The key steps to take when preparing for a job interview are to research the company, practice answering the common interview questions, learn how to make a great first impression, and be able to convey why you’re the right person to hire.
Do it, and you’ll be ahead of 9 out of 10 other candidates. But the secret lies in how you do it. Otherwise, this effort will be for nothing.
To help you do this right, we’ll:
- Talk about how to prepare for an interview
- Give you lots of practical tips
- Touch on the most common interview questions you might get
How to Prepare for an Interview: Step-By-Step Process
Interview preparation is a process, and you’ll need to be strategic about it to ensure you don’t miss anything. Here’s a walkthrough that can serve as your roadmap.
Research the company
Put your detective hat on and gather as much information as possible about the company.
How your job interview will go largely depends on how you tailor your responses. The trick is to demonstrate you’ve done your due diligence. Additionally, this research will give you an opportunity to come up with smart questions for the hiring manager.
The intel will also let you better understand your prospective employer’s values and culture and check if you fit in.
Here’s how you can approach this:
- Review the company website and social media. Get a sense of the company culture, online presence, brand, mission, and day-to-day. Pay extra attention to recent accomplishments they share on their digital channels — these can provide excellent talking points. You can also look up company and industry news.
- Next, learn about the company’s products and services. Even if the role you’re applying for doesn’t require you to be directly involved, understanding what the company does is important (you’ll still be part of the team). Having a basic understanding of the company’s product portfolio shows your enthusiasm and proactivity — green flags hiring managers look for in candidates. If anything’s unclear or if you need more intel, you can always talk to current and past employees.
Study the job description
Your main goals here are to:
- Identify key responsibilities and requirements. Go through the job description in detail and highlight key responsibilities and requirements. Apart from helping you come up with responses that will prove you’re capable of meeting all the expectations, this dot-the-i approach will allow you to evaluate if you have what it takes to slay at work.
- Reflect on how your skills and experiences align. Once you have a good understanding of key responsibilities and requirements, think about how your skills and experience match up with the job description. Make a list of specific examples that illustrate your competence for the role — this will ease some of the interview stress.
Prepare your answers to common interview questions
Obviously, you can’t be absolutely sure about what questions you’ll get during the interview, but there are some common interview questions that tend to pop up frequently. Start by making a list and studying the best answers. Then, tie your expertise and experience into possible responses.
Some of the most common interview questions include:
- Tell Me About Yourself
- Why Do You Want to Work Here?
- Why Should We Hire You?
- Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?
- What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
- Describe Your Current Position and Responsibilities.
- Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Every question requires a slightly different strategy, but the closest you can get to a universally good approach is by using the STAR method. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result and it’s an effective way to structure answers to behavioral-based questions and nail even the trickiest ones.
TL;DR: Describe the context and the challenge you faced, then tackle the approach you took to solve it, and finish strong by sharing the quantifiable outcomes of your actions. If applicable, emphasize the positive impact or lessons learned in the process.
- Situation: payroll processing at your company was taking too long as the team started scaling beyond 50 employees.
- Task: optimize payroll and save time.
- Action: found an automated payroll software provider and negotiated a 20% discount.
- Result: over 10 work hours a month saved.
If you’re a student and feel like you have absolutely no experience or situations to refer to here, think about your volunteer work, team projects at school, difficult exams, or sport competitions. Everything counts!
Finally, practice your answers out loud. Quietly reading your answers to yourself isn’t enough. It’s much better to rehearse them — it will help you become more comfortable with what you’re saying. Plus, acting out makes it easier to identify areas that need improvement. When you hear and see yourself talk, you’ll have a much better idea about your tone, pacing, and body language.
This will feel uncomfortable at first. No one likes to hear themselves talk, but — 90% of candidates won’t do this for the same reason. This extra effort will make you seem much more comfortable (and confident) than the other candidates..
You can take this Free Course to practice and stand out from other applicants.
Conduct mock interviews
Practice makes perfect, so besides going over your answers in front of the mirror, conduct a couple of mock interviews. This tactic is great for building confidence before the real thing.
You can find a friend or family member to help. Fill them in on the job details and give them a list of the frequently asked questions. Ask them to go with the flow and improvise to make the mock interview as authentic as possible. Don’t hesitate to recreate the legit interview atmosphere by dressing up, being serious, and arriving on time. They won’t be able to grade your actual answers, but they could tell you if you’re being authentic.
If you’re too shy to enlist someone you know, or if you want expert advice (which friends and family just can’t give), you can use interview preparation tools to improve your interview chops.
There are tools that can help your improve your interview chops through video lessons and mock interviews. You can record yourself on camera and get instant feedback on your delivery, including filler words and body language. Many candidates have more success with this approach because of the actionable, specific feedback. Just take a look at the screenshot below and what kind of info an interview practice tool can give you:
Prepare the questions to ask the interviewer
As the end of the interview approaches, the interviewer will ask Do you have any questions for me? Use this opportunity to ask 2 or 3 questions. Believe it or not, this can be a make-it-or-break-it situation — interviewers will expect you to have a few questions about the company’s growth, culture, or the position you’re applying for. The worst thing you can do is act clueless or make the rookie mistake of saying No, I think we covered it all.
Some basic rules to follow here:
- Don’t ask about the salary and days off.
- Don’t ask about things you could have learned from the company’s website or the job ad.
- Don’t memorize your questions by heart, it will make you sound robotic. The best questions you can ask are related to what you talked about during the interview — this showcases your active listening skills.
Not sure what to ask? Check out this list of 40+ questions to ask the interviewer.
Plan your outfit in advance
Crop tops may be all the rage, but not the best choice for a job interview.
Here’s how to know what kind of clothes will be considered appropriate:
Research the company dress code. Remember the cultural fit notion? It applies to your clothes too, so don’t show up over or underdressed. Some companies have a stuffy dress code while in others it’s casual Friday all year long.
Pro tip: The company’s social media provides clues as to what “dressed for success” means for them.
Bottom line — choose professional and comfortable attire. Find the pieces that are neither too loose nor too tight. As for colors, you can’t make a mistake with staples like black, grey, and navy. You can accessorize and put on some jewelry but don’t go overboard — a watch or a pair of earrings will do.
Plan the logistics
On the day of the interview, you’ll already have a lot on your plate, so it’s crucial to minimize the stress of running late or realizing you haven’t packed your portfolio. So do these things in advance to ensure a smooth and stress-free experience:
- Identify interview location and format. Will it be an in-person or video interview? For a physical interview, confirm the exact address, floor, and room. If it’s an online event, be sure to test the platform ahead of time to prevent technical issues that could throw you off balance. It’s important to double-check the time and date (and take the potential time zone difference into account).
- Arrange transportation. All sorts of things can go wrong in traffic — accidents, road closures, a jam-packed parking lot, you name it. To make sure you’re on time, plan your route the night before and leave in plenty of time to account for heavy traffic. Shoot for arriving 15-30 minutes ahead of time (and find a nearby spot for coffee if you arrive too early). It’s much better than the stress of being late.
- Prepare necessary documents. Organize all your documents, including the resume, cover letter, references, and work portfolio. Make several copies of each and store them in a professional-looking folder. If it’s a remote interview, have digital copies at hand so that you can easily access and share them.
Rest and relax the night before
No parties before the big day! If you’ve been out and about the night before, trust us, it will show.
Why you need a good night’s sleep:
- You’ll think more clearly. Essential when answering interview questions and staying focused.
- You’ll be less stressed. Your body and mind combat interview anxiety better when you’re well-rested.
- You’ll look your best. Glowing skin and zero bags under your eyes for a great first impression.
- You’ll be in a better mood. Being sleep-deprived can make you feel irritable and come across as less enthusiastic.
Most interviews take place in the morning, and you’ll need to be alert, operational, and presentable. Try to have an early night so that you’re rested in the morning. Otherwise, you’ll be less attentive and able to respond. If you’re anxious and can’t sleep, try to calm your nerves by watching your favorite ASMR video, a sleep meditation, or listening to a podcast. Whatever usually works for you.
And if you’re a neurodivergent candidate, check out this article on neurodiversity challenges that will help you prepare for the interview. If you’re applying internationally, check out top interview tips for international remote jobs.
Bonus Interview Preparation Tips & Tricks (So That You Don’t Forget Anything)
So here’s how to prepare for an interview using 6 practical tips.
Make a great first impression
First impressions are long-lasting, and you don’t want to mess yours up. There are a few things that are particularly important for a good first impression:
- Arrive early. Being punctual shows you’re reliable and responsible. And being late can give the impression that you don’t value the opportunity. If you’re interviewing from home, make sure your video conferencing software is updated and sign in a few minutes early. This video interview checklist can also come in handy.
- Smile and be polite to everyone you meet. For a great first impression, it’s important to be respectful and polite to everyone you interact with, not just the interviewer.
- Show your personality. This will help the interviewer get a better sense of who you are beyond your qualifications and experience. Remember, employers are not just looking for someone who can do the job, but also for someone who will be a good fit for the company culture and work well with their team.
- Offer a firm handshake. Nothing can destroy a first impression as fast as a weak handshake (many interviewers’ #1 pet peeve). Nobody’s expecting an insane death grip, but you should know that a handshake tells a lot about you as a person. A strong grip leaves a lasting impression and means you’re confident, trustworthy, and professional.
- Don’t interrupt. The unwritten rule of effective communication — take turns in conversation. Although interviews are pretty structured (you’re expected to speak once you’ve been asked a question), be attentive and pay attention to what the interviewer has to say. If you have any questions, avoid interrupting — it disrupts the conversation, signals disrespect, and could qualify you as aggressive and impolite.
Stay positive and enthusiastic
Interviewers want to see that you’re genuinely interested in the company and the role. You’ll have a much better chance of standing out as a candidate and securing the position if you show passion and enthusiasm.
To do that, you should use positive, energetic language and show that you’re excited about the potential to contribute.
Another thing — avoid speaking negatively about your past employers and experiences. Even if you feel your last job was a nightmare, saying so could create doubts about your professionalism, character, and ability to work with others.
Instead, focus on showcasing your skills and accomplishments in the previous job to show how this experience prepared you for the position you’re interviewing for.
Listen and respond
It’s common for candidates to give in to anxiety and disengage from listening in order to prepare for what they’re going to say. Try to stay focused.
Being attentive and knowing how and when to respond are key skills for any job, and the interviewer will be scanning for signs of active listening like nodding your head, eye contact, asking for clarification, affirmations, etc.
Listening carefully and paying attention to what the hiring team is saying will signal that you’re respectful, interested, and enthusiastic to learn more about the company and the job.
Also, listening will help you answer the questions more effectively. Avoid being rash and reacting immediately. Instead, take some time to process the question. This way, you’ll be able to respond deliberately and provide relevant and meaningful answers. This will boost your chances of being selected!
Use strong body language
It’s what you don’t say that counts too. It’s important to exude confidence and to do so, you’ll need to be conscious of your body language, especially things like your posture, eye contact, hand gestures, and voice.
- Sit straight with your shoulders back and head held up. Good posture communicates confidence, enthusiasm, and professionalism, and signals you’re in control.
- Make eye contact. Non-verbal communication is more important than you think, and eye contact is especially crucial during a job interview. It shows confidence and self-assurance, indicates honesty, and helps establish a connection between you and the interviewer.
- Use hand gestures. All of us speak with our hands sometimes (some people and cultures more than others). Interviewers are trained to check your body language to see if it matches what you’re saying. For example, not using any hand gestures signals indifference and may make the interviewer think you’re not very enthusiastic about the job, no matter what you say.
On the other hand (pun absolutely intended!), having your hands open and down reads like “I’m 100% certain of what I’m talking about.” Just like with everything else, don’t overdo it (it will look strange and staged), but make it as you and as natural as possible.
- Modulate your voice. This is a fancy way of saying that you need to be mindful of what the tone, pitch, and pace of your speech are like. In a nutshell — speak clearly and confidently (and don’t rush). This will make you sound capable and self-assured. Vary your pitch and tone to engage the interview and avoid speaking in a flat manner and in a monotonous voice, as it will make you seem dull and disinterested. Finally, speak more slowly when you’re about to say something that really matters.
Emphasize your unique selling points
Many job seekers get uncomfortable at the idea of “selling themselves,” but presenting yourself in your best light does not have to feel awkward. No matter how self-conscious or modest you are, you have skills and experience that set you apart and it’s fully okay to acknowledge that about yourself.
If this is difficult, follow these simple steps:
- Identify your unique selling points. Before the interview, make a list of the skills and achievements that set you apart from other candidates. Still struggling? Think about how your skills will be used in your job role and how they will help contribute to the overall goals of the team.
- Prepare examples and stats. For each point you identified, prepare specific examples that demonstrate how you’ve used that skill to grow and succeed in your previous roles. For instance, what percentage of overall sales were you responsible for in your last Starbucks position? How much did your previous companies’ social media engagement grow when you were managing it?
Whatever accomplishments you have that are relevant to the position will be a great asset for your interviewer to know. Don’t be shy about sharing your accomplishments and give them all the reasons why this job should be yours. You got this!
Send a thank-you note after the interview
A thank-you note is definitely not a must, but it’s a great way to stand out. The interviewer will appreciate the gesture and take a mental note of your interest and attention to detail.
Make sure to include these 3 things:
- Express gratitude for the opportunity
- Reiterate your excitement and interest in the role
- Address any additional points or concerns
Here’s a template you can use (but make it your own 🙏🏽):
Thank you for taking the time to speak to me [today/on Monday]! I really enjoyed our conversation. I especially liked [something specific that the interviewer mentioned in the interview].
I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to hear about the next steps. If you need me to provide anything else, let me know, of course.
It’s important to send your thank-you note within a few hours after the interview. You can also personalize it by recording a Loom video or getting a handwritten card and adding it to your email as an image.
It’s simple – preparing for an interview will increase your chances of landing the job. The most important steps you should take are:
- Spend some time researching the company, what they do, and the people there
- Explore the most common interview questions and prepare your answers
- Practice answering them aloud and connect your answers to the requirements from the job description
- Show up confident and ready to convey why you’re the right person for the job
- Don’t forget the “little things” like your outfit and getting proper rest the night before
Need a hand? There are 3 ways we can help:
- Learn how to turn job interviews into offers. (Rated 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users)
- Learn how to stand out from other candidates by taking this free interview course
- Check out these interview questions for all kinds of interview scenarios
How can I be confident in an interview?
You’ll be a lot more confident if you prepare. To express confidence in an interview, make sure you research the company and the role you’re applying for, and prepare responses to commonly asked questions. Dress professionally, be on time, and be mindful of your body language. Avoid filler words and don’t be afraid to mention your accomplishments and results.
Is it okay to be nervous before an interview?
Everyone feels some anxiety before a job interview. It’s how your body prepares you for a challenge. Being nervous doesn’t mean you’ll mess up your interview, but you’ll feel more at ease if you’re well-prepared.
How long do interviews last?
Most in-person and video interviews last between 45 and 90 minutes. Initial phone screening interviews can be only 15-20 minutes long. If you’re asked to complete a task, the interview may take longer.
Should I memorize interview questions?
You should memorize specific things about the company (e.g. their product names, mission, or values) and key metrics from your resume. Other than that, avoid scripted answers or memorizing an example answer you’ve read online. This will make you look and sound inauthentic.
How to prepare for a job interview on Zoom?
Most in-person rules apply to video interviews too: research the company and the role, practice answering common interview questions, dress for the occasion, and don’t be afraid to show your personality. You’ll also need to test your equipment, have a plan B if your connection is shaky, and make sure you’re in a quiet room with minimal background noise.