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A 13-point checklist for a successful job interview

"It all comes down to showing your best self—staying confident, professional, engaged, and responsive."


If you search for advice on how to ace an interview, you’ll find thousands of job interview tips to help you prepare. People get ready for interviews in ways that work best for them. It all comes down to showing your best self—staying confident, professional, engaged, and responsive.

For some, the hard part comes after the interview: waiting for a response and wondering if you made a good impression. Whether or not you got the position, if you can check off each of the items below, consider the interview a personal success!

Did I conduct the necessary research before the interview?

Once you have an interview scheduled, carve out time to research both the company and the hiring manager who will interview you. There are several ways to do this:

  • Examine the company website.
  • Search for the company and the hiring manager on LinkedIn.
  • Look among your own LinkedIn connections to see if you know someone who works there.
  • Look at for company reviews, as well as their interview Questions and Reviews section.
  • Search on the company in general to see what news it generates.
  • Look at social media for both the company and the hiring manager.

Did I prepare ahead of time for questions that might be asked?

While each position is likely to have specific questions you need to answer, there are some common questions across various industries and fields. Work on your answers to these ahead of time.

  • “Tell me about yourself.” The interviewer knows your work history from your resume and LinkedIn. They want to know more about how you’ve made life decisions, why you chose a certain school or why you want to change careers.
  • “What are your biggest weaknesses and/or strengths?” Treat these seriously. Admitting to a weakness and then describing how you’re working on it shows you’re self-aware and capable of learning. Choose a strength and give examples.
  • “Tell me about a time you made an error/disagreed with a decision.” The interviewer is looking for honesty, but also for someone who takes ownership of their mistakes and is willing to admit to them, as well as how to avoid them in the future. 
  • “What’s your biggest professional achievement?” Make this relevant to the job you’re applying for.|

Did I put my best foot forward?

You only have one chance to make a first impression. What did you leave the interviewer with? Ask yourself, did I:

  • Dress to impress? Plan ahead for the right clothes for the position.
  • Did I arrive on time for the interview?
  • Was I friendly with all staff I encountered?
  • Smile and speak clearly? A friendly demeanor and steady voice strengthens your words.
  • Have positive body language? Good posture exudes confidence. Don’t fidget!
  • Maintain eye contact? This also conveys confidence and interest.
  • Behave courteously? Treat your interviewer with respect. Thank them for their time.

Did I present myself as a professional?

You want to show the interviewer everything they need to see to make their decision. You control how they see you. Did you:

  • Highlight achievements? You can be proud of what you’ve done without bragging—this demonstrates talent and capabilities.
  • Emphasize relevant skills? What makes you right for the position? Make sure they know!
  • Avoid negative comments? Even if you left your last position under horrible circumstances, it shows a great level of professionalism if you have only positive things to say about your past experiences.

Did I exude confidence?

Consider your interview a success if you can say that you were:

  • Proud
  • Secure
  • Self-assured
  • Believed in your abilities
  • Showed the interviewer you’re worth believing in
  • Confidence is key to convincing your interviewer that you are the person they should choose.

Did I seem interested?

No matter the position you’re interviewing for, you can show you want it by:

  • Doing your research
  • Expressing clear interest
  • Showing enthusiasm
  • Following up with thoughtful questions

Did I answer every question?

You can’t really get away with not answering an interview question. Still, people sometimes beat around the bush or provide incomplete answers. This doesn’t effectively communicate why you are qualified for the position. To gauge how you answered each question, ask yourself:

  • Were you as direct as possible?
  • Did the interviewer seem satisfied?
  • Did they ask relevant follow-up questions?
  • Did you get your point across?

Did I ask the right questions?

One of the most important things is to ask the right questions. You need to know as much about the position as possible, and asking thoughtful questions reinforces your interest. These articles offer some interesting ideas for questions to ask:

Did I get a good sense of the position?

If nothing else, you should leave an interview with a solid idea of what you just interviewed for. Ask yourself:

  • Do I know what the position entails?
  • Do I know what will be expected of me?
  • How will I play into the larger scheme of things?
  • What kind of team will I work with?
  • Is there room for growth?
  • Will the position fit into my schedule, especially with classes?

Did I leave with reasonable expectations?

Leaving an interview should give you, not just a sense of the position, but a sense of what your next steps are. You know that you should follow up with your interviewer, but beyond that, did you leave with a good idea of:

  • When a decision will be made
  • Who, if anybody, will contact you
  • Whether or not there is a follow up interview
  • If they need anything else
  • When you should hear back
  • Did I stay true to myself?

Did I stay true to myself?

Your interviewer needs to know who they’re choosing, so be as true to yourself as possible.

  • Never lie on an interview.
  • Provide only the relevant information.
  • Always be honest.

If you told the truth about everything and put your best foot forward, then you conducted your interview with integrity.

Did I do my best?

At the end of the day, your best is all you can do. Only you know your personal best, and if you can honestly say that you did your best, you should be proud of how you interviewed. You won’t know exactly how the interview went until you receive the decision. This is the part of the end result that falls beyond your control. But you can control how you conduct yourself during the interview, and a stellar performance is its own success. Consult this list before you interview so you know what you should check off after. Give it your all, and the rest will follow!

How do I prepare for a phone or video interview during COVID?

In-person interviews used to be standard at some point in the interview process, but with the arrival of COVID, that has changed. All of the above tips still apply to phone/video interviews (including dressing appropriately), but here are a few things to keep in mind when the interview isn’t in person.

  • If it’s by phone and you don’t have a landline, make sure you have a good cell connection. If you’re in a spotty service area, research how to connect your phone to Wifi for better reception.
  • Whether phone or computer, make sure your device is fully charged.
  • Whatever app an interviewer uses—Webex, Zoom, Microsoft Teams—make sure you test it on the device you’re going to use in plenty of time to troubleshoot before the actual interview.
  • Find a quiet place where you’re not likely to be interrupted to conduct the interview.
  • Keep your eye on the camera if doing a video interview. It’s the equivalent of making eye contact.

Prepare for your job search at Strayer’s Career Center.

Category: Motivation & Inspiration

Published Date: October 29, 2020