How To Prepare For An Interview

By Jack Flynn
Oct. 19, 2020

Find a Job You Really Want In

The good news is that your application was a success, and with that you’ve gotten over your first hurtle on the path toward that brand new job. That being said, now that you’ve landed an interview, it’s vital that you funnel your excitement and motivation towards preparation.

After all, coming across as prepared and knowledgeable will flag you as a good candidate for the workplace right off the bat. Further, knowing what you’ll want to say will do wonders to reduce your nerves, which will also increase your performance.

But you might be wondering, “What’s the best way to prepare?”. Fortunately, here’s 10 easy steps you can take to properly prepare for a job interview.

1. Analyze the Job Description

Though it might seem obvious that you know what you applied for, it can still be valuable to review the job description. Look for keywords about required skills or experience, and make sure you thoroughly understand what tasks you’d be expected to perform when working the position.

The employer wouldn’t post this information if it wasn’t essential, and they wouldn’t have selected you for an interview if they didn’t believe you could fulfill the requirements. Therefore, use the job description to discern what the company is looking for in an ideal candidate.

Doing so will also shape the way you answer questions and talk about your experience in a way that fits what the employer is looking for. After all, if you were applying for a landscaping job, it makes a whole lot more sense to talk about your gardening experience over your babysitting experience.

2. Research the Company in Question

After looking over the job description, you’ll want to understand the details of the company in question.

What are the company’s standards, quirks and goals? What separates this company from other, similar companies? Before your interview, it’s important that you thoroughly research the organization you’re applying for, as you’ll come across as a motivated person who does their homework.

Doing so will also prepare you for questions like “Why do you want to work here?”, because you’ll be able to give a concrete example as to why you like this specific company, rather than a vague one about simply enjoying the type of job you applied for.

A helpful tip that can make your research easier is to check out the company’s website and look for an “About Us” or “What We Do” page. These pages often give condensed and easy to digest information about the organization, and you should pick out a few details you can bring up in the interview.

For example: “After researching your organization I believe I’m a perfect fit, as I wholeheartedly support outdoor learning environments. I have over 6 years of experimental education experience myself, and I’m passionate about the evaluation system you’ve implemented at your school.”

3. Outline your Most Important Qualifications

Researching the job description and the company will guide you in how you should present your most important skills and qualifications. Think of at least ten skills that you have that match the job requirements. These could include:

  • Hard or soft skills

  • Personal or professional qualifications

  • Certifications

  • Work or volunteer experiences

  • Education

  • Tool proficiencies

After you take the time to think about what makes you an ideal candidate, you should write down your assets so you can rehearse them in your head. This will allow you to memorize important details, and reduce anxiety levels during your interview.

Overall, this preparation will help you answer the job-specific interview questions the hiring manager will ask, and allow you to come across as knowledgeable, experienced and qualified.

What are some quick tips for preparing for an interview?

Thea Kelley
Job Search Interview Coach

First, be proactive in your interview preparation by identifying what aspects of your background, skills and strengths really differentiate you from other qualified applicants. Presumably, everyone they’re interviewing has the basic qualifications. What do you have that’s more, better, unique? That’s what you need to emphasize throughout your interview.

You might call those your key selling points. I call them REV Points because, in order to really make you stand out, these points need to be Relevant, Exceptional and Verifiable. I explain how to identify and use your REV Points in a free report that you can get by subscribing to my job search tips blog, The Great Job Sooner Blog.

And of course, make sure you’ve prepared for all the likely questions. Make sure your answers are concise (rarely longer than a minute), specific, and focused on why you’re the right person for the job.

4. Memorize Three Relevant Stories

After you think about your skills, you should find ways to weave them into personal examples from your past. After all, it’s important to back up your words with real life experience.

Think of examples from your work, education, or volunteer history where you showcased some of the ten skills you wrote down. When in doubt, try to make your stories more relevant and believable by adding dates and quantifying numbers.

Doing so will allow the hiring manager to get to know you better, and give them concrete reasons to believe what you say. For example, if you were to focus on your skills in graphic design and teamwork you could say something like,

“I utilized my Graphic Design degree from Art University when I worked at Dog Co. In 2017, my team and I worked together to create a new logo for the company’s dog food brand, and the logo increased sales by 11%.”

As you can see, sharing specific stories to backup your skills is extremely valuable when answering the employer’s questions. When you combine the two, you’ll be set to shine in your interview.

5. Think of a Question or Two to Ask the Hiring Manager

What should I ask the hiring manager?

Joe Mangum
Promoted Resume

In my view, this might be the most important part of an interview. Your questions will directly reflect your desire to work there, your ability to influence the organization, and your “fit” within the culture. I coach our clients to find someone who works at the company and pick their brains about what it’s like to work there. This will help formulate questions.

  • Business questions about the market, growth plans, and innovation are always good.
  • Questions about what it takes to be successful in that particular role are very helpful
  • Clarifying questions about the role and job description will show that you are intuitive and give attention to detail

If you’ve ever been interviewed before, you know the hiring manager will hit you with the classic “Do you have any questions for me?”. If you’re unprepared, you might not have anything to ask, but unfortunately, saying “no” is by far the worst way to answer.

Therefore, you should prepare a list of appropriate questions to ask, so you can give the impression of being highly interested in the position.

Some relevant questions you can ask employers are:

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

  • What projects are the company currently working on?

  • What’s your favorite part about working here?

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

  • What would you say are the company’s most important values?

Obviously, you shouldn’t go overboard, but picking out one or two questions you favor and being prepared to ask them will do wonders for your interview performance. Remember you listen intently to the hiring manager’s answers, and maintain a polite attitude throughout.

6. Brush up on Proper Language and Etiquette

Speaking of a polite attitude, it can also be wise to brush up on proper language and etiquette before going into the interview.

Leave a good first impression by giving the hiring manager a polite and upbeat greeting. Saying “I’m pleased to meet you”, and shaking their hand is ideal.

Next, be sure to monitor your posture, body language and eye contact. Even if you’re nervous, do your utmost to maintain eye contact when you’re listening to or speaking with the hiring manager. When in doubt, pick a spot on the bridge of their nose, glasses or brow to focus on if their eyes make you uncomfortable.

In addition to eye contact, you’ll want to sit up straight and without your limbs hanging out of your chair in any weird ways. Of course, you don’t want to be too uptight, but lounging is definitely not the way to go.

And finally, all the steps mentioned previously will help you to maintain professional language and grammar. If you rehearse what you’re going to say beforehand, you’re less likely to slip up and use informal speech like y’know, yeah, kinda etc.

7. Practice with a Friend or Family Member

Now that you have a game plan for your interview, you can solidify all this information in your mind by taking some time to practice. After all, practice makes perfect.

Ideally, schedule a meeting or call someone you know. This can be a friend, family member, or acquaintance, as long as they’re willing to give you honest feedback. Ask them to bring up different questions an employer might ask, and have them mix things up if you do multiple interview attempts.

This practice will allow you to further memorize your answers and examples, and leave you more prepared for questions you may not be expecting.

8. Know What Materials to Bring with You

After practicing what you’re going to say, and as you’re watching the days draw closer, you should also prepare any materials, projects or other items you need to bring with you.

Sometimes employers will ask for certain materials, and sometimes they won’t. Either way, nothing says “I’m perfect for this position!” like having useful materials together when you sit down in front of a hiring manager.

Therefore, you should make a list of everything you need or want to bring. This list could include include:

  • Your portfolio

  • An extra copy of your resume

  • Your list of references

  • A notepad and pen or two for taking notes

  • Any projects or requests the hiring manager asked for

You can gauge what you need based on the type of position and formality of the interview, but usually, bringing any of these items with you will only serve to increase your chances of getting the job.

9. Prepare your Desired Appearance the Night Before

As your interview draws closer, a good way to calm your jitters is to get everything together the night before. This includes your appearance, as you don’t want a last minute decision to leave you with mismatched socks and full bedhead.

Rather, set your interview outfit out in a memorable place the night before, so you can be ready to go the next day.

If you’re not sure what to wear, you can judge based on how formal your interview is. For less formal interviews, some slacks, khakis, or a skirt with a button up shirt will do. However, a suit and tie or dress may be necessary for fancier interviews.

After you’ve decided on an outfit, you’ll then want to consider what you’re going to do with your hair. Make sure your hair is out of your eyes, and if necessary, use hair gel or pomade to do so. If you have longer hair, a ponytail can be a good option. In addition, if you have facial hair, make sure you’ve either shaved or that everything is well groomed.

Think about what makes you look and feel most professional, and make your decision the night before the interview. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to get ready in the morning.

10. Get Directions

Finally, the night before your interview you should double check the location. Get an idea of how long it will take you to commute, and calculate the best time you should leave the next day.

This will give you a better idea of how long you have to get ready, and also assist in helping you get enough sleep.

Remember to add some extra time, as it’s proper interview etiquette to arrive 15 minutes early, and you never know how difficult it will be to find parking.

Now you’re Ready for your Interview!

While interviews can be stressful, following these ten steps will help take the edge off, and leave you prepared to knock those questions out of the park.

Interviews are all about making a positive impression. The more positive, motivated and qualified you seem, the more likely you’ll be hired. Stay calm and remember your training.

Good luck!

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Jack Flynn

Jack Flynn is a writer for Zippia. In his professional career he’s written over 100 research papers, articles and blog posts. Some of his most popular published works include his writing about economic terms and research into job classifications. Jack received his BS from Hampshire College.

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