The Job Search

Job Interview Preparation

Being prepared for the interview process is an essential part of landing a job – individuals who interview well and have the hard skills an employer desires tend to advance through the process. Those who aren’t prepared for the interview are often left behind. Check the tips below for how to prepare for each stage of the interview process:

Researching the Company

It’s important to know the specifics of a company before going to the job interview. By doing research ahead of time, hiring managers see that preparation has been done and that the candidate was interested enough to learn about the company before the interview. Many job candidates fail to take this important step. The candidate with knowledge of the company stands out. Typically, you will want to determine each of the following pieces of information about a company to which you are applying:

  • What they do, who they are and what they provide: Company websites are a good place to learn basic company information, products and services, names of the CEO and other upper personnel in management or a list of existing clients.
  • Determine if the company had any newsworthy exposure recently. Identifying the company’s accomplishments for discussion during the interview provides topics for the candidate to highlight as interesting. For example: An award the company has recently received or a new product that has just been launched.
  • Find out other information about the company:
    • Contact networking associates, such as alumni or former co-workers. Request information from acquaintances for any knowledge or experience with a particular company or if they know anyone currently working there. Valuable insights can be gained by talking with an employee about their experiences. It is also important to learn about a company’s culture to insure it would be a “good fit.”
    • Google the company. Creating Google Alerts for businesses helps job candidates learn new developments about organizations. A company blog can also provide good updated information.
  • Identify the qualifications for the job: Read through the job description carefully. Learn:
    • Specific requirements – i.e., what level of education, other training, security clearance, years of experience, amount of travel required, hours
    • Carefully review any requirements which would eliminate being considered – i.e., no security clearance, lack of a master’s degree or other advanced training, years of experience
  • Probable skills needed for employment: Job candidates should consider the following:
    • Skills the candidate possesses which relate to the company’s products and services. It is important to match personal strengths to what the business does.
    • Consider any recent experiences or projects which could help this business. Sharing this information with the interviewer will demonstrate how the candidate would support the company’s bottom line.

Finding any written materials available, such as an annual report, can also be helpful. The Human Resources Department may have information and would help the applicant learn more about the company. Many companies have reports and other materials online.

General Interview Preparation

Questions You Will Be Asked

Being able to speak and write well are essential skills. During the interview, employers want job candidates to answer questions concisely, in an intelligent way, using good grammar. They don’t want to hear “ah’s” and “um’s” or, “like, you know.” They want to see if you have good presentation skills and would represent the company well. Could clients or customers understand what you have to say? Could they confidently have you give a presentation to upper management?

A typical opening question asked early in the interview may be to ask the candidate to talk about themselves. Answering this question and subsequent questions will give the interviewer an early indication about a candidate’s suitability for the position.

Therefore, being prepared about the right response is essential.

There is no way to predict the exact questions that will be asked, but the sites shown below can help as they include examples of probable questions. Days before the interview, potential candidates can choose several to answer or role play with a friend who can select random questions. Practice gives the candidate an opportunity to make changes to strengthen answers. Confidence will build as well.

Several websites will provide an example of potential interview questions:

  • has listed 100 potential questions a prospective employer may use in a job interview
  • The Muse’s “Ultimate Guide to Answering the Most Common Interview Questions”
  • Indeed lists 125 common interview questions and the best ways to answer them
  • Glassdoor’s list of 50 common interview questions
  • The Balance Careers identifies their top ten interview questions and provides suggestions for providing the best possible answers

Questions You Should Ask

Employers appreciate job candidates who ask appropriate questions as it demonstrates the candidates are serious about the position and have taken the initiative to learn about the company. Prepared questions demonstrate to employers that the potential candidate is serious, pro-active and invested in the job search.

But note these cautions:

  • Ask questions that are appropriate, not questions that are irrelevant. For example, using canned questions found in a book or those that have nothing to do with the position will not make a good impression.
  • Do not ask about information readily available on their website. This would demonstrate that the candidate did not adequately research prior to the interview.
  • Allow the interviewer to control the conversation, providing time to finish their sentence or make their point. Interrupting, even with a very valid point that enhances the conversation, is not appropriate.

Having good questions prepared will demonstrate confidence and interest rather than appearing uninformed. This also supports a desire to be thorough. For an initial interview, it would be advisable to come prepared with between 5-10 questions. However, every interview and interviewer is different and the amount of time spent with job candidates varies. Prioritizing questions helps candidates address their primary concerns first.

Generally, it is important to cover these key areas:

  • Overview of job responsibilities
  • Resources or training which would benefit the new employee
  • Understanding of employee performance evaluation
  • Brief job description – if new, discussion of the reason the job was created; if vacated, reason the vacancy occurred
  • Discussion of the company culture – i.e., how do people communicate, generally through e-mail, in person meetings, conference calls; are there expected progress reports; are projects completed individually or in teams; do co-workers socialize together, in work and outside of work?
  • Share the qualities or traits which help employees succeed

Some questions may be answered during the interview and being prepared to insure all your concerns are addressed will allow both the candidate and the interviewer to feel the discussion was thorough. Asking questions also allows the employer to see the candidate’s personality. When an interview becomes conversational, it provides insight into the candidate’s social skills. Employers are less willing to hire people if they feel they will be unable to be “part of the team.”

Check out these resources for additional help preparing yourself and questions for your interview:

  • Job-Interview.Net features rules for asking good questions, samples, and the “Dumb Dozen” (questions to avoid)
  • Indeed Job Interview Tips offers articles with helpful hints and tips regarding all stages of the job search process

Prepare to Talk About How Your Experience Will Help the Company

The employer wants to know you can help solve a problem or fulfill a need they have. How does your work experience relate to the skills that are needed? The interviewer will be looking for a match. If you list skills on your resume that have no bearing or give examples that are unrelated to a desired set of skills, the interviewer won’t see a match.

Some interviewers will start by talking about the company and what they need. Listen carefully if they do as you can then point out examples on your resume that show you have experience dealing with a particular problem or need.

Other General Tips

  • Avoid complaining or speaking negatively. Employers will not tolerate people who start talking about things they don’t like including past employers, work hours, grunt work, or anything else. This is not the time to complain. In fact, to get and keep a job, complaining will never serve you well.
  • Don’t appear overly confident. While it is important to have self-confidence, if you come across as a person who thinks his way is the best or as the “expert” on every subject, that will be a red flag for your interviewer. Be self assured, but not obnoxious.
  • Don’t be overbearing. You should not try to control the interview by asking excessive questions or as a way to avoid answering one that is directed to you. You do not want to appear aggressive, rather, engaged in the interview.
  • Send a thank-you note. Within 24 hours of your interview, follow up with your prospective employer by sending a thank-you note.

Phone Interview Preparation

An initial or screening interview may be conducted by phone instead of face to face. From the employer’s perspective, it can be a good way to hear:

  • How a job candidate sounds over the phone and if the person communicates effectively
  • If he or she seems friendly and enthusiastic
  • If the job seeker knows about the company and has the required skills
  • If it appears that the candidate would work well with the other employees
  • If an in-person interview is appropriate and worth their time
The phone interview is extremely important as it can determine if a job candidate moves forward for further consideration.

Because of the large number of job candidates, phone interviews may be conducted by recruiters hired by a company or Human Resource professionals within the business. Candidates who have the skills and have made a positive impression might then be referred on to hiring managers for the next interview.

Preparation for the phone interview should require the same planning as done for a face-to-face interview. This means researching the company and devoting time to practice answering interview questions. A phone interview may be as short as 15 minutes. Job seekers can impress the interviewer by following the following suggestions:

  • Be prepared. Have notes, resume, questions and achievements available for quick referral. When examples of skills or accomplishments are requested, having bullet points for quick reference will be helpful.
  • Have paper and pen to take notes and write down relevant questions that come up during the interview so that they can be asked when the opportunity arises.
  • If possible, use a landline telephone – cell phones can have static or service can be interrupted.
  • Project a smile by physically smiling. The interviewer cannot see the candidate and therefore the tone of voice becomes even more important.
  • Consider standing up while talking and use good posture, which will help combat nerves.
  • Do not use familiarity by addressing the interviewer by his/her first name without being invited to do so. Address the person as Mr., Ms. or Dr. It is important to be friendly but convey professional respect as well.
  • Avoid eating or chewing gum. However, having water is acceptable provided the candidate makes no sound when sipping.
  • Insure the area where the conversation is held is quiet so there are no distractions or interruptions.
  • Be concise and answer each question without rambling.
  • Speak in a modulated, paced tone of voice, avoiding speaking too quickly. Enunciate words clearly to allow the interviewer to understand your responses and questions.
  • Even if the interviewer calls at an unscheduled time while in the car, explain the circumstance and ask to return the call after arriving at a destination or pulling over. This will demonstrate sound judgment for the interviewer and let them know that rules and procedures are important.
  • Thank the interviewer and then ask about the next step in the process as well as requesting a phone number or e-mail address of the interviewer.
  • Send a thank you note immediately (no later than 24 hours).

In-Person Interview Preparation

There are several tasks which, when done in preparation for the job interview, provide the candidate with greater assurance of success. Here are suggestions to make the preparation go smoothly.

Determine Location Prior to the Interview

Research the location where the interview will be held well ahead of the scheduled time. If time permits prior to the interview, consider a drive to the site at the same time as the interview, if possible, to judge traffic conditions. Find the nearest parking facility. If the office or room for the interview is unclear, perhaps go into the building to find out the exact room or office.

If driving a distance, use a map service to find exact directions and note the time they recommend – then add 30 minutes. It is essential to arrive at least 10 minutes early to the interview.

NEVER be late!

It is always possible that unforeseen problems could occur, such as a terrible accident delaying traffic. Always have the hiring manager or interviewer’s phone number so a call can be made immediately to let them know of the situation. Notifying the interviewer of the delay is something that job seekers must do to be considered a serious candidate.

Appropriate Attire

An important step in preparing for a job interview is determining the appropriate attire for the position. Hiring managers will form an immediate impression based on the appearance of the candidate because the choice of attire indicates the importance the candidate has placed on the potential position. Choose interview clothing prior to the interview, insuring the attire is clean and pressed. Eliminate scuff marks from shoes and select appropriate accessories prior to the interview. Preparing attire well ahead will insure preparation for the interview is as stress-free as possible.

It is best to come in professional business attire for an interview unless specifically instructed to wear something more casual. This typically means a suit or dress that includes classic accessories such as a tie, subtle jewelry and/or a blazer.

This demonstrates the importance of the interviewing process and allows the candidate to highlight themselves, rather than distracting the hiring manager by bringing attention to their attire.

Every company wants to make sure their employees represent them well to customers and clients. Appearance is therefore critically important.

Materials to Bring

Copies of resumes and other relevant material should be prepared in advance. A portfolio or folder to be taken to the interview with these materials, along with any questions to be discussed, should be placed for easy access when ready to leave for the interview.


On the day of the interview, remaining calm is important. Having the right mindset for the interview will allow the candidate to appear confident and relaxed. Each candidate understands how they are best prepared, individually, with the right meal, exercise, music, etc. The candidate should approach the interview as poised and prepared as possible to insure the potential employer has a positive first impression.


On the Day Itself

After arriving to the interview site, a last minute check is always in order. Find a restroom and:

  • Smile in the mirror to see that teeth are clean and free of debris.
  • See if any buttons are unbuttoned, a collar is bent, or anything else needs to be corrected.
  • Look for wind blown hair.
  • Check for sticky or dirty hands. Paying attention to grooming is essential to make a good first impression.
  • Locate a pen in case writing is required.
  • Have all interview materials easily accessible.
  • Take a couple deep breaths to relax.
  • Let personality and confidence come through in the interview.

Job seekers should arrive at the office 10 minutes early. It is courteous to greet the receptionist with a genuine smile, letting him/her know of the interview appointment.

In all likelihood, it will be necessary to wait. While seated, there are ways to make a good impression. For instance, sit up straight. Don’t chew gum or use an electronic device during this time.

When the interviewer meets the job seeker, they be watching will be watching for how the candidate:

  • Looks
  • Acts
  • Communicates – both verbally and written

To make the best first impression, walk up to the interviewer with a genuine smile, make eye contact, and give a firm handshake.

Wait to be invited to sit down. During this time, the interviewer is observing everything the job seeker does and is forming an impression. Make certain to not slouch in the chair but have good posture and lean forward slightly. It will be easier to pay attention and remain engaged in the conversation this way.

When leaving, thank the interviewer with a smile and a handshake. It is appropriate to ask what the next step will be in the interview process and when and how the decision will be made. Thanking the receptionist before leaving is important to do as well.