The worst mistake you can make in a job interview is trying to "wing it." Whatever you do, don't walk into the room unprepared. No matter your level of experience or the skills you possess, interviewing well requires preparation and practice, and those who are willing to do the work are much more likely to receive a job offer.
While there is no "best" way to handle interview preparation, we can distill our advice into two core ways to get into the interview mindset and boost your chances of success.
- Reflect. Make an honest assessment of your skills, experience and achievements. Practice talking about your accomplishments and goals openly.
- Do your homework. Learn everything you can about the role, the company, their products, their competitors and the general industry.
Let's dig a little deeper into how to prepare for a job interview with this checklist.
1. Clean up your online presence
Check your privacy settings on all social media pages. Be sure that any publicly available information is professional and acceptable in your chosen line of work.
- Twitter. Your Twitter account should focus on professional issues — start a new one if your old account is too personal.
- Facebook. Privacy settings are your friend here. Ultimately, think hard about whether you want to keep information on your Facebook page that could cost you a potential job. Update your privacy settings so that you're not sharing everything with everyone.
- LinkedIn. Your profile should be as polished as your resume, free of errors, and should offer a deeper exploration of your accomplishments and career interests.
- Google. Conduct a Google search on yourself and see what comes up. If you come across anything that could even remotely be viewed as objectionable, try to get rid of it or be prepared to explain.
2. Learn about the company and industry
In this globalized, digital age, most industries are undergoing a major upheaval. They are facing worldwide competition and a drive to innovate faster than ever before. As part of your job interview preparation, thoroughly comb through the company's website and look for news stories or thought pieces focused on the company and the industry it's in. Do research on competitors, innovation and industry leaders.
The interviewee who displays a genuine interest in the company (and deep knowledge of the industry) will get noticed. Here's a tip: Add a Google alert to your phone to notify you of the latest developments regarding a particular company or industry.
3. Tap your network
An estimated 70 to 85% of people in their current jobs used networking to get where they are. Part of your interview preparation should be to discover who you might know who works for the employer, or who has connections at the business. Search through LinkedIn and check out Facebook and Twitter to see if the company name pops up in your contacts. Reach out to anyone you know at the company. Ask them if they'd be willing to chat with you and answer a few questions about the following:
- Interview and hiring process
- Workplace culture
- Career paths at the company
4. Practice interview questions
Preparing for an interview should include being able to quickly and confidently answer questions about why you're interested in the job, the field, or the company. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the job description and responsibilities. If you run across something confusing, enter the interview with specific questions for the employer.
Also be sure to think about your answers to some common interview questions about yourself and your experience.
5. Conduct a mock job interview
Have you ever seen yourself on video or heard your voice on tape? As part of your interview preparation, now is the time to take a fresh look at how you appear and catch bad habits before you hit the interview seat. You might consider asking a family member or friend to give you honest feedback, but you can also learn a lot just by recording yourself. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Do your voice and demeanor sound upbeat and enthusiastic?
- How's the pitch and speed of your voice?
- What about distracting movement? Do you jiggle your leg or fiddle with your tie or rings while you speak?
- Do you say "like" or "uh" too much?
Doing a dry run will help you become more confident in the way you present yourself, quiet your nerves and focus on a positive interaction with the employer.
6. Dress appropriately
It used to be that you always wore your best suit to a job interview. Startup and tech culture changed all that by making flip-flops and hoodies standard office fare for some industries. These days, choosing an appropriate interview outfit depends on what line of work you're in.
If you're looking for guidance about proper dress for a particular interview, check out the company's profile online. Many will have photos of executives in casual clothes, which gives you some indication that nice jeans and a fitted shirt are acceptable day-to-day, and you may not need to wear a suit. If you're still not sure, call the company and ask. It's a perfectly reasonable question, and it can make a big difference; showing up for your interview underdressed or overdressed could damage your chances of landing the job.
Whatever you decide to wear, plan your outfit a few days beforehand to make sure it's clean, ironed and well-fitting. Also spend a few minutes making sure your grooming is up to snuff, with hair, makeup and fingernails neat and clean.
7. Be prepared to discuss your entire resume
This includes topics that can be difficult to discuss. Answer questions honestly but try to frame the issue positively. Avoid badmouthing a former employer or position. Perhaps there was a period where you were unemployed. You don't have to say, "My boss fired me because we were fighting all the time, and I haven't been able to find a job since."
Instead, acknowledge the issue while remaining positive: "It was time for me to reconsider whether I wanted to go into another field, and I have been reassessing my career path and taking some online classes to set myself up for success. Now I know that this is something I really want to do and I'm very excited about the possibilities."
If you need help getting started on a new (or first) resume, LiveCareer's Resume Builder can help.
8. Ask questions
Employers are looking for candidates who are inquisitive and interested in the work. As part of your interview preparation, write down questions you'd like to ask. Here are a few examples of great questions you can ask your interviewer:
- How does this position help your department achieve its goals?
- What do you see as the major goals for the person in this role over the next year?
- What do you enjoy about working for this company?
- What innovations are changing the way you do business?
- The in-person interview is not the place to discuss money. Avoid asking about salary or benefits until you are in final consideration for a position.
9. Take names
Try to get the names (and business cards) of those you meet. If they don't have cards available, ask if you can write down their names, proper spelling included. After the interview, send LinkedIn invitations to each person you met, and let them know how much you enjoyed learning about both the position and the company. For the key people you meet with, such as the hiring manager, your potential boss, or the company CEO, send thank you notes post-interview via email — or even on paper.
10. Conducting the interview
Before your scheduled interview, make sure you know the best route to the company's office. You should also establish a couple of alternative routes in case there is construction or other traffic issues. Also check whether there is anything that may cause getting to the offices take longer than expected, like security. Make sure there's enough time to get to the interview about 10 to 15 minutes early and bring along several copies of your resume and/or portfolio as well as a small notebook and pen for taking notes.
Once you check in and sit down, allow yourself some quiet time before the interview process begins. Mentally review your responses to some common interview questions. Then, relax and breathe. Your accomplishments got you here, and you're fully prepared to do your best.
Preparation takes time, and you might not receive an offer the first time you interview. But remember that every interview is a learning experience. Your preparation work lays an important base for all interviews yet to come. If you're trying to land that interview, why not start with LiveCareer's free Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder?