A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing for a Job Interview

Author: Chris Russell

The process of finding a job will inevitably include interviewing with prospective employers. Although sitting for an interview might feel intimidating and stressful, it’s something that everyone must do at one point or another. Preparing for an interview is crucial because it ensures that you are ready to answer the questions that will be asked of you. The better your preparation is, the less stressed you should feel about the interview.

Interview preparation starts with thinking about your goals and qualifications as they pertain to the position and employer. Effective preparation includes researching the company, reviewing the job description carefully, and outlining why you think you are a good fit for the job.

Carefully Examine the Job Description

Read and reread the job description to get a firm idea about what the job entails and what the employer expects. Generally, the job description should include a list of qualifications and qualities the employer wants in a candidate. The employer may also list the desired background for job candidates. Try to align yourself with these points to show the employer how you are qualified for the job. You might also get an idea about interview questions the employer might ask from the job description.

Consider Why You Are Interviewing and Your Qualifications

Before you sit down for an interview, think about why you want the position and why you think you are qualified for it. Prepare to explain your interest in the job and why you think you are a good fit to the employer.

Perform Research on the Company and the Role

Research the company as you prepare for an interview. This will help you converse knowledgeably during the interview, and it will help you think of questions to ask the interviewer. Research the position as well so you can ask pertinent questions.

  • Research the Product or Service: Know something about the products or services provided by the company so you can demonstrate your understanding of the purpose of the company. Knowing about what the company does shows that you are ready to be a part of the team and that you want to know all of the details. If the company provides highly technical services or products, you don’t necessarily need to know all of the complicated details. But you should at least have a basic understanding of the company’s mission.
  • Research the Role: Have a firm understanding of the requirements and responsibilities of the position for which you are interviewing. You might also research similar positions with other companies to get a better grasp of the job. Ask for more details and clarification about the role during the interview.
  • Research the Company Culture:
    The company culture is an integral part of any job. Explore the company’s social media accounts and blog to get an idea about the company culture and the tone and personality of the company. Ask questions about the workplace environment during the interview, if necessary. This would also be the time to find out about policies regarding vacation and sick time.

Consider Your Answers to Common Interview Questions

It’s impossible to predict every interview question, but you can prepare yourself for the common questions with planned answers. If you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer, pause and take a moment to formulate a thoughtful response. Some people develop a “pitch” that they use whenever an interviewer asks them to describe themselves. Be prepared for a skills test if you’re interviewing for a technical position. You should also be prepared to discuss your salary expectations.

Common Interview Questions

  • Why Do You Want to Work Here? Learn about the products, services, history, mission, and culture of the company. Give an answer that mentions the aspects of the company that appeal to you.
  • What Interests You About This Role? This is where you demonstrate that you’ve researched the position and you have the skills needed to fulfill the requirements. Choose a few of your most impressive and appropriate skills to highlight as you align yourself with the position.
  • What Are Your Greatest Strengths? Mention both technical and soft skills as you describe your strengths, attributes, and qualities that relate to the role.

Practice Your Speaking Voice and Body Language

Your voice and body language will have both an immediate and lasting impression on the interviewer. Speak confidently and portray friendliness with open body language. Practice in front of a mirror, paying attention to your stride, smile, and handshake.

Prepare Several Thoughtful Questions for the Interviewer

Interviewers expect candidates to have at least a couple of thoughtful questions about the company and/or position. Take time before the interview to prepare a few questions to ask when you’re invited to ask them.

Conduct Mock Interviews

When you prepare to give a speech, you practice it. The interview process is not unlike giving a speech, so it’s helpful to practice the entire interview process as you prepare for an interview. Practicing your answers helps you learn and remember what you want to say in response to common interview questions. It also helps you practice your delivery, voice, and body language so you’re confident and comfortable.

Print Hard Copies of Your Résumé

It’s likely that you already provided a digital copy of your résumé when you applied for the position. However, it’s a good idea to have a hard copy of your résumé with you to give to your interviewer. Bring along several copies in case there are multiple interviewers. Be aware of any issues highlighted in your résumé that you might need to explain, and prepare accordingly. For example, if you have gaps in employment, be ready to explain why. Always be honest in your explanations, and don’t speak negatively about a previous employer.

Prepare Your Travel Arrangements

If you are traveling to an unfamiliar area for an interview, plan ahead so you know how to get there. Leave early so you have plenty of time to arrive on time in case you encounter traffic or other delays. If something happens that prevents you from being on time, have your interviewer’s contact information so you can call.

Sell Yourself

Consider an interview to be your chance to sell yourself. Present yourself both accurately and positively to set yourself apart from other candidates. Highlight your skills that make you the ideal person for the job. If you have specific stats that show your accomplishments, share these with the interviewer.

Get Ready to Follow Up After the Interview

Always follow up with the employer after the interview by writing a thank-you note. This helps the interviewer remember you and shows your level of interest in the position. If you forgot to mention anything, mention these details in your follow-up communication.

  • Mention the job title and express your thanks in the first paragraph.
  • Note the company’s name and any goals you discussed with the interviewer in the second paragraph.
  • Invite the interviewer to contact you with any additional questions, and state that you are looking forward to hearing back in the closing paragraph.

About Chris Russell

Chris Russell has spent 20 years in the online recruiting space building job boards, recruiting apps and publishing a variety of content for the recruiting industry through articles, podcasting and webinars. Also a former talent practitioner, he’s a popular voice helping to inform the modern recruiter.