Complete interview steps from finding jobs worth applying to, preparing for the interview, dressing for the interview and negotiating the offer, this guide will take you through every step.
Finding Jobs Worth Interviewing at
You should be interviewing and seeing what’s out there even if you don’t have to. Don’t let others with less experience leapfrog you because of laziness, loyalty, or lack of listening for opportunities. Get out there and see what’s possible.
Start by asking friends, colleagues, school, and work alumni. Get over the fear of asking for a favor. Send an email to everyone you know and let them know you’re looking to make a career change.
Include a personal note, include your résumé, describe the type of position you’re looking for, and give a list of dream companies. If you know someone who can help you in a precise way, you can email them personally with a more targeted ask.
If you’re cold-emailing someone at a company you’re dying to work for, make the message personal and keep it concise. Consider including the name of a mutual connection who can verify that you’d be a good employee.
Finally, apply to more jobs than you think you should. Are you hoping to wind up with a few job offers? Work backward from there to figure out how many applications to submit. For example, if about half of job interviews yield offers, and if about 10% of applications produce interviews, then you’ll need to ship about 50 applications.
Preparing for the Interview
Spend some serious time on the employer’s website. Read about them, their clients, and the products or services. Your goal here isn’t just to learn about what they do but, crucially, to learn about how they see themselves. In actuality, there might not be enough on their website to show what distinguishes their work from other employers in their field. But you’ll probably get a taste of what they believe makes them distinct from their rival(s).
That’s useful to know because if that understanding gets reflected in your conversation in the interview, you’ll come across as if you “get” them. Understanding where they stand is incredibly appealing to an interviewer. The more you know about the context their team works in, the better you’ll be able to tailor your answers in a way that will be relevant to the team.
Dive deep into the job description.
Spend some time going through the job description line by line and thinking about how your experience and skills equip you to shine at the job. For each responsibility or requirement posted, try to come up with detailed examples from your past roles that you can show as supporting proof that you’d be celebrated at the job. Use examples such as times that you faced similar hurdles and how you tackled them. Surface individual success stories you’ve had illustrating you have what it takes to succeed in this role. Come up with at least four or five compact instances or stories from past work that you can use to paint a picture of how you perform. Showcase what you’ve achieved. And prove why you’re great at what you do.
Write down the questions you’re likely to be asked
It’s a decent bet that you’ll be asked questions like: Why are you thinking about leaving your current job? What interests you about this opening? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What experience do you have doing X part of the job? You can find other common job interview questions here, along with suggestions for how to answer them.
Start with the most asked questions. Glassdoor recently compiled a list of the most asked questions to expect in an interview:
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why are you interested in working for [company name]?
- Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- Are you willing to travel?
- Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
- What is your dream job?
- How did you hear about this position?
- Discuss your resume.
- Discuss your educational background.
- Describe yourself.
- Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
- Why should we hire you?
For any questions on your skill or experience, use the STAR method to illustrate how you possess remarkable expertise required for the role:
- Identify a Situation or Task where you displayed that skill.
- Explain the actions you exercised to solve the matter.
- Present the Results of your efforts. For example, were you able to diffuse a tense situation with a dissatisfied client? Did you help your team deliver a project on time or under budget? Did you cut costs or generate revenue?
Practice saying your answers out loud.
Once you have your list of the questions, you think you’re likely to be asked, figure out how you’ll answer each of them. And I don’t mean get a vague idea or some bullet points you want to hit. I mean, come up with your complete answer to each and practice saying those answers out loud. You might feel ridiculous doing that. However, this method sticks those answers in your brain, making them natural to remember when you’re sitting in the interview. Doing this kind of reflection and practice ahead of time should make a significant difference in how polished and confident you appear. This process also adds to the substance of your answers because you won’t be coming up with responses and framing on the fly.
Come up with questions of your own to ask.
You should also prepare a few questions of your own for when your interviewer invites you to ask. This not only gives you the opportunity to gain deeper insights into the company, role, and culture but shows the hiring manager that you’re truly interested in the organization.
Toward the end of the interview, your interviewer will probably ask what questions you have for her. Contrary to popular belief, you should not see this time primarily as an additional opportunity to impress your interviewer.
While it’s smart to think about how your questions might reflect on you, this is your time to get the information you need to figure out if this is a job you want and would be good at. So think about what you really want to know when you imagine going to work at this job every day for the next several years.
Examples of questions you might ask: What are the biggest challenges the person in this position will face? Can you describe a typical day or week in the position? What would a successful first year in the position look like? How will the success of the person in this position be measured? (I have more suggested questions here.)
It’s okay to write your questions down and take them with you. It’s typical for job candidates to pull out a sheet of paper with questions they want to remember to ask, so don’t worry about memorizing them.
Get yourself into the right state of mind.
If you get nervous before interviews, it can help to remember that the employer almost certainly thinks you’re qualified, or at least that you’re very likely to be qualified! They wouldn’t be interviewing you if they hadn’t already determined that you’re at least plausible for the job.
It can also help to remember that no one gives a perfect interview. The other candidates interviewing for the job aren’t giving flawless interviews, and you don’t need to strive for that either. Your goal is to provide a quality discussion that shows why you’d excel at the job and what you’d be like to work with day-to-day.
Candidates often get nervous about job interviews because there’s the potential they’ll be asked an open-ended question that will give the interviewer a secret view into who the candidate really is. But the real secret is that a lot of the time the interviewer doesn’t know what the right answer is either, or they’ll admit that there is no right answer. Knowing there’s never a perfect answer allows you to relax.
It can even help to approach the interview as if you were a consultant. If you were a consultant meeting with a prospective client, you’d explain your expertise, learn about the work that needs to be done, and talk about how you’d tackle it — and you’d be talking as a potential business partner, not as a nervous job candidate waiting for the interviewer to pass judgment on you. The more you can think of an interview like that — as a collaborative business meeting where you and your interviewer are both trying to figure out if it makes sense to work together — the better your interview will probably go (and the less nervous you’ll probably feel).
And if you really get nervous in interviews, try pretending that you already know you’re not going to get the job (because it’s already been promised to the boss’s nephew or whatever other story you dream up). Sometimes lowering the stakes can lower your nerves and help you give a better interview.
During the Interview
During the interview, you should take the time to assess whether the employer is a right fit for you, not just try to prove to the employer that you’re right for the job.
What to Wear During the Interview
Congratulations! You’ve scored an interview. Next comes what to wear. Regardless of the office dress code, you’ll need to create a look that’s refined and put-together. Nailing what you decide to wear puts your best foot forward and shows you take pride in yourself and that you can adapt to the company culture. A fresh, cohesive outfit can even illustrate you’re organized and efficient–giving you an edge.
Based on a recent survey by the careers website TheLadders, 37% of hiring managers said they have decided not to hire an applicant because of the way they dressed during an interview.
Likely, the first 15 seconds of an interview will determine if you get an offer or not. The handshake, what you wear, and how you greet the interviewer all craft the first impression within that vital 15-second window.
Deciding on an interview outfit should be professional, put-together. Don’t choose the most stylish outfit you own. It needs to communicate confidence and a good work ethic. However, the days of unconditionally having to wear a suit for a job interview are long gone. You’re trying to land a job through people whose jobs are to judge you during the interview. What you choose to wear will be part of that judgment. Dress for the part.
Of course, if you know the office culture is ultra-business casual, you don’t want to show up in a full suit. However, you also shouldn’t be entirely low-key like the rest of them. Aim for the middle, you won’t be as casual as everyone else is, but you’ll won’t be too formal. Business casual is a scale. Dress up or down on the scale based on the culture.
You could always directly ask, ‘Will I feel out of place in formal business attire?‘ If they answer ‘not at all,’ you know formal business attire is expected. Regardless of the average level of attire in the office, a base level of decorum during the interview is still required.
The Best Dressed Options for an Interview
Remember to aim for the middle or one step higher than you would wear day to day in the role. If on an average day you’d be wearing chinos and a dress shirt but no tie, you should show up at the interview in slacks, a blazer, and a shirt with a tie, but not a suit. If you’d be wearing jeans and polo at the job, then wear chinos and a tie–but no jacket. Dress one step higher than the average day.
Office Culture: Suit Every day
If you’re going to an office that requires a suit every day, it shouldn’t be a surprise you’ll have to wear a suit for that interview. Keep it simple. Keep your suit elegant, and avoid flamboyant. A classic navy suit, white dress shirt, plain tie, a black belt, and black shoes will nail the look. Suitable for: finance, law, and business. See the top 10 best suits.
Office Culture: Somedays a Suit
For offices where you’ll have to wear a suit for client meetings, big presentations, wearing a suit to your interview won’t stand out of place. Even for this office culture, you won’t have to go strictly traditional blue suit. Lighten up a suit with a light gray color. You could even wear a navy sweater instead of a dress shirt. Pair a grey suit with brown shoes and a brown belt. Save boundary-pushing style for dates and weekends.
Office Culture: Zero Days Need a Suit
For office culture in the media or “creative” space, an office that has some guys in suits, but the team you’re interviewing doesn’t wear a suit–skip the suit. Usually, these teams will want to know if you can assimilate to the culture. Wearing a suit when it’s not the norm can give the impression that you might struggle to adapt to the culture. Instead, find a look that’s put together and still professional. Dark jeans, loafers, a polo, and a cool jacket give you a polished, professional look.
Office Culture: Hoodies
For interviews at offices where hoodies, shorts, and sandals are the day-to-day uniform: It’s important to aim one step above hoodies. If you wear a suit, it will massively hurt your chances. On the other end, wearing sweatpants isn’t a great idea either. Aim for somewhere in the middle with dark jeans, a clean tee, sharp sneakers, and a denim jacket. Relaxed and Relatable.
Don’t forget to wear a Watch
It’s been shown that wearing a watch not only adds an added dimension to your style but also surfaces the impression of reliability. You’ll look like you have it all together. You’ll appear more adult and in control. You can dress up or dress a watch down with the right outfit. A watch can be mixed and match with multiple types of style.
Office culture hoodies? Pair dark jeans, a dress shirt or polo with a nylon band watch and a stainless steel case. For offices that require a suit, pair a Rose gold case with a dark leather strap to the blue suit and crisp white dress shirt. Making the watch pair with the outfit.
Upgrade Your Hair
Ditch the Gel and mousse. They leave a shiny gloss no matter what, and it doesn’t project the image you want for a job. You want a matte finish or absolutely product applied to it at all. Use a pomade or a hair clay instead. Both will hold longer throughout the day, keep hair styled the way you styled it, and are reworkable throughout the day. Just don’t schedule a haircut the day of or even the day right before you go to interview.