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How to Prepare for an Interview

Two women and a coach

Let’s be honest; interviews can be nerve-racking. So much pressure rests on this one opportunity with a hiring manager, because it is your chance to show potential employers why you’re right for the position. But how can you be sure to stand out? And how do you prepare beforehand?

Fortunately, no one is alone in feeling overwhelmed; job applicants have been nervous about interviews for generations. To help, three Career Coaches gave us their advice to students so you can approach your next interview feeling confident and ready to get the job.

Tip #1: Preparation is key

Any Career Coach will tell you that the best way to feel confident walking into an interview is to do the prep work beforehand.

“It’s all about preparation, and I really encourage people to be prepared. I encourage them to create a cheat sheet. When you interview you want to take a portfolio with you, and I tell them to have a cheat sheet on top.” said Lavonne Abe, the Career Coach for the School of Nursing.

A cheat sheet helps you stay on track during the interview, and Lavonne advises that it include four important elements:

  • A list of questions for the employer or company.
  • A reminder to ask the employer or hiring manager for their contact info. This way, you can send a thank-you note or email after the interview.
  • A copy of your reference list. Make sure to ask the employer if they would like a copy.
  • A reminder to thank them for their time and consideration before you leave.

Kraig Ware, the Career Coach for the School of Business, gave additional tips for students when prepping for an interview.

“Each preparation is a little bit different, but there’s always some basics. One of the biggest things is to have your backyard in order,” Ware explained.

This means that students should clean up their online presence, including social media, digital branding, or even a personal website. Often, employers or hiring managers will research candidates before the actual interview.

Tip #2: Mock interviews are your best friend

Sarah Fendrich, the Assistant Director of career coaching, shared that mock interviews are a great way to work out nerves and refine interview skills.

“Have your Career Coach run through a mock interview with you! They will prepare questions based on the company and industry you are applying for to not only help you prepare your content, but also to help remove the stress of the interview.” Fendrich shared.

To better understand what a mock interview looks like, your career coach will:

  • Encourage you to come dressed in your professional attire.
  • Help you research the company you are interviewing with and design questions specific to that organization.
  • Ask common interview questions, but also prepare specific questions that the company would ask you.
  • Critique your overall interview or each individual answer.
  • Ensure all documents are in order: Resume, cover letter, and portfolio.
  • Conduct the interview in whatever form your interview will be in: in person, virtually, or on the phone.

Career coaches advise students to be prepared and schedule a mock interview before they even schedule the real one.

“Don’t wait until you get your interview, if you’re starting the applying process go ahead and schedule your mock interview,” Abe emphasized.

Tip #3: Remember the importance of timing

“I recommend students to get there early, not in the actual office, but at least in the parking lot to get comfortable, focused, and to say a prayer,” Ware advised.

While arriving early at the interview location is beneficial, sometimes getting into the actual office/building can interrupt the company. As Ware advised, you should arrive early just in case of unplanned delays and to give yourself time to ease any nerves before walking inside.

Ware also advises students to schedule extra time both before and after the interview.

“Don’t plan something right before your interview and don’t plan something right after. You don’t want any distractions at all mentally or on your schedule. You want to be there to embrace those people and build relationships with them,” Ware said.


Tip #4: Plan for virtual interviews

For virtual interviews, location is key. Private locations are ideal, but if you are not able to find one, let the other people in your house/location know the time of the interview and ask not to be interrupted.

The environment you are in needs to be looked over as well. There should be no personal items that could be distracting in the background behind you. Good lighting is also important because the hiring manager wants to meet you, not a shadowy version of you!

Make sure to do a test run with your equipment and ensure everything is charged or plugged in. Also, check your wifi beforehand and ensure that you have a strong connection.

The benefit of a virtual interview is that you can place sticky notes around your screen to give you pointers and keep you on track. These can include reminders to slow down when you speak, a pointer to mention an interesting project you worked on, or other tips that could be helpful when nerves kick in.

If you’re ready to schedule a mock interview or meet with your career coach, head to our career coaching page! Here at Career Services, we’re ready to help you nail your next interview.

Written by Stephanie Haydon  

Edited by Lindsey Erickson  

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