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A 13-point checklist for a successful job interview

How to Prepare for a Job Interview: Your Checklist for Success
You got the interview. Now what? It’s time to put your best foot forward and prepare to meet your potential future manager and colleagues. Being prepared can help you walk into your interview with confidence and leave a positive, lasting impression.

No matter the outcome of your interview, if you check off each of the suggestions listed below, you should feel good knowing that you gave it your best effort.

Do your research
Once you have an interview scheduled, carve out time to research both the company and the team members who’ll interview you. Get to know the company’s history, mission statements and key clients or partners. If you can find out who from the team will be meeting with you – including what roles they play – that can be helpful as you prepare. Find out how long they’ve been with the company and try to discover how the team works. 

There are several ways you could find this information:

  • Examine the company website.
  • Search for the company and members of the interview panel on LinkedIn.
  • Look through your own LinkedIn connections to see if you know someone who works at the company.
  • Look up the company’s page on Glassdoor® and check out their interview questions and company reviews sections.
  • Do a Google search on the company to see what news it generates.
  • Look at the company’s social media pages or websites to see recent announcements and other information they may share.

Practice answering common interview questions
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 may have an idea of your work history from your resume or LinkedIn, but they likely won’t know much about how you’ve made life decisions, like why you chose a certain school or why you want to change careers. Be prepared to share more about the choices you've made.
  • “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.
  • “Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?” This is your chance to show how you persevered and maybe took ownership of a mistake or challenging situation. Be honest here and let them see your humanity. 
  • “What’s your biggest professional achievement?” Make this relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  • “Why do you want to work at this company?” This is where your research pays off. Here you may be able to explain how the company’s mission may align with your personal career goals. 
  • “What did you like most about your last position?” This question gives you an opportunity to mention a skill or responsibility that could be required in the role you’re interviewing for.
  • “How do you respond to stress or change?” This is your chance to show the hiring manager that you’re calm under pressure and are willing to adapt to whatever challenges may come your way. Use situational examples to bring your response to life.

Show up professionally
Whether you’re interviewing in person or virtually, you only have one chance to make a first impression. It's important to understand professional etiquette – here are some tips to help make it work for you:

  • Dress to impress. Match the company’s dress code. Or google “professional attire” to get an idea of what’s appropriate.
  • Plan to arrive about 10-15 minutes early. This will account for unexpected traffic or give you time to relax for a few minutes if there’s none.
  • Be cordial with all staff you encounter.
  • Smile and speak clearly. A friendly demeanor and steady voice strengthen your words.
  • Communicate effectively. Answer questions directly, honestly and concisely.
  • Use 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.

Sell yourself
You want to show the interviewer everything they need to see to make their decision. You control how they see you. Here are some things you can do to sell yourself:

  • Highlight achievements, awards and recognitions. 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 poor circumstances, it shows a great level of professionalism if you have only positive things to say about your past experiences.
  • Exude confidence. You want to come across as proud and self-assured, without crossing the line into arrogance. Show the interviewer you’re the person for the job, while still being eager to learn.

Prepare thoughtful questions
Asking the right questions is one of the most important things in an interview. You need to know as much about the position as possible, and asking thoughtful questions reinforces your interest. Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What differentiates this company from [your biggest competitor}?
  • What are the challenges of this position?
  • How do you evaluate success here?
  • What are the most important qualities or qualifications you are looking for in an ideal candidate for this role?
  • Are there opportunities for upward mobility and what do they look like?

Leave the interview knowing next steps
By the end of the interview, you should have a sense of the position, as well as a sense of what your next steps are. Before you leave, make sure you have a good idea of: 

  • When a decision will be made
  • Who, if anybody, will contact you
  • Whether or not there will be follow-up interviews
  • If they need any additional information from you
  • When you can expect to hear back
  • The email addresses of your interviewers to send a thank you note
  • Something tangible to include in your thank you email

Job hunting can be stressful. Just being offered an interview is something you should be proud of. These tips can help you prepare for this important step in the search process. Be yourself, give it your all and feel good about your efforts. 

You can find more resources, including tips on how to write your cover letter, in Strayer's Career Center.

Learn more about how Strayer University helps students map out their professional path forward.

Category: Lifestyle

Published Date: APRIL 3, 2024