Back to Top

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Jobscan’s Step-by-Step Guide to Job Interview Preparation

1. I Dress the Part

The second you walk into a job interview, the interviewer already has developed their first impression of you. This impression is based on how you are dressed, how well-groomed you are and the way they perceive your energy. Lucky for you, you have complete control over every aspect of that first impression.

Find out ahead of time what the company dress code is. You can find this information by going to the company website and looking for photos of employees. How are they dressed? If you can’t find photos, you can also call the office manager or listed number on the website and explain that you are coming in for an interview and would like to know about the dress code.

Once you find out about the dress code, plan to dress a step up from it. Over time, many employees become more casual in the way they dress, so you should always dress a little bit nicer than the dress code to be sure you look appropriate. For example, if the company has a casual dress code (jeans and tshirts), dress business casual (dress pants and a nice top). If the company has a business casual dress code, dress in business attire (suit and tie). When in doubt, opt to dress in full business attire. Ever heard the phrase, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have?” That’s a good mantra for your interview attire.

When deciding on your interview apparel, make sure your outfit is appropriate. Women should be sure dresses and skirts are not too short or tight, necklines are not too low, and all clothing is clean and freshly pressed. Men should wear properly fitted, clean suits with sleeves of the appropriate length. How your clothing fits will contribute to the hiring manager’s impression of you. Don’t give them any reason not to hire you based on your appearance.

Another big part of dressing the part for an interview is personal hygiene. Take a shower the day of the interview, take time to dry and style your hair, and smell nice without wearing too much cologne or perfume. The goal is to look put together without distracting from your skills as a professional.

2. Research the Company and Job

Before going to an interview, research the company as well as the job. Many people scan the company website to get an idea of its mission and culture, but you shouldn’t stop there if you want to get ahead of the competition.

Checking out the company website is a good place to start. Read the “About” section as well as staff bios if they are available. Research news articles to find out if there are any touchy subjects that shouldn’t be mentioned in the interview. Read client or customer reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or review sites to discover the company’s strong and weak points. You can use those strengths and weaknesses to explain how you would improve the company during your interview.

Before leaving the company website, locate the job posting for which you are interviewing and make yourself an expert on that job. Knowing about the company and know about the job position are two separate pieces of knowledge. Researching the job is a step that many people don’t spend enough time on. Who is the hiring manager looking for? What can you bring to the job that nobody else can? What problems is the company having that you could turn around?

Other resources for researching the company and job position include Glassdoor and LinkedIn. Glassdoor allows you to get an insider view of the company from current and past employees. It’s a good place for you to get an idea of salary, benefits and hours. Plus, you can learn about employee’s pain points with the company and the things they like best about working there. Try to get an idea of the company culture before you go in for an interview, and validate what you found out during the interview. You want to be sure the company culture is a good fit for you. It is important for you to be critical when interviewing for a position. Make sure it is a job and a company you will be happy with.

Make yourself a checklist to be sure you don’t skip any important research. For the company, make sure to research the location, company culture (do people like working there?), mission and reputation (is this a company you would be proud to have on your resume?). When it comes to researching the job, don’t skip over qualifications (are you qualified for this position?), salary, start date, hours (is the time expected of you realistic?), role or the current employees in the position.

interview-research-checklist

Go a step further by using LinkedIn to learn about the work experience of current employees at the company. How do you measure up? You can even make tweaks to your own resume based on what you find out about the current employee’s history.

You will stand out from other candidates if you come into the job interview with a typed proposal. You can use that proposal as a guide throughout your interview, to make sure you are covering every point as it comes up. Almost no candidates take the time to come up with a proposal, so it will show the hiring manager how well-prepared and serious you are about this job.


example-of-interview-research
An example of a Glassdoor salary page (for Apple).

step-three-research-interviewer3. Learn about the Interviewer

Think about it, when you go into an interview, the hiring manager already knows a little bit about who you are. You, however, know nothing about them. To help take the pressure off and create conversation that flows easily, do a little bit of research about the person interviewing you. This research isn’t in-depth (you don’t need to know their children’s names or their nickname growing up). It is just a foundation to build your conversation upon.

Learn about your interviewer using LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. The goal is to find out about their interests, education or anything else that could help with conversation. For example, you might notice on LinkedIn that you and your interviewer both went to Big 10 schools. That is a great talking point during a lull in conversation. The goal is not to be stalker-like, but rather to be informed and prepared. Hiring managers naturally want to hire people that they like and get along with.

step-four-define-who-you-are4. Define Who You Are

The interviewer’s goal is to learn about you as a professional. They might ask themselves, “What motivates this person?” or “What positive changes could they make to our company?”. In order for the interviewer to get a good picture of who you are, you need to know as well.

Before going into each interview, figure out why you are a good candidate for the job and what you would want to achieve if given this position. If you need some help, think about the things you are passionate about. You can also ask friends or former coworkers about the qualities they think make you a great employee.

While interviewers rarely ask about your strengths and weaknesses these days, being aware of them will only make you a better interviewer. What is it that sets you apart from other candidates? What are some qualities that you feel confident about? When thinking about weaknesses, try to put a positive spin on them. For example, if you’re overly-critical, you can spin it to mean that you don’t consider a project to be complete until it is absolutely perfect. That is a weakness a potential employer can appreciate!

step-five-hard-interview-questions5. Answer the Toughest Questions

The scariest part of interviews is perhaps the unknowns. As a job seeker, you don’t know what questions the interviewer will ask, what their personality will be like, or who exactly they have in mind for the position. Learning about the interviewer and researching the job position are both great ways to fill in some of the blanks, but you never know what questions you will be asked.

Part of your interview preparation should be practicing your answers to interview questions. Glassdoor has several interview questions that are commonly used in interviews for large companies. There are also interview question apps for your phone that you can use during your commute or when you have free time.


interview-question-preparation
A screenshot of Interview Prep Questions app.

When practicing interview questions, make sure not to skip over the tough ones. Those are the questions you should spend the most time on. Ask your friends or former coworkers how they would answer certain tough questions, or have them quiz you to let you know how your answers sound. To go a step further (there is no such thing as too much interview prep) set up a mock interview with a friend or colleague who has experience interviewing candidates.

Be aware that basic interview question prep is not enough to get you through the interview. You need to also be prepared for very specific questions about your experience and be able to provide measurable results about that experience. The interviewer will want to know how you applied certain skills to your previous jobs and how proficient you are in each of those skills. Prepare these responses ahead of time to make sure your answers are the best they can be.

step-six-plan-ahead6. Plan Your Transportation

This step might not sound important, but it is the one thing that can screw up all of your prep work on the day of the interview. If you are running late because you didn’t leave enough time for transportation, you will be frazzled, anxious, and look messy when you show up. Planning your route ahead of time will keep you calm and comfortable pre-interview.

Map your route out online, and check out traffic patterns during the time of your interview. If you live close, you can do a dry run of the commute to see exactly how long it will take you. If you plan on driving, find out where you can park and if you need to have cash on hand for payment. Each little thing can take up time you don’t have.

After you’ve planned everything out, tack on an extra 15-20 minutes to your travel time just in case. Finally, consider what your backup plan will be if something unforeseen occurs the day of. For example, if it rains, your bus isn’t running or there is a major train delay.

step-seven-well-groomed7. Take Care of Yourself

You’ve picked out your outfit, done all of your research, practiced interview questions and planned your transportation route. Now it’s time to take care of you!

The most important part of taking care of yourself the night before the interview is to get plenty of sleep. Part of becoming a good interviewer is learning to relax before an interview. Practice interviews can help ahead of time. If you know you have a hard time sleeping before important events, plan to go out and get some exercise, pour a cup of hot herbal tea or take an herbal sleep supplement to help out (don’t take anything too strong that will cause you too oversleep!).

When you wake up in the morning, eat a healthy breakfast or lunch (depending on the time of your interview) to make sure you are alert and not hungry. Last but not least, stay hydrated the day of. If you normally have a cup of coffee, go ahead and have one, but don’t over-caffeinate and look jittery during the interview. Don’t let anything get in the way of the preparation you’ve done!

step-eight-show-up-to-interview8. Show Up

This step sounds simple enough, but lots of people don’t show up for interviews or cancel the morning of. Many hiring managers will send confirmation emails, which you should respond to promptly. Better yet, send your own confirmation email to show that you are comfortable taking the lead. If you don’t show up for an interview, you will likely ruin your chances of getting an interview at that company in the future. Plus, you will just have wasted the hiring manager’s time.

Even if you wake up thinking this job might not be for you, or like you have better things to do that day, show up. You never know how you will feel about the company and job position after the interview, and any interview experience is good experience.

When you wake up in the morning, eat a healthy breakfast or lunch (depending on the time of your interview) to make sure you are alert and not hungry. Last but not least, stay hydrated the day of. If you normally have a cup of coffee, go ahead and have one, but don’t over-caffeinate and look jittery during the interview. Don’t let anything get in the way of the preparation you’ve done!

interview-faqFAQ



Jobscan Learning Center The Jobscan How To Learning Series

Part 1: How to Find a Job
Jobscan's Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Landing a Job
Part 2: How to Write a Cover Letter
Jobscan’s Step-by-Step Guide for Writing an Effective Cover Letter
Part 3: How to Write a Resume
Jobscan’s Step-by-Step Guide for Writing a Resume
Part 4: How to Prepare for a Job Interview
Jobscan’s Step-by-Step Guide to Job Interview Preparation

Join Jobscan