Pre-interview checklist

Good morning, sweet readers! (I think there are enough of you here now that I can address you like that, but feel free to comment below and put me back into my place.) Since I moved to New York, I’ve had to pick up part-time work (which you can read about here) and had to network, hunt down leads and apply, apply, apply to find a real 9-to-5 that will help me out with health insurance. The most daunting aspect of the job hunt, though? It’s the interview. It’s always the interview. Even though I’ve gone to plenty of job interviews in my (short) professional lifetime, I still get nervous and make myself a little checklist for the morning-of. So, for y’all, I’ve pulled together my pre-interview checklist that you can implement even earlier. 

the week before

Study the job description and study the organization. Preparation is one thing that was drilled into me as an undergrad. The least impressive thing you can bring to the table of an interview is unpreparedness, hands down. If you’re really good, you’ll study the people who will possibly be interviewing you as well. You should know why you want the job, why you want to work for the organization, why you’d be a good fit for the position/what you bring to the table, and your entire professional history.

Prepare your answers to those stereotypical HR questions and some questions of your own. What are your professional strengths and weaknesses? What makes you stand out as a candidate and as a professional? Where do you see yourself in three to five years? Why do you want to work for this company? At the table with your interviewer should not be the first place you ponder these queries. Side note: this is not the time to get cute. Answer thoughtfully and creatively, but don’t make yourself into an ass. Be serious.

Comb through your resume for typos and then get it printed on nice, heavy stock. It’s horribly embarrassing to have to explain a mistake on something that is supposed to represent you unequivocally, but it’s quite impressive to show that you care about how you represent yourself.

Get your outfit together. Think this is funny? It’s real, and a complete outfit needs to be on your pre-interview checklist. Your possible future employer will make judgments about whether you’re right for the job based on your appearance. Just like your resume, your appearance needs to be impressive. Get your hands attended to (an at-home manicure is a great way to ensure a calm night in before an interview), make sure you’ve got time to do your hair, shave your legs/underarms/face, and try to get your skin under control. Just remember not to overdo it; you’re going for polished, not pageant queen.

Start really paying attention to the news. This ties into preparation. I remember one of my professors in college would make us start every class with a short synopsis of current events. I wish I’d been able to keep up that habit after the move to New York, but I’ve slipped a bit. Pay attention to everything through several sources. Buy a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and read the Sunday edition of the New York Times as often as you can. Pay attention to international news, too; the BBC is great. (I talked about the football score of a college game for five whole minutes in a recent interview with someone who went to my alma mater. Sports matters too.)

the night before

Pack your essentials and plan your route. That means resumes, pens and a notebook, at least. If you have them, bring your business cards. Bring lip gloss/balm and hand lotion if you need to. Pack cab fare, your metro card, flat shoes–whatever you think you’ll need. (It also never hurts to have at least $10 in cash for emergencies.) Figure out what time you need to leave your house and how you need to get to the interview.

Get rest. This is perhaps the most important part of your interview checklist. Follow your typical routine as best you can–if you shower at night and do your hair in the morning, do that. Eat a healthy dinner and make sure you have coffee or something to eat in the morning.

the morning of

Eat your breakfast. Drink your coffee. Wake up. “It’s an early morning” is not a good answer/excuse to any question.

Plan to get out the door thirty minutes earlier than you think you need to. There will always be traffic and emergencies and detours. If you show up early, you’re on time. If you show up too early, well… Starbucks is on most corners. (Being early/on time is not embarrassing.)

in the interview

Ask your interviewer some questions. What’s a typical day like for the interviewer or in this position? What’s company culture like? Are there internal initiatives to bring employees together and increase happiness and productivity? What are typical challenges associated with this role? You get where I’m going.

Make sure to understand the follow-up steps. Ask this question. Nothing is weirder than not knowing what you don’t know. (I always forget to ask this question and always kick myself.)

the day after

I cannot stress this enough: write a thank-you note. This is one of the most vital steps on the interview checklist. Write it with your hands. Don’t be cute and don’t be colloquial; just be cordial and show gratitude for getting the time of day from the busy person to whom you spoke.

pre-interview checklist

Did I miss anything? What does your interview checklist look like?

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