Preparing for an interview

Preparing for an interview

Preparing for an interview

Most interviews have four stages. The better you understand what is expected at each stage, the stronger your interview will be. 

Stage 1: Introduction

During the first stage of a job interview, the interviewer forms an initial impression that contributes to your eventual acceptance or rejection as a candidate.

This is the stage where you introduce yourself and find common ground. Be aware of your surroundings, and note items in the interview space to identify shared interests or other subjects for small talk, but stay away from controversial subjects. Smile, offer a firm handshake and wait to sit until the interviewer does or until she or he invites you to. 

When meeting someone for the first time, make note of their name and job title.

Project enthusiasm, confidence and an attitude of respect—no matter who you are meeting. From the gate guard or receptionist to the executives, everyone is important to your success.

Stage 2: Answer employer questions

Most interviewers use a standard set of interview questions to elicit how your knowledge, training, and work experience fit the job and the company. Preparing your answers to these typical questions positions you to present your strongest qualifications. 

  • Keep your answers brief, but be certain you answer the questions thoroughly. Do not volunteer information that is not asked. You might talk yourself out of a job.
  • In your responses, go beyond answering the question to share stories from your experience. Incorporate evidence, specific examples, data and anecdotes to illustrate your points.
  • Think about your answer before you start to speak. It is okay to pause and collect your thoughts and then give your answer. 
  • Try to use keywords from the job posting, and affirm the match of your skills to the company's needs.
  • Every chance you get, explain how you would go about doing a job rather than just saying you can do it.
  • Emphasize that you want the job and are willing to make a commitment.

Stage 3: Candidate questions

Interviewers look to learn about you, and will remember you, by the questions you ask. They respect candidates who think about their choices carefully, and want to know you have done your research on the organization.

This is also your chance to learn whether it would be a good place for you to work! Look for a match with your goals, needs, and attitudes. Good questions will both show you have done research about the company and get you details you really want to know.

Prepare several questions to ask; typically asking two to three questions is expected. 

Stage 4: Closing 

If you are sure you want the job, make your intentions clear at this time. For example you could say: “This sounds like a great place to work and I believe I can help your department exceed expectations. I would really like to have this job.”

Usually you are informed at closing about what happens next. If the interviewer does not offer this information it is appropriate for you to ask:

  • What are the next steps?
  • Is it okay if I follow up on the position next week?
  • When do you plan to fill the position?

Usually the hiring authorities for the position will confer before anyone is offered a job. So do not expect a decision to be made about the position immediately.

Make a gracious exit. Thank the interviewer for his or her time. On your way out, say goodbye to anyone you see who may have helped you. Smile and be pleasant, even if you feel less than confident about how it went.

Best practices for any interview

  • Be positive and enthusiastic. Your facial expression conveys your attitude, and reinforces what you say.
  • Turn off your phone or any other device which could detract from the interview.
  • Remain attentive and eager to listen. Reinforce the interviewer’s comments with nods.
  • Listen more than you talk; do not interrupt.
  • Research the company/industry in advance so you can ask informed questions about the job and the company.
  • Offer a firm whole-hand handshake. Shake hands with both men and women the same way.
  • Make eye contact with the interviewer. Many interviewers use your eye contact to look for enthusiasm, sincerity, and for possible inconsistencies in your responses.
  • Sit up straight and lean forward toward the interviewer slightly. Good posture will help you listen and make you look interested.
  • Use natural gestures. If you normally use your hands to gesture as you talk, do so in the interview. Gestures help you relax and convey enthusiasm.
  • Speak clearly and not too fast. Use good grammar and pronunciation, and think before you speak. The interviewer will assess your communication skills based on how you express yourself.
  • Notice the nonverbal cues of the interviewer. The interviewer’s facial expressions will let you know how well they are listening. If the interviewer is not attentive, shorten your answers, use an example, or ask a question.
Print Interview Practice Questions worksheet