How to Prepare for an Interview

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Set yourself up for success in your next interview with these tips and tools.

[Featured image] A woman in business attire practices for an interview in front of a mirror.

An upcoming interview is an exciting opportunity to explore a new career path and get to know a company you’re interested in working for. No matter what kind of interview you’ll be participating in, from initial screenings to case interviews, it’s important to prepare carefully. 

Doing so can help you feel confident in your qualifications, what you can contribute to the company, and the way you present yourself. 

Here, we have listed the steps to prepare for your interview. By following the steps in order, you will explore your own abilities first and then apply these insights to researching the company and demonstrating your value to a potential employer.

6 steps to prepare for an interview 

Grab a notebook or electronic document and set aside time to use these six reflective strategies: 

1. Reflect on your professional strengths. 

The purpose of this strategy is to generate in-depth, specific information about your qualifications for the position you’re applying for, beyond what you may have listed on a resume or cover letter. This approach can help you put your strengths at the forefront of your mind and verbalize them more easily during the interview. 

Start by gathering your resume, cover letter, and other components of your professional history. If possible, gather samples of previous work, school assignments, and personal projects. For anything you no longer have access to, jot down a short description.      

With everything at your fingertips, write in response to these prompts:

  • What strengths and accomplishments do you see that you didn’t have room to detail in your resume and cover letter? 

  • What workplace skills have you developed over the course of your schooling and previous employment?  

  • How might skills you learned in one job transfer to the position you’re applying for? 

  • What new insights or ideas arise as you review your entire professional history?

  • How can you describe these details in the clearest and most concise terms possible? 

2. Reflect on your personal strengths.

The purpose of this strategy is to access your authentic self and connect that self to your career potential. What makes you you and how can you show up authentically in the workplace?

By reflecting on your personal strengths, you can make it easier to exude confidence and a high self-regard during your interview. 

Write in response to these prompts:

  • What personal accomplishments are you most proud of? For example, perhaps you’ve overcome hardships, strengthened your relationships, discovered a new talent, or taught your children important life skills. 

  • What personal values do you bring to the workplace? For example, clear communication or curiosity.  

 

  • What makes you feel happy and fulfilled? For example, learning new things or supporting others as they pursue their dreams. 

  • What makes you feel confident and capable? For example, being able to practice a new skill multiple times, receive constructive feedback, and make others feel welcome.

  • Who has influenced you the most in your life? For example, a parent, a mentor, a famous artist or inventor. 

  • What lessons from prompts 1-5 could you apply to a new position? 

3. Research the company. 

The purpose of this strategy is to investigate the company more thoroughly, reflect on whether it will truly be a good fit for your career and lifestyle goals, and prepare to convey your genuine enthusiasm about working there. 

Start by researching the company’s website, social media, and other public-facing material. What are the company’s mission and values? What products and services does it offer? Who are its target customers and top competitors?

Research company reviews on Indeed and Glassdoor to get a feel for how previous and current employees experience a company's culture, work-life balance, growth opportunities, and sense of purpose. 

Write in response to these prompts:

  • What do you admire about the company, upon closer examination?

  • What are you curious about, particularly as it relates to the position you’re applying for?

  • What questions do you need answers to?

  • When you imagine yourself working for this company, what thoughts, feelings, and images come up? 

  • What workplace culture can you anticipate?  

  • Can you see yourself comfortable, valued, and supported by the team?

  • What is the best way to express your interest in this company, based on these ideas? 

4. Research your interviewer. 

The purpose of this strategy is to establish a basis for creating rapport with your interviewer during the interview itself. 

  • Make sure you know the name and title of the person (or people) you’ll be interviewing with. 

  • Search the company’s website and LinkedIn for their public professional profile to find out their role within the company, how long they’ve been working there, and what your relationship with them would be if you were to get the job.

  • Review their profile for details you find interesting or that you have in common. For example: Do you both have prior experience in the same industry? What do you admire about the interviewer’s professional accomplishments?  

Here are some examples of how you might mention your findings during the interview to create rapport:

I read your company profile and saw that you’ve been working here for five years. What have you enjoyed the most?”  

“I read your LinkedIn profile and saw that you published an article on our industry’s latest trends. I found it really insightful.”

As you’re researching your interviewer, remember to be sensitive about the information you find. While some interviewers might appreciate your thorough research and sincere interest in their professional history, others might feel uncomfortable disclosing information about themselves with a potential employee they’re screening. 

5. Find talking points in the job description. 

The purpose of this strategy is to take a fresh look at the original job description and discover even more ways to present yourself as an attractive candidate for the position. 

Write in response to these prompts:

  • What originally inspired you to apply for the position?

  • Which of the required technical skills do you possess and feel confident about, and which might you seek more training in? 

  • How can you connect details from your resume, cover letter, and the insights you’ve been gathering from the strategies in this article to items in the job description?  

  • How can you describe these connections clearly during the interview process, depending on the type of interview?

6. Explore answers to common interview questions. 

The purpose of this strategy is to create the emotional and intellectual landscape for answering your interviewer’s questions. Here, you will use everything you’ve reviewed and reflected on thus far to come up with compelling, concise answers to potential questions. In addition, this exercise can help you recall details on the spot and head off moments when you draw a blank.

Warm up by writing down ideas for how you might answer common job interview questions, such as, “Why should we hire you?” or “What motivates you?”

Then, delve deeper by researching common interview questions in your field, especially the job you’re applying for. Draw inspiration from these career-specific examples:

  • An interviewer for a data analyst position might ask you, “What steps do you take to solve a business problem?” or “What is your process when you start a new project?”

  • An interviewer for a UX designer position might ask you, “How is UX design different from visual design?” or “What’s your design process?”

  • An interviewer for a project manager position might ask you, “What’s your experience with budget management?” or “What tools do you use to plan a project?”

Interview tip: When you search a company on Glassdoor, click the “interviews” tab on the company profile to view actual interview questions that job candidates have answered. 

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Make it your goal to tell relevant stories about your professional history, without sounding like you’re reading from a script. Practice telling stories with a friend or family member using the STAR technique: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Doing so can help you keep stories brief, while demonstrating how you overcome challenges in the workplace. 

7. Compile a list of questions to ask your interviewer. 

This step will help you put the finishing touches on your interview prep. By taking the time to compile questions, you can use the interview experience to gain a fuller understanding of the company and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position. 

To complete this step, look over all of the notes you’ve jotted down so far and write down questions such as:

  • What does the typical workday look like, including projects, challenges, and processes?

  • What does success look like for this position?

  • What would you like to see someone in this position accomplish in the first month or 90 days?

  • What kind of continued training and professional development will be available to me?

  • With whom will I be collaborating the most?

Be prepared to tweak or rephrase the questions, according to the direction the actual interview takes.

Learn more about interview best practices from the experts at Big Interview:

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An overview of interview best practices.

Read more: 5 Unique Interview Questions to Ask Employers

Next steps

In the days leading up to the interview, remember to confirm the logistics, so that you can meet your potential employers with everything you need. This might include: confirming the address, directions, and parking details for onsite interviews; reviewing instructions for joining a video conference or phone call for remote interviews; making sure you have extra copies of your resume; and selecting clothes that you feel confident and comfortable wearing. 

For every job you apply for, use these interview prep techniques to uncover new insights into your professional history that you can connect to job descriptions and companies you’d like to work for. That way, you can boost your self confidence for every step along your career path.

Want to practice more interviewing skills? Try this Successful Interviewing course, which covers how to handle questions about your salary expectations and prepare an elevator speech.

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Read more: How to Write an Interview Follow-Up Email: Guide and Samples

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