How to Prepare for a Job Interview: 9 Steps

You sent your resume out and your dream company some random company has decided to grant you an interview. How exciting! And nerve wracking! Now you actually have to go meet with people. To prove to them that you are both capable of adequately performing the job and capable of not being a psycho from 9-5, follow these tips for preparing for an interview.

1) Research the company. You need to know what the company does and what your position entails. Why? To avoid the “uhh umm” moment when the interviewer asks you why you want to work for ABC Company or why you are the best candidate for the job.

Things to know about the company — services provided, major clientele (if published), and recent press. Things to know about the open position — candidate requirements and day to day responsibilities. Please know these things before you step into that interview. It will spare you a lot of embarrassment and you won’t look completely incompetent to your interviewer.

2) Print up several copies of your resume. While most interviewers have already done this, you need to be prepared just in case they ask for a copy of your resume. Go to a store that offers printing services (like Staples or Office Max) and have them printed on quality paper.

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3) Dress the part. I don’t care how smart and capable you are, sloppiness is not acceptable at interviews. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed. Cut off any strings of thread hanging off of them and reattach any buttons that may have come loose. Wear clothes that fit properly and look sharp. For many professional positions, a suit is necessary. Research this ahead of time as it may vary by industry.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but here goes the spiel. Do not wear: skintight or baggy clothing, miniskirts, t-shirts, sandals, too-high heels, ripped clothing, stained clothing, denim, shorts, hoodies, or white socks.

4) Avoid looking (and smelling) like a caveman. Along with dressing the part, you need to be properly groomed. For both men and women, this means showering, brushing your teeth, hiding tattoos and piercings (depending on the industry), and styling your hair neatly. Another tip is to leave the perfume or cologne off for the day. Many people are allergic and you don’t want your interviewer to be influenced by this.

Men need to shave their beards or trim them to an acceptable level. Women should wear makeup sparingly — no clown makeup, just enough to look polished. Speaking of polish, keep your finger nails clean or painted in a basic red or pink. Note: neon pink need not apply.

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5) Anticipate questions and prepare answers. There are several questions that you will run into time and time again in interviews. Examples include:

Why do you want to work for us?

Why do you think you are the best candidate for this position?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Describe a challenge you’ve faced in the workplace and explain how you dealt with it.

What is your greatest strength/weakness?

Think about the answers to these questions and more so you don’t sound like a bumbling idiot during the interview. Some people have the infuriating ability to answer questions easily on the spot while others are more easily flustered. Prepare yourself either way.

6) Prepare questions. Never, ever say “no” when the interviewer asks if you have any questions about the position. Come up with a large list of questions (large because many of these questions will be answered during the interview process) to ask your interviewer. These questions should help you to see whether or not the company is a great fit, while also showing the potential employer that you care. Examples might include:

Why is this position available? (I always ask about this to find out about turnover.)

What qualities would the ideal candidate possess? (Take note of these so you can reiterate that you have them all in your thank you letter.)

Why do you work here? (Obviously, I really enjoy turning things around on the interviewers. This will give you an idea of what is so great about the company.)

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7) Contact references. The new job may call references or ask for reference letters. No one wants to spring unexpected calls or pleas for letters on valued references, so make sure to warn them/ask them for letters ahead of time.

By the way, your references should think you are the bee’s knees. Do not choose people who think you are simply mediocre. Also, references should not be family members or your best friend that has no idea of your work ethic. If you want to be taken seriously, provide references that are former employers, professors, or colleagues.

8) Show up early, but not too early. Please do not show up late to an interview. If you can’t make it in on time for the interview, how are you going to convince them that you will show up promptly each day for work?

On the other hand, showing up extra early looks desperate and can be annoying to busy interviewers who feel that they need to meet with you sooner. Show up 15-20 minutes early to fill out any paperwork and sit quietly in the lobby.

BONUS: 9) Write a thank you letter. Okay, so this isn’t a “before your interview” thing but it still needs to be said. AFTER your interview, send thank you notes (hand-written and mailed is my preference) to each person you interviewed with.

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Thank them for their time, bring up an anecdote from your interview, and remind them of your mad skillz (that just happen to be the same as the “ideal candidate” you asked them about). This alone can give you a huge leg up on the competition.

That’s it! Go rock your interview. You’re welcome for all that income I just earned you.

What is your number one interview tip? Have you ever seen someone dressed completely inappropriately for an interview?