The Step-by-Step Guide to the Perfect Interview




So you landed an interview – congratulations! That means someone thinks you have the right qualifications for the job. But job interviews can be daunting. With several rounds of going toe-to-toe with recruiters, supervisors and executives, it's more like a marathon than a sprint.


You need to keep a steady pace to make it to the end. One mistake can squash the momentum you've built for yourself, so here's a guide for every step of the process to help keep you on track.


Step One: Make a Plan (Pre-Interview)

Before you even accept an interview, you should first consider your longer-term goals. Once you start applying, it's easy to lose track of what's important and start getting pulled in several different directions. Not to mention you don't want to start a lengthy interview process for a company you don't really even want to work for.


Devise a targeted plan that addresses what is most important to you. For example, do you want to work for a small or big company? Are you looking for a certain location, a specific role or somewhere that you can learn and grow? With a targeted plan you can hone in on a reasonable number of companies that you are most excited to work for, and begin to make yourself an expert in their business.


Pro Tip: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

The average process can take anywhere from three to five interviews, pit you against dozens of other candidates and last for several weeks. You don't want to lose that time if you come up empty-handed, so be sure to keep looking for new opportunities that fit in your well-thought-out plan.


Step Two: Sell Yourself (Phone Screen)

During every step of the interview process, you're trying to sell yourself – but that initial phone screen is the most important chance to make a positive impression. After all, you're not moving on to the actual interview if you fail to impress, so you need to be sure to do your homework.


Thankfully with the internet, putting in your due diligence is easy. You've surely been told to research the company website, but you can also find useful information about the organization through social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You should also do some investigating (see: stalking) on the LinkedIn profile of the person who will interview you. And take advantage of Glassdoor to get a better idea about the company's specific interview process, but be warned to take some of the information there with a grain of salt.


Pro Tip: Use a checklist.

Take advantage of the fact the interviewer can't see you, and write out a list of the points you want to get across about yourself during the conversation. This will keep you focused and help ensure you cover all the major selling points.


Step Three: Be Memorable (In-Person Interview)

OK, so you aced the initial call and now they want to bring you in for the real deal – now what? Whereas the phone screen was about telling them you could do the job, the actual interview is about showing them how you'll do the job – and specifically how you'll do the job better than the other candidates. The key when it comes to the in-person interview is to be memorable. In a good way.


This should go without saying, but be professional to everyone you meet in the office, such as the receptionist or person scheduling your meeting. They talk, and being rude to some employees but not the person interviewing you raises major red flags. Be on time (that means early), stay off your phone and bring only what you need into the building. Either finish that Starbucks Doubleshot ahead of time or leave it in the car.


When it comes to the interview itself, bring five work examples that showcase how you solved problems in previous roles. Describing them should be just like a math problem: Show your work and the answer. Candidates often get so engrossed in describing the problem and their approach that they forget the most important part, which is how they actually remedied the situation and tangible business results.


Pro Tip: Dress to impress.

Another way to establish a positive association is to wear something a little loud. No, this doesn't mean to show up in a floral pattern suit, but maybe trade out that plain white shirt for something a little more colorful and unique to help you stand out and create positive visual associations.


Step Four: Finish Strong (Post-Interview)

Even if you think you've blown their socks off in the interview, there is still more work to be done to finish strong. Don't forget to send a follow-up note thanking them for their time. This is the place to reaffirm something you discussed, or provide further examples and links to your work. No need to overthink it – an email within 48 hours is your best bet (handwritten notes are nice, but might be too slow).


This is also the opportunity to revisit the plan you made, and make sure that the job aligns with your current and long-term goals. It can be easy to get wooed by a new company and forget all the important milestones that you've set for yourself. This will help you determine the areas you wish to negotiate if you end up receiving an offer.


Pro Tip: Negotiate your offer.

If you're feeling uneasy about negotiating an offer, there are some strategies you can use to help diffuse the tension. Start asking questions about the benefits early in the process if you know there is something you won't budge on. Delay and ask for more time if you don't feel comfortable talking in person or need to do further research on competitive offers. It's not off-limits to use a competitive offer to push them, but only if you want the job and need them to meet on one of your priority items.


While these tips may not guarantee you'll land the gig, they'll help you create a template for success you can replicate throughout your job hunt.