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Published: Apr 20, 2022 17 min read
Photo illustration of four people sitting on chairs, ready for their job interview. On the floor, there are racetrack lanes drawn and a finish line in the short distance.
Rangely GarcĂ­a / Money

Knowing how to prepare for a job interview can mean the difference between landing your dream job and going back to the job search sites over and over again. Though you don’t have to totally stress yourself out when it comes to preparing for your interview, it can be helpful to spruce up your interview skills as much as possible.

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How to prepare for a job interview

Once you’ve aced your pre-screen phone call from the HR department and you landed an interview, put in the time to get ready for it. Here are some job interview tips to help you succeed in the process and, hopefully, get the new job you are vying for.

Do your research

One of the best ways to make yourself stand out in a competitive job market is to prepare yourself with plenty of research, beyond just looking at the job description. Some of the things you can research include the company you’ll be interviewing with, the people you’ll meet with and the position you’re going out for. Check out the company’s social media accounts, company website, and your interviewers' LinkedIn profiles to get a good idea of the culture.

Learning key facts about the company’s founding, mission and vision is a great place to start. From there, you can learn about competitors, how the company differentiates itself in the marketplace and where you could fit into that picture. If you can help your interviewer envision your place in the company, it could send a powerful message about why you’d be a top choice for the position.

Consider why you want the job

It may sound cheesy, but knowing your “why” can go a long way on both a personal and professional level. Take a moment to create or review your personal life vision and mission. If there’s something there that aligns with this position, take note. Then, be prepared to explain this in a concise, compelling way to your interviewer.

Although it’s advisable to practice this “spiel,” it’s even better to carry it around in your heart. Again, if it sounds hokey, just know that it can be a great exercise to make sure you are applying and interviewing for a position that works for your personal development, work experience and career goals. If, for some reason, you can’t find alignment, don’t be discouraged. It just means that you need to either look for another angle or another position altogether.

Analyze your strengths and weaknesses

This is one portion of the interview you can almost always count on. This inquiry will come up in some form, and the old, “My weakness is that I work too hard,” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Although you may be tempted to fudge an answer for the fear of not getting the job, exposing your vulnerabilities may not be a bad thing. It shows a potential employer that you have the ability to engage in self-introspection while actively improving any areas of development.

The same goes for your strengths. Be prepared to discuss them — even boast a little. However, you should also temper that with more insight like how your strengths can help a team or even be a disadvantage in some ways.

This question is looking more at how you deal with your strengths and weaknesses and how they might play out in your role within the company, so be ready to answer accordingly.

Anticipate common interview questions

A quick Google search can help you come up with some common interview questions to help your interview preparations. Looking into the blog section of job hiring sites such as ZipRecruiter can also help you find the tips and suggested questions that employers look at before the interview. There’s no way to know which questions you’ll actually get, but knowing some of the more common ones can go a long way:

  • Can you tell us about your background?
  • Do you work better in a team or on your own?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why are you the best candidate for this position?
  • Where do you see yourself X years from now?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What motivates you?
  • Can you tell me about a failure you experienced with a previous employer? How did you handle it?

The more you anticipate what will happen in your interview, the less anxious you are likely to be. Even taking a little edge off can help you appear more grounded and confident in your interview. Confidence is an attribute that potential employers and hiring managers look for because it can have a positive impact on your decision-making and work performance in general.

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Prepare your own questions

Another form of interview preparedness is having your own interview questions. You are interviewing this company just as much as they are interviewing you. Through your list of questions, you should aim to understand the company culture and if it’s a good fit for you. Common questions you should ask could be:

  • What are the expectations for my role and my productivity?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • What are you looking for in a candidate?
  • How would you measure the success of the person in this role?
  • What are some challenges I could expect in this role?

Once your questions are answered, thank your interviewer and incorporate this information in the interview as you go forward.

Watch your body language

Body language is no more than a reflection of your attitude. In fact, the word attitude comes from the Italian attitudine, which means posture. If you are having a bad day, then your body language will certainly tell on you!

In addition to revealing your mood, your body language could potentially reveal character deficits such as impatience, dishonesty, laziness and others. Ideally, you’ll work on your mood, character and other things that feed into your body language tendencies on a regular basis.

However, for an interview, you can address what you can immediately control. To start, practice sitting without slouching, smile as much as you can and nod to show that you are actively listening. If you come in with bad posture, and a dull, spacey look, then your interviewer might perceive a lack of diligence and interest on your part. You should practice speaking into a mirror to get a sense of what your mood, words and demeanor convey through your body language.

Take it a step further and record yourself. Rewatch the video and send it to friends and family for feedback. Let’s face it. There might be some things you do that require some fine-tuning for an interview, wringing your hands when you are frustrated or having a nervous tick.

Though these behaviors shouldn’t disqualify you as a job candidate, the more self-control you can exert, the fewer distractions you’ll have during your interview. You want to be the focus and star of the hiring process, so take time to tone down your nervous tendencies and less-than-ideal body language signals.

Dress for success

As the old adage goes, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Even if you are working in a more casual environment, consider wearing business attire for your interview appointment. If possible, get some feedback from people who already work there about the dress code and what would be considered an appropriate interview outfit.

No matter what you wear, these general tips can help you choose the best ”fit” for a good first impression:

  • Avoid branded apparel with flashy logos or other distracting features
  • Your clothes should be clean, neatly arranged and wrinkle-free
  • Keep your jewelry and accessories to a minimum, understated level
  • Your hair should be clean and neat
  • Avoid appearing disheveled or unkempt in any way

Remember, this is not about suppressing your personality or style, but more about reducing distractions to make sure that you, along with your awesome skills and experience, are the main focus of the interview process. Once you’re hired, you’ll likely have a tad more freedom to express your personality through your clothing choices. But let’s focus on getting hired first!

Practice with mock interviews

Once you’ve taken the time to perfect your interview answers, it’s time to consider a full-dress rehearsal. Ask friends or family to walk you through the interview process from beginning to end.

If no one is available to help you, consider hiring a professional career coach who can provide these services at a cost. Budget permitting, this might be the best option because they’ll be poised to challenge you much more and give professional-level feedback that can go a long way in helping you ace your interview. A professional coach may also be familiar with different types of interview methods like behavioral interviews or the star method that the hiring team may use.

Start as you come through the door, interact with the receptionist (or standing by in the Zoom waiting room), offer up a firm handshake, make steady eye contact and have a seat. Drum up some small talk, then, make yourself comfortable in the same way that you

To make the most of your mock interview time, you should choose a location that is not familiar to you, like a library or coffee shop. Ideally, you’ll wear the same clothes and conduct the rehearsal around the same time of day as your anticipated interview. Imitating most of the same conditions as your actual interview day is a great way to optimize your interview preparations.

Have your practice interviewer ask you some of the questions above so you have a chance to plan and deliver your responses. Once you’ve completed the entire process, get and incorporate feedback. Do as many rounds as you need to feel confident in your interviewing skills.

Bring copies of your resume

Whether interview in person or by video, have copies of your resume ready for the interview team. More than likely, you’ll be interviewing with a number of people at the same time. This being likely, come prepared with several copies of your resume. Print your resume on high-quality paper and use a professional portfolio cover to carry them into the interview space.

Even with a video interview, you can be ready to drop links into the chat that go directly to your resume. Typically, managers and supervisors are busy and may fail to pull up your resume in time for the meeting. Make their life easy by having an online version of your resume available at a moment’s notice.

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Additional tips for video interviews

Since many interviews are conducted online these days, we think it’s helpful to add tips just for your video interview. These tips can also be used in case you have a phone interview.

Reduce or eliminate distractions

Get rid of all background clutter and noise. Interview in front of an empty wall or otherwise very neat space if possible. If you’ll have a crying baby or a barking dog around, explain to your interviewers in case there’s no way to move to another space.

Have the ideal setup

Make sure you have great lighting and exceptional audio. Consider purchasing a ring light and a good pair of earbuds so there are no echoes or problems seeing your face clearly. If you’ll be using a phone for the video feed, make sure it’s on a stable surface or a tripod to keep it from shaking.

Test your setup

Most video platforms will let you test your audio and video set-up before “showtime.” Arrive at your workstation early so you can prepare accordingly. Once you’re live, don’t forget to unmute and be sure to greet your interview panel with a smile.

What to do after your interview

For video interviews, if you decide to don a formal top with your jammies as bottoms, wait until the session ends to hop up, launch into celebratory gestures or any other untoward behavior. For in-person interviews, don’t come out of character until you are far away from the interview site. In other words, keep your cool until the very end of the interview, then wait for news regarding the next step.

No matter the kind of interview you have, be sure to follow up and send a thank you note. If you are working with a recruiter, they may give you immediate feedback, otherwise, you may have to wait until management gives an update.

No matter the outcome, be sure to keep your interview skills fresh and your cover letters ready. The more you practice, the better you’ll get and the more likely you are to get the job offer you want.

Summary of Money's Guide on How to Prepare for an Interview

  • Do your research - Leverage social media and platforms like Linkedin to look into the company and who you’re interviewing with.
  • Consider why you want the job - With the time we spend each day at work, see whether the position is something you can be passionate about, for more reasons than just a paycheck.
  • Analyze your strengths and weaknesses - This is a tried and true interview question, so be ready with a well-though out answe that’s both honest and is tailored to the position.
  • Anticipate common interview questions - You don’t have to have pat answers to every question, but having an idea of what may be thrown at you can go a long way towards feeling calmer and more prepared.
  • Prepare your own set of questions - It’s increasingly common for interviewer to leave a section of the interview open for questions from the potential candidate. While we provided a list of suggestions, think about what’s important to you and don’t be afraid to be creative (and professional).
  • Watch your body language - Practicing in front of a mirror can alert you to any points you might want to improve on in your non-verbal communication.
  • Practice with mock interviews - While you don’t have to roleplay with another actual person, a lot of people feel more confident once they’ve practiced a mock interview out loud.
  • Dress for success - First impressions are hard to get over, so try and put your best foot forward with your appearance.
  • Bring copies of your resume - While you’ve already sent in a resume with the job application, hiring managers may not have it readily available. It makes everybody’s life easier if you come prepared with extra hard copies or can drop a link in the chat.
  • Additional tips for video interviews - With the rise of remote work, video interviews have become more and more common - but they do require some extra prepwork.
  • What to do after your interview - Send a thank you note to the interviewer/s, to leave a great impression.