Interview Preparation Steps to Make a Great First Impression

Interview preparation is critical to making an excellent first impression with your potential new supervisor. Read the interview tips below to help you walk into the meeting room with confidence and ready to communicate the value you can bring to the organization.

Know yourself and what you can offer.

The initial step in getting ready for the first meeting is a self-assessment to determine what you must provide an employer. Developing a complete inventory of relevant skills, experience, accomplishments, education, certificates, and personal attributes is imperative. Use the prepared list to market yourself to employers during the interview process.

This interview preparation step is a significant obstacle to overcome. After completing this step, you can tailor your interview responses to meet the organization’s needs.

Know Your Resume Inside and Out

In establishing this inventory list, looking at your crisp, targeted, and accomplishment-based resume is best. Remember all your interview answers must coincide with your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile —know what these documents include inside and out.

Establishing a detailed list of accomplishments (past jobs, extra-curricular involvements, volunteer work, school projects, etc.) will make it easy to identify your relevant skills.

Go through each item on the list, and ask yourself:


“Did I learn a new skill by doing this task?”

“How did I save the company money?”

“Can I confidently communicate I gained valuable expertise from this assignment?”

“Where my teachers or supervisors impressed with my talents?”

“What is my unique selling point?”

Types of Skills

Skills fall into two groups: tangible and intangible, also called soft and hard skills.

Tangible skills are the expertise required to do a specific job. For a website project manager, tangible skills might include knowledge of multimedia authoring, graphics development tools, and lingo programming. Intangible skills are valuable to many positions and work environments.

The following list contains generic but critical marketable abilities and attributes across industries and roles.

  • Self-Motivated
  • Adaptability
  • Active Listener
  • Ability to Convey Complex Ideas Clearly
  • Enthusiastic & High Energy
  • Dedicated
  • Communication Skills
  • Company Knowledge
  • Digital Literacy
  • Research and Information Gathering
  • Positive Attitude
  • Knowledge of Industry
  • Intuitive
  • Problem Solver
  • Team Player
  • Friendly & Outgoing
  • Flexible & Multi-Talented

Use Skills from Other Experiences

When people think of skills, they think of those they have developed in the workplace. Remember those proficiencies you acquired through school, volunteer work, raising children, and household organizing.

If you’ve researched and written a paper or essay, you have written communication skills. Being a “Brownie Leader” or “Minor Hockey Coach” would have helped you to develop the skills required of a team player and leader. Don’t neglect any relevant skills and abilities you may have. When researching your background, identifying your experience and skills is essential, but that is not all you need to prepare.

Consider the answers to other questions, such as:

What are my greatest strengths relevant to the position available?

What are your most significant weaknesses, and what is your strategy to improve them?

Why should this employer hire me? What can I offer them?

What kind of work setting do I thrive in? (I.e., supervised, unsupervised, fast-paced, etc.)

What makes me contented and satisfied in a position?

Know the Position

The next stage in preparing for an interview is to research the position. This helps you present a convincing argument that you have the experience and skills required for that job, but you need to know the requirements and duties.

Match your skills (using the complete skills/experience inventory you have just prepared) with the skills you know people in that occupational field need. The resulting “shortlist” will be the one that you need to emphasize during the interview.

Check out the comparative salary for the position—even though you won’t discuss this in the interview. The Internet offers websites specific to researching wages and compensation packages.

Try to obtain a copy of the job description from the employer. Use the resources of a professional association related to the occupation. These associations often write informative newsletters and give seminars or workshops.

It’s also an excellent method to network with others in the industry. Conduct information interviews with industry employees—this is a productive learning method. Read articles about others in a similar position.

Sources include trade publications, newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and the Internet. Find out what the future trends or technological changes are in the area.

Research the Company

The more you know about an organization, the better you will be prepared to discuss how to meet its needs.

Characteristics you should know about an organization are:

• How many locations and where are they located?
• How large is the company? Is it a public company?
• What are its products or services, and who are the customers?
• How is the organization structured? Is it a non-profit organization?
• What is its history, when did the company start, who is the CEO, etc.?
• Have there been any recent changes or new developments?

Most medium to large-sized organizations will publish information about themselves. Access this information quickly in some ways:

• Companies and business directories
• Websites – locate by searching either by industry or company name

• Visit or phone the organization and request some information on their products, services, or areas of research
• Network with people in the industry
• Corporate Technology Directory by CorpTech
• Business Week’s “100 Best Small Companies” and other publications by Forbes, Inc., and Fortune

If the business is new or relatively small, there may not be a lot of information you can obtain. In this case, it is imperative to conduct an information interview. Contact someone within the organization, introduce yourself, and explain that you are considering a career change. Ask to meet with them to inquire about the company/organization and what the position would encompass.

Prepare for Tough Questions—Practice Makes Close to Perfect

Having completed your background research, you are ready to prepare questions for the interviewer(s).

Try to think of questions with answers not available in company literature. Intelligent questions demonstrate your genuine interest in the position.

Asking too many questions may imply you feel the interview was not administered correctly. Select questions cautiously—this is a chance to gather information, so ask what you want to know.

Avoid sounding critical by mentioning any negative information you have discovered.

Questioning is one of the most effective ways to compare different employers, so for issues of particular importance to you (for example, whether they have education assistance), you should ask each employer the same questions.

Sample Questions to Ask Could Be

• What are the most significant factors affecting your business?

• How have technology changes affected your company today?

• How has your company grown or changed in the last few years?

• What future trend do you see the company captivating?

• Where is the maximum demand for your services or product?

• Where is the most significant pressure realized if there is an increase in sales in the company?

• How do you vary from your competitors?

• Could you provide the scope of responsibility in this position?

• What do you like about working with this organization?

• Can you share more about the training program?

• Have new services or product lines recently been introduced?

• How much travel is usually expected?

• What criteria are used to evaluate performance?

• Will I work independently or as part of a team?

• Are there opportunities for advancement?

• When can I expect to hear from you regarding this position?

It is essential to ask the last question. Employers want to hire individuals genuinely interested in the position, and asking this question demonstrates your interest.

Exercise discretion when asking questions. For example, when being interviewed by a large company with a high profile, one would not ask the question:

What is the company’s history, and how was it started?

Find the answer to this question in the company’s annual report or articles in magazines/newspapers. Small and medium-sized companies do not always produce publicly available annual reports, and accessing information on the company and its role in the industry may be challenging. This question is suitable if you have exercised all other methods to discover the answer.

Hire a qualified resume writer to create a dynamic, powerful resume that does what it should, grabbing the reader’s attention and being placed in the “to be interviewed” pile.

I have helped numerous clients with career planning, interview coaching, and company research—remember, your first impression is vital.

Need additional help? Reach out to Candace to learn more!