The Five P’s for an Interview: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!


Treating an interview as anything but serious is a huge mistake. I have interviewed thousands of people and some high school graduates performed better in an interview than some college degreed individuals.

You don’t need a PhD to perform well in an interview. Proper preparation is the key.

Let’s start with the basics:

  1. Drive by the building the night before so you know where you are going. Scope out one-way streets, road construction, and parking (bring quarters). Many employers will let you know where to park and if not, ask. Remember, if your interview is around drive time, plan extra time and if you are running late, be sure to call. Showing up late and blaming it on traffic is bush league. 
  2. Dress appropriately. If you are coming from work and it will tip off your current employer that you are looking because you showed up in a suit or a skirt with hose, ask the potential employer if your current business dress is ok and explain you are coming from work. They will always say yes because they understand the situation. If not, dress appropriately for the position. 
  3. While tattoos and body art, things like nose and eyebrow rings, are generally accepted in the workplace, I would recommend any outrageous tattoo be covered up and facial jewelry (besides earrings) taken out. If you get the job, you can see what the clothing culture is like once you have been there. It’s distracting for the interviewer when someone’s tongue stud keeps clacking against their teeth. If you are interviewing for a job in a tattoo parlor, knock yourself out!
  4. Spit out your gum. 
  5. Turn off your phone. If your kid is sick and you must go to an interview, explain to the interviewer you might get a call from a doctor and is it ok to have your phone on?
  6. Bring a portfolio or notebook and a pen with an extra copy of your resume and your list of questions (see below). 

Prior to the Interview:

  1. Ask the interviewer to send you the position description prior to the interview. Read it and be prepared to answer questions about the skills you will need for the position. 
  2. Visit and read their website thoroughly – cover to back. Prepare some questions about their industry.
  3. Go online and research behavioral based interview questions like “tell me about a time your supervisor was gone, and you had to make a decision”. Be prepared to answer those types of questions in addition to your work experience and skills. 
  4. Prepare your questions for the end of the interview. The interviewer will typically ask if you have any questions. This is your time to shine. Avoid questions about benefits, vacation or Paid Time Off – if you get a second interview or offer you will have time to ask those questions then. Your questions should demonstrate you did your homework about the position and the industry. A good question to start with is: “What will be my biggest challenge during the first 90 days? 
  5. Close the interview. At the end of the interview and your last question, you need to close the interview. What is the next step? When can I expect to hear back from you? And if you have a lot of courage, you can ask “Can I ask you a tough question and I want you to be honest? Why wouldn’t I get the job?” That will knock the interviewer's socks off!
  6. Have a leave behind. Go online and find an article about their industry. At the end of the interview, pull it out, hand it to them and say, “I saw this about your industry and I thought it was interesting. You probably saw it as well, but I brought it just in case”. 

After the interview:

  1. Go to your car, take out a thank you note. Write it and bring it back in to the receptionist, or put in the mail. Very few people send handwritten thank you notes. 
  2. Follow up. Call weekly.


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