There is no best way to prepare for an interview, however, you could use some of the tips on this page. Interviewing is the phase of the job search process where you are being evaluated on your verbal communication skills through this face-to-face (or phone) interaction.
Employers want to see if you match up to the qualifications described in your résumé and they want to see if you have good interpersonal communication skills to get a sense of how you would function as part of their team.
The best time to prepare for an interview is before the interview. However, there are preparations needed for:
- During the interview
- After the interview
Remember, interviews are often intimidating for job seekers who feel the pressure of being evaluated and feel uncomfortable with the interview format. While the nervousness may never go away, effectively preparing for the interview can make you feel more confident, and, with practice, you will be better able to stay in the moment and treat the interview like a conversation.
Good preparation before an interview is based on understanding who your employer is — understanding the employer and the industry. This is not the type of information that you can memorize the night before.
Take time as much time as you can to read and absorb information from a variety of sources to get a thorough sense of the company—not just the basic information you find on the “About” page of their website, but the tone and personality they broadcast in social media, their achievements, their community involvement, etc.
Best Way To Prepare For: During the Interview
Once you have prepared mentally and gathered the information for the interview, it’s time to prepare for the interaction during the interview.
Keep this simple — dress your best. In most business cultures, dressing professionally is a sign of respect, conveying that you care about the position, that you want to make a good impression. Here are the basics:
- Wear your best professional clothing—this typically means a suit (for men, a tie) and dress shoes (no open toes, no white socks).
- Try on the complete outfit (including shoes) to make sure you’re comfortable. Does it fit? Stay in place?
- Can you sit down, shake hands, and move comfortably? You don’t want your clothing to distract you or the interviewer.
- Clean and press your clothes and shoes. Prepare your outfit the night before and hang it up (no wrinkles!). Even if you know the work environment is casual, you should dress “up” for the interview—more professionally than you would if you worked there. The exception would be if you are explicitly told not to—for instance, if the recruiter specifies that you should dress “business casual.”
Don’t Come Empty-Handed
Arriving at the interview with important documents and notes shows that you are prepared and thinking ahead. Organize all your materials in a nice folder or folio — presentation matters! Print out several clean copies of your résumé and any other documents you might want to reference. You should also bring a few samples of your work, if possible—documents you’ve prepared or artefacts from projects.
Make the most out of all of that research and preparation by bringing notes. A nice notebook or paper and a pen are perfectly acceptable for you to have in the interview and they can help you feel more focused by getting some of the information out of your head and organized on paper.
Follow these guidelines:
- Be organized. Re-write or type and print your notes so you can easily find the information you need. You don’t want to be shuffling through scraps of paper.
- Keep it simple. Write down keywords, brief phrases and ideas that will jog your memory, not a complete script.
- Prepare questions for the interviewer (see examples below). You typically have the opportunity to ask these questions at the end of the interview, when it can be difficult to remember what you were going to ask
Body Language & Interaction
As a general rule, it’s important to be observant and take your cues from the interviewer. Reflect their tone and pay attention to the dynamic they set—are they very formal and professional or more conversational? It’s okay to make small talk, but you want to follow the lead of the interviewer.
Shake hands: Most of the time, these professional interactions will begin with a handshake. Be prepared with a firm (but not too firm!) and confident handshake. It never hurts to practice!
Be conscious of your posture. You will want to sit up straight (no leaning or lounging) and avoid crossing your arms in front of your chest (it can seem defensive or withdrawn).
Make eye contact. Look at the interviewer while they ask you questions and give them non-verbal cues—smiling, nodding—when appropriate. Make it clear that you understand what they’re saying, that you’re listening
Speak clearly and thoughtfully. Adjust your volume for the environment and make sure the interviewer can hear and understand you easily. Don’t rush yourself and take time to deliver thoughtful responses. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question.
Project calm. Fidgeting and extra movement can make you seem nervous even if you aren’t. Be aware of your tendencies and try to minimize them. If you know you fidget, try to keep your hands folded and avoid clicking or tapping the pen.
Don’t wear jewellery that you will play with or that will make noise while you move. Wear your hair in a way that will not tempt you to touch or play with it constantly. If seated at a table, sit towards the front of the chair and plant your feet on the floor—it can help keep you steady.
Be yourself. With all of the previous tips in mind, you also need to feel comfortable and like yourself. If you are enthusiastic, if you talk with your hands, if you are shy, that’s fine—you just need to be the most engaged, professional version of yourself you can be in order to show the interviewer what you are capable of in the workplace.
Best Way To Prepare For: After the Interview
At the end of the interview, you will want to ask the interviewer what you can expect in terms of the next steps or when they might make a decision about the position. This will help set your expectations and allow you to prepare for future interactions — they might have multiple rounds of interviews or they might have another week left of meeting with candidates.
Within 24 hours of the interview, you should send a thank-you note to the interviewer(s). Email is a standard and expected vehicle for this message and you will likely have already been in contact with them via email or will have their business card from the interview.
The formula for this message is simple, but choose your words carefully and try to extend their good impression of your written communication here as well:
- Relevant subject line
- Gratitude for their time and the opportunity
- Your continued interest in the position
- Something specific from your conversation (this is where taking notes comes in handy!)
- A reminder of your qualifications
- Positive and forward-looking conclusion