14 Tips For Before, During, & After An Interview

For many, the most difficult part of the job search process isn’t filling out applications or polishing a resume. No, the most difficult and dread-inducing requirement is often the job interview. If you’re inexperienced or poorly prepared, a job interview may make you so nervous that you can’t even remember your own name. However, interviews are much less intimidating if you properly prepare and have an edge over the competition. To help you land that dream job and master any job interview, you’ll want to review these important and helpful tips.

When it comes to interviews, you’ll excel if you follow every step of a careful process, such as the one we’ll explain here. The interview itself is, of course, the main event, but there are also important things to do before and after the interview as well. Move through our tips one step at a time, and we guarantee you’ll know just what to do every time you have an interview lined up.

How to prepare for an interview

There are a lot of things you need to do before the interview even starts. Going into an interview without preparing at all is the easiest way to ensure it goes terribly. Since you don’t want that, you should review the following tips on what to do in order to prepare for an interview.

Review the job description

The job posting is probably what got you interested in the first place, so it is usually the best place to start during your preparations. A job description should at least give a general idea of what is expected in the position and will more than likely tell you what skills an employee will need to excel. Carefully and repeatedly review the description of the job, so you know what skills and knowledge are most important for that particular position.

An impactful cover letter will help land that coveted interview. Review our thorough guide to writing them here.

Brainstorm past experiences that highlight your skills

If you applied for the job in the first place, chances are your skill set fits with the job expectations. However, you should think about how your past experiences mesh with the skills you are expected to have. If a job requires knowledge with a specific software or tool that you have already used, think about ways you used those successfully in your past work. Interviewers will look favorably on a potential hire that already has past successes under their belt.

Prepare answers to interview questions

It is very important to prepare answers to questions ahead of time. This will be especially helpful if you tend to get nervous during interviews or struggle to quickly think of eloquent answers. If you already know the answer to a question before someone finishes asking it, you’ll be able to respond with poise and confidence. In particular, you should think about how you will answer questions such as “Why did you apply to this position?” and “What do you think of our company?”

Be sure to research the company ahead of time. Interviewers often ask questions about why you applied to the company, what you can bring to the company, or how you think you will fit into the company culture. Not knowing anything about the company or its values is a major red flag to an interviewer, and they may question your true interest in the position. Make sure to check out the company’s website and social media ahead of time. Including details about the company in your answers shows to an interviewer that you are enthusiastic about working there and you have really thought about how you can succeed at the position if hired.

There are certain questions that tend to be asked in any kind of interview. You should be prepared for questions like:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you feel is your biggest weakness?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

As any experienced interviewee can tell you, how you answer these questions is just as important as the answer you give. These questions in particular are actually asking how you view yourself as an employee, how you handle problems, and how you envision your long-term goals with the company.

Whenever you’re faced with a question about your weaknesses, don’t fall into the trap of highlighting your flaws or shortcomings. Instead, you should either focus on steps you’ve taken to improve your weaknesses or only mention weaknesses that have little to do with what your responsibilities will actually be.

⭐️ STAR Method

The STAR Method is a commonly used technique in which an interviewee can give a direct, focused answer to a question about past job experiences. STAR stands for “Situation, Task, Action, Result” and the STAR Method breaks down like this:

  • Situation: Set the stage with the situation you found yourself in.
    • Example: Our team was tasked with developing a new marketing campaign for the fall product line. 
  • Task: Explain what your role was in the situation.
    • Example: I was in charge of the team creating online advertising.
  • Action: State what you did in order to successfully accomplish your goals.
    • Example: I expertly assigned each team member a task suited to their strengths and quickly resolved any setbacks. I also worked closely with our marketing manager to ensure our tone and content was always on brand. 
  • Result: Reveal what your actions led to.
    • Example: Our viral marketing campaign led to a 50% increase in quarterly sales and the experience drastically improved my leadership and organizational skills.

As you can see, the STAR Method is very useful when you want to craft straightforward responses to questions that can also highlight your strengths and problem-solving abilities.

Create a list of questions to ask the interviewer

During an interview, you’ll be asked plenty of questions, but it is just as important that you have your own questions ready, too. Not asking any questions is often seen as a sign that you aren’t that interested in the job, so you want to avoid giving off that impression. So, what kinds of questions should you ask?

At this stage, you can generally ask about salary, and the interviewer will likely approach the subject themselves. Beyond that, questions about such specifics as benefits, vacation, etc. can wait until after you ace the interview. Questions about the company and/or the position are a solid choice. These questions show you are actually thinking about the position and how you can succeed at the company. Some examples of questions you could ask include:

  • What is a typical day for this position?
  • What are the main responsibilities of the position?
  • Which departments will I be working with at the position?
  • How is success measured?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement?
  • What are some common challenges involved with the position?

Practice with a friend

If possible, you can ask a friend or family member to help you practice for the interview. Have them ask you some of the common interview questions or questions you think the interviewer is likely to ask you. By talking out the answers and thinking ahead of time how you’ll answer them, you’ll be much better prepared—and less nervous—when you answer the same or similar questions again during the interview. (Worried about filler words like uh and like? Take a look at our tips for improving avoiding them in formal situations.) During your practice, you can also work on your body language and practice maintaining eye contact.

Tips for during an interview

Now that you are well prepared, it is time to actually get that interview done. This is the most crucial step, of course, and will ultimately be the deciding factor. Hopefully, all the preparation you did will calm your nerves and help you walk confidently into the interview. Once it is time for the interview to begin in earnest, here are the important tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

Arrive early

It is good practice to arrive at any interview 10 to 15 minutes early. Preparing everything the night before will help make sure you aren’t scrambling to make it to the interview when the day arrives. Set your GPS ahead of time and plan ahead for the possibility of delays due to traffic or construction. If possible, you may want to try driving to the company prior to the interview so that you make sure you don’t get lost later. As an added bonus, this will let you scope out the company and learn some good information that you can use during your interview, such as the best clothing to choose for the interview.

Come prepared with resume, notebook, pen, and examples of work

If the interview is in person, it is a good idea to bring multiple copies of your resume with you. While the interviewer(s) may have already read your resume, having it with you will give you an opportunity to point to specific relevant experiences that can help sell you as a desirable hire. Additionally, you should also bring your portfolio, examples of prior work, or anything else you can use to prove you have experience in the field. Lastly, it is a good idea to bring a notebook and pen with you so you can note down important information, such as the interviewer’s email or specific details they give you about the job. While taking notes, make sure you remain polite and maintain eye contact when the interviewer is speaking to you.

Make sure your resume is at its best by going through our comprehensive guide to writing a resume.

Dress professionally

Dressing appropriately will help make a good impression. The clothing you should wear will depend entirely on the specific position. If possible, you could research the company’s website or visit it in person to get an idea of what the dress code typically is. For most companies, dressing in business or business casual attire is usually the right move. If the company has a more relaxed culture, as is the case in many smaller startups, you can ease up a little, but you still shouldn’t show up to an interview in a t-shirt and jeans.

Ask the interviewer questions

Here is your opportunity to ask those questions you prepared ahead of time. In addition to your prepared questions, you should also ask any important questions that came to your mind during the interview. If an interviewer mentioned a responsibility you didn’t know about, you can ask for more details. If any other concerns were raised during the interview, you can ask about them too. If a major issue for you came up during the interview, you should also ask about it in case it turns out that it is a deal-breaker that will largely impact whether you decide to accept or refuse an offer at the company.

Keep your answers concise

If possible, you want to keep your answers short and to the point. It is important to strike the right balance between answering a question sufficiently without talking too much or rambling. Always listen closely to an interviewer’s entire question, so that you can give a great answer that cuts right to the important details.

Show that you are interested in growing

Sometimes, you will be asked about a skill you don’t have a tool you have never used. Don’t panic! It is okay to say that you are willing to learn new things. You can lessen your weaknesses by emphasizing the fact that you are open to trying new approaches or learning to use new tools. A lack of knowledge shouldn’t be a strike against you as long as you make it clear that you are interested in improving yourself as a worker.

Keep a positive attitude about past jobs and employees

When talking about previous jobs, it is important to highlight your successes and ways that those jobs strengthened your skills. It is always a good idea to prepare a list of references from previous jobs who will give you a positive recommendation.

Do not use an interview as an opportunity to complain about your previous jobs or employees you didn’t get along with. If you were fired from a previous job, do not dwell on that detail and explain why you parted ways with the previous company as briefly and tactfully as possible. A prospective employer wants to hire someone who can be a cooperative team player and can work well with others.

Revamp your LinkedIn summary with these tips.

Let your personality shine

Of course, interviews are likely to be much easier for outgoing, extroverted people. If that’s you, try to develop a good repertoire with the interviewer and speak with them earnestly and politely. The interviewer may not have the final say, but likable employees are often hirable employees. If you are more of an introvert, try to direct the interview to your strong areas. Talk about things you like doing, work areas you find especially interesting, or emphasize how your skills help you excel on the job. Whether you are creative, logical, or somewhere in between, there is always a way to make your personality stand out as special.

Tips for after an interview

Okay, the hardest part is behind you. The interview is over and all the tips so far made sure you aced it. But you’re not done just yet. There are a couple of final tips that will help you land that coveted position even after the interview is over.

Ask about next steps of the interview process

Once the interview is over, you can ask about what the next steps will be. This is the time to find out if there are follow-up interviews, if the company needs more information from you, or if the company will simply let you know later if they have an offer for you. Make sure to note important things down so you don’t forget.

Send a follow-up email

Sometime after the interview, it is a good habit to send a well-crafted thank you email to all of the people who you talked with. You can typically get people’s email addresses from their business cards or on the company website. (Need some tips for that final, thank you email? Check our handy guide to comma placement in greetings and closings.)

These action verbs will energize your resume (and your interviews)!

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