How to Prepare for a Job Interview: 30 Essential Tips

The more prepared you are, the better are your chances of landing the job.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Preparing for a Job Interview Guide

Job interviews can be tough. However, they’re usually an unavoidable part of jobhunting. They bring you and the employer together, and allow you to prove your worth. But for that to happen, there is usually some preparation involved.

We’ve all made interview mistakes in the past, but with some practice, you can ace your upcoming interview.

Our comprehensive guide will walk you through the most important aspects of the interview process and provide you with the necessary tips to guarantee success.

Before the interview

Preparing for your interview in advance gives you confidence and helps calm your nerves — this is key to interview success. However, practising your answers to common interview questions is not the only way to be proactive before the big day.

Here are the things you need to do in the lead-up to an interview:

1. Confirm your availability

The first thing you need to do is accept the interview appointment with the employer. You should respond to their email invitation or telephone call promptly. If, for some reason, you can’t make the requested time or you need to reschedule afterwards, then you need to let them know as soon as possible.

2. Research the role and company

Prepare for the interview by reading back over the job description, the selection criteria and your application. Reflect again on what makes you the best fit for the role, and think of experiences in your life that you can draw from to demonstrate. 

You should also read up on the company; look over the employer’s website, particularly the “About Us” section, and their latest press releases. LinkedIn is also a good place to look for the employer’s most recent news.

3. Dress for success

Plan your outfit, and have everything ready the night before. Dressing the part will boost your confidence, so get clued up on appropriate interview wear for that industry and company.

If in doubt, you can always play it safe by going with a formal ensemble. (It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.)

4. Arrive on time

Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the interview and plan your route beforehand.

Arriving at the employer’s office early will help you make a positive first impression. The rule of thumb is to arrive 10 minutes early.

5. Bring important items

Before your interview, check if you need to bring any documents with you, such as your passport, degree certificates or portfolio of work. Some employers may also require a print copy of your résumé, so make sure to have one on hand.

 6. Practice answering interview questions

The most crucial thing to do before an interview is to practice your answers to common interview questions. The more you do it, the better you will do on the big day.

What is more, you should also familiarize yourself with industry-specific questions. So, for example, if you’re interviewing for a mechanical engineer position, you ought to look for the top questions hiring managers often ask candidates for this role.

7. Do a mock interview

Along with practicing your answers to interview questions, take the extra step and do a mock interview. This will help you fight some of the pre-interview nerves by having you act out the entire process a few times.

Have a friend help you out by pretending to be the hiring manager and going through the motions of the interview together, ie: shaking hands, introducing yourself, and answering questions.

8. Consider how you’re going to get there

The logistics of getting to the interview are also key to making a great impression. Spend some time searching for the best ways to get to the interview location on time.

If you’re using public transport, check time schedules and have a few backup options in case of any delays. On the other hand, if you’re driving yourself, check available parking areas and use navigation if necessary.

9. Take some time off

One of the best things you can do before an important interview is to take time for yourself. After doing your interview prep, it’s good to surround yourself with family and friends, do something you love, or just rest. This will help you feel refreshed and ready for your interview.

10. Prepare a list of questions

Hiring managers expect candidates to ask them questions too. Therefore, make sure to do some prep work and write a list of questions you would like to ask towards the end of your interview, such as:

  • “What development opportunities does this role offer?”
  • “What’s your favorite part about working here?”
  • “How would you describe the company’s culture?”

During the interview

It’s the day of the interview, and you’ve done all the necessary research and planning. Now what?

11. Make a good start

It’s important to make a positive first impression from the moment you walk through the door. To do so, be polite to the person that welcomes you in, and shake the interviewer’s hand firmly when they introduce themselves to you.

12. Mind your body language

Body language plays a key role in how we communicate with others. In an interview, you need to avoid things like crossing your arms to your chest and fidgeting. Instead, maintain a good posture and avoid slouching.

Also, make eye contact with the interviewer — you’ll come across as more trustworthy and interested in what is being said.

The most important thing is to remember to smile. This will convey your enthusiasm for the role and show the employer that you’ll make a friendly addition to the team. Smiling also releases feel-good endorphins that will help you to relax.

13. Use the STAR method

When the interviewer is talking, you must listen actively to understand each question’s objective and formulate a fitting answer.

The STAR method will help you give constructive answers that incorporate your previous experience and skills:

  • Situation: Give the context of the situation.
  • Task: Explain what the objective was.
  • Action: Describe the steps you took to complete the task.
  • Result: Share the final outcome.

14. Stay calm

If you feel nervous, take a deep breath and pause for five seconds before answering a question. This will help you slow down, reflect on what the interviewer is asking, and come up with your best answer.

Another tip to help you calm your nerves is to accept the glass of water offered to you — when the employer asks you a difficult question, take a sip, think about your response, put the glass down, and then answer clearly and concisely.

15. Ask questions of your own

At the end of the interview, make sure to ask those questions you prepared. This will further demonstrate to the employer your interest in the role and allow you to ask anything that hasn’t already been covered.

16. Be respectful

It’s crucial to be as respectful as possible towards hiring managers. One wrong move, and you could leave the wrong impression. To avoid this, make sure to acknowledge anyone speaking to you through steady eye contact, be mindful of how you address them, and never interrupt anyone while they’re speaking.

17. Listen carefully

Active listening is considered a vital soft skill, which is why you should endeavor to listen closely to hiring managers’ questions and remarks during your interview. Concentrate on the details, and allow yourself time to process everything before offering your answer.

18. Don’t lie

Lying is a big no-no for any part of your job search. While you may feel confident that you can get away with it, the truth has a way of coming out, be it through your references, an online background check or a slip from your end.

19. Take notes

Remember: an interview is not just for an organization to decide whether you’re a good fit but also for you to decide whether you want to work there. Taking notes of important information is wise, and it could help you reach a decision further down the line.

20.  Keep your phone out of sight

This should go without saying, but your phone should be safely tucked away during your interview. Make sure to set all notifications on silent mode before doing so or, better yet, switch it off to avoid any surprises!

After the interview

The interview is over, but you’re not quite finished just yet: there are still a few things you must do to be proactive during this process.

21. Relax

First things first, take a deep breath and relax. If you’re feeling particularly anxious about the experience, consider engaging in some relaxing or stress-relieving activities, like doing some exercise, spending time outdoors, meditating, listening to music or getting together with friends and relatives.

22. Send a “thank you” email

Send an email the next day thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating your enthusiasm for the role. This further demonstrates your enthusiasm and interest in the company and the job. You can also take this opportunity to expand further on some key points that were made during the interview.

23. Connect with the interviewer on social media

This shows that you’re proactive about your career and growing your professional network. It also means you have a way of staying in touch with the employer if you don’t get offered the job and keeping an eye out for future openings.

24. Be patient

It can take time for employers to make a decision. In the meantime, continue with your job search and try not to think about the interview too much. If you’ve taken the steps above, then all there is left for you to do is wait.

25. Ask for feedback

If you’re unsuccessful, then it’s important to ask for feedback. This demonstrates that you’re professional and willing to learn, which is important if you narrowly missed out on the opportunity and another role comes up. It may also help you improve your technique for the next interview.

26. Ask about the next steps

Right at the end of your interview, make sure to ask what the next steps are; there might be a second interview or a technical assessment you should prepare for, so the sooner you know, the better. It’s also wise to attain the hiring manager’s contact information so that you can follow up with them a few days later.

27. Reflect on your performance

Take some time to think about how the interview went. Which questions did you feel unprepared for? What aspects went better than expected? By assessing your performance, you will be able to find areas for improvement and be ready to do even better at future interviews!

28. Forward other necessary documents

If hiring managers request to see your reference list, portfolio or other certifications during the interview, then make sure to forward these to them promptly. Not only does this show responsibility and punctuality, but it could also speed up the hiring process.

29. Get in touch with your references

Assuming that you’ve already asked former supervisors and managers to act as your references, post-interview is a good time to get in touch and remind them that they might be hearing from some organizations you have interviewed for. This additional heads-up will prevent them from being caught off guard and allow them to prepare what they want to say.

30. Keep on with your job search

Regardless how you may have done in the interview, it’s wise to keep looking and applying to other positions while waiting to hear back. Sometimes, it can take companies two to three weeks before reaching a decision, so it’s important not to waste time and keep applying so that you can increase your job prospects.

Final thoughts

Interviews can be a challenging obstacle in your job search journey. However, by preparing in advance, you could be giving yourself a necessary head start from other candidates.

What’s the best piece of interview advice you’ve been given? Share it with us in the comments section below!

This article is a partial update of a previous version originally published on October 24, 2016, and contains contributions by Denny Nesbitt. In the update, we added new information and reviewed the existing information for accuracy.