Getting Ready for the Interview

The first time you go for a job, the interview can be a scary experience. But it’s not hard to do well at an interview, if you prepare properly for it and follow a few simple rules for success.


Preparing for the Interview

The most important rule for successful interviewing is “Prepare!” Find out whom you’ll be talking to and how long the interview will be. If you know anyone who works at the business you’re applying to, ask them what their interview was like. Look at the sample interview questions on this web site and spend some time writing out answers to each question. (Write them out because that makes you think more carefully about your answer.) Don’t memorize the answer, however, or you’ll come off sounding like something out of Star Trek.

Almost every organization today has a web site. Spend time visiting the site and learning about the company and its products. If you can, research the competitors and the industry, as well. Try to get an idea of what are the important issues in the industry. Learn as much as you can. Even if you’ve never worked in this industry before, you’re the effort you’ve made and the enthusiasm you show will make a big difference.

A day or two before the interview, make a practice trip to the place where you’ll be having it. Check out how long it takes to get there, whether you have to change buses, etc. Make sure you plan it so you’ll arrive relaxed and in plenty of time.


The Day of the Interview

First of all, leave yourself plenty of time. You don’t want to be rushed. You’ll probably already feel stressed. Worrying about being late is something you don’t need. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early. If something holds you up, phone to tell them you’re going to be late. Unless you show this courtesy, being late will cost you the job.

Dress for success. If you’re not sure how, check our web page on what to wear. Make sure you put on extra deodorant today!

Before you leave the house check that you have:

  • extra copies of your resume?
  • your portfolio (if you need or have one)?
  • a piece of paper and pen to write down the names and titles of anyone you speak to?

Before you walk into the office, check that your breath is fresh. Pop into a rest room and brush your teeth or gargle. At the very least, pop in a breath mint. Avoid smoking before an interview. Not only will the smell be on your breath; it will be on your clothing, as well. Take a second to comb your hair and straighten your tie, as well. Wipe any dust off your shoes.


Arriving at the Interview

Now we’re going to tell you a secret that few people understand: the secretaries and receptionists at any company are among its most powerful people. That’s because they’re the gate-keepers. They’re the ones who decide who gets to see their bosses. So treat them with warmth, courtesy and respect. Making a good impression with them will go a long way, not only to getting your foot in the door, but later in making your work life a lot more pleasant and successful. If the Receptionist, Administrative Assistant, or Personal Assistant in your department likes you, that person will get your jobs done first, even when he or she is swamped with work. Plus the administrative staff members are a wealth of information that can help you navigate the corporate environment.

While you’re waiting for the interview, you may have to fill out a job application. Remember to do it neatly and accurately. Be truthful. Lies can cost you your job.

Check with the receptionist about the titles of and how to pronounce the names of the people who are interviewing you.

Before you go into the interview, turn off your pager or cell phone. During the interview, if it goes off, ignore it. Nothing right now is more important than this interview. (This is also an important rule for any business meeting. Nothing is more insulting to someone you’re meeting with than answering the phone or pager during a meeting. The only exception is when everyone at the meeting is waiting for the results of a call you made.)


The Interview

Greet the person who’s interviewing you by name and with a smile and firm handshake, and wait until you’ve been offered a seat before you sit down. Sit straight, feet on the floor, and look interested. It goes without saying, you shouldn’t chew gum during the interview and avoid nervous mannerisms like twisting your ring.

Speak firmly and try to project confidence, even if you’re scared to death. (Maintaining eye contact is one way to project trustworthiness and confidence.)

Keep the conversation to business. Don’t tell jokes. Avoid personal matters (unless asked to explain something and even then keep it brief) and controversial topics. Above all, keep the tone positive. Nothing comes off worse than saying something negative about former colleagues, supervisors, or employers. It brands you as a complainer.

Watch your English. Avoid slang and “filler” works like “like”, “uhh”, etc. If you’re not sure how to answer the question and need a second to think, repeat the question.


Selling Yourself

The interview is the most important part of the job process. The good news is, you can make it work for you. This is your chance to sell yourself and prove to the interviewer you’re the best person for the job. Here are some hints how to do that:

  • First of all, take control of the interview. Ask lots of questions about the company and the job. It shows you’re interested. More important, this is the time for you to make your own evaluations of the job and the company. Is this some place you would enjoy working? In today’s work environment, there are more positions than qualified applicants. You can afford to be choosy.
  • Before the interview, spend time thinking about how your training and experience matches the qualities required by the job. In the interview, be ready to bring up these points.
  • Show enthusiasm. Ask if it’s ok to take notes. It will show interest.
  • Not asking any questions is a real negative. It shows you’re not interested. However, save questions about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement, or other benefits until after you’ve received an offer.
  • Bring out your good points in a factual, sincere manner.
  • Never, never, never lie.
  • Answer the question you’re asked. Give facts and examples to explain your answers, but don’t over-answer by supplying information about things you’re not asked.
  • Before the interview, make a list of your achievements. During the interview, stress them.
  • Don’t volunteer any negative information about yourself.
  • Act as if you already have the job.
  • Before the interview, you should have researched the company, its products and competitors, as well as the industry in general. You can really gain points on bringing up what you learned when responding to questions.
  • Focus on what you can do for the company rather than what the company can do for you.
  • You will probably receive a question about salary requirements. Try to put this off with a statement like, “I’d like to learn more about the job before I answer that.” Let them make the first salary offer.
  • Make sure you get business cards from each person who interviewed you. At the very least, get the correct spelling of their first and last names.
  • At the end of the interview, tell the people who interviewed you that you want the job and ask about the next step in the process. Act as if you are a valuable commodity that any employer would be pleased to get. Don’t let people think you are desperate for a job.


After the Interview

As you walk out of your first interview, you’re probably breathing a big sigh of relief. Congratulate yourself. You did well. Now it’s time for the follow-up.



Yes. If you really want that job, you still have work to do.