Preparing for your job interview improves your chances of securing a job offer or another interview. Thorough preparation will help you feel confident and in control throughout your interview, which are important traits for creating a good first impression. In this article, we will discuss how to properly prepare for a job interview.
How to prepare for a job interview basics
Job interview preparation is the process that makes you ready for a successful interview with a hiring manager. Your preparation should start as soon as you receive an interview invitation, and should continue until the interview begins. When you prepare well for an interview, you'll:
- Learn more about the vacant position and the hiring company
- Have more time to plan answers that showcase your skills and experience
- Appear professional
- Stay calm throughout your interview
- Communicate more naturally
How to prepare for your next job interview
Preparing for your job interview involves several steps that teach you about the job and fortify you mentally for securing it. Use this checklist to prepare for your next job interview:
1. Review the job description
Reviewing the job description helps you focus on the role you are interviewing for and its requirements. This is an important step when many people apply for several jobs at once. It will remind you of what appealed to you about this particular position and why you thought you were well suited to the role. Make some notes about the job description, including:
- What the specific job duties are
- The company's requirements and preferences
- What makes you a good candidate
- Any questions you have about the job or business
You will use your notes throughout your job interview preparation.
2. Research the company
Researching the company will tell you more about the role and the company's culture. Obtain information from the following sources for a comprehensive understanding of the business:
- Company website, including blog
- Social media pages
- Indeed company reviews
- News articles about the company – available through an internet news search
These sources will help you learn more about the business operations, recent events, its plans for the future and work atmosphere. If the job description named an employee, note any mentions of them you find. There is a good chance this person will interview you, so anything you learn about them could help you establish a rapport. Also, look out for the interests you share with the company. Perhaps it sponsors an event you regularly attend or gives to charities you care about. Mention these similarities to show how well you align with the company's values.
Pay attention to the company's products and services, including their features, so that you can speak confidently about them. If time permits, try the products or services yourself so you can offer a customer's viewpoint.
See whether the information you learn answers any questions you wrote after rereading the job description. There is no need to ask these questions during the job interview. However, your research may raise more questions. Note these additional questions down.
Read more: The complete guide to researching a company
3. Prepare responses to common interview questions
Preparing responses to common interview questions will help you answer the interviewer confidently. Also, by planning your answers, you'll be able to cherry-pick what you want the interviewer to know about your personality, skills and experience. Research common general interview questions and job-specific interview questions. Some common interview questions include:
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why do you think you are well suited to this role?
- What do you know about our business?
- What are your greatest professional strengths and weaknesses?
- Can you remember a time you dealt with a challenging customer? What happened and how did you resolve the situation?
- Tell me about a successful project you participated in. What was your role, and why was it a success?
Write down your answers, including examples that strengthen your points. Refer back to your notes and make sure your answers incorporate the reasons you felt you would succeed in the role. Also, remember to write a few different answers to each question, as interviewers often ask the same or similar questions more than once.
Practice saying your answers out loud so you can feel comfortable recounting them during the interview. You may like to practice in front of a mirror or record yourself. Watching yourself in action can help you notice habits, such as mumbling or fidgeting, you can correct to make you seem more confident.
4. Prepare questions for the interviewer
Most interviewers ask whether candidates have any questions at the end of the interview. Asking questions shows your interest in the role and commitment to ensuring you are the best fit. Preparing relevant questions will help you ask them naturally during your interview. Some of the questions you might ask include:
- Why is this position vacant?
- Is telecommuting an option in this role?
- What can you tell me about this role that was not in the job description?
- What are the prospects for growth in this role?
- Based on our conversation today, do you think I would be a good fit for the position?
- When can I expect to hear your decision?
Refer to any unanswered questions you jotted down while reviewing the job description and researching the company, then add these to your question list. Treat your list of questions as a starting point for the final phase of the interview, rather than a definitive script, because other questions might come to mind during the interview.
Read more: 9 best questions to ask your interviewer
5. Practice interviewing with a friend
Practising your interview technique with a friend will help you feel more confident during your job interview. Give your friend a copy of the job description ahead of time so they can prepare some relevant questions.
Your practice interview should feel as realistic as possible and customised accordingly. Vary your approach depending on the type of interview, like:
- Sitting at a desk and dressing professionally for a face-to-face interview
- Asking a few friends to help you out if you'll be having a panel interview
- Scheduling a time and keeping your phone on-topic, mirroring phone interview setting
- Using the same video conferencing platform as the one you'll use during the interview proper – this will give you a chance to become comfortable with the technology.
6. Review and print relevant documents
Review your cover letter, resume and any supporting documents, such as a portfolio for design jobs, before your interview. They should be up to date and error-free. Print them on high-quality paper, and place them in a professional-looking folder. Some interviewers ask for hard-copy versions of these documents during face-to-face interviews. Having these documents on hand will make you seem prepared.
7. Plan and prepare your outfit
Planning and preparing your outfit before your interview will help you look professional. The right outfit depends on the role. Suits are ideal for high-end corporate jobs, while business casual outfits are appropriate for most other roles. Also, a tailored jacket or blazer can dress up most outfits. Dress conservatively, but add a little colour to stand out.
You may like to try on a few outfits and see what looks and fits you best. Ask friends and family members for their opinions if you are unsure. A contact working at the company interviewing you may provide valuable insight into the dress code. As a rule, you should look slightly more dressed up than the average employee.
Once you have settled on your outfit, make sure it is clean and ironed. Suits need dry-cleaning, so leave enough time for this. Put on your outfit just before leaving to keep it wrinkle- and stain-free.
Preparing an interview outfit is essential, even for telephone interviews where you are not seen. Wearing professional clothes can help you feel confident and more in command during a telephone interview.
8. Arrive early for final preparation
Aim to arrive at any face-to-face job interview 30 minutes before your scheduled time. Starting your journey early reduces the risk of being late and making a negative first impression. It will also help you stay calm in traffic or public transport delays. Being calm during your journey will help you appear in control when your interview begins.
Use the time after you arrive for final preparation before your examination begins. Review what you plan to say and practise deep breathing to settle any nerves.
While you will not travel for telephone and video conferencing interviews, you should still spend at least 30 minutes preparing before your interview. It is also important you stop other tasks to devote your full attention to your preparation. Also, make sure your device is fully charged and you know what you want to say. When you focus early, it becomes easier to concentrate on the interview when it begins.