Set yourself up to crush this job interview, thanks to these fundamental interview tips.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated May 14, 2019
Vlada Kramina/Getty Images

While landing an interview is exciting, it's also extremely nerve-wracking, especially if it's your first one ever. There’s no way to know exactly how the conversation will go—sometimes you just get lucky and totally click with an interviewer, but you shouldn’t leave it to chance. So it’s your job to focus on what you can control, like coming prepared, making a good impression, and dressing the part. If you have a handle on these essential interview tips and to-dos—for before, during, and after the meeting—you’ll automatically set yourself up for success.

How to Prep Before an Interview

Research, Research, Research

Know as much about the company as you can. Start by reading the website to familiarize yourself with its polished mission statement, key staff members’ names and bios, and any news they’re willing to make public. Then take it a step further with a deeper internet search. This is where you might find some juicier tidbits: who their competitors are, industry news, important new hires, recent deals, and more.

Once you’ve brushed up on the company and industry, do some sleuthing into your interviewer’s career background. Not only will this give you general context, but it could also provide key talking points. People love making connections. You might learn through their Linkedin they attended the same university as your brother or started their career working for someone you’ve always admired (perfect to mention and ask about in your interview if the opportunity comes up!).

Visualize the Conversation and Prep Your Answers

Think realistically about potential questions and topics that might come up, then physically write down (or type up) talking points you want to hit. And don’t just write them down, practice saying your answers out loud. It’ll reinforce the points in your head and help you refine your delivery. All of this isn’t to say you should come with robotic responses, but having the foresight to prep some talking points will help you avoid drawing a blank when it’s time to speak up.

Plan a List of Questions for the Interviewer

Write down three to five questions to ask your interviewer, and actually plan on asking them. Questions shouldn’t be generic or forced—ask real questions you truly want to know the answer to: “What is the company culture like?”, “What would my typical day to day look like here?”, “What are your team’s biggest pain points right now, and how can I assist in alleviating them?”, are all great places to start.

Have a Salary in Mind

In many interviews, salary isn’t even mentioned (it’s often saved for the job offer conversation), but it’s still smart to come with a realistic figure or range in your head, just in case. It’s never fun to be caught off-guard and have to give a random number out of panic. Not sure how much this type of position typically pays? Use online salary search engines, such as or, as part of your company research from earlier. And remember, if you’re going to request a salary on the high end, make sure you can back up your ask with worthy credentials (second language, job experience, advanced degree, or knowledge of the current market value).

What to Do on the Day of the Interview

Dress More Nicely Than You Want To

It’s okay if you’re a tad overdressed compared to everyone who works there—it shows respect and that you care. You’re going to be in the interview at most, what, a few hours? You don’t have to wear sensible slacks forever, and it’s not worth underdressing and under-impressing a potential employer (that's one of the biggest interview mistakes not to make). Wear something neutral, conservative, and flattering while keeping the industry and company in mind (a creative media office will have vastly different attire expectations than a corporate law firm). A good rule of thumb: skip denim, open-toed shoes, shorts, and skin-tight pieces altogether. If you have to stop and wonder whether or not you should risk something, you probably shouldn’t.

Don’t Come Empty Handed

Make yourself a checklist of items to bring to your interview. Absolute must-haves include a notebook, writing utensils, government-issued ID (for getting into the building), and copies of your resume (yes, even if your interviewer already has one, and yes, copies plural). And it never hurts to bring random essentials like tissues, breath mints, hand sanitizer, a hair brush, a small umbrella, and mini makeup bag.

Open the Conversation with a Compliment

This only works if you can do it organically (forced, cheesy flattery isn’t what you’re looking for). Stay away from complimenting something on your interviewer’s person, like their outfit or hair, which can veer into iffy territory. Instead, if you can praise the artwork on their office wall or mention how gorgeous the view is, why not do it? A light, warm exchange like this can help ease you both into the conversation and make you stand out from the pack.

Always Keep It Professional

A general compliment can work wonders, but don’t forget that this person isn’t your pal. Stay away from oversharing, gossip, inappropriate personal questions, and curse words (you’d be surprised how often that happens). Keep the “likes,” “uhs,” and “so, yeahs,” on lockdown. In short, always err on the side of formality.

Pick Up on Body Language

If your interviewer has a short attention span they'll shuffle items on the desk or let their eyes dart around the room. Don’t let it fluster you; instead, once you notice those signals, simply shorten your answers. If they lean forward, nod eagerly, and seem engaged, feel free to embellish and give longer answers. Your best bet is to keep answers to a maximum of three minutes.

Take Your Time

It’s okay to pause and think before answering a question, especially a difficult one. The last thing you want to do is jump into something and start rambling. Try offering something like, “Wow, that's a really interesting question, I’ve never been asked that before,” to give yourself more time.

Everything That Needs to Happen After the Interview

Send a Thank-You Email to Everyone You Interviewed With

This includes your employer’s assistant who coordinated the meeting and explained how to navigate the office building’s tricky-to-find entrance. No need to write a novel—a genuine note thanking each one for taking the time, telling you about their experience, and further elaborating on this incredible role is all you need. But don’t write the same email to everyone you met—they’ll quickly realize they all got the same, canned note. Mix it up and mention a particular detail you talked about to show how engaged and on top of it you are. Want to go the extra mile? Follow up with a handwritten thank-you note. It’ll show you’ve got your stuff together and are willing to put in the time and effort to show gratitude—that’s huge.

Follow Up in Two Weeks

Even if you’re chomping at the bit for next steps, resist the urge to follow up until it’s been about two weeks. People are busy and the hiring process takes time, so don’t take the delay personally.

If You Don’t Get the Job, Thank Them Again and Ask for Feedback

It’s a real bummer, but not the end of the world. Even if they broke the news over the phone, send a brief email afterward expressing how much you appreciate the opportunity to be considered, see the office, and meet with everyone. You can also include a request for constructive feedback. Without prying, try something like, “If you have the time, I would be so grateful for any feedback you might have regarding my interview.” It might seem like overkill, but this kind of professionalism speaks volumes. Plus, if you were a close contender for the position, you never know if another position might open up, so it’s worth taking the high road and closing the loop.