How to Prepare for an Interview

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

These tips and tools set you up for success in your next interview.

[Featured image] A person 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 learn about a company you’re interested in working for. It's important to prepare carefully, from initial screenings to case interviews, no matter what kind of interview you’ll be participating in. 

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

Here, we have listed the steps to prepare for your interview. Following these steps, you will first explore your abilities and then apply these insights to research the company and demonstrate 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. 

This strategy aims 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 verbalise them more easily during the interview. 

Start by gathering your resume, cover letter, and other components of your professional history. Gather samples of previous work, school assignments, and personal projects if possible. For anything you cannot access, 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 throughout your education 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 professional history?

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

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2. Reflect on your personal strengths.

This strategy aims to access your authentic self and connect that self to your career potential. What makes you unique, and how can you show up authentically in the workplace?

Reflecting on your strengths can make exuding confidence and self-regard easier 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, practicing a new skill multiple times, receiving constructive feedback, and making others feel welcome.

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

  • What lessons from the prompts above could you apply to a new position? 

3. Research the company. 

This strategy aims 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. 

Research 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 regarding 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?

establishes a basis for creating rapport with your interviewer during the interview

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

4. Research your interviewer. 

This strategy aims 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. 

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

  • Review their profile for details you find interesting or 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 you’ve worked here for five years. What have you enjoyed the most?”  

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

While 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. 

This strategy aims 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 technical skills do you feel confident about, and which might you seek more training? 

  • 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. 

This strategy aims 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 develop compelling, concise answers to potential questions. In addition, this exercise can help you recall details if you get stuck in the moment.

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 for a company on Glassdoor, click the “interviews” tab on the company profile to view interview questions that job candidates have answered. 


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 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. 

By compiling questions, you can use the interview experience to fully understand the company and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position. 

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

  • What is the typical workday, 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 interview's direction.

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

Next steps

In the days leading up to the interview, remember to confirm the logistics so 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, ensuring you have extra copies of your resume, and selecting clothes you feel confident and comfortable wearing. 

To better prepare, consider taking the Successful Interviewing course on Coursera to learn strategies such as how to refine your elevator script, respond to difficult questions, and capitalise on your strengths.

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.

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