How to Prepare for an Interview

Ever since graduating in May, I have been searching for the perfect full-time position. I've spent far too much time on Indeed/LinkedIn, created tons of cover letters and resumes and applied to countless jobs. As I've started having more and more interviews, I've nailed down the preparation process. The job market may be difficult right now, but with these steps you're sure to rock your interview.

Application Stage:


1. Keep a Job-Progress Spreadsheet


Since I've been applying to lots of positions, creating and consistently updating a job-progress spreadsheet has been a life saver! I designed a simple spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel to track the details of each job (company, position title, location), the date when I applied, and if any progress has been made (responses received or interviews completed). It has been super helpful to have everything in one place to track and review my progress.


2. Save the Job Description


I've gotten into the habit of saving the job description for every position I apply to. Before or after I apply I make sure to copy over the entire description into a Word Document and save it as a PDF. This is helpful because the job description is a great resource to use in preparing for and during an interview. Often after a company receives applications for a position they will take the job description down, so saving it at the beginning ensures you'll still have all of the valuable information. In an interview, base your answers off of the exact expectations they have of candidates and the responsibilities the position will have.


Interview Preparation Stage: (congrats on landing an interview!)


3. Thoroughly Research the Company


Prior to your interview, spend some time visiting their website and social media platforms (if applicable). Take notes on anything that stands out, especially as it relates to the position you applied for. You'll want to get a good understanding of the brand identity (history, services) and company culture. Check their LinkedIn profile for more information on their company as a whole. Also research who you'll be interviewing with.


4. Draft a Few Questions


When your interviewer inevitably asks "what questions do you have for me?" you have to be prepared with at least one question. This shoes initiative and genuine interest in the role. Come up with a few possible questions about the company, job, and/or hiring process. A few of my favorites are:

  • What is your favorite part about working at XYZ company?

  • What does success look like in this position?

  • How would my performance in this position be reviewed?

  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

  • Is there anything else I can provide you with or any final questions I can answer for you?

5. Prepare Your Materials/Space


ONLINE: For an online interview it is especially important to make sure you have your space prepared prior to your interview. I have found a spot in my room with a blank wall that I set up a chair and table in front of. I make sure that my computer is completely charged and that do not disturb mode is turned on. I pull up the job description (see step 2) on part of my screen and make sure I have paper and a pen to take notes with throughout the interview. I typically copy over my drafted questions as well as the names of the employees I'm interviewing with for quick reference. I make sure to wear a professional outfit that makes me feel confident, although lately I've been wearing a professional top with comfy shorts because they won't see them! Even though it typically means sitting in an empty Zoom/WebEx/Microsoft Teams room for a little while, I still show up and sign in 5-10 minutes early to an interview. Use this time to make sure your WiFi, video and sound work properly.


IN-PERSON: Review any notes you've taken before heading to your interview or before walking in. Print out a copy of your resume in case your interviewers want it and pack any portfolio materials you may need to reference or share. I usually carry all of my materials in a padfolio. Choose a professional outfit that makes you feel confident and fits the environment of your industry. Arrive to your interview at least 15 minutes early and make sure your phone is on silent before walking in.


Post-Interview Stage:


6. Send a Follow-Up Thank You Email/Letter


After signing off or walking out of your interview, your immediate response should be to send some sort of a thank you. If you think a hiring decision will be made quickly, opt for an email follow-up. However, if time allows, everyone loves a hand-written thank you. Make sure to include everyone who interviewed you and make the message personal. Use your email/letter as a final opportunity to sell yourself. Express your gratitude, but also reiterate your interest and qualifications. Keep your message brief and edit multiple times before sending.

I hope those tips were helpful! The job search process is supposed to be exciting, so don't let them make you stressed. I wish you luck on finding your perfect position, and I'll keep you updated on what's next for me


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© Madison Pincombe 2020 | Madison, Wisconsin | madisonfrommadisonwi@gmail.com