Job Interview Checklist for Job Seekers

It's been said, "people who fail to prepare, prepare to fail." That couldn't be more true about the interview process for a new job. Preparation is key to a successful job interview. The checklist below will guide you through the interview-preparation process, ensuring you the best possible outcome for your next job interview.

Before the interview:
  • Research. Research. Research. Let's say it one more time, RESEARCH. There is nothing that will help you more in an interview than thoroughly researching the organization you're interviewing with, the industry they're in, the interviewers and the position you're applying for. There is no bigger turn off to a potential employer, or hiring agent, than an applicant who is unfamiliar with their organization, doesn't know the industry, and doesn't understand the job description. Start by visiting your prospective employer's website. Learn the company's values and mission. Identify and become familiar with any of the company's recent achievements. Review the bios and linkedin pages for any of the people you'll be meeting with during the interview process. Explore general-interest publications, trade publications and blogs to learn more about the industry and the employer. We even recommend researching yourself, as that's exactly what the interviewer(s) will be doing prior to your arrival. Find out everything that a Web search reveals about you and be prepared to discuss those topics -- they might just pop up during your interview.

  • Familiarize yourself with all the logistics of the interview. Make sure you know where the offices are where the interview will be taking place, the appropriate attire, any paperwork that needs to be submitted ahead of time, what time the interview will take place, as well as the type of interview that will be conducted. While it may not be prudent to ask a prospective employer what type of interview they'll be conducting, you can get an idea of the interview process by speaking with current employees, past employees, or by asking who you'll be interviewing with (to find out if it will be one or several people conducting the interview).

  • Review likely questions you think you may be asked during the interview, as well as your responses to each. While it's important to review likely questions and prepare responses to each, it's just as important that you don't over-rehearse or memorize answers. A good way to prepare for questions you may be asked is to review the most common job interview questions guide. Another way to identify and prepare for likely interview questions is to speak with current company employees.

  • Practice makes perfect -- or at least it will improve your performance. Enlist the help of a friend or colleague to perform mock interviews. A mock interview will help you improve your interviewing technique and get valuable feedback and coaching on your performance. If possible, work with a professional, experienced career coach that will know how to help you improve your interviewing skills and technique. If you're still in school, enlist the services of a career counselor to help you conduct mock interviews. When performing a mock interview, you should try to make the interview as real as possible. Not only should you research the company you'll be interviewing with, you should have your mock interviewer research the company as well. In addition to the preparation mock interviews provide, they'll gain much needed self-confidence that will carry you through the actual interview process.

  • Develop a positive mental attitude and outlook. Make sure you're prepared, but once you've done everything you can to prepare for the interview, visualize yourself sailing through. Be confident. Chances are if you've thoroughly prepared, you're going to easily out perform 90% of the other job applicants.

  • You don't want to be late for your interview, or even worse, miss it altogether. If possible, the day before the interview, drive to the location where you're having the interview and make sure you know exactly how to get to the interview room. Being late for an interview is never excusable. If for any reason you end up running behind, make sure to call the company and let them know when you'll be arriving.

  • Get a good night's sleep. Cramming for a interview the night before is even less useful than cramming for an exam. Make sure you've prepare for the interview days, if not weeks before, so you can be free from worry or stress the day prior to the interview. Go to bed at a descent hour and get up early. The morning of the interview make sure to bathe or shower, put on deodorant and cologne (lightly!), brush your teeth and use mouthwash. It should go without saying that personal hygiene is very important, but we'd be amiss not to mention it. There's a good chance, if hired, you'll be working along side the person who's interviewing you. The slightest whiff body odour, bad breath or unkempt appearance may immediately turn off an interviewer and ruin your job prospects with that company.

  • Plan attire for the interview that is appropriate for the position you're applying to, the company, and the industry. Wearing a three piece suite and tie to an interview for a outdoor recreation position may be over kill, but it would be very appropriate for a managerial position with an investment bank. Prepare every element of your wardrobe, including tie, shoes, jewelry and other accessories. Make sure that all elements of your outfit are clean, pressed, and free from stains or tears. Make sure your shoes are polished. Remember, first impressions are critical -- dress for success.

  • Pack any other items you may need such as a comb, breath mints, umbrella, makeup, spot-remover, tissues or wipes, your portfolio and extra copies of your resume.

Day of the interview:
  • Make sure to arrive 10 to 15 minuties before the interview. This will allow for time to collect yourself, familiarize yourself with the interview process and do any last minute preparations. Arriving late to an interview is not acceptable. Even if you have a good excuse, the interviewer is going to remember the other 10 interviewees were able to be punctual, and you were not.

  • Be courteous and respectful. Make a good first impression with everyone you meet, even the receptionist. Everyone you come in contact with has the ability to influence the hiring decision. A positive comment made by a receptionist on your behalf might make you stand out just enough from other candidates to land the job.

  • If you're given a job application upon arriving for the interview, fill it out completely, neatly, and as accurately as possible. This application may be given to the interviewer or some other person who will evaluate you for the position based on its content and presentation.

  • Even if you're only interviewing with one person, it's a good idea to bring extra copies of your resume or career portfolio with you. It's not uncommon to meet with another interviewer, if your first interview goes well. Your interviewer may also request additional copies of your resume to share with other decision makers there at the company.

  • Don't assume your resume or application will sell you. The only thing that can sell you is yourself. Employers aren't hiring a piece of paper, they're hiring you. At the end of the day, your resume and application are simply bits of information that tell a prospective employer what you're about. You however, must show an interviewer that you're everything your resume says you are, and much more.

  • Address the interviewer by his or her title (Ms., Mr., Dr.) and last name. If you weren't able to find out the interviewers name before the interview, ask the receptionist upon arrival who the interviewer will be and how to pronounce their name. Mispronouncing a person's name is a sign that you haven't taken the time to get to know the interviewer, and probably the company. Pronounce an interviewers name clearly and correctly, and you'll win brownie points.

  • Don't be a limpy. When shaking hands, have firm but not overbaring grip. Make sure not to have a limpe shake. Also, make sure your hands aren't sweaty or clammy.

  • Play close attention to what your body language is communicating. Wait to sit until after you've been invited to sit down. Look alert, be attentive and responsive to your interviewer's body language. Don't fidget and act interested at all times. Sit up straight, don't slouch.
  • Have a good joke to tell? Are you a funny guy? If so, keep it to yourself during the interview. If you get the job there will be appropriate moments to tell jokes, goof off and be humerous later. A sense of humor is a good thing, but it can also be dangerous. Maintain a positive attitude and stay focused on the interview.

  • Maintain appropriate eye contact with the interviewer. You don't want to stare, but look directly at the interviewer when being spoken too, and when speaking.

  • Make sure to communicate that you're sincerely interested in the position and working for the company. Do this by acting interested, being enthusiastic, and if appropriate, letting the interviewer know that you're interested in the position and that you hope to hear back. Act sincerely interested in the position, but don't act desperate.

  • If you're a smoker, don't smoke during the interview. Even if you don't find smoking to be a nasty habit, others do. Even those that don't, find it very distractive during an interview. Make sure to brush your teeth, rinse with mouthwash or have a breath mint before the interview.

  • Try not to use poor language or bad grammar. Avoid slang and repetitive pause words such as "uh", "ya know", "um", "like" or "right?". Poor language and bad grammar will quickly turn off an interviewer.

  • Make sure your voice portrays confidence, but don't come off cocky or over confident.

  • Avoid bringing up controversial subjects. Discussions about politics, social issues or gay rights should be left for another time.

  • Don't be negative. Don't speak negatively. Negativity, no matter how it is portrayed, detracts from an interview and decreases your chances of getting hired. If asked about a bad situation you had to deal with, focus on how you made the situation positive. Never speak negatively about former coworkers, employers or supervisors.

  • Focus the interview on your skills, qualities and achievements, but don't exagerate or lie. Provide evidence to support your responses to questions, but don't over do it. Always be truthful, frank and succinct. Avoid answering questions with a simply "yes" or "no", but don't over answer either.

  • When answering questions, try to incorporate what you know about the company and the industry into your answers. This shows that you've done your research, but more importantly that you can be an asset to the company.

  • Keep the interview focused on what's relevant to the position. Avoid bringing personal issues into the discussion. Leave family problems and personal issues at home.

  • During the interview, take time to evaluate the interviewer and the company. If given the opportunity to ask questions, ask specific questions that are relevant to both you, the position and the company. Don't come off as being critical about the company, but ask questions that help you better assess your fit for the position and the company.

  • Short pauses are okay, but long pauses during the interview should be avoided. Long pauses before responding to a question communicate to an interviewer that you're unprepared, unknowledgable or both. If you need to ask a clarifying question before answering, in order to buy some time and gather your thoughts, that's okay -- but don't linger.

  • Even if you get the impression that the interview isn't going well, keep demonstrating your determination to get the job. Never act disinterested and don't shoot yourself in the foot by acting uninterested or undetermined. You just may be misreading the interviewer.

  • Make sure your cell phone is turned off curing the interview. Never, answer your cell phone during an interview, or even look at it.

  • Focus on what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.

  • Don't bring up salary, compensation, or any other benefits until after you've received a job offer. Be prepared to discuss these things if the interviewer brings them up, but don't bring them up yourself.

  • When prompted, ask questions about the position, company and industry that show you're interested in the job. Not asking any questions, or asking unintelligent questions, show your lack of interests in the company and the position.

  • As the interview comes to a close, be direct and forward in letting the interviewer know that you want the job. If things seem to have gone well during the interview, it may be advisable to ask about the next step in the hiring process.

  • Shortly after the interview is over, jot down notes so you don't forget important details, including the interviewers name (with correct spelling), next step in the process, etc.

  • Within a day of the interview it's important to write a thank-you letter to each person who interviewed you. If you participated in a panel style interview, send an individual thank you letter to each person on the panel.

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