Properly preparing for an upcoming job interview takes time and dedication which can lead to positive steps in the job search process. Here’s Matern Staffing’s Complete Guide to Preparing for a Job Interview which covers what to do before, during and after the interview.
Before the Interview
It sounds like a broken record, but being prepared for an interview sets the serious candidates apart from the casual candidates. By being prepared you have rehearsed answers to common questions, considered the interview logistics, researched the company, and planned your attire.
Consider the Interview Logistics
When working out the interview logistics you’ll need to think about the interview format and prepare for extra needs. The earlier you plan the logistics, the more time you’ll have to prepare for the meat of the interview.
The interview format could be in-person or over video and with one or more people depending on the position. If there are pre-interview tasks to complete (e.g., filling out an application, gathering identification documents, sending in your resume) finish those tasks ahead of time. Don’t forget to take time before the interview updating your resume and tailoring it according to the position for which you’re applying.
For in-person interviews map out the directions ahead of time while planning to arrive early to handle unpredictable circumstances. You’ll also want to pre-arrange child card and/or transportation needs so you’re not scrambling last minute.
For video interviews download all necessary apps or device updates ahead of time to avoid any technical issues. With video interviews it’s helpful to show up a few minutes early so you can verify camera and sound functionality and connectivity. Video interviews should always be conducted with video set to on. You’ll want to make sure your computer or mobile device is fully charged and is placed in a relatively quiet spot. We all have children and understand the complexity that adds when trying to conduct business at home. So, we understand when little ones wander into the screen 🙂 Don’t be afraid to use the mute button accordingly.
Matern offers in-person and video interviewing options, depending on the job seeker’s availability and the position for which they’re applying.
Research the Company
Part of your interview preparation should always include researching the company with whom you’re applying. Your research should involve learning the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when and why!
- Who – discover who they serve, their community involvement, and board of directors
- What – learn about the company’s products or services
- When – determine how long they’ve been in business
- Where – learn which markets they serve and their office locations
- Why – read about their mission, vision and values
Plan Your Attire
When planning your attire for the interview you’ll want to consider the industry and position with which you’re applying. If you’re applying for an office position you’ll need to wear business professional attire. If you’re applying for a warehouse, skilled trade, or manufacturing position you can wear casual clothing. Of course there are exceptions to these generalities, so check with your interviewer for confirmation.
|Business professional attire||Casual attire|
Regardless of whether you’re applying for an office position in a law office or a warehouse position in a factory, follow the 5 Cs of Your Clothing:
- Cover – clothing should cover all body parts and not be revealing
- Comfortable – when you wear clothing that fits great, you’ll feel great
- Conservative – opt for more traditional and understated clothing so the interviewer isn’t distracted by your clothing
- Clean – clothes should be clean and well-pressed
- Color – choose more traditional clothing colors (blue, brown, black, white, khaki) and don’t wear anything flashy
Finally, only wear minimal jewelry and makeup to your interview.
Prepare for Common Questions
Matern Staffing partners with employers across nearly every industry, hiring employees across all positions and career levels. Many employers have common requirements they’re looking for in candidates: hard working, punctuality, ability to problem solve, great communication skills, and willingness to learn and grow. Based on those requirements we tailor our interview questions (including skill and behavior assessments) so candidates have an opportunity to showcase those qualities. Here are 10 common interview questions candidates should be prepared for:
- Tell me about yourself
- Tell me about the strengths you bring to this job or organization?
- Walk me through your resume
- Tell me about your short- and long-term goals
- What are your weaknesses?
- Tell me how your experiences make you a successful candidate for the position?
- Tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge? What would you do differently next time?
- Tell me about a project or time you collaborated with others at work? How did it go? What did you learn?
- Tell me about a time when you set and achieved a goal.
- Describe a time when you received constructive criticism. How did you handle the situation and what was the result?
When preparing for these questions, practice makes better. Practicing ahead of time best prepares you for the actual interview. Some preparation strategies can include role play with a friend, practice in a mirror, attend a mock interview event, or take a video recording of yourself.
Preparation helps you build confidence, demonstrate your commitment, manage your time, more easily adapt in the moment, refine your delivery, and master your story.
During the Interview
After successful preparation you’re finally ready to take on the meat of the interview, which could be in-person or over video. The first 1-2 minutes of the interview typically involve establishing good rapport between each other. The recruiter will start with introductions, potentially mention an icebreaker about the weather or sports, and then briefly review what to expect in the interview. Throughout the interview it’s essential to make great eye contact, have healthy posture and make the interview interactive.
Maintain Eye Contact
Maintaining eye contact during an interview is essential to the interview’s success! It indicates your interest in the conversation and the position. When you maintain eye contact, you’re signaling that you are actively listening and engaged in the discussion. Strong eye contact is also a non-verbal communication tool to show enthusiasm, determination, or sincerity, which can complement your verbal responses.
If the interview is over video, here are some tips to ensure good eye contact:
- Properly prop your your mobile device or computer so it aligns with your height and is in a fixed position
- Don’t walk around with your mobile device during an interview
- If the interviewer sees the insides of your nostrils, reposition the device
- During the interview, look at the camera instead of glancing at yourself in the video
Have Good Posture & Body Language
Start every interview with a firm handshake and genuine smile. During an interview candidates should sit up straight and make natural hand gestures and facial expressions. Sitting up straight and having good body language during an interview reflects confidence, assertiveness, and sincerity. These behaviors also suggest you’re actively engaged and interested in the conversation.
According to the U.S. News, poor posture hinders your breathing because the accessory muscles that help your rib cage expand and contract are compromised. Taking full, deep breaths promotes a healthy brain and heart, which helps express yourself clearly and confidently. Clear and confident conversations optimize interviews.
Make the interview feel like a conversation that flows seamlessly from one topic to the next. Please come prepared with questions about the position (salary, benefits, job expectations, schedules) and company atmosphere (leadership paths, trainings, etc). Be ready to share about the ways you’ve demonstrated problem solving and being a team player – whether in your previous jobs, volunteer work, or your community.
Before answering a question, take an intentional pause to gather your thoughts. Draw on your interview preparation questions you’ve practiced to quickly recall experiences that may help answer questions. Avoid saying words such as, “umm” and “like,” and avoid saying anything negative about prior places of employment. This is your interview that could be the door to your next career. Treat it with transparency and professionalism.
Avoid taking any phone calls or checking your phone for messages during an interview. Unfortunately we see this all too often and it causes big distractions.
As the interview winds down it’s important to ask the recruiter about the next steps. Some next step questions include:
- What are the next steps in the application process?
- When should I hear back from you about moving forward or not?
- Do you need any additional information from me (forms, references, etc) at this time?
- When are you hoping to finalize hiring for this position?
After the Interview
Phew! Interviews can be mentally and physically draining, so take a quick moment to feel proud about finishing a difficult task. After a celebratory pat on the back, analyze how you did and then follow up, follow up, follow up!
Analyze How You Did
After the interview take a few moments to analyze how it went by making a list of positives and negatives. For each negative listed, make notes about how to improve for next time. Don’t forget to list interview questions you weren’t expecting and potential answers for rehearsing.
Send a Thank You Note
It’s very important to send a quick thank you note via email within 24 hours of the interview date. Within the note you should include your full name, contact information, date of the interview, and the position you applied for. Recruiters and Hiring Managers conduct many interviews each week, so it’s helpful to include this information to quickly job their memory. Here’s a sample thank you email:
Dear <Hiring Manager Name>,
Thank you for taking the time to interview me on <date>. It was nice to meet you and learn more about <company name> and the <position>.
I’ve attached my resume in case you need a copy. I look forward to hearing from you.
<email, phone number>
If you don’t hear back from the recruiter within one week, send a follow-up note that is direct and polite. It shows you’re still interested in the position and you’re eager to get more information. You could also include a follow-up phone call at this too.
Dear <Hiring Manager Name>,
I wanted to check in about the status of the <position> I interviewed for on <date>. I’m still very interested in the position and look forward to hearing back from you soon.
<email, phone number>
If at any point after (or during) the interview you decide the position is not desirable or you’ve accepted another offer, let the recruiter know ASAP in a short email note. The note should be friendly and to the point in the event you work with the recruiter in the future.
Dear <Hiring Manager Name>,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about the <position> on <date>. After thoughtful consideration, I have decided that this role may not be the best fit for me at this time. Thank you again for your time and consideration.
Dear <Hiring Manager Name>,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about the <position> on <date>. I wanted to let you know I accepted an offer with another company and would like to withdraw from the application process. Thank you again for your time and consideration.
Communication is key across all steps in the hiring process. Always remember to be courteous and professional in your communication. If you accept an offer from a company, there’s nothing quite like a handwritten note to show your appreciation!
As always, Matern Staffing is here to support all job seekers looking for work. Search and apply to our available jobs, schedule a job interview, and apply online 24/7. If you have interview questions, please leave us a comment below.
Castaneda, Ruben. “10 Ways Poor Posture Can Harm Your Health.” U.S. News & World Report. February 1, 2018. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/slideshows/10-ways-poor-posture-can-harm-your-health. Accessed: October 15, 2023
Download Matern Staffing’s Interview Checklist for Job Seekers