Prepare for Interviews

two professionally dressed people talking in a hallway

The purpose of an interview is to find the best person for a job. An interview is a two-way conversation between you and a potential employer. Use the opportunity to explore whether the position is a good fit for you and to convince the employer that you are the right person for the job.

Only a small percentage of job applicants are invited to interview, so if you have an interview, congratulations!

As a candidate, your goal in a job interview is to reach the next stage of the search process, which is to receive an offer. Understanding what to expect in an interview will give you an advantage.

Before the Interview

Know yourself

  • What specific strengths, skills and accomplishments do you want to emphasize, and how do they relate to the role?
  • Know your personal strengths. Why does the employer need your expertise? What contribution can you make to the organization?
  • Review your resume to remind yourself of key dates, academic/career timeline, etc.

Do your research

  • Find out pertinent and useful information about the company, such as products and services, structure, size and outlook.
  • Find out as much about the job as possible, for example, how the position fits into the overall structure of the company, desired qualifications, responsibilities and salary range.
  • Know how you align with the company’s mission, vision, culture, or values. As a qualified candidate, you could do this job at another company, so your interviewers will want to know why you are interested in this particular company and job.
  • Ask your point of contact what the structure of the interview will be and who you will be meeting with. You can then research these people to better understand their role at the organization and their background. You can use LinkedIn or the company’s website for research. This may also be helpful when strategically answering interview questions given the “lens” of the person who is asking.
  • Prepare and write down questions related to the role or organization to ask at the end of the interview. These should be genuine questions that help you evaluate the opportunity.

Practice

Pay attention to logistics

  • Print copies of your resume to bring to the interview. If the interview is over the phone, have a copy for reference nearby.
  • Arrive 15 minutes early. If the interview is far away, or in a location you don't know well, plan to arrive 30 minutes early as a buffer in case you get lost. Consider asking for specific directions from the person who scheduled your interview. You can even do a practice run.

During the Interview

Use body language

  • Offer a firm handshake at the beginning and end of the interview.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Smile and show enthusiasm.

Listen

  • Before answering a question, determine what the interviewer is asking. If the question is unclear, ask for clarification.
  • Try not to be consumed by thinking about how you will respond while the interviewer is still asking the question. Listen fully and take a pause before answering if needed.

Answer questions

  • The key to answering interview questions well is to relate specific work experiences, educational training, and personal strengths to the particular job that you are applying for.
  • Use the S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to convey your skills, abilities, strengths, and achievements effectively.

Ask questions

  • Ask questions to show that you have researched the organization and want to learn more about it.
  • Your questions influence the employer's perception of you.
  • In a first interview (if there will be more in the future), it is recommended not to ask about salary, benefits or hours.

Close strong

  • Restate your interest in the position, even if you are not sure yet. The purpose of the interview is to get an offer. Keep your options open. You are not deciding yet whether you actually want the position.
  • Ask what the next steps in the process are.

After the Interview

Send thank-you notes

  • Follow up with a formal, brief thank you card or email to each person who interviewed you. Keep in mind that a mailed thank you note may arrive after decisions about your candidacy have been made. Emails are acceptable and are much faster.
  • You should send an individualized thank you note to each person you met. Try to personalize it by referring to something specific you discussed with them.
  • Remind the person of your abilities and qualifications that distinguish you from other candidates.
  • Reiterate your interest in the position and company.