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Preparing for an Interview

Learn how to put your best foot forward in an interview. Preparation will help you relax and be ready when it’s time to sell yourself.

If you are nervous about an upcoming interview, preparing can help ease your mind and give you the confidence you need to make a great impression. Here are some tips to help.

Do your research. Before you go to your interview, research the company so you understand its needs, values and culture. The best place to find this information is on the company’s website and social media sites. You may also consider an informational interview, which could provide insight into the industry and organization.

Practice answering questions. Research how to answer basic interview questions. Then practice in front of the mirror or with a friend, family member or SECO career coach. Interviewers typically ask candidates about their interest in the job and company, career goals, job skills and communication skills. These resources will give you an idea of what to expect: 

Prepare your own questions. Prepare a list of questions about the job and the company. If you don’t have any questions at the end of an interview, you may appear to be disinterested in the position. Stay away from questions about salary and benefits during your initial interview unless you’re asked specifically about your requirements.

Know the types of interviews. Interviews can be broken into two broad categories: screening and face-to-face interviews. Screening interviews—often conducted over the phone—identify the top job candidates. Face-to-face interviews are usually reserved for the top candidates. Knowing and understanding the most common face-to-face interview formats may help you prepare.

  • Panel interviews typically include the hiring manager, your potential peers and people from other departments.
  • Full-day interviews may include several one-on-one or panel interviews.
  • Behavioral interviews help potential employers gauge how candidates respond in certain situations, such as working under tight deadlines or working as part of a team. You will be asked to respond to scenarios, so be prepared to provide examples and solutions.
  • Audition interviews are performance-based and might include software proficiency tests, writing tests, presentation skills tests or other tests related to your career field.
  • A lunch interview may be a stand-alone interview or part of a full-day interview. It’s important to remember basic etiquette and avoid ordering messy food or alcohol that could distract from the interview.

Decide what to wear. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed for an interview, so go with a simple, well-fitting business suit. Choose conservative accessories. You want the employer to focus on you, not on what you are wearing. For more tips on dressing for your interview, read Professional Dress.

Prepare your portfolio. You should bring extra copies of your resume, any notes you have, a pen and notepaper with you. Finally, make sure you have a nice portfolio or organizer to carry these items.

Map out the logistics. Use an online or mobile map service to determine how long it will take to get to your interview and print out the directions. If you have the time, consider driving to the interview location beforehand at the same time of day as your interview. Look up departure and arrival times for public transportation ahead of time. Consider any walking time, if applicable.

Be professional at all times. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early for your interview and make sure you are friendly and professional to everyone you meet. Hiring managers often ask people in the office about their impressions of you.

Follow up. You’ll stand out from the crowd of job seekers by following up after the interview. Begin by sending a thank-you email or note within 24 hours of the interview. Then, follow up with a phone call if you haven’t heard back from the company within a week.

For more ideas on how to land your dream job, visit the Employment Readiness lifecycle stage of MySECO. You can also call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to speak with a SECO career coach or use the Live Chat feature on MySECO for additional guidance. 

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