With over 11 million open jobs in the United States, job interviews are happening daily in large numbers. Your job search might lead you to sites like ZipRecruiter to find new and exciting opportunities, but on average, it takes 2 to 3 interviews with the same company before landing the job.

If you’re feeling a little intimidated about the interview process, there are things you can do to prepare and build your confidence. With the tips and guidance below, you can polish your interview skills, feel ready to tackle your next interview, and accept that job offer.

Four steps to prepare for an interview 

1. Examine the job description 

Presumably, by the time you get to an interview, you know what kind of job you’ve applied for, and there is some crossover with your skillset. However, it is important to comb through the job description carefully before going into an interview to understand the company’s exact requirements and how they describe the role.

Take time to review the job title and each listed qualification. Think about how your experience meets or exceeds those expectations. When you speak with a potential employer, you will have immediate examples to share to solidify your fit with the company.

Read more:  How to Write a Cover Letter

2. Research the company and hiring manager

Even if the role you are interviewing for doesn’t require extensive knowledge of a company’s industry, it is best to go into the interview with an understanding of what the company offers and how that fits into the market.

Review the company website and look at the company’s mission statement and values. Get a basic understanding of the products or services offered too. You can look up product demonstrations as part of your interview preparation.

It will also be a bonus if you can talk about specific trends or needs in the market to show you took an interest in the company and not just the job. You may also see what you can learn about the company culture through social media accounts and online review websites.

If you know who you will be interviewing with, it can also be helpful to do a quick search on LinkedIn. Finding any mutual contacts, connections to a school or organization, or shared hobbies can give you a chance to connect on a more personal level.

3. Consider answers to common interview questions 

Each interviewer you encounter will have a different style and unique questions to ask you, but there are also some questions you can expect almost every time. Here’s a list of common job interview questions that job seekers can expect:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why are you the right fit for this job?
  • Why are you job hunting right now?
  • What is it about this company that excites you?
  • What qualifications do you have that make you the right candidate?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell us about a time you had to overcome an obstacle.
  • How do you deal with pressure?
  • Do you prefer to work with a team or solo?

For these questions, you should have some answers prepared that you can easily call to mind.

Aside from the questions above, you’ll likely have questions and answers that are more technical in nature and pertain directly to your role. You’ll also have behavioral interview questions, and you’ll likely discuss salary expectations, work history, and if you expect to work remotely.

4. Prepare any logistics

There are different types of interviews. Your interview might be in-person, a video interview, or even a phone interview. No matter the type, you want the interview for a new job to go smoothly. For an in-person interview, be sure to bring plenty of copies of your resume and choose a professional outfit that meets your industry standard. Any travel arrangements should be made well in advance, and you should always leave your house with lots of time to spare.

If you are doing an interview remotely, it is still important to have a professional appearance. Choose an area with good lighting and a solid background, and wear business attire. Ensure your internet connection is stable and you are free of any distractions during the interview.

Four ways to practice interview questions 

1. Use flashcards to test yourself 

Once you have identified some questions, you can expect to be asked – both common and specific to the role – write them down on individual flashcards. This is a great way to practice interviewing yourself because you can shuffle the cards and have a sense of unexpected questions, helping you be comfortable answering them in any order.

Having an immediate response prepared for each question will mean that when you are asked them during the real thing, there is an element of muscle memory in answering.

If it is helpful, you could also ask a friend or family member to create the flashcards, so you truly don’t know what to expect.

2. Simulate the real experience 

When practicing interviews, try to get as many details as possible that reflect the real thing. Take time to put on your best interview outfit, get ready as if it was the real thing, and sit upright in an office chair.

If you’ll be at home, use the same part of your house and computer setup. You’re more likely to take the practice seriously when the conditions feel like a real interview, which will help you feel in your element during the real thing.

3. Record responses 

While the substance of your answers is the most important part of an interview, your presentation matters. Some people struggle with confidence when speaking and in their body language, which can reflect negatively during a job interview.

Start by recording yourself answering simple questions- choose ones that you feel confident in and ones that you are less sure of for this exercise. Watch the recording to note any nervous habits you have or ways you would like to improve. Pay attention to your posture, eye contact, fidgeting, and filler words like “um” that you may use.

If you need to improve your speaking, try practicing with topics you feel very confident about first. Then, once you feel you have a good delivery, move on to less familiar topics.

4. Ask a friend to do mock interviews with you 

If you have someone in your life you trust and think will give constructive feedback, ask them to do a sit-down mock interview with you. Have them act the part of the interviewer so that you have a chance to practice the full interview.

Treat the mock interview like the real deal. Put on your work attire, enter the room with confidence, offer a firm handshake, and be prepared to answer questions with specific examples that relate to your job experience.

Read more:  Top 25 Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Six interview tips to answer questions professionally 

1. Get ahead of any concerns 

If you know there is a gap on your resume or qualification you are lacking, don’t wait for the interviewer to bring it up or let it go unaddressed. Try to work these into your answers early on in the interview and explain what happened and why it is not necessarily a negative mark against you.

Don’t get defensive or make excuses, but adding something simple to say how you spent a period of unemployment learning and networking can get ahead of any more aggressive questions.

2. Center the company 

As much as possible, use what you learned about the company in your research to answer the questions. Work in small mentions of the industry and clients to otherwise generic answers to show that you are thinking about this role specifically. Even in your introductions, you can mention how excited you are to meet with them because of a specific initiative or product you heard about.

3. Take responsibility for the interview 

It is easy to feel like you have no power during an interview and simply answer questions along the way. An interview is like any other conversation; a give and take between two people. You don’t want to come off as aggressive, but don’t be afraid to be assertive and direct the conversation. It is your responsibility to ensure you could share everything you wanted during the meeting.

4. Keep an eye out for inappropriate questions 

In most places, interviewers are legally forbidden from asking about your race, age, gender, religion, marital status, children, and sexual orientation, which is always inappropriate. If these questions come up, you can simply answer by saying it is not relevant to your application or try to understand why they need to know. Look into your state laws as well, because some forbid questions like what your current and former salary may be.

5. Put a positive spin on things 

You don’t want to come off as a very negative person during an interview. If you are asked questions about things you dislike, it is okay to answer, but try and turn it into a positive.

For example, if someone asks what class you liked the least in school, you could say, “I would say math in terms of the content, but I had a really amazing professor who offered me help and mentorship. I value that relationship, so I wouldn’t trade the math class.” This is especially important when it comes to past and current employers, as you don’t want to be seen as talking badly about them.

6. Look out for behavior-based interviews 

A common style of interviewing today is to focus on work experiences that demonstrate certain behaviors. You may be asked to talk about a time you had to make an unpopular decision, displayed persistence, or worked under pressure for a positive outcome. To answer these questions, try to understand why they may be asked and how the example can apply to the job responsibilities. Not every answer has to be directly related to your career path, but the more you can relate it back and demonstrate how it will apply in the job, the better.

Questions to ask at the end of an interview

At the end of an interview, you will most likely be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. Not only can asking questions show you are interested in the role and have done your research, but the answers may be important for you to know.

Remember that you are also interviewing the company to make sure your career goals align, so don’t be afraid to ask things you genuinely want to know.

While you may think of questions during the interview or have role-specific ones, it’s a good idea to have a list of questions on hand so you always have something to ask.

  • Can you tell me about your day-to-day responsibilities? What does a typical day look like?
  • How will you measure success in the first three months? Six months?
  • What opportunities for training and progression are there in the role?
  • Where do you see the company in five years?
  • What do you enjoy about your job?
  • What keeps you up at night about your job?
  • Can you tell me more about the team I would be working with?
  • How do you typically onboard new employees?
  • Is there anything on my resume that concerns you regarding this role?
  • What are the next steps in the hiring process?

Avoid asking questions about specific policies, like PTO or paid leave, unless you are speaking with HR about your offer terms. You should also avoid asking questions you could find out easily, like what a company does or provides.

Things you shouldn’t do during an interview

Even if you have an impressive resume and all the right answers, a bad first impression at an interview can cost you your dream job. Some of the most common blunders are below so you can avoid them when the time comes.

Things you shouldn’t do at an interview include:

  • Showing up without doing research on the job and company
  • Being late to the meeting
  • Dressing inappropriately. When in doubt, always dress more formally than you expect to need
  • Fidgeting with pens, items on your desk, your hands, or doing anything distracting like chewing gum
  • Using your phone or multitasking during the interview
  • Not maintaining eye contact, good posture, and a cheerful demeanor
  • Rambling or providing unclear answers
  • Speaking too quietly or mumbling
  • Speaking negatively about your current job or employer
  • Saying you don’t have any questions
  • Lying on your resume or in the conversation
  • Getting too personal about yourself or the interviewing
  • Not bringing additional resumes
  • Asking about money, time off, or other policies
  • Curing or otherwise using inappropriate language
  • Forgetting to follow up after an interview

Interviewers or recruiters are humans just like you, so it is okay if you make a small mistake during your interview. But if you can avoid these issues and do your best to perform well, you have a good chance of succeeding.