Interview Preparation: How to Be a Leading Candidate

Avatar: Alan Walsh
  • Alan Walsh
  • Recruiting Director
May 25, 2020

“Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” 

This old British Army adage is applicable to most important events in your life, including interviewing for your next job.

After conducting nearly 10,000 interviews in my recruiting career, it’s become easy to recognize if a candidate has properly prepared. Essentially, this is your first impression on the company, which suggests another practical adage… it is everything! These pre-interview tips will help prevent the jitters we’ve all felt leading up to an interview and get you closer to an offer.

Do Your Homework

1. Know the Company

Unless it’s part of the potential job description, very few hiring managers expect you to know the intricacies of the company. Instead, focus on high-level information. 

  • Size: revenue, number of employees, locations
  • Culture: mission statement, core values, etc.
  • Founding year
  • Products or services offered

Demonstrating during the interview that you made an effort to research the company shows initiative and that you’re truly interested in joining the team.

2. Know the Position

Instead of just reading through the job description, I recommend printing it out and pinpointing specifics in your experience that are transferable to each responsibility and requirement. Make notes of what each experience was and when it took place. This is a great way to refresh your memory about your accomplishments and what skills contributed to your success. It will also prepare you to answer questions regarding your fit and convey why you are the choice candidate. If you don’t understand one of the requirements, look it up or flag it to ask about during the interview.

3. Know the Hiring Manager

Again, keep it broad. Having too much information on them could get a little creepy. A few things to know are how long they’ve been with the company, their official title, education, and topics they follow using LinkedIn and social media. This knowledge provides a way to build commonality and rapport.

4. Know Thyself

When I ask candidates to tell me about themselves, the number of blank stares is staggering. The internal struggle is painfully evident: “What does he want to know?” “Should I keep it professional or personal?” “Keep it modest or brag about myself?”

The answers to these questions live somewhere in the middle. Preparing a 30 second commercial about yourself can help combat awkwardness and get your interview off to great start. Things you could include in your commercial are:

  • Personal: Hobbies and passions, proudest accomplishment, what’s important to you and your career, current goals, reasons you’re in the job market and interested in the position
  • Resume Rundown: Prior positions, years of applicable experience, reasons why you left positions or for gaps in employment, what your favorite and least favorite positions were and why 

In your preparation, think about the key points you want to emphasize and practice your delivery, but stay away from memorizing a script because that can hinder your ability to be adaptable, creative, and genuine. You don’t want to be caught off guard by a question during the interview and freeze up. Instead, be yourself: honest and confident in expressing your abilities and experience. 

The Day Before

5. Do a Test Drive to the Interview Location

If you can, drive to the interview location the day before during the same time slot your interview is scheduled for. This will give you the most accurate estimate for the commute and prevent you from getting lost the day of. Plan to arrive 30 minutes early to give yourself cushion in case you run into any unforeseen circumstances. If that works out, take 15 minutes before you go inside to get your head straight, practice your personal commercial, or listen to a song that gets you into the right mood.

6. Plan Your Outfit 

Preparing your clothes the day before your interview will help you arrive on time. Try not to mimic exactly what you think the employees wear on a regular basis. Instead, error on the side of being overdressed and under-scented. By that I mean, go light on the perfume/cologne and try to avoid smoking right before your interview. Some hiring managers have sensitive noses, and you don’t want them to be distracted during your meeting. 

7. Prepare Your Interview Questions

Whether you think you know all of the answers or not, it’s always wise to prepare questions for the interviewer. Here are some examples.

  •  “Why is this position available?”
  • “Who is your ideal candidate?”
  • “What do you enjoy about working for _____?”
  • “What benefits does your company offer?”
  • “What are some of the reasons someone may have failed/succeeded in this position?”
  • “What is your leadership style?”
  • “What are the next steps in the interview process?”
  • “When do you plan on making a decision on my application? How will you contact me?”
  • “Based our interview today, is there anything that would keep you from offering me the position?” 

8. Gather Your Notes and Printed Copies of Your Resume

Unless directed otherwise, print two copies of your résumé. If available, use 100 percent cotton paper and keep them in a folder. You should also take along your notes from researching the company, your written questions, and a paper and pen for taking notes during the interview. This demonstrates professionalism and preparation.

Are You Ready?

It’s rare for anyone to feel 100 percent ready for an interview, and even fewer people actually have a perfect interview. What you can perfect is your preparation, because Perfect Preparation Provides Promise and Powerful Potential.