Businesswoman Being interviewed at an office

How to Prepare for an Interview

Written by Morgan Shaw

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Snag a great new job with our interview preparation checklist

You’ve got your college degree and/or other credentials, and you’ve applied for a stellar new job with great pay, top benefits, and lots of opportunities for career advancement. There’s just one problem: you need to ace the interview to get the job.

Lots of job seekers worry about doing well in job interviews, often to the extent that they get pre-interview anxiety the night before the big day. If that sounds like you, not to worry; we’ll break down how you can prepare for an interview and make yourself stand out from other candidates. Let’s begin!

A person looking through a large stack of resumes.

What to do before an interview

In the days and hours leading up to your interview, you should prepare yourself and your interview “packet” or briefcase. Not sure where to start? We’d recommend beginning with some Googling.

Research the company

Specifically, do some research into the company you’re interviewing for. You’ve probably already done a little research, but further research can reveal:
• What previous job candidates or job holders have to say about the company
• What the company’s interviewers tend to ask about
• What the company culture might be
All of this can give you key insights into what you should expect for your own interview.

Have a salary range in mind

No matter the job you’re interviewing for or your experience level, you should always walk into an interview with a salary range in mind. Not only does this help you answer one of the most common interview questions (more on that below), but it also shows confidence and prevents recruiters from lowballing you.

If you don’t know what the average salary is for a new position, return to Google and check resources like PayScale or the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Find an average pay range for the position or job title you’re applying for, then don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Eat a good breakfast (and get some sleep!)

On the day of your interview, do your body a favor and eat a good breakfast with carbs, veggies, and healthy protein. You’ll need your energy during and after the interview – the last thing you want is to feel shaky or nauseous right before you walk into a recruiter’s office!

Prep multiple copies of your resume

It’s a good idea to have a hard copy of your resume in hand, plus another copy or two in a briefcase or bag. While your recruiter or interviewer should have a digital copy of your resume, they might forget it or ask for a physical copy to test you right when the interview starts. Plus, having several copies of your resume means you can hand one copy to each interviewer in the meeting so everyone can check out your credentials and accomplishments.
Most importantly, having copies of your resume shows preparedness: an attractive trait for any potential hire.

Dress for success

The right clothes can set you up for a successful interview – after all, no one wants to hire a candidate who shows up in flip-flops and gym shorts. To that end, be sure to dress smartly and professionally, wearing items like:
• A business suit
• Tailored slacks and a button-down shirt if the suit is too formal
• A professional dress or blouse and skirt
• Close-toed, sensible shoes
No matter what clothes you wear, make sure they fit properly, are clean, and pressed beforehand to avoid any distractions from what you have to say.

Map your route to the interview

Being late to an interview won’t win you any bonus points with a recruiter. Take out your phone and map your route to the interview before you’re scheduled to leave so you can make a course correction or get ahead of traffic if needed.

Take a few deep breaths!

Most importantly, calm yourself down and take a few deep breaths before entering your potential new workplace. Remember – it’s only an interview.
Two people in an office setting shaking hands over a desk during an interview.

How to stand out in an interview

Once the job interview begins, you can make yourself an attractive hire – and stand out compared to even the most qualified candidates – by keeping a few smart tips in mind.

Be early

For starters, always show up to an interview a few minutes early. This shows initiative to recruiters and may let you start your interview ahead of schedule if the recruiter is already in their office.

Watch your body language

Body language affects subconscious opinions more than you may think. Good interview body language is confident and controlled. To nail your interview body language, practice these behaviors and postures:
• Sit up straight
• Maintain eye contact with your interviewer
• Try to smile every once in a while
• Try not to fidget with your hands or legs; if needed, clasp your hands together

Give specific answers and examples

As your interviewer asks you questions about your career experience, be sure to give them specifics about what you have done and examples of your professional accomplishments. The more specific you can be about your past experiences or workplace scenarios, the better.

As a side tip, ask the interviewer some questions of your own. This can make you stand out amongst other job candidates since it shows that you are truly interested in the company and want to know more about what it’ll be like to work there. Many recruiters take this as a sign that you aren’t just looking for a paycheck.

The mid adult female business owner smiles as she conducts an interview with the unrecognizable woman.

Common interview questions to prepare for

To go above and beyond and make yourself feel even better about your upcoming meeting, ask a friend to stage a mock interview with you. During the mock interview, they can ask you some common interview questions and let you practice your responses.
By the time the real interview rolls around, you’ll have your answers rehearsed and ready to go.

“Tell me about yourself.”

This generic question is usually at the beginning of a job interview. Keep it short and sweet, answer honestly, and don’t hesitate to throw in a funny anecdote!

“What’s your background?”

To answer this question capably, just describe your credentials and academic or professional background as needed. Keep things simple and to the point, while also mentioning any accolades or special experiences you feel are relevant.

“Describe a time where you faced pressure and how you responded.”

Here’s where you should get specific. If you don’t have a story in mind to answer this, make one up (we won’t tell!). Again, it may help to practice with a friend so you can get your story straight and they can tell you whether your chosen story answers the question adequately.

“Do you like to work on a team or independently?”

Some companies might want to know if you are more of a team player or independent worker. It’s actually a trick question; always answer that you love to work on teams and that you get along with people, but are comfortable taking initiative when needed.

“What are your expectations for salary?”

Be upfront and honest about your salary expectations, which you should research beforehand. If a company tries to lowball you or not offer you the salary you deserve, it’s not worth your time anyway.

“Why do you want to work here?”

Some interviewers throw this question in toward the end of the process. They’re looking for proof that you want to work at their company specifically and that you aren’t just in it for the money. Or they might want to know if you’ll be a good fit for their work environment.

Try to answer this common job interview question by referencing the company’s culture, brand, core values, or reputation. Alternatively, you can reference your long-term career aspirations and note how the open job position you are applying for might help you get there.

Acing an interview is more about your attitude than anything else. As long as you have the right credentials, walking into an interview with a smile, a firm handshake, and confidence in your abilities will do wonders to improve your chances of getting a job offer. Try each of these job interview prep tips to keep calm and remember – you can do this!

The information and materials provided on this website are intended for informational purposes only and should not be treated as an offer or solicitation of credit or any other product or service of Regional Finance or any other company. This website may contain links to websites controlled or offered by third parties. We have not reviewed all of the third-party sites linked to this website and are not responsible for the content, products, privacy policy, security, or practices of any linked third-party website. The inclusion of any third-party link does not imply any endorsement by Regional Finance of the linked third party, its website, or its product or services. Use of any third-party website is at your own risk.

Sources accessed 7/12/2022 –

Columbia University – Things to do Before, During, and After Your Interview

Job Hunt – 5 Thing You MUST Do Before a Job Interview

Harvard Business Review – Stand Out in Your Interview

Harvard Business Review – 10 Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

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