6 Tips For A Winning Job Interview

Anne Hathaway as Andy in Devil Wears Prada

Prepping for a job interview is almost always stressful. It’s the ultimate test of your best first impression, and if you’re going for your dream gig, you’re likely amping up the pressure on yourself. Here, our top tips to ensure you’re confident, prepared and ready to impress.

Get The Job, Girl

Skill-set aside, these basic elements should always be in play.

Bring a hard copy of your résumé printed on actual résumé paper. It may seem old-school, but it's also prepared and thoughtful. If you're applying for a creative position that may require a portfolio of past work, bring that along as well.

Make sure you have a notebook and pen. Forget the yellow legal pad and trusty Bic—try something with more of a professional edge. A simple portfolio or a metallic envelope and matching notebook from Poppin are chic. Or, if you're wanting to show a bit more personality, ban.do has the perfect folio to hold your résumé, a coordinating notebook and a beautiful pen.

Be sure to dress the part. Be thoughtful about the industry and job you're going for—if it's highly professional, choose a well-fitting suit. If the interview is for something more casual in a creative field where showing your personality is part of the job, be sure you look polished (no jeans). A general rule of thumb: You can never be over-dressed.

Finally, make sure you have a firm handshake. Oftentimes, that is actually the very first impression you will make, and you want to enter the room with the kind of confidence you know you can bring to the job.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's important to know the job description inside and out. Second, but equally as important, brush up on your own résumé. This will allow you to quickly respond and pivot during the interview.

Consider how the jobs you've had and the skills you've acquired can be woven into this new position. Choose three of your strongest accomplishments and keep them top of mind. Have an arsenal of thought-out examples ready to go, so you can throw them into the conversation when the opportunity presents itself.

Research the company. Having a thoughtful understanding of its history and evolution will not only help you gain context of the position you're applying for, but will also be an impressive asset during the interview. Be sure to stay abreast of current industry news, as well.

There's always that point when the interviewer turns it over to you for questions. Even if you have a strong understanding of the position, it's good to have a few queries in your back-pocket. Of course, this is the time to clear up any logistical items that may not have come up—to whom you would report, who would report to you, the timeline for filling the position, etc. If salary and benefits haven't come up, save it for round two or for HR once you've received an offer.

In terms of more thought-provoking questions, consider something along these lines. Depending on the answers, you may be able to sneak in a few more professional examples:

  • What kind of person do you see being successful in this position?
  • What do you like best about working at this company?
  • How does this position fit within the company as a whole, and how do departments work together?
  • How would you measure success of this position over the next six months, year, five years?

It's easy to forget that you're interviewing the company, too. Even if it's a place you've dreamed of working, once you're in the door and facing reality, it's important to get a clear picture. Ask yourself if it's an environment that suits you or if you can imagine the person interviewing you being your boss. Is it someone you would respect, learn from or even want to be someday? What is the work-life balance like, and can you get a feel of the everyday work culture?

Relax, be confident in your experience and know what you bring to the table.

Always, always, always send a thank-you note. While old-fashioned snail mail is nice, things move so quickly these days, and decisions are made on the fly, so e-mail is also acceptable. Be sure you collect cards or e-mail addresses from everyone you meet so you can send them personal notes. They can be short and sweet: Thank them for their time, include a sentence about why you see yourself at the company and, if applicable, add a personal anecdote from your meeting.

Feel free to follow up with your main contact after a week or two to see how things are moving along and to reiterate your interest. It's a gentle way of staying on their radar, and shows proactive determination.