36 Best Tips on How to Prepare for an Interview was written by Chloe Mcqueen and originally appeared on Savoteur. Chloe is the creator behind It’s Not Your 9 to 5, a UK based personal finance blog that teaches moms how to take control of their finances by saving money and diversifying income outside of their 9 to 5s. It has been republished with permission. Please note that contributing opinions are that of the author. They are not always in strict alignment with our own opinions.
Since the pandemic, the job market, how we work, and ultimately how we get interviewed have all changed.
To make the best interview impression possible, you need to be well-informed about the company and its products, know how to tackle tricky interview questions, and come across as confident and qualified.
The following 36 job interview preparation tips will help you make a great impression and ace your next interview, whether in person, online or over the phone.
Without further ado, let's get to the list!
How to Prepare for an Interview
1. Research the Company
Do your research ahead of time. It's essential to know as much as possible about the company, its products, its mission, and its values.
Not only will this help you answer interview questions more confidently, but it will also show that you're genuinely interested in the role.
As you do your research, ask yourself: Is this a company I want to join? Why? Already being invested in the company will show through in your interview.
Don't just use the company website and its social media accounts, as they will only have the information they want in the public domain. Use your network of industry friends and colleagues to find out what you can.
2. Try the Product or Service
While this may not always be possible depending on the company, try out the products or services if you can.
It's a great way to equip yourself with knowledge, show interest in the company, help you come up with questions, and connect with the interviewers.
3. Research the Job Role
Hopefully, the advertisement or recruiter has provided a detailed job description. But it often pays to think about this a little more as you start your interview preparation. Try to identify the essential requirements the role needs. Think through what this job might require. Is there something else you could bring or add to it? How can you help them be successful?
4. Interview Format
It's essential to know who will conduct the job interview. If you expect a one-on-one interview but walk into a room of 5 people facing you like some kind of inquisition – it might throw you off your A game.
Of course, many post-pandemic interviews will occur online as people travel less and have hybrid or remote working. Your interviewer might not even be in the same country as you or your future workplace.
Try to establish things like the number of interviews and interviewers.
- Any practical interview elements
- Any tests needed
- Is it face-to-face?
- Is it by video or phone or is it a combination of all 3?
As you establish the interview format, understanding who will interview you will help your preparations. Often it's more than one person – maybe the hiring manager or someone from HR.
But sometimes the specialists can be wheeled in – maybe Technical or IT. Understanding this will help your interview preparation. You can never fully predict the questions, but based on their role in the company, you can make an educated guess on what they might ask.
6. Me, Myself, and “I”
A job interview is your opportunity to showcase yourself. If you are lucky, someone may have recommended you for this role, but regardless, the best person to showcase ‘you' is ‘you.'
Prepare and plan your best stories so you have a go-to library to answer any questions. Talk about what you did. That's the “I.”
Think about a successful interview and prepare your stories to deliver it. Link them to critical items in the job description with data to substantiate the content.
- I was responsible for delivering a project with an $Xm budget.
- I led a team of X people in Y countries.
- My ideas and initiative saved thousands of $$$'s over two years.
- My streamlined process reduced the time to market by X months and saved X hours or valuable resources.
7. Authentic and Genuine
Always be authentic and genuine. As you showcase yourself, YOU MUST hold on to these values. Don't make things up to make yourself sound more important or accomplished. You will get found out at some point, which will not be good.
8. Gaps and Defense
Depending on your character, you will probably think this job is perfect for you, and you tick every box. Or you will consider every requirement in detail and think you have some gaps or something that potentially stops you from getting this role. Everybody has some gaps, and no one is perfect, so reach for that role!
By preparing your defense for those little chinks in your armor, you can increase your chances of landing the role.
If you have no experience in the job or sector, consider what transferable skills you can bring.
For example, the interviewer may ask, “You don't seem to have had many direct reports?”
And you can respond with, “I had a small number of direct reports but extensive in-direct reports spread across multiple countries and time zones, which required my skills to motivate and get the best from them even when they didn't report to me.”
9. Common Job Interview Questions
Often, the answers to common interview questions are in your CV, but the interviewer is likely to ask anyway, just to corroborate what you wrote to what you are saying now.
Additionally, you might still get asked classic interview questions: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What would you describe as your biggest strength? What is your biggest weakness?
Eye rolling as they might be, you need to prepare for these interview questions. There are loads of practice questions on the internet to help you here.
10. Behavioral Interview Questions
If the interview does not go down the route of classic questions, you might be faced with other questions that are helping them evaluate your behavior or core values in the workplace.
These will be detailed questions, often starting with, “Can you tell me about a time when…”
Situations like this are perfect for you to showcase how great you are for the job and why they should hire you.
Plan out some responses, which are themed around the following:
- A time when you had to make a decision with a lack of data.
- A time when you had to decide under time pressure.
- A time when you had to make an unpopular decision.
- A time when you had to make a decision that went against your manager's direction.
- A time when you were asked to do something you were uncomfortable with.
Each response should define the situation and explain what “you” did along with the outcome. For bonus points, you can add additional learnings and what you would do better if there were a next time.
11. Your Questions
At the end of every job interview, you will always have time to ask any questions to the interviewers. You must ask questions even if you don't need any more information.
Ask questions where you want to know more, but try to avoid subjects such as pay, time off, and benefits. You can discuss these contractual subjects with HR once you receive a formal job offer.
If you struggle to think of questions, always have a couple of backup ideas, maybe something to connect you further with the interviewer.
- Why did you want to work for the company?
- What do you enjoy most about working there?
- How would you describe the company culture?
It's also ok to make a list of questions and bring them out at this point, highlighting how you have thought and prepared for the interview.
12. Illegal Questions
Interviewers should never ask about race, gender, age, religion, family planning, marital status, or sexual orientation.
Sharing any of that in your responses or stories is totally up to you.
However, people don't always stick to the rules, so you need to be prepared with a response if you get asked something you shouldn't.
By rights, you can say:
- I am not sure you can ask me that.
- I am not sure how that relates to my application for this role.
Or answer without answering, like a politician.
“My focus is on my development and commitment to delivering for my employer. It's hard to predict what opportunities will come in the future.”
13. Thinking Time
How often have you finished an interview and felt, “I could have answered that better, or I should have said that!”? Often nerves and adrenaline take over and can lead to rushing an answer.
Give yourself some thinking time by developing questions and strategies to give you a moment to think.
Here are some suggestions:
- Clarify the question by responding with, “Let me make sure I understand the question.”
- Delay by saying, “What a great question. I haven't heard that before.”
- Ask for time, “Can you give me a moment to think about that?”
14. Practice or Mock Job Interviews
Practicing interviewing with someone, like a trusted colleague, recruiter, friend, or partner, is a great idea.
Try to predict things you may get asked based on what you learned about the company, role, and interview process. Alternatively, just practice answering questions about the strong points and stories you want to get across in the interview.
In addition, practice things you are not solid or comfortable answering to polish your responses.
15. First Impressions Matter
The first five minutes of an interview are critical. The first impressions you make can define how the whole interview will go.
Focus on being confident, positive, and energized without coming across as an over-caffeinated crazy person.
How can you communicate the importance and your appreciation for this opportunity? Consider an early introduction of your positive view of the company and the work they are doing.
16. Connect With the Interviewer
Employers often look for someone they can relate to, connect with, and will fit in with the team. This is human nature.
You may find instances where someone is looking for a change or disrupter, but this goes against the norm; expect the interviewer to communicate if they want something different.
It is best to find ways to connect with the interviewer like maybe they have a particular problem that this role intends to fix. This may allow you to show care and empathy for their situation.
17. Be Assertive
Being assertive does not mean being bullish, overconfident, or pushy. The purpose of the interview is to sell yourself as you get asked questions to showcase your skills. Sometimes this might not go your way, and you will need to steer the interview to points you want to get across.
You must be polite, respectful, concise, and articulate. You must answer the questions but think of ways to expand or connect the points you feel are missing.
- In addition, I also…
- Similar to that…
18. Be Concise
I have mentioned a few times that the job interview is about selling yourself. A critical factor in your success will be doing this concisely.
Keep your answers concise; don't stray off topic and waffle. You will lose the interviewer's attention, and they won't be able to record your responses effectively.
This links strongly with the mock interviewing practice mentioned earlier, especially if you know you are a bit of a talker!
Staying positive throughout the interview is a must, but some questions may trip you up or make this challenging.
- Tell me about a time when a project failed.
- What's the worst thing about your current job?
- Tell me about a situation where you had to deal with conflict.
These questions could make you talk negatively about yourself, your peers, colleagues, or employers. So how do you respond? All of your worst experiences will have had some positives or taught you something new. This is where you should focus.
“My project failed as we did not get the scope and resources we needed from the start. Since then, I have worked hard with all parts of the business to get the scope and resources signed off and never start a project if it has gaps. This taught me the importance of ensuring a project is set up for success before it starts.”
20. Be Clear if You Want the Role
You would be amazed how often I have heard the phrase, ” I am not sure how much they want this role.” when the interviewers are deliberating an offer. Don't leave the interviewers with any doubt.
A good finishing or closing statement is critical here. If you want the role, let your interviewers know.
“Thanks so much for your time today. The role sounds even better than I expected. It aligns perfectly with my career goals, and the company sounds amazing. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
21. Be Prepared With Hard Copies of Your Resume
It never hurts to be prepared. Always take clean, crisp copies of your resume (CV) and cover letter to an in-person interview. Take more copies than you need and hand them out at the start of the interview.
The worst thing that can happen is the interviewer says thanks, and they already have it. But you certainly don't want the situation where you leave someone out and have to say, “Sorry, I don't have enough for you.”
It's often hit or miss if the recruiting company will ask for references. In any case, you need to be prepared with at least two people and their contact information for the company to contact for references. You can often include these on your resume or put “References on request” at the bottom.
Try to select people and connections that have some relevance to the role. Having references of people you have recently worked with or know are a good choice. A referee from a job you did 20 years ago looks a little strange.
23. Be Natural
Although I mentioned practicing mock interviews, don't feel pressured to learn your responses verbatim. If you do, you won't come across as natural; even worse, it won't sound like you are talking about yourself.
Your stories and responses are yours, so you already know the details. The skill here is to have your list of stories and answers planned in your head, linked as answers to potential questions.
For example, you know ahead of time that if they ask about leadership, you can talk about your team. If the interviewer asks about financial skills, you can talk about the budget you managed and the project P&L. If they ask about managing conflict, you can tell them about the time…
24. Plan Your Travel
Plan to be early. The last thing you want is to be running into a job interview all hot, sweaty, and flustered from being late or on a time crunch.
Anything you can do in advance will help, like filling the car with gas ahead of time, buying transportation tickets in advance, or adding money to travel cards beforehand. Add extra time to the journey plan for rush hour, school pick-up times, accidents, etc.
If the interview location is not far from where you live, it helps to do a practice run.
25. Pack Your Bag In Advance
Planning continuously improves the interview experience, and packing your bag the night before will help you rest and save time in the build-up to the interview.
Here are things to pack for an interview:
- Essentials like hard copies of your resumes and reference list.
- A fully charged laptop (especially if you are making a presentation).
- Flashdrives with presentation (just as a backup).
- Tickets or travel confirmation.
- Powerbank or charge cables.
- Water, mints, gum, snack.
26. What to Wear to an Interview
It's hard to be too descriptive here since the workplace is ever-evolving. If you are in doubt, go for the more professional look; it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. Ensure you and your interview clothes are clean, neat, and tidy from the top of your head to cleaned and polished shoes.
Getting this right can also impact your confidence. If you look and feel great, it moves your spirit up a notch.
The last tip in this section is to go easy on your perfume or cologne. You don't want your interviewer choking or eyes watering due to your overwhelming scent. It will distract from the great showcasing you are doing.
(If it's a virtual video interview – don't worry too much about your shoes or perfume!)
27. Body Language
Don't underestimate the power of body language in a job interview, which can say a lot about you.
Your posture should indicate your engagement and interest in the role. Sit straight and slightly forward, never laid back and slouching. Think about a relaxed arm position. For example, folding your arms during questions can appear closed and defensive.
Keep your facial expressions positive and friendly.
28. Eye Contact
Eye contact is essential. It helps you connect with the interviewer and communicates your interest.
Virtual or video interviews can be a little easier here, as the screen size and being on camera makes it less noticeable. Watch out if you use multiple screens at home or the place where you have your interview. Just make sure you the screen you use and camera are in the same location to ensure you are looking at the interviewer.
Try to keep single-person interviews casual, as if you are talking to a friend. You don't need to make eye contact 100% of the time, but not far off.
For interviews with multiple people, ensure you look at each interviewer equally and don't just look at the person who asked the question. Engage everyone in the room by changing your eye contact while answering.
You don't need to consider handshakes for virtual interviews, which are an area of uncertainty since the pandemic.
Use this to your advantage by being confident and taking the lead. S something as simple as, “Is it still ok to shake hands?” It can break the ice as you agree to shake, fist bump, elbow tap, or whatever.
If you handshake, ensure it is firm without too much strength; nobody likes a crushed hand.
Unless you care for someone who needs to be able to contact you – and only you – 24 hours a day, turn your phone off for the interview. Vibrating phones are still a distraction.
31. Room Set-up
For virtual interviews, the easiest option is to use a background. Keep it simple and professional, or opt for the software's blurred effect background. Maybe leave the beach scene background for another day.
32. Virtual Interview Lighting
Probably the most challenging thing to get right is the lighting. It may require a test run with a friend or colleague.
Too much backlight makes you look like you are in witness protection, and your interviewer won't be able to see you. Too much front light may make it look like you're in a spy movie.
33. Internet Connection
You cannot control your internet speed for a virtual interview, but you can maximize the bandwidth during your job interview time. Ensure no one in your home downloads big files or live streaming, and try disconnecting a few devices.
Easier said than done the night before an interview, but a good night's sleep is essential. Think about the nights building up to the interview and get a few successive nights of good sleep. This will help you prepare for the interview.
Ease up on the coffee the day before and the day of your interview.
35. Follow-Up After the Interview
Following up or sending a thank you note is often a good idea after a job interview. It confirms your interest in the role, allows you to add any critical information you may have missed in the discussion, and keeps you in the interviewer's mind.
An e-mail is sufficient but needs to include the following points:
- Thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity, and make sure to reference the role.
- Include some points that relate to the highlights of your interview, but also reference some points they shared with you that interested you.
- Offer to answer any further questions and sign off with something along the lines of, “Looking forward to hearing from you soon.”
Every job interview is an opportunity to learn, develop and hone your skills. Make notes soon after the interview for things that went well, not so well, and what you would do differently next time.
The job interview is a critical part of the hiring process, and it's essential to be prepared for it. This list of best job interview tips helps you prepare for your interview, aids with tips for the interview, and for the post-interview process. Now breathe and land your next job interview!