How to Master a Job Interview: Before, During And After
Once and for all: the complete guide to nailing your next interview.
Let’s face it: job hunting—however rewarding in the end—can be a stressful experience. Whether you’re scouring job boards or networking like crazy, it’s tough to feel let down…until you get the interview. Scoring an interview is the first step toward getting the job of your dreams, so it’s important to do as much preparation as possible to stand out. I’ll lay out the dos and don’ts to consider before the interview, during the interview, and after the interview—all from my own personal experience.
BEFORE THE JOB INTERVIEW
Research—Then Research Some More
It’s super important to do the proper research on the company you’re interviewing with beforehand. Why? Because it shows them you already know what they’re all about and that you’re committed to pursuing the position.
Take some time to browse through their website. Look for when the company was established, their mission statement, who the CEO is, what kinds of clients they have, what their company culture is like—anything you think would be valuable to know during the interview. Many employers will ask what you know about the company and why you are a great match for them; it’s your job to come prepared to answer these questions. I also look up where my interviewer went to school—if you went to the same school, that’s already something you will have in common!
Use the Company Website to Help Plan Your Outfit
Another important factor to take into consideration pre-interview is what you are going to wear. By browsing through the company website, you’ll probably get a sense of the company culture, which can help you determine how you should dress. If you are applying for a position at a financial firm, for example, you might want to wear something more formal, like a business suit. However, if you are applying for a more creative position, you might want to wear something more—for lack of a better word—creative.
Sometimes, you’ll find yourself unsure about the company culture or dress code. In this case, it doesn’t hurt to ask your contact or HR representative for recommendations. Whenever you are unsure about what to wear, it’s always better to err on the side of overdressed.
Prepare Your Personal Pitch
The interviewer will usually start by asking you to tell them about yourself. This is your time to shine so make it count. Craft an introduction that’s brief and to the point—you don’t want to bore them with unnecessary details or filler words. Use Career Contessa’s Personal Pitch worksheet to prepare, then rehearse your unique pitch before the interview. Doing so means you’ll be able to attack that first question with confidence.
Have Your Own Questions Ready
Almost all interviews end with “Do you have any questions for me?” You may find that you naturally have questions based on your conversation during the interview, but play it safe by preparing some in advance.
Pro Tip: If you need some behind-the-scenes information about how managers conduct interviews so that you can reverse engineer your job interviews, check out this guide to interviewing and hiring.
Do a Drive-By
If you’re unfamiliar with the interview location, drive there the day before so you can familiarize yourself with the route. And on the day of your interview, give yourself plenty of time to get there! It’s always better to be 20 minutes early than 20 minutes late.
Print Out Several Copies of Your Resume—and Don’t Forget a Pen
As far as what to bring to your interview, always come with a few copies of your resume, a pen and paper, and some printed copies of your previous work or a portfolio (if applicable).
Get Into an Empowered Zone
You should already be in interview mode when you arrive. Walk in with a smile on your face to show that you are excited to be there. Don’t forget to take a big deep breath—that will definitely help calm your nerves—and maybe even listen to a couple of minutes of bass-heavy music before getting out of your care. It’ll help you feel more powerful.
DURING THE JOB INTERVIEW
Handshakes and Names Are Everything
While the length of the interview will depend on how many people you’re speaking with, assume you’ll be there for at least an hour. When your interviewer greets you, give them a nice firm handshake. It can be difficult to remember names (especially if you are meeting with multiple people!).
Try repeating a name immediately after the introduction. For example, when the interviewer says “Hi Samantha, I’m Mike,” respond with “Hi Mike, nice to meet you.”
Keep the Answers Short and Honest—and It’s Ok to Say “I Don’t Know”
After running through your personal pitch, you will be asked questions about your previous work experience, what you know about the company, why you would be a good fit for the position, and so on. Be prepared to answer typical interview questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, “What are your biggest weaknesses?”, or even “Why are you looking for a new job?”
If you are unsure of an answer to a question, it’s okay to say that you don’t know. It’s counterintuitive, but trust me—they would rather have you be honest than get off track with inaccurate answers. The most important thing to remember during the interview is to be yourself. Be as honest as you can, and they will respect you for that.
Pro tip: Try preparing answers for the top 10 questions CEOs love to ask.
Ask for a Card
Once the interview is over, make sure to say thank you and ask for their business card.
AFTER THE JOB INTERVIEW
You Must Write a Thank You Note
Many people think they don’t have to do anything after the initial interview. Wrong. Always, always, always send a thank-you note, whether it’s handwritten or through email. Employers will really appreciate that you took the time to do that, and that’s why it’s important to get their business card after your interview. It doesn’t have to be a long note—just something to say thank you for their time and something you like about the company. We even made a template for you.
Remember to keep your thank you note short and to the point—it will make sure you leave a great impression!
This may sound like a lot to remember, but as long as you do the proper research, show up on time and be yourself, you’ll master the art of the interview. Happy job hunting!