How to prepare for your job interview

By Peggy McKee

The person who gets the job offer is not always the one who is most qualified—it’s often the one who prepares the best. Good preparation gives you confidence, helps you deliver better interview answers, and it will help you get the offer. And the best part is… anyone can do it.

Here are seven steps anyone can follow to be the best-prepared candidate who gets the offer.

1. Research.

Everyone knows to research the company and the job (although not everyone does) but the best-prepared candidate will also research the interviewer.

Do an internet search, but also use social media (LinkedIn is great) and your network as resources. You want to find out everything you can about:

  • Company size, location, finances, history
  • Company products, services, sales processes (if you’re in sales)
  • Company plans, challenges, competitors
  • Biggest challenges
  • Background of your interviewer

With this research, you will speak much more intelligently about the company and the job, and you’ll have stronger questions to ask.

2.  Create a brag book.

Also known as kudos folders or portfolios, brag books are simply a collection of things you’ve done and feedback you’ve received. Awards, performance reviews, project summaries, and so much more can be included.

You can use it in the interview to back up or illustrate any stories you tell, and this evidence of your success is very impressive to hiring managers. It acts as another kind of reference for you, and it’s a huge confidence boost, too.

3. Write up a 30-60-90-day plan.

This is the most important piece to interview success. A 30-60-90-day plan is an outline of action steps you would take in order to be successful in your first three months on the job. Your research will help you create it. When you discuss it with the hiring manager in the interview, they will clearly see your value as a candidate. It turns the interview into a professional conversation (rather than a simple Q&A) that allows them to visualize you in the role.

4. Develop answers to the most common interview questions.

When you stumble over the answers to common interview questions, it highlights either that you didn’t really prepare for this conversation, or you aren’t confident in yourself as a candidate.

Come up with great answers to questions like:

  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “Why should we hire you?”
  • “Why do you want to work here?”
  • “Why are you leaving your current job?” Or, “Why did you leave your last job?”
  • “What salary are you expecting?”

For the best answers to these questions and more, see my Free eBook, How to Answer Interview Questions (50 Tough Questions–Answered)

5.  Practice your interview answers.

Don’t just come up with great answers—actually practice saying them. You can rehearse by yourself or with someone else, but absolutely practice so you are confident delivering them and know how you are coming across to the interviewer.

6. Make a great personal impression.

First, make sure you know the route you’ll take to the interview, and how long it will take you to get there. Then, arrive at least 15 minutes early. This will help you stroll into the building seeming calm, cool, and collected.

Second, make sure your suit, hair, nails, shoes, portfolio, and so on, are in the best possible condition. You want to aim for stylish but conservative dress for an interview, and the details matter—shine your shoes, press any wrinkles out of your clothes, and have a reasonably fresh haircut.

7. Have a great follow up plan.

Before you go to the interview, choose and prep good references. They may be called quickly after your interview, so you want to be sure they are ready to go when needed.

Before you leave the interview, ask about timelines and when they expect to make a decision. Don’t leave the interview without knowing that.

Within 24 hours after the interview, write a good, substantial thank you note. It’s always good manners and a nice thing to do, but I have seen many hiring managers on the fence about a candidate be swayed by a thank you note (or lack of one). Err on the side of safety and send a good note.

This article first appeared at Careerealism.

If you’d like additional job interview preparation tips, check out the author’s 20-page Job Interview Prep Kit.