How to prepare for a job interview

From ‘Tell me about yourself’ to the final handshake, these tips can help you close the deal.

How to prepare for a job interview

You stressed over every little adjective on your resume (“efficient or productive?”). You wrote draft after draft of your cover letter. And now you’ve arrived at the moment of truth: the job interview, when you’ll be face to face with the person who controls your employment destiny.

Are you really gonna leave this one up to fate?

Even the most charming of candidates needs to practice before stepping in front of a hiring manager. “If you try to wing it, you'll miss your chance to make a strong case as the best candidate, and the interviewers could recognize that you're unprepared,” says Lori Bumgarner, owner and coach at PaNash, an executive, career and life coaching service in Nashville. “They’ll assume if you didn't put in the time and effort to prepare, you're not that interested in the job.”

Getting prepped doesn’t have to make you sweat. Monster compiled these tips to help get you ready for the big day.

Study up on company and industry

The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you’ll be. Start by researching the latest trends and issues in the industry the job is in, Bumgarner says. This can include reading relevant industry blogs, trade publications and professional associations' social media pages. Commit a few noteworthy statistics to memory so that you can wow the hiring manager with your awareness of the current state of affairs.

Then, focus on learning more about the company itself. Review press mentions for the past few years. Look for both press releases issued by the company, as well as what traditional media reported. If you’re interviewing at a public company, you can also view financial statements and reports to shareholders to find out exactly how the company makes its money. All of this information will help you craft thoughtful questions to ask during the interview.

Investigate the interviewers

If you know the names of the people who will be interviewing you, do an online search on them to learn more about their professional backgrounds and what they talk about on social media.

Maybe they have a particular affinity for a certain aspect of the company, like its outreach program. If so, make a mental note to express your enthusiasm for the way the company is dedicated to giving back to the community. (Avoid a brown-nosing tone, of course.)

If you discover that you’ve got something interesting in common—like a previous employer or a passion for thumb wrestling—you’ll definitely want to use that in your meeting. 

Nail your opener

One of the questions interviewers most love to open with is, “Tell me about yourself.” Don’t get caught blabbering your way through this seemingly straightforward answer.

“Have an elevator speech ready in case they want a brief overview of your career,” says Marlene Caroselli, author and corporate trainer in Rochester, New York. Practice delivering a 30-second pitch about past experiences and successes, your skills and abilities, where you are in your career and what challenge you’re seeking next.

Figure out your selling points

Now you want to think about the meat and potatoes of the interview: The questions that relate to the job requirements and your experience.

Remember, your goal in the job interview is to show how you can make a positive impact on the company. Your interview answers should reiterate your unique selling points, Bumgarner says.

To practice, review some likely interview questions and make notes about the strengths you can highlight.

“For every answer, you should be able to say, ‘For example,’ and tell a story about a time when you demonstrated the things you are saying you are good at,” Bumgarner says. “Never answer in generalities.” Specific, real-world examples are what will get you hired.

Master the closer

You also want to close the interview well. Typically, an interview will end with interviewer asking, “Is there anything you want to ask me?” Regardless of how well-informed you feel, don’t get out of your seat until you ask some questions of your own. You should include questions about the company culture as well as the job itself.

Remember: You’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you

After you ask your questions, you’ll want to close with a firm handshake [LINK TO LILY’S PIECE] and a positive, enthusiastic statement like “I really enjoyed meeting you, Sue, and finding out more about this position. It seems like a great fit for my experience, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you about next steps.”

Get your Hollywood on

There’s no better way to practice an interview than actually doing an interview, so get a friend or family member to help you. Provide them with the details you dug up on the company, the job description for your position, your resume and cover letter. Take the list of tough interview questions from here and provide them to your helper. (Also take a bottle of wine to thank the person—and maybe another if you actually get the job.)

Caroselli recommends you film your mock interview, if possible. (If video isn’t a possibility, record the audio.) “Study your body language to see if it reveals confidence, poise and enthusiasm,” she says.

You should also review your performance with your interviewer. Did they think you had good answers? Did you sound or act nervous? Did you seem arrogant? Get their feedback, and adapt as needed.

Focus on what you’ll have for dinner

Once you’ve done all this prep, don’t let last-minute jitters throw you off your game. In the moments just before the interview, try to think about something else entirely.

For example, "When you get to the interview site and are waiting to be called in to the interview room, work on a brainteaser," Caroselli says. "It calms the nerves and takes your mind off the challenge ahead."

Get better at interviewing

The job interview is unavoidably stressful, no matter who you are and what level you're at, so take some deep breaths and remember that. The more times you interview, the less stressed you'll feel. Could you use some more help planning your answers? Join Monster today. As a member, you'll get interview insights, career advice, and job search tips sent right to your inbox. You'll learn the best ways to answer even the toughest questions so that your strengths shine through. If you put in all the homework required to make a solid impression, there's no doubt you'll go in there feeling more confident.