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How to prepare for a job interview

Are you ready for a new job? Maybe it's your first “adult" job after graduating from college, or maybe you're already a working professional just looking for a new opportunity. Whatever the reason, it can seem intimidating to interview for a new role. However, if you know how to prepare for a job interview you can walk into the room feeling confident. Below are some tips to get you ready to rock an interview.

Before the interview

There are a couple things you can do before an interview to be at your best, and that preparation includes researching your potential employer and practicing your elevator pitch.

Research the company

Once you've secured an interview, check out the company online. Go to their website and read about their work and goals and get a sense of what traits they value in an employee. You may also want to search the company online and read recent news articles about them. This can help make sure you're up to date on their latest accomplishments and projects. 

For a more behind-the-scenes look, check out professional networking sites and see what current and past employees are posting about their work or the company. You may also want to spend some time studying and getting to know the job description and responsibilities. 

Doing this research beforehand and familiarizing yourself with the company you'll be interviewing with will help you sound more informed in your interview, as well as show your genuine interest to your interviewers. It can also help you form questions to ask in the interview.

Prepare your “elevator pitch"

Selling yourself can be uncomfortable for many people, so it's important to practice ahead of time so you can confidently introduce yourself to the interviewers when they ask you to “tell me about yourself." Your elevator pitch should be a short speech that introduces yourself while providing a quick overview of your work and career, or your interests and goals if you're new to the workforce. Working on your elevator pitch will also bring your accomplishments and work history to the top of your mind so you can more easily answer questions in the interview.

Some tips for crafting a good elevator pitch include:

  • Keep it to 30-60 seconds
  • Introduce yourself
  • Summarize what you do
  • Explain your goal or what you want
  • Focus on your employer's needs and how you can meet them
  • Grab the interviewer's attention with benefit-focused language

Once you've figured out what you're going to say, it's time to practice saying it. Practicing it out loud helps it sound more natural once it's time to deliver it to an interviewer. It can also help you hear if you're speaking too quickly, as you want to make sure it's easy for your interviewer to follow along with your pitch.

What to bring to a job interview

If you haven't thought about what to bring to a job interview, don't fret! There are a few things you can pack to make sure you're as prepared as you can be.

  • Resume: Bring at least five copies of your resume in a folder, just in case. The folder will keep them looking crisp and professional. Bringing a digital copy of your resume, such as on a tablet, to share with your interviews may also work.
  • Portfolio: This isn't necessary for all positions, but if you work in a more creative field, it may be useful to have your portfolio with you to show off what you can do. This could be a physical collection of your work or electronic copies.
  • Pad and paper: Bring a small notebook and a pen to keep handy so you can jot down any notes during and after the interview. 
  • References: Your interviewer may request references if they're considering moving forward with you as a candidate. Print out a few copies of your references or have them available digitally. These should be the names and contact information of people who can speak to your professional experience. Be sure to let these people know beforehand that you will be using them as references and that they may be contacted by the company.
  • Mints and water: If you're drinking your morning coffee on the way to your interview, you may want to keep some mints and a bottle of water in your bag to get rid of that coffee breath. Having water will also prevent your mouth from going dry if you're talking a lot.
  • Professional bag: You don't need to bring a full-on briefcase, but be sure to have some sort of professional-looking or simple bag that will neatly fit your belongings without bending or creasing your documents.

How to dress for a job interview

When you go to a job interview, it's important to look professional. 

Regardless of gender identity or how you present yourself, there are a few rules of thumb that can be used when figuring out how to dress for a job interview.

  • Research the company's dress code and tailor your choices accordingly. If you're not sure, you can always ask the recruiter for advice. 
  • Aim to dress a bit nicer than the average employee. 
  • Keep your accessories, hair and makeup neat. 
  • Avoid any clothing with stains or holes.

Many office jobs may have a business or business-casual dress code. This includes attire such as button-down shirts, slacks, blouses, pencil skirts and simple dresses. Start-ups are often more casual, so you may be good to go with khakis and a polo or a more informal dress and a cardigan. It's important to consider the company that you're interviewing with and your personal style and preferences — one interview outfit does not fit all. When in doubt, remember to be yourself and wear what makes you feel most confident.

Questions to ask in a job interview

Before you head to your interview, come up with some questions to ask the employer. Most interviews will end with time for you to ask any questions you may have, and it's helpful to have a few ready to go to keep the conversation moving. 

Some evergreen questions to keep in your back pocket might include: 

  • What do the day-to-day responsibilities look like for this role? 
  • What is the working culture like? 
  • How do you measure success in this role? 
  • What qualifications would the ideal candidate for this role have? 
  • What direction do you see the company heading toward? 
  • What have past employees done to succeed in this position? 
  • How is the team I'd be working with structured? 
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

How to follow up on a job interview

If you don't want the interviewer to forget about you amongst the other candidates, you may be wondering how to follow up on a job interview. There are a few ways to do this. 

  • Say thanks: Send a thank you note via email later that same day or first thing the next day. You can include the hiring manager and interviewer if you have their contact information. This should be short and sweet, but try to mention one specific thing from the interview that stood out or you particularly enjoyed. Remember to reiterate your interest in the position. 
  • Follow-up: If the timeline in which the hiring manager told you to expect further communication comes and goes, send another email. Give them a few extra days or up to a week before sending a note reiterating your interest in the position. When you do, ask if there's any further information you can provide, and let them know you're looking forward to hearing back. 
  • Keep them updated: If there's a change in your circumstances, you can reach out earlier than expected. For instance, if you receive another job offer, let them know and tell them that you'd like to know their decision before making yours.

What's more

If you're feeling nervous about an interview, try to focus on how to prepare for a job interview so that you can go in with confidence. Even if you're not the right fit for the job, you can feel good knowing you were prepared and represented yourself as well as possible.

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