If you’ve ever looked for a job, you know a job search has many components: researching, updating your resume, writing cover letters, networking, managing job applications, and, most importantly, interviewing.
The interview is your opportunity to convince the interviewer you’re the best person for the job. It’s your sales pitch. Present your qualifications with confidence and enthusiasm, and you’re more likely to stand out and get the offer. Interviewing can feel intimidating, but if you follow these guidelines, you may soon find yourself at the top of the candidate list.
1. Do your research
The clearest path to a successful interview is preparation. To start, download a job interview checklist. Most of these lists begin with researching the position, the company, and the industry. The sooner you start that research, the better.
Review the job description carefully. Note the skills and attributes the company seeks and comb through your experience to identify relevant skills. Think about how you’ve demonstrated these skills in the past. Scrutinizing the job description is essential if you’re moving into a new career (consult a career change checklist for guidance).
Next, study up on your potential employer. Good sources of information are the company’s website and social media pages, employee reviews on sites such as Glassdoor, and search results for recent articles or publicity the company has received. If you know the names of the people you’ll meet, learn about them on LinkedIn.
2. Hone your story
An internet search will bring up many common interview questions. If you’re interviewing for a role in a particular industry, you may find information relevant to both. Take some time to review interview questions, think of ways to highlight your qualifications, and prepare answers that show why you’re the ideal candidate. The STAR method is a great way to structure your responses (for help writing STAR responses, look for job interview prep worksheets that use this method).
Brainstorm other questions your interviewer may ask and prepare questions you might want to ask as well, to highlight your knowledge and interest in the company.
Also, consider your first impression. You’re likely one of many applicants. Can you share a work-related story or common interest that will help you stand out in the interviewer’s memory?
3. Practice, practice, practice
Acing an interview takes skill, and improving a skill requires practice. Once you’re confident that your answers help you put your best foot forward, rehearse. Ask a friend or family member to sit for a mock interview with you. Treat it as if it’s the real thing and be mindful of how you present yourself.
You can even record it to review later. Examine not just what you say but also how you say it.
Do you sound confident, energetic, upbeat? Look at your body language and facial expressions. Are you smiling? Are you maintaining eye contact? Repeat the mock interview process if you need to, but don’t try to memorize your responses. You should sound authentic, not robotic.
4. Arrive ready
Now that you’re prepared to nail that interview take care of all the other details. Choose your outfit a few days before and make sure it’s clean, pressed, and appropriate for the job. Figure out your transportation logistics, get an accurate idea of how long it will take to get there, and know where you can park if you’re driving. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your interview starts and factor that into your travel time.
Although by now you’ve likely sent in your resume, it wouldn’t hurt to download a resume writing checklist and take another look at the version you provided. Print a few copies and place them in a professional-looking bag or organizer along with pens, business cards (if you have them), and any certifications, industry membership cards, or other documents that might help you stand out.
Remember to include your portfolio if it’s required and your driver’s license or other identification.
In the event of an online interview, you may have some additional considerations. Ensure you have reliable internet access, and your equipment works and is fully charged (or you have access to an electrical outlet). Find a quiet environment with a neutral background, so nothing is distracting. Avoid bright windows or fluorescent lights. Finally, look at the camera instead of the screen (try practicing with a friend ahead of time).
The night before, eat a nutritious dinner and avoid anything that could disrupt your sleep, such as alcoholic beverages or spicy foods. Try to get a solid seven or eight hours of shuteye so you’ll wake up rested and ready.
Once you get there, remember to silence your phone or turn it off altogether. If you’re feeling a little nervous, take a few minutes to sit up straight and center yourself. Being nervous is normal, but you’ve done your homework. You’ve got this!