Interviewing 101 - Captivate Talent
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Interviewing 101

Interviewing 101

Interviewing is a difficult, but necessary feat that every person must go through in the pursuit of career advancement. With the proper preparation and tools, however, it doesn’t need to be so daunting. That is why we put together an easy guide to follow throughout the interview process!


Preparing for the interview is arguably the most important step in the interview process. It is what will make you or break you, and will show your prospective employer that you put an effort into learning about their business and the people that you would be working with. Also, going in prepared with what you want to cover and talk about, will avoid any rambling or erroneous conversation. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to do prep.

  • Do research on the company. You should make sure that you know the answers to the following: What problems do they solve? How do they solve it and/or what value do they add to their target market? What is their target market? How does the product work? Additionally, doing a demo of the product, looking at case studies on their site, and watching videos about the product (if available), is a great idea.
  • Do research on the people that you will be interviewing. One easy strategy is to look them up on LinkedIn, and see if you have any mutual connections or things in common. If not, just knowing something about their background that stands out is useful. That way, you will have topics to bring up in conversation while interviewing, and also demonstrate that you did your research. Plus, people love talking about themselves!
  • Make an outline of what you want to cover and discuss in your interview, and study it. In general, it is good to start with a three-minute breakdown of your story: your career path, why you made certain decisions, what you’ve specialized in, how you’ve grown, and what you are now looking to do. Then, you can go into more specific examples of high points in your career, such as key wins and challenges that you overcame. It is also important to have a clear idea of what your goals are, what you want to do next, and how you think that you can get there. Goal-oriented people always come off stronger in an interview, than the contrary. Finally, you can use this narrative that you’ve now created to then tie that into why you are interested in the position and company that you are interviewing for, and why you think you would be a good fit.
  • Come up with 5-6 questions that you will ask each person that you interview with. 2-3 questions should be about the specific position that you are interviewing for, and 2-3 should be about the company. Also, don’t be afraid to bring your questions with you in a notebook, there is no need to memorize them.


Dressing appropriately for an interview is an opportunity to make a great first impression, and ensures that the interviewer will be able to pay attention to the substance of what you’re saying, rather than be distracted by what you are wearing.

It’s a way to display that you are taking this seriously, and that you should be taken seriously as well. As a general rule, no matter what the level of formality is at the company, you should always be polished and look like you made an effort.

However, there are iterations to that depending on the culture of the company that you are interviewing at. To get a sense of the culture, look at pictures online to see what the vibe is, or ask your contact what the dress code is.

The following is a breakdown of common dress codes.

  • Business professional: Full suit and tie. Suit and blouse for women.
  • Business Casual: Tailored/polished jeans or chinos, dress shoes, blazer, and dress shirt. Women can switch this out for a professional dress or skirt that hit just above the knee. Makeup minimal.
  • Casual: even if the company is super “casual” and everyone wears hoodies every day, you should still dress business casual for an interview.

What to Bring

Aside from a positive attitude and a polished outfit, there are a few things that every person should always bring with them on every on-site interview. Below is a helpful checklist of what to make sure that you have with you before you head to the office.

  • 5 Copies of your resume
  • Your business card
  • A notebook to take notes that also has your questions in it
  • A pen
  • A computer if you’re giving a presentation

(Side note: if you bring your references on a first interview, some people could view that as too aggressive, wait until you are asked to provide references)

How to Act

Now that you have prepared for the interview, are dressed to impress, and have all the necessary materials with you, how you act during the interview is very obviously the most important part. There are several subtle things that you can do that don’t seem like much, but in reality they can set you apart; and if you don’t do them, it can be your downfall.

  • Arrive early, but not too early. Everyone knows that showing up early to an interview is important, but there are limits to that. Showing up too early can throw the interviewer off and possibly demonstrate that you are don’t have great time management skills. As a rule, you should arrive no more than fifteen minutes early, and do not arrive any less than five minutes before the scheduled time of your interview.

  • Body language plays a huge factor in the interviewer connecting with you in a non-verbal way. It is important to have a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, keep your arms uncrossed, and smile. Taking notes during the meeting is also a great way to show that you are actively listening and are engaged.

  • Be succinct and stay on topic. Hopefully by making an outline during your interview prep, you have a clear and concise idea of what you will talk about and how you will tell your story. Some of the most common negative feedback that I have received from a hiring manager is that the interviewee rambled and lacked focus. You don’t need to bring up every detail to answer a question, just answer the question.

  • Breathe and slow down. It’s completely normal to be a little nervous for an interview, and most hiring managers will not fault someone for that. However, when a person is nervous they tend to speak faster and react quicker, which can throw an interviewer off. If you don’t know an answer immediately, it’s okay to pause and think for a few seconds before you answer. Additionally, taking a deep breath and consciously making yourself slow down before you answer is helpful.

  • Ask for each interviewers’ card so that you can email them. It’s a common mistake to forget to ask for everyone’s contact information that you met with, but it’s important to remember so that you can send them all thank you emails after your meeting.

What to do After

Your behavior after the interview can seal the deal. You should write a thank you to everyone that you met within 24 hours of the interview. To further impress them, personalize each message with something specific that you talked about with that person.

There has been a trend lately towards interviewees not writing follow up notes after interviews, and I have witnessed a hiring manager not move forward with a prospective employee because of their lack of follow up. It’s a great way to reconfirm your interest in the position and set yourself apart.

Most companies that prioritize candidate experience should get back to you with feedback within 3-4 days, however, unfortunately, there are too many companies out there that never get back to candidates at all. If you do not hear back within 4 days, email the hiring manager or talent person that set up the interview to check in about the next steps.

Following this detailed guide on how to nail an important interview will hopefully help you feel more prepared to get that dream job. However, this is not comprehensive, and one of the most important parts of the process is also being yourself.

Ultimately, you will know if the role is right for you and if you are fit with the culture and company if you stay true to your personality and are genuine. Sticking to all of the tips and tricks that I have detailed here will ensure that your best self will shine through.

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Julie Olsson is a Recruitment Manager at Captivate Talent, a recruitment and consulting firm. Contact Julie to learn more about job opportunities in the sales industry.

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