Tips For Preparing For An Interview

By Maddie Lloyd - Apr. 5, 2021

Find a Job You Really Want In

If you have a big interview coming up, you’re probably already in a frenzy of mentally rehearsing your answers for the most common interview questions and trying to figure out what to wear to show off your best and most professional self.

You might be wondering: “Am I doing everything I can to best prepare for my interview?” And while practicing your answers and having the proper attire are essential to getting ready for an interview, there are other steps you can take to prepare and ease your interview jitters.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to prepare for a job interview:

1Review the Job Description

Read over the job description that was given in the job posting. Look for keywords about required skills or training, knowledge, and professional and personal qualities that are needed to be successful in the position.

Use this information to figure out what exactly the company is looking for in an ideal candidate. That way, you can be prepared to walk in and show them that you’re just what they’re looking for.

We recommend highlighting all of the action words in the job description in one color and all of the adjectives and skills in a different color. Look for words that get used more than once, as they’re probably a priority for the employer.

That way, when you start preparing your answers, you can be sure to incorporate a lot of the same language from the job description.

2Make a List of Your Skills That Match the Job Requirements

After you’ve read up on what skills and qualities are essential the job, make a list of your own qualifications and match them up to the job requirements.

Try to think of at least ten assets you have that line up with the job requirements, and bring some of them up to the interviewer when you explain why you’re perfect for the job. These assets could be:

This preparation will help you answer job-specific interview questions that employers ask to figure out if you have the knowledge, skills, and qualities needed to get the job done.

3Think of Stories to Back Up Your Answers

You don’t want to go into an interview and have an employer think that you’re all talk. Think of examples from your work, volunteer, and personal experiences to show off that you actually possess these qualifications. Pro Tip: Make sure to use numbers to quantify your stories whenever possible.

When you have these stories in your back pocket, you’ll be ready when the interviewer asks you to describe a time that you used these specific skills or abilities.

For example,

“I have experience organizing fundraising events from my volunteer history with Planned Parenthood. In fact, volunteer participation increased 30% during my term as Director of Fundraising.”

Sounds a lot better than:

“I have terrific ability organizing fundraisers, by the way. Everyone agrees, I have fantastic ability.”

Behavioral interview questions are very common these days, and they involve the hiring manager or recruiter asking you about your past experience as a way of predicting your future performance.

Since it’s impossible to prepare for every possible question of this type, we recommend coming up with stories related to common topics like:

By having stories ready to cover these general topics, you’ll be prepared for the vast majority of behavioral interview questions an interviewer can throw at you. Now it’s time to format them in a coherent and compelling way.

Use the STAR method (situation, task, action, result) to structure your stories in a way that’s easy for the interviewer to understand.

4Practice Your Interview Answers With a Friend or Family Member

Practice makes perfect. No, but really — take some to practice answering the most common interview questions that you can expect to hear on the big day.

This will give you a chance to practice your answers, while also helping to control your interview jitters. When the time comes, your brain won’t be in a frenzy trying to scramble together an answer on the spot.

If you’re going to have a phone interview, ask a friend to call you to practice. If you’re going to be the subject of a panel interview, ask a few friends to get together and act as a firing squad.

The more times you go through your introductory spiel, answers to important questions, and asking questions that sound polished and professional, the easier time you’ll have at the actual interview. Practice your delivery, your content, body language, and tone, and get feedback from your mock interview helpers as you go.

5Research the Company

Find out as much as you can about the company before you go into your interview. This research will help you prepare to answer questions about the company, like “What do you know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?” and it will help you think of questions to ask the interviewer.

Check out the company’s website and look for an “About Us” or “What We Do” page. Read articles about the company online on industry websites, and check out company reviews from clients and current and former employees.

You can also check out professional social media pages like LinkedIn, or more casual ones like Facebook and Twitter, to see how the company interacts with their customer base.

You want to find out basic information such as:

  • The company’s values and/or mission statement

  • News articles featuring the company (don’t bring up negative press)

  • The company’s primary competitors

  • Challenges the company/your potential department is facing

  • Who the company’s target audience is

  • What service or product the company provides

  • How big the company is, generally speaking

6Brush Up on Your Interview Etiquette

It’s probably a good idea to get up-to-date on your interview etiquette so you don’t walk in looking like a disorderly gorilla.

Make sure to greet everyone you meet politely and with a smile. Use proper body language, like standing and sitting up straight, looking your interviewer in the eye, and looking attentive and interested.

There are specific etiquette rules for different types of interviews. For example, the etiquette you use for a lunch interview will be different from the etiquette of a phone interview.

Regardless of the format, though, good interview etiquette requires that you arrive 10-15 minutes early (no earlier, because that’s also a bit rude and makes you look like you don’t have anything else going on). It also usually involves a handshake, smiling, and a bit of polite small talk.

Most of all, good interview etiquette is about following the hiring manager’s lead. Personality mirroring is kind of cringy, but it’s also hyper-effective when meeting new people that you’d like to impress.

7Prepare Questions for the Interviewer

This is a big one. When an interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” there are a few questions you probably shouldn’t ask, but the worst answer by far would be to say “no.”

A few questions you can ask employers are:

  • What does a typical workday in this position look like?

  • What projects are currently being worked on?

  • What’s your favorite part about working here?

  • Can you tell me about the history of this position?

Here’s a helpful barometer for determining if a question is good or bad: if the question is mostly focused on you and your needs, it’s a bad question, while if it’s primarily aimed at the employer’s needs, it’s a good question. Of course, these questions are also to help you decide whether this job is a good fit for you or not.

To that end, we recommend questions like those listed above because they serve both roles. They inquire about information that’s necessary for you to make a decision while also keeping the focus on how you can add value to the company or fit in with the existing culture.

For a more detailed list of questions to ask interviewers, check out this article.

8Bring All of the Necessary Interview Materials

Nothing says “I’m perfect for this position!” like having your life together. The night before an interview, go ahead and gather everything you need to bring with you all in one place so you’re ready to go.

It might be helpful to make a list of everything you need to bring. This list would include:

  • A padfolio

  • Extra copies of your resume

  • Your list of references

  • A notepad

  • A pen for taking notes, and maybe one extra — just in case!

Check out this article to learn more about what you need to bring to an interview.

9Have Your Outfit Ready the Night Before the Interview

Don’t wait until the last minute to pick out your interview clothes. Otherwise, you’ll just show up looking like a mismatched wrinkly mess.

Have a set interview outfit that’s ready to go when you need it. That way, you won’t have to facetime your mom and ask if your socks match your pants during the time that you could be using to prepare your interview answers.

Make sure to always dress in professional business attire and be well-groomed. You can also go the extra mile and research the dress code or call the company up and ask. Even if the company looks casual, however, we always recommend erring on the side of going overly formal. First impressions are everything, so you’ll want to make yours a good one.

Check out this article on how to dress for an interview to get some inspiration.

10Get Directions

Make sure ahead of time that you know exactly where you’re going and how to get there. If you’re not sure of how to get there, use a GPS to find the best route to the company.

It’s proper interview etiquette to arrive 15 minutes early, so always leave a few minutes early to give yourself plenty of time to get there and find parking.

You don’t want to show up to your big interview late and stressed out. For your first impression, you want to give employers the ol’ razzle dazzle, not the ol’ frazzle spazzle.

11Go to Bed Early

Go to bed a little earlier than you normally would the night before an interview. That way, you can show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed instead of looking groggy, grumpy, and complaining about how you haven’t had enough coffee.

Plus, this will set you up for getting up earlier on the day of your interview, which will allow you to take your time getting ready.

Final Thoughts

Interviews can be stressful, but taking the steps to prepare can help take the edge off and allow you to show up cool, calm, and collected rather than anxious and stressed out.

Interviews are all about making a positive impression. The better impression you make, the better your chances are of getting the job.

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Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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