By Mary Jo King, NCRW, NCOPE

Okay, you’ve snagged the interview.  Now make the most of your mojo by planning for success.

1. Worth repeating: Do your research. Learn about the company and its industry before the interview. Knowing your subject matter will help you perform at your best.

2. Prepare for a telephone or video interview as you would for a personal meeting – including your choice of clothing. Keep your research and résumé package at your fingertips for easy reference.

3. Arrive early; you’ll feel more relaxed. Bring copies of your résumé, reference list, and letters of recommendation, preferably organized into an attractive binder.

4. Be a good listener. Your responses and questions will occur naturally when you’re paying attention.

5. Relax and keep your hands quiet. Sit upright and lean forward slightly.  Match the interviewer’s speed of speech.

6. When a question surprises you, take a moment to consider your response. This is a perfectly acceptable technique, and you will be happier with the result.

7. Give some advance thought to potential problem areas on your résumé and be ready to deal with difficult topics. Be honest, objective and accountable.

8. Ask thoughtful, well-researched questions of your own. A discussion about company culture, for instance, can be very enlightening.

9. Point out the achievements noted on your résumé, and relate the ways your talents might be similarly applied in your new position.

10. The first interview is not the time to ask about salary and benefits, but be prepared to receive the question. If you are forced to discuss salary, quote a range rather than a firm number. (You have, of course, researched the salary range on websites like and

11. If your interviewer asks an illegal question, redirect the conversation. Most such questions are errors of ignorance when the interviewer is trying to be friendly.

12. Always ask for the job. You would be surprised how many people never do this. Even if you are fairly certain you don’t want the job, you want the job offer.

13. Collect a business card on the way out. You’ll need it for follow-up.


Send a thank-you letter within 24 hours of the job interview. Make sure you have the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name and the correct job title. Use the stationery and header from your résumé, and a formal style (unless invited to use a first name). If there was more than one interviewer, send a letter to each person.

Your letter should be short and direct. Express your thanks, emphasize your suitability for the position, and reiterate your interest in moving forward to the next step.

Use email for follow-up only if there is established precedent for this form of communication.

Final Thoughts

Practice interviewing with a friend, preferably one with hiring experience.

Don’t wear casual clothing, even for a “jean job”. Slacks or Dockers are more appropriate.

Don’t be late.  If the unexpected occurs, phone ahead.

Turn your cell phone off. Never, EVER look at your phone during an interview!

Smile, make good eye contact, and provide a firm handshake.

Never speak negatively about a previous employer.

Don’t take over the interview by talking too much, even when interviewer is inept.


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