms you exude is critical throughout the interview process. Researching the organization and networking with any contacts there will help organize your efforts as you prepare to meet company representatives.

What should you do in the 24 hours before your interview? Here are a few last-minute tips to help you get together before the interview.

The Day Before

  • Get plenty of sleep so you can be alert and provide thoughtful answers to your interviewer.
  • If you need to find out where the interview is taking place, do a practice run before the interview. Check the gas tank or the bus/train schedule to help proactively avoid delays on the day of the interview.
  • Review your research on the organization and your resume. Make notes on the skills you acquired in each job or activity. Develop a shortlist of why your skills and experience match the position. Prepare a small list of questions for the employer. If you have a portfolio of your work, mark relevant pages to refer to during the interview. Think about what makes you stand out from other job candidates.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume, application materials, and a paper and pen if the interview is in person. Use a professional portfolio or bag to carry your materials.
  • Wear professional attire following your gender expression. Press and lay out your clothes, even if the interview is virtual.

   Overall suggestions:

  1. Dress in a dark or neutral color suit, dress shoes, and neutral hosiery.
  2. Keep make-up as natural as possible. 
  3. Minimize jewelry.
  4. Wear freshly pressed clothing and polished shoes.
  5. Hair should be neat, clean, and trimmed.
  6. Keep nails manicured. Avoid flashy or bright nail polish.

Interview Day

  • Eat a high-protein and high-carbohydrate breakfast to boost your energy.
  • Review your resume and notes.
  • Practice answering potential interview questions. This will help you feel comfortable with the process.
  • Read the newspaper or check the Internet to be prepared for the “ice-breaker” small talk around the day’s events.
  • Plan to arrive at the interview location 10-15 minutes before your scheduled interview. You should check the traffic conditions to help you plan your commute. On time is late, and early is on time!
  • Avoid perfume/cologne and smoking before the interview.
  • Carry a small portfolio to hold your resume and pen.
  • Do not wear your outerwear in the interview. Overcoats should be taken off before you go into the interview.
  • Do not wear sunglasses or headphones during the interview or while waiting for it to begin.
  • Check the weather before leaving for your interview. If it is raining, use an umbrella.

Twenty Minutes Before

  • Arrive with time to stop by the restroom for any last-minute touch-ups. Check for stray human and animal hair, shoulder flakes, and static cling. Before the interview, wash and dry your hands if you get sweaty palms.
  • Be courteous to all support staff, including the security guard. You must always find out who is providing input for the selection process.
  • While waiting for the interview, people watch and pick up clues about office culture. Observe how people dress and interact with one another. How diverse is the workforce? Will you feel comfortable working here?
  • Turn off your cell phone alarms before the interview.
  • Still nervous? Try taking slow, deep breaths to help you relax.

During the Interview

  • Be yourself!
  • Eye contact and smiles help build a connection with your interviewer(s).
  • Wait to be seated and sit in the chair in a straight position.
  • Try not to convey nervousness. Playing with items on a desk, swinging legs, or cracking knuckles will distract from your presentation.
  • Approach interactions with employers with care and professionalism.
  • Do not interrupt the interviewer. Listen to the questions carefully before answering the question.
  • Speak with confidence and enthusiasm.
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, do not pretend you do.
  • Take your time answering questions by being thoughtful with your answers.
  • Remember to ask them what the next step is and when you can expect to hear from them.
  • At the end of the interview, ask for business cards.

Things to Avoid

  • Remember to let the interviewer take the lead in the interview and not overpower anyone.
  • Refrain from welcoming yourself to the interviewer’s desk space by placing your portfolio on the desk. It is best to keep it on your lap at all times.
  • Do not chew gum or breath mints during the interview.
  • Do not use profanity, even if the interviewer does.
  • Do not give one- or two-word answers. Share answers that use your personal and professional history to prove how well you match the ideal candidate’s profile. Find a way to make small stories, narratives, and examples for each possible question you might be asked.
  • Do not call an interviewer “sir” or “madam.” Use the interviewer’s first name in the interview when appropriate, but do not overdo it.
  • You do not need to stand if someone enters the office during the interview. It is appropriate to stand if you are introduced to the person who has entered the room.
  • Sharing jokes or being overly humorous could cast doubt on the seriousness of your candidacy, so use your best judgment based on the situation.
  • Do not criticize others, including past employers or associates.
  • Do not listen in on telephone conversations or read or inspect documents on an interviewer’s desk.
  • Do not ask, “Will I get the job?”
  • Do not ask about salary, but be prepared to give a well-researched salary range if pushed for an answer.

After the Interview

  • Take some time to write down some impressions of the interview. List the names of the people you met. Did you mention something about your background that you would like to include in a thank-you note?
  • Within 24 hours of completing your interview, write a thank you email to the people you met.
  • Evaluate the interview by asking yourself which questions were the most challenging. Make notes about improving your interviewing skills before the following interview.
  • Contact the interviewer(s) if you are still waiting to hear from the company by the date they gave you.