Are you interview ready? If you are serious about getting your dream job, you are going to need to put in a lot more work than just showing up in a suit and answering some questions. Here are my top 20 tips for making sure you make the best impact when you go in for your interview.

  1. Know the Company – You’d be surprised how many people totally skip this step. It might seem like every job you are applying for is the same, but this isn’t true. Every company that takes the time to interview you deserves some research. Just go to the company’s website and read who they are and what they do. If they have a vision, mission, and values those are great things to look into as well. Jot down some notes on a piece of paper about what you like or find distinctive about the company. These details will help you to come up with creative and targeted answers during your interview.
  2. Read Their Press Releases – Where is the company now and where are they headed? Press releases are the simplest way to get the information you need. A company puts together a press release when they have something important, exciting, or novel that they want to announce. Reading press releases will help you to get a better sense of what the company cares about. You might also want to make some notes about recent initiatives or directives mentioned in press releases. This information can help you answer the question, “Why do you want to work here?” If you can point to a specific reason from their current initiatives.
  3. Scan Their Social Media – Social media accounts are amazing ways to get insight into companies. They give you daily updates, short product pitches, and interesting tidbits you might not otherwise find on the company’s website. If you know you have an interview soon, pull up their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram when you have a minute or two. That’s honestly all it takes. I’ve done research on a company’s social media feeds while standing in line at the grocery store. It’s a great way to make effective use of your spare time.
  4. Review the Job Posting – Job postings are a goldmine of excellent information, tips, and clues into how you can get yourself hired. This is a roadmap to success, you just need to know what stops need to be made along the way. Figure out what key words they use, what essential functions that you will need to fulfill, and any outstanding requirements you may want to ask about. An example of those requirements would be a job that says you need a driver’s license, or one that specifies that you will need to do some heavy lifting. If these weren’t facets of the job that you were anticipating, you should probably ask some questions when you get to the interview.
  5. Match Your Resume to the Job Requirements – This is one of the most important components of interview prep. You need to think about what you have done, and how that aligns with what the company needs. Now it is time for you to get creative and think about what you have done in your previous jobs. Were you lauded for a specific project? Are people always praising your turnaround times? These details give you more dimension as a candidate and give the interviewer a better sense of your past achievements. It might be helpful to write a job or project title that you have completed next to the specific job requirement on the position description. That way, you can draw natural parallels during your interview even if you get nervous and start drawing a blank.
  6. Be Honest with Yourself – Are there parts of the job that you don’t have experience in? Highlight those or make a list of them on a separate sheet of paper. Now look at the parts of the job you haven’t done before. How easy would they be to learn? If it’s something like a computer program, you can try to take an online overview course before your interview. This won’t turn you into an overnight expert, but it will show your interviewer that you are dedicated and paying attention to the company’s needs. If the skills are more people-oriented like managing a team, you should look at the different skills you have that could lend themselves to supporting that job function. If you have led successful projects, are known for your clear communication style, or if you are great at mediating personnel disputes, these can all bolster your claim that you are ready to advance to the next level in your career.
  7. Learn About Their Competitors – Most companies have major competitors that they keep an eye on to get a sense of the market trends and project the future of their business. Learning about the competition can give you keen insight into what the interviewing company might be concerned about. While they have their own direction and plans, they’re probably pretty aware of the advancements their competitors are making. If you know what they’re up against, you can probably come up with a few impactful ways that you can help them keep ahead of the competition.
  8. Read Up On the Interviewer – Don’t go overboard, but getting a sense of your interviewer’s background can go a long way. Check out their LinkedIn, read through their relevant publications, and double check that you understand what role they play within the company. This will give you an idea about who you are meeting with and what they may want to know about you.
  9. Understand the Office Culture – Pulling together the research you’ve done on the company can help you learn how the office runs. You might also want to check out to learn what current and former employees think about the company. I always like to know who the company wants to be, so I can know what to expect during my interview. Once, I did not learn about the company culture and was left stunned when my interviewer swore and joked openly during the discussion. While this sort of candor can be great, it can really trip you up if you are not expecting it. Get a sense of the office culture early, and you won’t be left surprised.
  10. Come Up with Great Questions – Every single interviewer ends their interviews with the same question, “So, do you have any questions for me?” If you say, “Not really,” you are going to seem unprepared. One of the things I hate most is if my questions are answered during the general course of the interview. Try to avoid this problem by developing detailed questions about the company that are not likely to come up. Write down three or four questions to ask so you don’t get stuck leaving a bad impression.
  11. Practice with Your Friends – Your friends know you really well, and they can help you to figure out what your selling points are and what skills you need to showcase. Ask your friends to talk about the job over coffee. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, but just sitting down and having a chat about what the role entails and why you want it will help get you thinking.
  12. Have a Good Handshake – It might seem frivolous, but if you have ever been on the receiving end of a limp handshake, you know how awkward it can be. If you are already practicing your interview answers with your friends, then why not try out your handshake too? Make sure it’s firm and assertive without being too tight. Your handshake is likely the first impression you will make, so you need to make sure it’s a good one.
  13. Dress Professionally but Be Yourself – I know everyone tells you to “dress for success,” but let’s be honest, that is not really a great rule. I simply do not feel comfortable in a suit, and if I don’t feel comfortable, then I won’t be on top of my game during the interview. Some companies allow a more business-casual look, while others are completely casual. Sometimes this is where the “About Us” website page or the company’s social media accounts will provide photos where you can see what people wear to work. Always present yourself as put-together, but let your personality shine through.
  14. Pack Your Bag a Day in Advance – Leaving things until the last minute never works out very well, and that’s especially true regarding interview preparation. You’re going to need the following things:
    1. Clean copies of your resume
    2. Pens (at least two)
    3. A notebook
    4. A sheet where you’ve written questions for the interviewer (leave blank spaces to write down their answers)
    5. A copy of the job description with notes linking your experience to their requirements
    6. A water bottle (don’t get stuck with dry mouth)
    7. A snack
    8. Tissues (hey, you never know)
  15. Sleep! – I cannot stress this enough. Getting a good rest before an interview is absolutely critical. If you have ever gone to an interview, then you probably know that this is tough. Perhaps tougher than landing the interview itself. Getting a good sleep before a stressful event like an interview can seem impossible. If you can, get some exercise early in the day, on the day before your interview. Exercise will help you to feel better and will also help to wear you out. If you work out early in the day, you will probably have a simpler time falling asleep. I know I do!
  16. Avoid Caffeine Overload – Drinking coffee before an interview seems logical, you want to be awake and sharp. And far be it from me to deter someone from drinking coffee – I love it after all. But drinking too much coffee can leave you either too wired to impress your interviewer, or starting to visibly crash. Not to mention how harsh some highly caffeinated drinks can be on your stomach. You are already going to be a bit nervous which can make your stomach churn. Don’t make things worse for yourself. Instead, treat yourself to a celebratory coffee once you have successfully finished the interview.
  17. Eat Well – No matter what time your interview is going to be held, make sure you have had a decent meal beforehand. Don’t load up on food because if you make yourself too full you might get sleepy, or even worse – queasy. Instead, opt for a healthy salad with a protein like chicken or tofu. You’ll feel full but not weighed down, and the meal won’t leave you hungry again in ten minutes. Making sure you eat a decent meal will keep you alert and focused during your interview.
  18. Pack Snacks – Have you ever sat forever waiting for an interview to begin? It can be really frustrating when you are on time but the interviewer is not. One of the worst feelings is getting nervous waiting for the interview and hearing your stomach start to gurgle. If you pack a protein bar or a baggie of mixed nuts, you will be able to sneak to the restroom and have a quick snack. Don’t eat in the reception area, that’s pretty rude. But bringing a snack will help you to avoid those hunger pangs.
  19. Locate the Office Beforehand – If you know exactly where the office is, then good! If you don’t, make sure you know where it is and how to get there. If you need to take public transportation, then you need to factor in potential delays or missed busses. Just make sure that you know where you are going so you don’t risk getting lost. If I am interviewing in a new city, I try to walk to the office the day before my interview. If you can’t find the office, then email your interviewer and ask for directions from the closest landmark or transportation stop. It is always better to ask than be late, which brings us to my final tip below.
  20. Be Early (But Not Too Early) – This is a tough line to walk. I am almost always way too early, so I find myself needing to locate a coffee shop nearby to keep from inconveniencing my interviewer. If you know where the interview is going to be held, it will help you time out your day. It’s a good idea to be about 5-10 minutes early to ensure you have time to fill out any intake forms or hear any instructions you may be given. Being late leaves a really bad first impression, so always be early.

This might seem like a lot to do for every interview, but once you do it two or three times it will become routine. Leaving a positive impression is extremely important to making sure you get the job that you want. Prepare for each interview thoroughly, and you will start seeing job offers before you know it!

What do you do to prepare for interviews? Share any pre-interview tips and suggestions in the comments below!