Preparing for the Interview

You'll find that the interview itself will be much less stressful if you do your homework. Follow the steps in our timeline, and by the time your interview begins, you'll be more than ready to project a strong, confident professional image.

Before you even think about an interview or a specific career path

Manage your online reputation
  • The simplest solution?: Don't let any negative images or text appear online. It doesn't matter how private you think the site, page or message is. Anything that's on the internet can be accessed sometime.
  • Frequently search for any references to yourself and do your best to remove any uncomplimentary images or text.
  • Commercial services are available for this and may well be worth the fees, depending on your professional aspirations and/or you youthful indiscretions.
  • Use a professional-sounding email address with your own domain name, or hosted by a reputable service like gmail. You may be used to, but you won't score any points with a prospective employer with that that address.
  • Create a detailed professional profile on LinkedIn. Follow each step provided by LinkedIn and take advantage of this opportunity to get information about you into a professional and widely-searched database.
Manage your credit history

  • Again, the best solution is to stay out of trouble in the first place
  • Second best is to check your credit report with all major credit reporting agencies.
    • Make sure that everything shown in the records is accurate
    • Do whatever you can to correct incorrect information and to remove negative reports as soon as possible.

Several Days Before the Interview

Know the organization

Explore the company's website to learn as much as you can, including

  • Company history
  • Company founders and leadership
  • Goals, philosophy and mission statement
  • Products and/or services
  • Competitors
  • Locations and areas of activity
  • Financial and stock information
  • Position within its market or area of specialization
  • Recent news
  • Greatest current challenges and opportunities
  • Other positions they may have available
    • You might not be a perfect fit for the job you're interviewing for
    • But you might be just right for another one
    • Be prepared

Here's a tip that's obvious, if you stop and think about it:

  • While you're on the company website, search the site for the name and/or title or anyone with whom you're scheduled to meet, or likely to meet Google allows you to search for specific words throughout a single website
  • If the company is publicly held, read its annual report.

Search for articles about the company.

Do additional research on relevant third party websites.

Talk to people you know who may have worked for the organization, or know someone who did.

Leverage LinkedIn

  • See who else is listed as working for this company
  • Find out if you're directly or indirectly connected with anyone at the company
  • Join groups which may include LinkedIn members with connections to the company
  • See if there's anyone you know who may have information about the company
  • Search for any mutual acquaintances or connections

Review your resume

You probably think that by now you know your resume by heart. But can you discuss in detail each of your jobs and accomplishments?

Review your resume and compare it with the position description. Try to figure out just what the company saw in your background to make them think that you might be a great fit for the position. Be prepared to focus on those strengths when you interview.

Remember: Your resume is just the starting point for further discussion with the interviewer.

Study our resume advice section carefully. You'll probably find some useful information there.

Gather everything you'll need

Make a list well ahead of time, and gather your materials in advance. Consider bringing all of the following materials with you:

  • Extra copies of your resume
    • Have more than enough copies for everyone you might meet with
    • These should be printed sharply on good quality paper
  • Any specific materials or work samples you've been asked to bring
  • Other supporting documents if you think they might be discussed or relevant to questions that might be asked. Examples of these include
    • The longest and most detailed version of your resume, as a memory aid for previous positions
    • Work you've done that's similar to what the position involves
    • Letters of reference
    • Articles you've written
    • Copies of presentations you've given publicly
    • Copies of your professional certifications or licenses
    • Copies of your transcripts, if you're fresh out of school
  • Bring newer, well-kept professional quality materials with you
    • Carry a good quality folder
      • Consider a briefcase or attaché if you've been asked to bring a lot of material
      • Otherwise, keep things simple and substitute a nice leather notebook, folder or padfolio
    • Don't forget business cards, in a simple, good quality card case
    • What else might you need?
      • Your professional address book?
      • A calculator?
      • Be prepared
    • Carry classic, good quality pens and pencils
      • Bring more than one
      • You just know that this will be the exact day and time that your best pen runs out of ink
    • All of these accessories give you yet another opportunity to present a professional appearance in a quiet, subtle way. Take advantage of this
  • Warning: Do not drag any of these documents out unless you've been asked to!
    • Don't overwhelm your interviewer
    • Don't look desperate
    • Just be prepared


Find a quiet spot and think about how the interview might go

  • How will you introduce yourself?
  • What small talk will you and the interviewer engage in at first?
  • What questions might the interviewer ask? (Don't miss our list of likely questions)
  • How, specifically, will you answer these questions to present yourself most favorably?
  • What questions will you have for the interviewer? (Again, refer to our list of sample questions for ideas)
  • How will you handle questions about money or benefits?
  • Create a list in your head of your “greatest hits” that you will work into the conversation

Now take the next step and practice with someone

  • Ask a friend or your spouse to play the role of the interviewer
  • Try turning things around, and ask your helper the interviewer's questions. This will help you understand what the interviewer is looking for
  • Remember: The more you practice, the less stress you'll feel – and the more natural you will appear during the interview

Throughout your interview rehearsals, visualize yourself behaving calmly and professionally. Visualize yourself listening carefully to questions and then giving brief, clear and responsive answers. See yourself as successful, and you will be more successful.

Don't be caught unprepared. You have plenty of time to research the company and the requirements of the job. You have plenty of time to rehearse how you will handle the interview. You can shine at your interview if you've done your homework.

Know who you'll be talking with

Find out as much of the following information as you can:

  • Who you will be meeting with
  • Full name (and spelling) and title
  • What, exactly is their function within the organization?
  • Will you be speaking with a hiring manager, someone from HR, or an internal recruiter?
  • Will the interviewer be a supervisor for the position you're seeking?
  • Will you be meeting with other peer level personnel or other managers from the department, or with people from other departments?
  • Don't forget to check to see if you know anyone who might be taking part in the interview process – or anyone else at the company
  • Visit our Networking page for several resources that can help you determine if you might know someone who knows someone at the organization

What will the interview process be like?

  • Will you be meeting with one person, or several?
  • If several people will participate, will they all be present at the same time?
  • Will there be more than one interview during the day?

Be proactive as you prepare

You don't have to wait passively to find out what happens next during the interview and evaluation process. Assuming a more active role will not only reduce your stress levels, it will also communicate to the employer that you're someone who thinks ahead and values knowledge.

Look for opportunities to ask questions like these:

  • What are the steps in the hiring process for this job?
  • Will there be subsequent interviews or meetings?
  • What is the anticipated time frame for reaching a decision?
  • Are any tests required as part of the process?
    • These might include any of the following:
      • Psychological, aptitude or intelligence tests
      • Writing and language skills
      • Mathematical skills
      • Technical evaluations
      • Physical examinations – often a euphemism for drug testing
      • Criminal or other background checks
  • Are you seriously considering any other candidates at this time?
    • This can help you get a sense of where you stand
    • Asking this question at the right time can also serve to emphasize your interest in the position
  • Who will make the final decision?
    • Will the people you interviewed with be directly involved in the decision?
    • Will the decision be a committee process?
    • Does one person have greater input than others?

Think about how much more comfortable you will be during the interview process if you know what to expect, and can anticipate what's coming next.

Touch base with the company

A day or two before your interview, call your contact and confirm that you have the correct location, day and time. Make sure you understand any security or check-in procedures that may be required.

In addition to helping prevent unpleasant surprises, making this call will help show the company that you're thoughtful and detail oriented. Isn't it better to demonstrate a quality, rather than just list it on a resume?

Verify the name and position of anyone who is expected to be interviewing you. Take your time and make sure you record all of this information accurately.

Ask where you can park.

A Day or Two Before the Interview

Scout the location

  • Reduce your stress by being fully prepared
  • Print out a sheet to take with you with all essential data:
  • Time of your interview
  • Interviewer name and title
  • Get the spelling right
  • Be sure you can pronounce the name correctly
  • Interviewer phone numbers
  • Any other contact names, titles and phone numbers
  • The main number of the company
  • Street address, suite number, etc. of where you'll meet the interviewer
  • Take advantage of Google Maps or a similar site
  • Create a map and detailed directions from your location to the interview location
  • Verify that all directions are accurate
  • At least one day before your interview, go to the interview location
  • If you'll be driving:
  • Verify your directions
  • Locate the parking garage
  • Make sure you have the change or bills required for parking
  • Never ask the interviewer to validate your parking
  • If you plan to take public transportation:
  • Determine the closest stop
  • Be sure you know how long it takes to walk to the interview site
  • Always leave yourself plenty of time to get lost
  • Enter the building if you can, and orient yourself
  • Are there checkpoints that might delay you?
  • Where are the elevators?
  • Are there public bathrooms available?

The night before the interview

Get some sleep!

If you've followed our tips, you've done everything you can to prepare for your interview. Now it's time to relax and get some rest.

Watch TV or read a book the night before. Avoid liquor and anything with caffeine in it. Go to bed early, and remind yourself of what a good job you've done getting ready for the next day.

On the Day of the Interview

Give yourself plenty of time

Arrive early at the location. Again, this is a simple way to reduce your stress level.

Bring something light to read.

Don't drink too much coffee or water ahead of time! You don't need any additional distractions once the interview starts.

Find a quiet place to park, and wait until about fifteen minutes before your scheduled interview time.

Now you can walk in a leisurely fashion to the building, already knowing pretty well where you're going.

Try to arrive at the interviewer's office no more than five minutes before your scheduled appointment time.

Turn off your cell phone!

Turn off phones, tablets, pagers and any other devices that might interrupt the flow of the interview.

What if . . . Disaster strikes!

Completely unforeseen problems have a way of popping up at the least convenient times.

You might have a flat tire, or engine trouble. A bridge may be blocked. It could be anything.

(The problem will not, however, be traffic congestion. You allowed yourself plenty of time for that, didn't you? That's why you brought a book.)

If you simply won't be able to keep your appointment on time – start calling. This is one reason why you created that list of all relevant names and phone numbers. If you can't reach the interviewer directly, keep calling until you reach someone who can get your message to them.

The interviewer will not only understand about an unforeseeable predicament, but be impressed by how prepared you were to deal with it.