Ultimate Job Interview Preparation Guide: Research and Planning

The Best Job Interview Preparation Guide: Part One (Pre-Interview) - Landing a job interview

Landing a job interview–especially when it’s with your dream job–can carry a lot of emotions. It’s exciting, intimidating, and full of incredible potential.

Whether you’re confident when meeting new people or you feel incredibly anxious at the thought of a formal interview, the job interview preparation guide will help you prepare for the pre-interview phase, including a list of questions to ask a recruiter, research the hiring organization, and help you plan your introduction.

Research the Company and the Interviewer

You’ve polished your resume, prepared your cover letter, networked with the right people, completed the research, and now you’ve landed yourself a job interview. It’s time for the tricky part: how do you convert that interview into a job?

Since you’ve already landed the job interview, you’ve likely already spent time researching the hiring organization. Let’s take an even deeper dive into the company.

In the pre-interview phase, spending time researching the company and the people/person interviewing you will pay off more than you can imagine. The more information you have about the hiring organization and the roles that your interviewer(s) play in the company, the more you will be able to impress the interviewer.

You want to understand the company’s history and background, as well as its values and mission. Learn the language that the company uses, and plan to implement their language into your interview answers. You want to go in-depth in your answers to questions, and the more information you have on the company, the more you’ll be able to offer in your answers.

It may also be helpful to research if the company has a dress code. This will help you be confident that you’re showing up to your interview in appropriate attire. If you cannot find information about their dress code, it’s better to be overdressed than under-dressed.

Questions to Ask a Recruiter Before an Interview

The recruitment process can be confusing to many. Learning how a recruiters advocates for you during your job search, hiring and interviewing process can be incredibly helpful. Ask the following questions to the recruiter once you get invited to interview.

  • How would you describe the culture of the organization I’d be hiring into? What kind of work-life balance do they have?
  • How did this position become available? How long has the position been open?
  • What recommendations do you have for researching the salary range for this position and level?
  • What will this recruitment process look like from start to finish? How many interviews can I expect, and what interview types should I be prepared for (phone screen, virtual, etc.)?
  • Will I be expected to produce any writing samples, videos, or work assignments?
  • Who will I be interviewing with? What kind of interview questions should I be prepared to answer? Is there a recommended format for my responses (ex: S.T.A.R. method)?
  • How long will the interviews last, and how many people will I be interviewing at one time?
  • What, if anything, should I be prepared to bring with me for the on-site interviews, and what dress code do you recommend?
  • What are your recommendations for effective interview prep for this team? Can you tell me more about how they operate day-to-day?
  • Is it appropriate to bring in examples (or a portfolio) of my work? Have other candidates done this successfully? Do you recommend it?
  • Can you accommodate my disability or special need?

The Night Before a Job Interview

Prepare the location of the call/meeting, your wardrobe, lighting (for virtual meetings), charging the phone, bluetooth headset, etc. Use a landline whenever possible, and disable call waiting to avoid interrupting calls.

If your interview is online, make sure that your computer is fully charged, and that you have a location set up for your interview. You want to have good lighting, and you should try to eliminate any background clutter. Ideally, the background behind you should be a blank wall or office. If other people are going to be in your space during your interview, you may want to kindly remind them that you would appreciate it if they were respectful during the time of your call.

If your interview is a phone call, you should make sure that your phone is charged, as well as your headphones or bluetooth set. You may also find it helpful to have a backup option in case of technical difficulties. Remember that an interviewee can’t see you in a phone interview, so you want to be enthusiastic with your answers.

  • Pro Tip: print out your resume and create a cheat sheet.

Research and Prepare for Salary Conversation

Be prepared to discuss your salary expectations in an interview. Knowing what the company pays their employees and what someone in your field should be making will help you confidently discuss your potential salary in an interview. 

The hiring manager generally wants to ensure your pay expectations align with what they’ve budgeted for the job. They should generally be the first to address pay during the interview process. It’s not your role to bring it up. That way, you can avoid coming across as presumptuous, and you’re not left requesting a figure that’s higher or lower than the employer’s range.

If you allow the hiring manager to start the conversation, they will likely start with a figure. You can say, “I feel that an annual salary between $X and $X is in line with the industry average and reflects my skills and experience level. I am, however, flexible and open to hearing about the company’s compensation expectations for this position.”

If you’re not ready to discuss the salary yet, you can deflect the questions for later in the conversation. If they ask about your salary range, you can say, “I don’t usually discuss compensation until I have a job offer. Is that the case here?”

Alternatively, you can say, “Before I answer, I’d like to ask a few more questions to get a better idea of what the position entails. That way, I can provide a more realistic expectation.” You can also ask questions about bonuses, commissions, or other types of compensation.

Things like location, experience, and the industry all play an important role in what your salary might be. Take time to research where you’re at in your career and how this compares to others in similar roles. You must consider the following to help determine a reasonable salary for your work:

  • Industry: Salary ranges vary widely, but there are general industry norms you need to know. View complete industry list here.
  • Role & Responsibilities: Your responsibilities, seniority of the position, and title play into your salary.
  • Experience Level: The years of experience you have are crucial to your target salary. 
  • Expertise & Education: If you’re in a high-demand field or have a highly specialized degree, you can probably ask for more money.
  • Location: Where the job is located may have the biggest effect on your realistic salary range. The cost of living is huge, and the exact same role will have very different salaries in different cities. 

Related Post: How to Get the Salary You Deserve


Plan Your Introduction

Opening an interview with a question is a great way to frame the interview session. Before asking questions, it is important to be confident that the setting seems appropriate to ask questions, and that you’re asking them out of sincerity and not arrogance.

“Thank you for taking the time to interview me today. What was it about my past experiences that made you decide to consider me for this position?” or “How does this position fit into the company as a whole?

Having a well-crafted elevator pitch is a great way to introduce yourself at the beginning of the interview. Here’s a 4-part elevator pitch formula and a sample script: 

  • Who am I, what do I do and who do I help?
  • Why am I passionate about my work?
  • What makes you unique and different? 
  • What are the 3 most important things I’m looking for in my next position?

Sample script:

“My name is James Stevens. As an enterprise architect and technologist, I partner with client CIOs and CTOs to develop tailored solutions and design engineering architecture blueprints. I work with ​​diverse business groups and cross-functional teams to drive transformational innovation. I have a deep passion for emerging and disruptive technologies paving the way for tomorrow. As a Fulbright Scholar, I spent a year teaching and conducting research at MIT. This is where I grew my research skills in an academic setting. What I’m looking for in my next job are a trusting and transparent, team-focused culture, opportunities to learn and grow my skills from a technical standpoint, and a chance to grow my leadership skills over time.

Check out the next article on negotiating a job offer in today’s job market.

Don't Forget to Share This Post!

Recommended from Generational Development

Get Your Free E-book: A Guide to Landing Your Dream Job

A Guide to Landing Your Dream Job

You're just a few clicks away from getting your hands on expert insights on how to navigate each step of the digital job market.