The ultimate job interview preparation checklist

by Jennifer Harper

For most people, job interviews are an anxious experience. Even if you love talking to people and are comfortable in social situations, the fact that an interview can land you a job you've been chasing for a while, builds up the stress and nerves.

So what can you do? Prepare yourself. Understanding what to expect, simulating the conversation will not only boost your confidence but also prime you for a good first impression.

Here's a step by step guide for you to prepare for your upcoming interview and ensure that you put your best foot forward.

Job Interview Preparation Checklist:

1. Research the company

It's imperative that you are well informed about the company you are going to meet. Here are some methods to research the company before your job interview:

  • Their website
  • Google them
  • Look at the recent news coverage about them in Google news
  • Check out LinkedIn Profiles of current and ex-employees. You can also see the profiles of people in similar roles to the one you have applied for.
  • YouTube them to find video content about them. This is mostly news coverage or corporate communication initiatives.

What to look for when researching (e.g. questions you should be able to answer before your interview!):

  • Who’s their CEO?
  • When and why were they founded?
  • Where is their headquarters?
  • Do they have multiple locations? Where? (Just get a general idea)
  • What do they sell, how do they make money?
  • Do they have a mission statement? What is it?
  • How many employees do they have? (Get a general idea – is it less than 200? Thousands? More than 10,000? etc. You can usually find this quickly on LinkedIn).

In this process, you will find out whether the company has received any positive or negative press recently. You might learn about initiatives that make the company a more attractive employer or you might learn that the organisation is in trouble and you’d be better off focusing your attention elsewhere.

2. Review your own resume

If they invited you to interview, they liked something on your resume! So they’re probably going to ask about certain pieces.

They’re also likely to ask a question like, “tell me about yourself“, and you’ll need to be ready to walk them step-by-step through your recent experience and accomplishments. So make sure you’re familiar with your own resume before going into the interview.

And if it’s a phone interview, print out your resume and have it in front of you.

3. Find out who you’re speaking with

This will help you anticipate what types of questions they will ask.

If you don’t know who you’re going to be speaking with, ask whoever scheduled the interview for you. They might not be able to tell you, but there’s no harm in asking.

4. Prepare great questions to ask them

Don’t ask about things like salary, benefits, working hours, etc. It’ll make you seem more concerned about this stuff, and less concerned about the actual job.

Employers want to hire someone who is focused on coming in and helping them succeed. Let them bring up salary, benefits, etc. (usually after a couple of rounds of interviews once they know they’re interested).

5. Review the job description

Those are also things you’re likely to hear a lot of questions about, so practice those topics the most!

6. Prepare for the common questions

Questions you need to be able to answer:

  • What do you know about us?
  • Why are you job searching right now?
  • Why did you apply for this job?
  • Why did you choose this career path?
  • Why are you interested in this particular job?
  • How did you hear about this job opening?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What are your strengths?

7. Be ready to explain any previous job changes

Questions like “why did you leave your last position?” are extremely common.

So spend some time to prepare an answer that explains any past job changes, layoffs, promotions, or other moves you’ve made either within a company, or between companies.

A good method would be to pretend that you’re the hiring manager looking at your resume, what are they most likely to ask about your work history? That’s what should be prepared for.

8. Get your outfit ready

Make sure your clothes are clean, professional and wrinkle-free. Preparing your outfit in advance will also help visualise how you feel on the day itself and will build your confidence.

9. Map out how you’ll get there

If you’re late, you will not get hired. So make sure you know how you’ll get there, and prepare to leave enough time.

If you’re taking a train, or driving a new route, or commuting some other way to get to the interview, make sure you know how you’re doing it.

And if this is a very important interview, you could even do a trial-run. Make the commute a few days before the interview to make sure nothing unexpected happens.

What next?

Using the steps above will help you feel more confident walking into your interview, and you’ll make fewer mistakes.

Review this checklist before each interview. One thing that you’ll notice as you go further in your job search – a lot of these steps get easier, or don’t need to be repeated as you go on more interviews.

Another tip is to make a list of difficult questions that were asked in the interviews and specifically prepare for them. Your confidence and preparation will improve remarkably as a result.

All the best!

Subscribe to Spark! our fortnightly newsletter for teams & managers

Subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter

Spark! is where we share the latest career development and team performance insights, inspiring articles and podcasts along with free resources for teams and managers.