So you’ve scored an interview with your prospective company. You want to look your best, feel your best, and come across like a sensible, mature professional who slept 8 hours last night instead of binge-watching Netflix until dawn out of pre-interview anxiety. It’s a given that you don’t want to show up smelling like a nightclub and that you should put on some clean clothes, but what’s it going to take to set you apart from the other candidates? You know you’ve got killer qualifications, but you need to have the personality to match, and your first impression needs to be a good one. Preparing for the interview, especially the day before, will give you the confidence you need to make a solid impression on the interviewers.
Preparing for an Interview – The day before
- Do your homework. Research the company before you walk in there and get a pop quiz on their mission statement that leaves you stammering. If you can pepper your interview with references to past projects, upper-level staff whose work you admire and look forward to calling a colleague, and even anecdotal details from their website, they’ll know that you’re serious about your interest in them, not just in scoring the job.
- Do a test run. Look up their office– do they have more than one location in the same locale? Make sure you find the right one! Map it and figure out how you are going to get there before the day of your interview. Will you drive, walk, or take public transit? Plan it all down to the possibility of inclement weather and then do a complete test run. If your interview is scheduled early, set your alarm for the time you’d need to wake up and give yourself extra time to get dressed and make yourself fresh-faced and alert (read: shower and coffee). Take the planned route at the time you’ll be traveling there if possible– you might get there in 10 minutes at 9pm but rush hour traffic might make it a different story at 9am. Time yourself and be realistic about giving yourself a few extra minutes as a cushion. It’s better to show up crazy early and go get a latte around the corner while you give yourself a last-minute pep talk than to burst in 15 minutes late smelling sweaty after and looking disheveled after running to their office from the train.
- Plan your ensemble. You don’t want to wake up the morning of the interview and have to iron your clothes or suddenly realize that you only have mismatched socks to wear. Play dress-up and try on different outfits and make sure they are comfortable, pressed, and free from any stains. Keep it simple and understated– you want them to notice you and not the orange stain on your shirt (is that taco sauce?). Try to get a sense of the company’s dress code, but it’s hard to go wrong with a white dress shirt and neutral dress bottoms. Pair it with clean, comfortable shoes and a matching jacket and you are all set. Go lightly on accessories and jewelry– just one or two understated pieces will do– and skip the perfume or cologne–nobody wants their nose assaulted for an hour when they are shut into a tiny interview room with you. If you’ve showered, put on deodorant, and remembered to brush and floss, you’ll smell fine.
- Bring at least 3-5 copies of your resume. While they will most likely have one or two printed copies of it with them, you will look fantastically organized if you can hand out extra copies to everyone in the room as well as keep one in front of you for referencing certain points.
- Take care of yourself. Take it easy the day before: go to bed early and eat a sensible breakfast in the morning so your stomach isn’t rumbling when you get there. Make sure you brush, floss, and use mouthwash after you eat too– you don’t want to flash that professional smile of your’s with bits of breakfast stuck in your teeth.
The key to nailing your interview is preparing as much as you can beforehand, and then allowing yourself to feel relaxed and confident on the big day. Even if you don’t get the job, it’s good practice for future interviews and the company might keep you in mind for future positions. You want them to remember you as the person who showed up on time, knew the company inside and out, and didn’t have taco sauce on their shirt.