Job Interview Do’s and Don’ts: Steps for Each Phase

Job Interview Do’s and Don’ts: Steps for Each Phase

After weeks of job hunting, your hard work has finally paid off with a job interview. Now, the next important step is to make a great first impression during the interview process!

Rest assured that you’re not alone if you find your excitement tinged with a sense of nervousness as the interview approaches. After all, a great first impression can go a long way toward securing the job offer of your dreams. But how do you make sure you put your best foot forward?

We’ve got you covered with a collection of interview tips for every stage of the interview process. From how to prepare to doing follow-ups, we’ll cover a list of do’s and don’ts that can help you stand out to potential employers or clients.

Table of contents:

Learn about the role and the company

The first key to nailing a job interview begins before the interview itself. Always make sure you head into the interview process with a thorough knowledge of the role you’ve applied for and how it fits within the company.

This is a great way to show hiring managers that you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity and aren’t just looking to settle for the first job that comes your way. Pre-interview research can also prepare you to answer interview questions in a polished, knowledgeable way.

Do’s

While you don’t need to memorize the entire history of the company you’ll be interviewing with, every good candidate should know several things. Few actions are a bigger turn-off to recruiters and hiring managers than interviewees who can barely remember what job they applied for in the first place!

Whether you’re interviewing for full-time or freelance work, research helps you verify that the company and role are right for you. Consider these tips to help you walk into your next interview with all the right knowledge:

  • Study the job description thoroughly. A deep understanding of what the job entails will often give you solid hints about the type of job interview questions you’ll be asked to answer. Think of examples from your work history that demonstrate how your skills match the role’s requirements.
  • Research the company’s mission and values. Interviewers aren’t just interested in your skill set. They also want to know how you’ll fit into their company’s culture. Research the organization’s core values, and feel free to mention any that align with yours.
  • Learn about the hiring manager and interview panel. If you know who you’ll be interviewing with, use tools like LinkedIn to research their backgrounds. This can also be a great way to find common ground or connections.

Don’ts

Now, let’s take a look at what not to do in the research phase. Some common mistakes that won’t do you any favors during this stage of the interview process are:

  • Underestimating the importance of company culture. Understanding an organization’s company culture isn’t about tailoring your answers to what a hiring manager wants to hear. It’s also a prime indicator of whether you’ll be happy working for them and with other team members.
  • Ignoring recent company news. Don’t be the only candidate to go into an interview with no idea that the company just completed a major merger or released an anticipated product. Make sure you’re aware of any major achievements or challenges to avoid coming across as disinterested.

Leverage your network and resources

No matter your industry, plenty of excellent resources are available to help you prepare to interview like a pro. Don’t discount the power of career services or even your own network when it comes to tipping a hiring decision in your favor.

Do’s

While you may not be able to get a cheat sheet of the interview questions you’ll be asked, you can still find plenty of ways to prepare yourself for your next interview. Some excellent resources to draw on throughout the job search and interview process include:

  • Using your network. Social networks like LinkedIn offer instant access to contacts working in the same industry or even for the company you plan to interview with. Consider reaching out for any insights or advice connections can offer.
  • Utilizing career services. Online resources like common interview questions can be helpful. Take the time to practice beforehand, using techniques like the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method.
  • Preparing your references. Always assume that a company will reach out to the references you provide. Select contacts who can speak positively about your work ethic. Be sure to ask permission before giving out their contact information.

Don’ts

The average job search can be challenging enough as it is. Don’t make it harder by underutilizing your resources! A couple common mistakes to avoid are:

  • Neglecting to inform your references. No matter how great your references are, make sure to give them a heads-up that they may be contacted. Otherwise, they may be caught off guard and give you a less-than-stellar recommendation or ignore the call altogether.
  • Overlooking online resources. Online job-hunting tools and resources have opened up a new world of opportunities. Don’t be afraid to investigate new tools that can help you stay on top of the ever-evolving job market.

Last-minute interview tips

Now that you’ve covered all the initial bases, it’s time to start preparing for the interview process. Let’s review some last-minute do’s and don’ts to help you make a great first impression.

Do’s

When preparing for your interview, keep these things in mind to set yourself up for success:

  • Prepare your answers. Now’s a good time to review your answers to common interview questions and decide how you’ll handle tricky questions about things like rate or salary expectations. Try to prepare a question or two that you can ask to demonstrate your interest in learning more about the work.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile. While it’s important to make sure that your LinkedIn profile matches the resume you submitted, you can also update it to showcase additional work experience and achievements.
  • Dress appropriately. Whether you’re interviewing for a job in AI or the restaurant business, make sure you always dress professionally. This sign of respect shows interviewers that making a good first impression is important to you.
  • Bring copies of your resume. While your interviewers will likely have digital copies of your resume, print out a few hard copies to bring just in case. This may save your interviewer from having to fire up their laptop and locate your resume among hundreds of other submissions.

Don’ts

A successful job interview requires bringing your A game, not your bad habits. Let’s go over a few things you don’t want to do in a job interview:

  • Fidget or chew gum. Both of these habits can come across as unprofessional at best and annoying at worst. If you’re prone to fidgeting, make a mindful effort to clasp your hands or focus on your breathing.
  • Bring your cell phone. Don’t ever take a cell phone into an interview unless you’re positive it’s off, not just silent. You might consider leaving it in the car unless you suspect you might need it to look up information such as the contact information of past employers or other references.
  • Slouch or fail to make eye contact. While it’s important to stay relaxed, don’t go overboard! Poor body language can come across as a lack of interest or confidence.

During the interview

Now, let’s get into the heart of the interview process and discuss best practices for making a good first impression. The tips in this section will give you a solid introduction to interview etiquette and help you stand out from the crowd.

Do’s

We’ll start with several tips that can help you come across as polished and professional. Some things to keep in mind throughout your next job interview include:

  • Make a strong first impression. Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and a smile. Throughout your interview, make a point of natural but consistent eye contact to show your interest and confidence.
  • Answer questions concisely. This is where practicing common interview questions beforehand can really come in handy. Make an effort to provide clear, concise answers and avoid rambling.
  • Show enthusiasm. Remember that research you did in the company and role? Now’s the time to put it to good use by highlighting what made you so excited about the opportunity.
  • Ask insightful questions. Rare is the interviewer who won’t ask if you have any questions for them. Try to prepare one or two questions about aspects of the job or company that truly interest you.
  • Discuss your work experience. Keep in mind that your interviewer is already familiar with the work experience highlighted on your resume. Rather than simply relisting specific roles, make an effort to focus on how your achievements tie into the responsibilities outlined in the job description.

Don’ts

When it comes to making a great first impression, sometimes what you don’t do can be just as important as what you do. Avoid common interview mishaps by ensuring that you don’t:

  • Arrive late. Showing up late for a job interview is one of the quickest ways to tank your shot at securing work. If you have a genuine emergency, make sure to call ahead and alert your interviewer as soon as possible.
  • Speak negatively about previous employers or clients. No matter how bad a former employer or client was, now is not the time or place to recount the horrors of your last job. Avoid off-putting or awkward situations by focusing on the positive aspects of your past job experiences.
  • Overlook the job description. If there’s one thing you should never do, it’s go into a job interview without a thorough understanding of the job description. This can lead to irrelevant answers and an overall waste of the interviewer’s time.
  • Ignore the interviewer’s cues. Body language is a huge part of communication, so make sure not to ignore your interviewer’s body language. Non-verbal cues can give you plenty of hints about the need to pivot your responses or approach.

After the interview

Last but not least, keep in mind that the interview process doesn’t end after the interview. Don’t get so caught up looking for signs that you’ll get the job that you forget important post-interview follow-ups.

Do’s

Depending on how many candidates are being interviewed, final hiring decisions can take some time. Consider these tips on what to do in the meantime:

  • Express your gratitude. Thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate your enthusiasm for the opportunity. If you’re unsure about what to say, consider personalizing a thank you follow-up email template.
  • Connect on LinkedIn. Politely requesting to connect with your interviewer on LinkedIn is a great way to reiterate your interest and keep in touch. You might even consider sending them a post-interview thank you message rather than an email.
  • Send a follow-up email. Knowing when to follow up after an interview can be tricky. But if you haven’t heard back after five to seven business days, it may be time to send a short follow-up email expressing your gratitude for the interview and continued interest in speaking further.

Don’ts

Don’t ruin a great interview with a bad follow-up. In the last stages of the interview process, make sure you don’t:

  • Ramble in your follow-up. While a polite, concise follow-up is lovely, a rambling novel about why you deserve the job is a big mistake. Keep your follow-ups professional and to the point.
  • Forget to prepare for the next interview. Don’t get so nervous about whether you’ll get a response that you forget to be prepared if you do. Start to prepare for the next stages in the hiring process in case you’re selected to move forward.

In summary

As you can see, a great deal of making a good first impression at a job interview comes down to being prepared. Let’s do a quick recap of key points to consider as you prepare for your next interview:

Do:

  • Take the time to thoroughly research the role and company
  • Understand why you’re a good fit and how it relates to your previous work experience
  • Use online career resources to think through answers to common interview questions beforehand
  • Arrive on time, dress professionally, and maintain professional interview etiquette
  • Always send a follow-up to thank the interviewer for their time

Don’t:

  • Underestimate the need to research the company or job description
  • Put yourself on the spot by failing to prepare solid answers ahead of time
  • Forget to tell your references that you used them as references
  • Slouch, fail to make eye contact, or engage in any other distracting or impolite behavior
  • Send long or rambling follow-up messages

Find interview preparation help on Upwork

Congratulations on taking the first step to a great job interview by checking out the interview do’s and don’ts detailed above. Applying them can help set you apart from other job seekers and increase the odds of securing a job offer!

Need a little extra help to practice for your next interview? Upwork has you covered with a selection of top interview preparation experts. Whether you’re interested in practicing with a mock interview or speaking with a freelance career consultant, Upwork is happy to connect you with independent professionals who can help you take your interview skills to the next level.

And if you’re a hiring manager, consider finding highly qualified talent on Upwork, where freelancers with more than 10,000 skills are ready to help your organization.

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Job Interview Do’s and Don’ts: Steps for Each Phase
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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