Step 5: In-Person Interview Preparation

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

  1. Practice: Make sure that you practice your interview questions ahead of time. Think of the types of questions that may be asked and how best to answer them. If you know that you usually get stumped on a question research different ways to answer it successfully. It’s always a great idea to practice with someone else so that they can give you feedback. Seek out a friend or someone you trust to give you honest feedback about your interview skills.
  2. Clothing: Set out your interview clothing the night before. Make sure that there are no holes, rips, or stains on the clothing.
  3. Eat and Sleep: Anyone can get butterflies before a big interview.  Remember that it is important to eat breakfast or lunch so that you aren’t focused on your stomach during an interview. Also try to get some good sleep. Don’t stay up late the night before an interview. You don’t want to be yawning or become too tired to concentrate during an interview.
  4. Anxious: Try to take some deep breaths and if helpful repeat a calming word to yourself. Similar to players before a big game it may be helpful to visualize a victory (getting the job).
  5. Write it out: Write down your strengths, accomplishments, and key words that you want to use in an interview. Bring this with you, if you get stuck refer back to this list. It can be quick way to mentally jog your brain. Also, people tend to remember information better when it is written down which makes it easier to talk about it during an interview.

What do I bring with me?

  •  Directions: Make sure that you have printed off directions or a map. You will feel better knowing where you are going. If you are able to drive to your interview site once before the big day. This way you’ll feel confident on how long it takes you to get there and where it is located. It may be helpful to ask if there is a special place you need to park or a door you need to go in.
  • Information: Make sure you have written down that department that you are interviewing with and if known the name of the interviewer. This will allow you to send a thank you note after the interview. Also you will appear prepared when you check in for your interview.
  • Resume: Make sure to bring a couple of copies of your resume, cover letter, and reference sheet. If you have any copies of job recommendations bring these along as well.
  • Pen and Paper: Taking a few notes during your interview shows that you are listening closely and interested in what your interviewer has to say. Make sure to write down information such as job description, answer to your questions, or the name and number of your interviewer.
  • Research: Bring with the research that you did of the company. Review the information that you have put together about the company and consider how you may utilize it within your interview
  • Questions: Bring with a list of questions that you would like to ask. Five insightful questions about the job, company, or management ready to ask. Read through these questions before the interview to feel confident about asking them.

What should I wear?

Tips for Deciding What to Wear:

  • Stay true to who you are. Make sure you feel comfortable in your outfit and that is represents who you are.
  • Examine the level of professionalism. Research the company before the interview to find out the typical dress code.

Clothing Tips:

  • Wear professional clothes such as: nice dress pants, dress shirt, or dress/skirt
  • Colors to consider: navy, black, khaki, white and grey
  •  Limit jewelry and if unsure of the policy on body jewelry/piercings consider removing for the interview
  • No chipped nails or writing on hands
  • Make sure clothing is clean, wrinkle-free, and fresh smelling

Answering Difficult Questions

Interviews can be stressful. We may believe that we will be a good fit for the company but proving that can be difficult. Interviewers can ask tough questions that leave us feeling stumped. Don’t get stuck again, use these tips and tricks to help you answer tough interview questions.

Question: What is your biggest weakness?
Never draw negative attention to yourself by stating a weakness that would lead an employer to think you are not the best person for the job. If possible think about key skills that are required to do the position. Then think of an honest shortcoming that is not one of those key skills. Try to give an example on how you are improving your skills to overcome your weakness.
Another good method is to try to turn a negative into a positive. For example: “I like to triple check every item before submitting for approval. Therefore, projects may take me a bit more time to complete but they are almost always 100% accurate.”

Question: Why should we hire you?
You will succeed in answering this question if you prepared properly for your interview. Look at your resume and pick 3-5 outstanding skills or accomplishments that set you apart. Make sure you briefly explain why those skills are a good fit for the job. You can also list past experience or education that is relevant to the job you are interviewing for.

Question: Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?
The worst answer you could give is “I don’t know.” Or “I haven’t really thought about it.” An employer may misinterpret this as you have no idea what you want in life or you don’t know how long you will stay with this job. Answers that center on career goals are the best responses. Think beforehand, what about the job will still interest you in 3 years. If you are looking for career stability you can mention your commitment to the field and wanting to grow within the company.

Question: Can you explain why you were let go from your previous position?
Answer the question directly and briefly so that you may move on to another topic. Keep it simple, don’t give lengthy explanations and don’t point blame. It’s never a good idea to talk negatively about your former company or boss. Best responses may center on the fact that it “wasn’t a good fit.” Don’t give the interviewer any indication that you won’t be a good employee if hired. Avoid using the word “fired.” Fired has a negative stigma, instead use terms like “let go” or “the job wasn’t the best fit.”

Question: Tell me about a time that you didn’t agree with your supervisors’ decision. How did you address it?
Be careful with questions that ask about supervisors, coworkers, or the company. You don’t want to talk negatively about past employment. Highlight your communication skills and your ability to address concerns professionally. Ultimately you want to show the interviewer that you can take direction, follow policies, and communicate professionally if a problem does arise.  Video Series – Job Interview Questions and Answers

Video – How to Answer Situational Job Interview Questions

Mock Interview Activity

Have an FSET case manager or friend ask you the following questions. They should record your responses on a piece of paper. After all the questions have been read and answered review your responses. Make sure to ask yourself if there was a question that you struggled on and why. Ask for feedback from your case manager or friend. Then write out your revised responses to each question. This can then be used to help prepare for interviews in the future.  

  • Tell Me a little about yourself.
  • What is your top strength in the workplace?  
  • What do you feel is your greatest weakness?
  • Name a Challenge/Conflict you have had in the workplace and how did you resolve it?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Why did you leave your last place of employment? 
  • What do you feel is your greatest professional achievement thus far?
  • How would your previous employer describe you?
  • How do you deal with high pressure situations?
  • What interested you about this position?
  • Tell me why you feel you should be hired?

Video – How to Mock Interview

Additional Resources

Video – 5 Quick Job Interview Tips

Video – 5 Nonverbal Interview Mistakes

Video – Questions to Avoid Asking in a Job Interview

Video – Getting Job Interviews But Not Getting Hired

Topic: Personal Preparedness

Topic: Interviewing: In Person and Phone