How to Prepare for an Interview

Preparation is one of the most important keys to a successful interview. Most interviewers will make a decision about you in the first 30 seconds of the interview. Your level of knowledge, experience, professionalism, and the mannerisms you exude are very important throughout the interview process.  Researching the organization, as well as 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 yourself 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 are not sure 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. Come up with 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.
  • Press and lay out your clothes even if the interview is virtual!
  • If the interview is in person, bring extra copies of your resume, other application materials, paper, and a pen. Use a professional portfolio or bag to carry your materials.
  • Wear professional attire in accordance with 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. Avoid flashy or bright nail polish.
  3. Minimize jewelry.
  4. Wear freshly pressed clothing and polished shoes.
  5. Hair should be neat, clean, and trimmed.
  6. Keep nails manicured.

Interview Day

  • Eat a high-protein, 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-breaking” small talk around the day’s events.
  • Plan to arrive at the interview location ten to fifteen minutes prior to your scheduled interview. You might want to 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 a 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. If you get sweaty palms, this is a good time to wash and dry your hands.
  • Be courteous to all support staff including the security guard. You never know who is providing input for the selection process.
  • While you are waiting for the interview to begin, people watch and pick up clues to 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 prior to the interview.
  • Still nervous? Try taking slow, deep breaths to help you relax.

During the Interview

  • Eye contact and a smile are important to 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.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s).
  • Do not interrupt the interviewer. Listen to the questions carefully and do not respond until the question is asked.
  • Speak with confidence and enthusiasm.
  • If you do not know an answer to a question, do not pretend that you do.
  • Take your time answering questions; be thoughtful in your answers.
  • Remember to ask them what the next step is and when you can expect to hear from them.
  • Be yourself!
  • 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 to overpower anyone.
  • Do not welcome 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 profile of the ideal candidate. To do this, find a way to make small stories, narratives, and examples for each of the possible questions that 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.
  • If someone enters the office during the interview, you do not need to stand. It is only appropriate to stand if you are introduced to the person who has entered the room.
  • Sharing jokes or being overly humorous during an interview could cast doubt on the seriousness of your candidacy 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 forget to 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. What questions were most difficult? Make notes for yourself about how you can improve your interviewing skills before the next interview.
  • If you still have not heard from the company by the date they gave you, go ahead and contact them.