Preparing for a Job Interview

Perhaps the biggest mistake made by some job candidates is going to an interview unprepared.  When looking for a job, it is in everyone's best interests to do everything possible to maximize the chance of being offered a position, and that includes coming prepared for the interview.

Job Interview Overview

Let's face it, the questions asked during an interview, and the exchange of information that takes place, is not how people normally communicate with each other.  It is a structured and formal process because of the very compressed time period in which the meetings take place.

It's also an important process to both the interviewer and the job applicant because a key decision takes place following an interview:  whether or not to make an offer of employment to an applicant.  Overall, the entire process is suboptimal, but it's the best solution the workplace has right now.  In the end, however, the same conclusion holds true:  Properly preparing for an interview can maximize the chances of being offered a job.

Because of the "unnatural" way in which the meeting is conducted, interviewing is a skill that everyone needs to develop.  The more time spent practicing this skill outside of an actual job interview, the better the odds of "nailing" a response during the meeting.

Preparation Steps

We've outlined six steps that anyone can use when preparing for a job interview.  Some of these steps, such as practicing questions and answers, can be done immediately.  For others, such as researching the company, it's better to wait until it's closer to an actual interview.

Practicing Questions and Answers

It isn't necessary to wait until there is an interview scheduled to start practicing answering and asking interview questions.  We've already put together several guides in this area including:

In those guides, there are examples of interview questions as well as techniques candidates can use and practice.  Preparing responses to interview questions ahead of time will help job candidates to stay relaxed when they're answering interview questions in front of the actual team.

Self Assessments

Whenever thinking about any type of change, it's always a good idea to step back and spend time doing some deep reflection.  Individuals can objectively examine their skills and accomplishments as an employee, and see if they really match up against their long-term career plans.

If anyone has a gap in a skill or knowledge area, now is as good a time as any to close it.  There are many self-help and self assessment tools available in the marketplace, as well as 360 degree feedback mechanisms.  Something as simple as a Myers-Brigg type indicator can help gain valuable insight into someone's makeup as a human being and a worker.

Updating a Resume

While completing the self-assessment and reflecting on past accomplishments, it's a good idea to update a resume.  Anyone that hasn't updated this document in a long time may want to review some of our very targeted information on resume writing.

There are two big takeaways from those articles we'd like to stress.  The first is to make sure the appropriate resume format is being used; one that highlights accomplishments, and compliments the chosen career path.  The second is to make sure any document sent to a potential employer, including the resume, is free of grammatical and spelling errors.

Write it, proof read it, and then share the document with a trusted friend.  Make sure all of the typos and mistakes are removed before a hiring manager ever sees it.

Research the Company

Before going on a job interview, candidates should make sure they've gathered and read through as much information as possible about a potential new employer.  While this research will certainly get everyone through the dreaded "Tell me what you know about our company?" interview question, it will also help candidates to relax during the meeting.

A quick visit to the company's website will usually reveal most of the information required during the meeting, but don't forget to take a look at a financial website such as Yahoo Finance to learn a bit more about their industry and competitors.  While knowing about a company itself is impressive, knowing something about their competitors and the industry itself goes even further.

Part of this research should also include knowing where the interview is located.  Plan to arrive 20 minutes before the scheduled meeting time.  Even if it's necessary to wait in the car, make sure to enter the building exactly 10 minutes early.

Dressing for an Interview

Never underestimate the power of first impressions.  First impressions on job interviews usually happen as soon as a candidate walks through a door, and the interview team looks at how they're dressed.  We have an entire topic dedicated to Dressing for an Interview, but here are some basic tips.

Try to understand what the corporate culture is like at each company, and combine that information with the type of position being pursued.  When all that information has been processed, it comes down to this:  dress for the part.  Also pay attention to details, especially shoes.  Another rule to remember is this: simple is better than flashy when it comes to jewelry.

Most job interviewers make the mistake of thinking no one will notice the small details.  People do, especially when it's their job to assess the candidate's fit as a future employee in their department.

Materials to Take on an Interview

The final item in our six step process is a list of materials everyone should bring, or gather, during the interview.  At the top of the list should be any background materials prepared such as fresh copies of a resume or other documents that are likely to be shared during the meeting.  Job candidate should also bring a pad of paper to take notes (sparingly), and a nice looking pen (a detail).

Make sure to get business cards from everyone participating in the interview process.  That makes it easier to address the thank you letters after the meeting is over.  That brings up the final recommendation.

Sending thank you letters is a simple way to leave a final good impression.  Even if the fit isn't a good one, make sure to send a thank you to everyone for the time they took out of their busy schedules to meet.  It's always possible they might call back for a job that is a better fit.


About the Author - Preparing for a Job Interview - (Last Reviewed on March 16, 2016)