An interview can be the gateway to a great job. The key to acing an interview lies in interview preparation. No one is naturally ready for an interview, even if you know all your experiences by heart. You need to prepare for every interview so that you can show:

  • You have done research on the company, and understand current news surrounding it.
  • You know why you are a good candidate for that particular position, and are prepared to tell credible stories about how your experiences support your candidacy.
  • You have prepared meaningful questions to find out more about the company.
  • You are prepared to answer unexpected questions with calm and clarity.

With that said, here is a checklist of interview preparation tips you should follow:

7 Interview Preparation Tips – What to do Prior to an Interview

  1. Do your homework on the company, product line, and the hiring manager.  Read the Hiring manager’s bio if available online, or through a Google or Linkedin search
  2. Give yourself extra time, print out directions, address and phone numbers.  Arrive 5 minutes before the interview start time.
  3. Eat in advance of the interview. Sometimes interviews run long, which is what you want. You don’t want to run out of steam.
  4. Dress appropriately - ask about dress code with the recruiter before the interview, if possible. If not, err on the side of overdressing. Some people say a suit is always a safe bet.
  5. Be able to give examples of at least 3 solid and measurable accomplishments that go beyond daily tasks, and how they show that you have the right hard skills for this job.
  6. Be prepared to give examples that demonstrate your people skills - these would be the answers to behavior questions, like “tell me a time when you managed a difficult person, and how it turned out…tell me a time you disagreed with your boss, and how you resolved it.”
  7. Prepare questions in advance about the company, position, challenges, etc. This is key, as you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Asking insightful questions will also give the interviewer the impression that you are enthusiastic about the job.

8 Interview Preparation Tips – to Read Prior to an Interview and Practice in Mock Interviews

  1. Don’t be negative on last employers – big red flag for hiring managers.
  2. Your energy and enthusiasm is important to show, so be aware of this.
  3. Be aware of your body language, ie, leaning forward into a conversation, show interest and be engaged. (For more on this, check out this article on, called “Is Your Body Betraying You in Job Interviews?” This article is very detailed. Read it, and when you practice mock interviews with someone, ask them if any of these things show up in your body language. Don’t over fret about this in the interview, though. Focus on answering the interviewer’s questions.)
  4. Always reference specific examples when speaking about your background, and answer using “I” instead of “we”. The potential employer wants to know what you specifically did, not the team.
  5. Be concise in question answering. Run on answers will quickly eliminate you. If you have more info to share, ask the interviewer if they would like to hear more before launching into a long explanation.
  6. Make it a conversation, if appropriate – This depends on the interview format and interviewer’s style. If they lay out a very structured format for the interview (e.g. I will give you 2 cases and then leave 5 minutes for your questions), then don’t try to make the interview a conversation. However if the interviewer is relaxed about the interview’s structure, then making it more of a dialogue will give the interviewer a chance to get to know you better, and make the whole experience more pleasant for both of you (just make sure you use the bio info you researched).
  7. When wrapping up a conversation with an interviewer, ask them how they feel you qualify for the position, and if they have any concerns. This is your best opportunity to correct any misconceptions or miscommunications. Remember, first impressions, even if incorrect, are difficult to reverse.
  8. At the end of the interview, if you are engaged and interested in the opportunity, ask about next steps.

At the end of the day, practice, practice, practice.  Just like any skill, the ability to interview well takes time and practice to master. It is not good to memorize your answers, as the interviewer may not ask the exact same question you prepared for, and you will sound stiff. So, practice for both typical interview questions and unexpected questions.   Practice in front of the mirror, practice with a free audio service (you can record your answers and listen to them to see how you sound), and practice with a friend.  You will be able to catch common mistakes, and avoid making them in the actual interview.

I hope you find these 15 interview preparation tips helpful.  I look forward to your comments.  For help with actual interview questions, check out The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Answers, written by Bob Firestone.  It’s $29, and has a 60 day unconditional money back guarantee.  Best wishes to acing your interview.  I am always in your corner.  

Like this post? Help me out by sharing it on Linkein, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.

– Lei

3 Thoughts on “15 Interview Preparation Tips

  1. Aftab Loya on June 17, 2009 at 8:21 am said:


    1. Willing to ask for clarification if you don't understand the question.

    2. Okay with ending the interview short when you sense there's not a fit.

    3. Excited, but not overly-excited that you are spewing out words left and right without taking a breath in between.

  2. Tamara Carleton on June 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm said:

    All great advice! I thought it would be helpful to describe the four basic stages in a job interview:

    (1) Introductions: This is where you make your first impression with the interviewer. Keep in mind some simple basics: shake hands, smile, and make direct eye contact. Bring extra copies of your resume. A generic opening question is often: "Tell me about yourself."

    (2) Background Review: The next stage focuses on your accomplishments, career goals, and previous jobs. Respond concisely. The interviewer is often looking to check if your basic qualifications matches what they are looking for. This process can feel like an intense Q&A;, so try to relax and enjoy telling stories about yourself.

    (3) Deeper Review: Once the interviewer has a better sense of your work experience, he or she will begin the process of asking more detailed questions related to specific job responsibilities and your fit with the company culture. You may be asked to respond to several behavioral questions or hypothetical cases at this point.

    (4) Wrap-Up: As you wrap up, be sure to ask about next steps in the hiring process. First interviews are not the place to ask questions about HR policies, hiring bonuses, or salaries.

    More importantly, job interviews are also a chance for you to interview them. Your goal is to determine whether you want to work for this employer. Be sure to prepare a set of questions, and tap friends and online resources to help you. The best interviews can turn into conversations.

    Hope some of these tips help!

  3. Judy Huang on June 15, 2009 at 3:46 pm said:

    My only comments are listed below:

    1. Bring breathmints for those long interviews. You want to be pleasant for all of your interviewers

    2. Unless its a strict yes or no question, be able to elaborate on your answer, especially if your answer is a "no". For instance, I once was asked if I knew SAS. I replied that I didn't, but I have done other forms of programming, and I am sure I can pick it up.

    3. Post interview, send out personalized thank you letters so that you stay fresh in the interviewer's mind.

    4. If you didn't get a job, try asking the interviewer why and learn from it. This will save you tons of second-guessing.

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