How to Prepare for a Job Interview in 9 Steps

You'll want to review common interview questions, research the company and reflect on your prior experience.
Cara Smith
By Cara Smith 
Edited by Amanda Derengowski

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

To ace a job interview, you want to seem knowledgeable about the company and position, well-versed in your own work history and armed with some thoughtful questions about the role. You also don’t have unlimited time to spend preparing.

By focusing your time and efforts on the most important parts of interview preparedness, you’ll improve your chances of having a great interview — and, hopefully, landing an offer.

How to prepare for a job interview

1. Read about the company and understand what it does

Make sure you can describe what product or service the company offers. Spend some time on its website and read about its mission, culture and values, and think about how they align with what you’re looking for in your next job. You don’t need to understand everything the company does — but, hypothetically, if the company runs an app, you’ll want to be able to say more about the company than “it’s a tech company.”

Also, search the company online, and see if it’s made any recent headlines. If the company’s recently made news, maybe for something like launching a new product or closing an acquisition, mentioning or asking about that news can help show your interest in the business.

2. Review the position and its responsibilities

Read and reread the job description until you’re deeply familiar with the position and its responsibilities. If any parts of the job description are unclear, ask your interviewer for more information on those sections. You may think it’s wiser to pretend you understood everything in the description, but asking educated questions will show the interviewer you spent time researching and thoughtfully considering the role.

If you don’t have any immediate questions about the role, prepare to talk about what aspects of the role are particularly interesting or would be an exciting challenge. Also, prepare some general questions about the job or company. Experts say that questions show the interviewer that you can see a future at the company and want to learn how it operates.

Some potential questions to ask include what professional development opportunities are available, what growth looks like in the position or department, how the company brings employees together, or how the company treats promotions.

3. Reflect on your own professional experience

Robert Half, a human resources consulting firm, recommends preparing a concise elevator pitch that highlights your experience and top skills, and explains why you’re a fit for the role and it’s a fit for you.

Also, if a job’s listed on your resume, be prepared to speak about it in some detail — even if it’s a role you held years ago. Refresh your memory by reviewing an old resume, or any old materials you still have from previous jobs. Prepare to talk about your day-to-day responsibilities, projects or assignments; your relationship with your previous manager; any achievements or recognitions you earned, as well as your accomplishments; and what you learned in your time there.

If you’re in an industry that uses numbers or data to illustrate your success, try to gather and provide top highlights.

4. Know your professional goals

Just like you should be prepared to talk about your previous experience, you’ll want to be ready to articulate your professional goals, both in the near future and long term. You’ll likely be asked some version of “Where do you see yourself in five years?” so the interviewer can learn more about your long-term goals.

When answering this question, it’s important to avoid getting too specific about things like salary, titles or timelines. Don’t say that your goal is to earn a certain amount of money, attain a specific title, or do either of those things within a specific time. It signals that you may have your eye on other jobs while at the company and that you don’t see the company as a place where you want to settle in. Instead, focus on the impact you want to have and the ways you want to grow and be challenged in your career.

Get more financial clarity with NerdWallet
Monitor your credit, track your spending and see all of your finances together in a single place.

If you aren’t sure what your near- or long-term goals are, that’s OK. Even saying something like, “I hope to be making a significant impact at an organization whose values align with mine,” tells the interviewer that you’re driven by more than money or titles. Be ready to follow up with the ways you see yourself being able to make an impact at the company you’re interviewing with.

5. Ask a recruiter for advice

Recruiters connect individuals with open positions that match their experience and goals, and they usually focus on a specific industry or job. They can be valuable resources during interviews and negotiations. If you’re not working with a recruiter and you’re still applying to other jobs while interviewing, consider reaching out to a recruiter on LinkedIn to help with your search.

For candidates who are working with a recruiter, feel free to ask specific questions before your interview. They may have direct insights into how the interview process is structured, what the company is looking for in a candidate, and even the interviewer’s personality or disposition.

A recruiter may also be able to guide you on what to wear and how to approach the interview. If your interviewer, say, prefers more formal interviews, a recruiter might encourage you to dress in traditional business attire or keep casual conversation to a minimum. Your recruiter may also be able to share what kinds of interview questions to expect, such as behavioral questions, which are designed to reveal how you behave or respond in certain situations.

6. Review commonly asked interview questions

Set aside a few hours to review commonly asked interview questions. Think about how you would answer each question, and write down those answers. Then, practice answering each question out loud. Run through your answers until your responses feel familiar and comfortable.

If you’ll be doing a video or phone interview, keep a piece of paper handy with important dates, facts and figures. Prepare to answer all questions without having to consult it, though. You don’t want to rely on your notes — instead, think of them as a backup if you draw a blank or forget specific information you would like to share.

7. Decide what to wear

Naturally, what to wear to an interview depends on whether you’re interviewing in person or remotely. If you’re interviewing in person, ask about the company’s dress code. Then, some experts say, aim to dress for a position one level higher than what you’re interviewing for.

If you’re interviewing over the phone, experts recommend that you dress as if you’re interviewing in person. Dressing up more than you would on a typical day will put you in the interview mindset, and help you focus and listen closely to your interviewer. The same guidance goes for video interviews.

8. Test your tech and set up your space

If you’re going to have a video interview from home, it’s best to find a quiet room and set up your computer in front of a clean, uncluttered background. Avoid taking the interview in front of busy, distracting decor, like posters or a cluttered bookshelf. If this isn’t possible, either take the call in front of a blank wall or use a virtual background. You can typically find several background options in your video software’s preferences.

Make sure your internet connection is strong in that room, too. Conduct a test call with a friend or family member, so they can make sure your audio and video are working properly. Also, make sure your video conferencing software doesn’t have any scheduled updates that could interrupt the interview.

9. Follow up after your interview

Just like it’s recommended to call after you apply for a job, sending a gracious follow-up email within a day or two of your interview is widely encouraged. In your email, thank the interviewer for their time, express your strong enthusiasm for the opportunity, and mention one or two aspects of the job that particularly interest you and why.

Once you send your thank-you email, you’ll reach the hardest part of the interview process: waiting to hear back. Be patient, and congratulate yourself on having landed an interview in the first place.