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10 Essential Things You Must Do Before a Big Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

Let’s say you have a big interview coming up next week for a job you’re really interested in. You know you want to be at the top of your game and excel in all respects. Here is a list of ten essential things you must do to use your preparation time wisely and to get ready mentally and physically for peak performance.

1. Find out the names, responsibilities and backgrounds of the people you will be meeting. You don’t want to go into an interview thinking that you’re meeting the HR person for a brief screening interview, only to discover that you’re being interviewed by a panel of five people including the CEO.

2. Anticipate the questions you are going to be asked in the interview. Pretend you are the interviewer. Take the job description and review the requirements of the job. From that list, prepare a list of questions you would ask a candidate if the roles were reversed. If you do this well, you should be able to predict almost every interview question and will rarely be thrown off guard during an interview.

3. Rehearse for the interview by conducting a mock interview. Ask a friend or family member to play the role of the interviewer and pose questions to you. Critique your answers and ask your friend or family member to do the same. Like most things, the more you practice the better you become.

4. Select your favourite business clothes and make sure they are clean and pressed. Choose clothes that make you feel good and comfortable, yet professional. Remember, this is no time to find out that you’ve gained a few pounds and your favourite suit doesn’t fit properly anymore, or to experiment with a new look.

5. Practise relaxation techniques to reduce your anxiety. You want to be feeling and looking your best. This might mean getting some exercise, spending quiet time in private or even meditation. Understand what makes you feel good and do those things before the interview.

6. Think about how you will make a strong favourable first impression. Employers will be judging you the moment you walk in the door. Make a good first impression with a strong handshake, friendly greeting, plenty of eye contact, and a nice smile. Be prepared to engage in pleasant small talk – the “icebreaker” – as you are introduced and seated.

7. Be on time. Having said that, don’t show up 30 minutes before the interview. Doing so conveys that you have nothing better to do. It could also be interpreted as disrespectful of others’ time particularly if you end up chatting with the front-desk receptionist all this time. Plan to arrive about 10 minutes before the interview start.

8. Prepare to overcome any objections the interviewer may have. Hiring objections tend to fall into the categories of pay (“we can’t pay you what you want”); experience (“you don’t have enough experience”); and fit (“I am not sure you will fit with our team”). Think objectively about your own shortcomings and anticipate questions about these limitations.

9. Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer. Employers place a lot of value on the types of questions you ask them. Make sure they are strategic and insightful so that your questions leave a positive, lasting impression. Restrict your questions to ones about the job itself, the people you’ll be working with, and the organization to figure out if the job is the right fit for you. Never ask questions about salary, vacation or benefits unless the employer brings the topic up first.

10. Bring the following items with you to the interview: directions (if you’re not absolutely sure where you’re going); cell phone (in case you’re delayed by unexpected circumstances); a professional-looking notebook and couple of pens or pencils (to take notes); extra copies of your resume (in case the interviewer has misplaced her copy or you have to refer to it); and personal items such as reading glasses (if you need them), a hair brush (if it’s windy), and an umbrella (if it’s raining).


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn