University at Albany

Preparing before an interview

Prepare for an interview by reviewing your strengths and weaknesses, researching the company and the job, and planning the logistics of the interview itself.

Strengths and weaknesses

  • Make a list of your skills, experience, strengths and weaknesses that relate to the job for which you are interviewing
  • Think of examples of when you have shown leadership, solved problems, achieved goals and been creative. Look for opportunities to discuss these in an interview.

Do your research- Before any interview take time to learn about both the job and the company. 

The Job: The best source for researching a job is the job posting itself.  Before an interview you should know:
• Which skills and experience are the most important?
• How do your skills and experience match the job requirements?
• Does this sound like a job you want to do?
If the job posting is not available, online resources, such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Occupational Information Network will assist you. 

The Company: Research a company in order to :

  • Learn enough about the company to ask intelligent question and to show your interest.
  • Find out if this seems like a place where you would want to work.

Check the website to learn about the company's products and services, competitors, executives and their values and mission

While a company’s website will show you the most positive aspects of the company, it is a good way to get a sense of what is important to them. Their website represents how they want to be seen by everyone else.

Look for more objective information about the company using these resources.  
Use this research to help you formulate questions to ask when you are interviewing.

Logistics and Planning- During an on-site interview, arrive early and plan ahead to minimize the unexpected.

  • Do you have directions to the company?
  • Do you know where to go when you arrive?
  • Are you driving there? Where do you park and is parking free?
  • If you can, take a practice run to understand the conditions (i.e. traffic, duration of trip,  parking)

Phone interviews
A phone interview is often used to prescreen applicants before an on-site interview. These interviews are usually short - around 30 minutes - and are mostly likely with one person. The questions asked will be similar to the ones used during an on-site interview. The purpose of a phone interview is to get enough information to decide if they want to invite you to a more in-depth interview at the company offices. 

The following are suggestions for how to conduct a more effective phone interview.

  • Use a land line phone instead of a cell phone. Then you do not need to worry about signal strength.
  • Sit at a desk or table where you can sit up straight and take notes if necessary.
  • Dress up as if this were an in-person interview. This will help you feel more confident and professional.
  • Make sure you take the call someplace quiet where you will not be disturbed

What if the company is not local?
Sometimes it is necessary to travel a distance to a company site for an interview.  Before you travel make sure you understand:

  • Who will make the travel arrangements, you or the company?
  • Who will pay for the travel expenses?  If the company pays, how will you be reimbursed?
  • How long will you be there? Is it for one day or longer?

If the company is paying for the expenses, be respectful of the fact that you are spending someone else's money. Not only is that the ethical thing to do, but it will show the company that you are mature and professional.

If you are making all of the arrangements yourself, ask them for recommendations. Do not rent a car unless they suggest it. Ask them for recommendations for transportation from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the company. Keep all of your meal expenses to a minimum. You want them to remember you for your skills and experience, not your expense account.

Refund of Expenses
If the organization is paying for your trip; keep an accurate account of all expenses, such as meals, tips, cab fare, or private auto expenses. Receipts should be kept for all expenses. Generally you will need to send a record of expenses with receipts to the employer in order to be reimbursed. Some employers may give you specific forms to fill out in order to do that.