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Keep Calm and Rock Your Job Interview By Paula Rucci Voigt, Career Advisor at National Louis University


“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser

You’ve landed a job interview – congratulations on getting to this crucial step in your job search! You now have the ultimate opportunity to demonstrate you’re the best hiring choice. Preparation is the key to rocking your interview like a star. Here is a countdown to help you succeed:

The week leading up to the interview…

  • Research the organization. Go through the company’s website and read up on their mission, the size of the company, ongoing projects, and future plans. Get a feel for the culture and work environment. You’ll use this information to demonstrate your knowledge of the company during the interview.

NOTE: The “Interviewing to Win! How to Finish First in Job Interviews” workshop will be held Monday, Feb. 6 from 4-6 p.m. at NLU’s Chicago campus. RSVP to

  • Research the interviewer(s). This is an often-overlooked strategy. Ask your recruiter or HR contact to tell you the names of the people you will be meeting with, and look them up online using LinkedIn or other social media, or do a simple Google search. Knowing their title and experience, as well as learning a bit about their personality, will help you feel more confident in the interview and will also help form a connection.
  • Prepare and practice your responses. Perform a search for commonly-asked interview questions, and also use the job posting and your company research to anticipate questions. You can also visit for customized questions specific to the job you are applying for. Craft your responses carefully, write (or type) them down, and practice saying them aloud. Utilize a behavioral interview approach to answer the questions, describing the situation or task, the action you took, and the results you achieved. Telling stories about your past accomplishments is the best way to demonstrate your abilities.
  • Generate a list of 3-5 questions to ask the interviewer that show your interest in the role as well as the company as a whole. Ask about job responsibilities, how success is measured in the position, work environment, or opportunities for growth, for example. Asking intelligent, relevant questions will show that you have prepared well, are engaged in the interview, and are interested in a future with this organization.

Two+ days prior…

  • Dress for success! Plan ahead and take out every item you will wear for the interview, including shoes and accessories, and make a run to the dry cleaners if necessary. Check for spots, rips or tears; fix those or choose another outfit. It is always recommended to dress professionally. Click here for more tips on what to wear.

The day before…

  • Do a dry run to your interview location. This will ensure you know how to get to the site, helps you calculate travel time correctly, and familiarizes you with traffic, parking and other issues — such as road construction or changes in train schedules — that could be obstacles.
  • Visualize yourself going to the interview and performing magnificently. Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking. It really does make a difference.
  • Study the questions that you think you may be asked, as well as your planned responses to them. The goal is to be very comfortable with your answers, but not memorize them. Try recording yourself and playing it back to check how your answers flow and to help streamline your speech.
  • Get a good night’s rest. Being well-rested will keep your thinking clear and sharp.

The morning of the interview…

  • Do a final review of your responses to interview questions and your notes on the company. Prepare to bring several copies of your resume, as well as your list of questions to ask the interviewer.

2 hours before…

  • Have a snack. It’s not a good idea to go into an interview hungry, as this will distract you. Be sure to eat something on the lighter side, and include some protein to help prevent low blood sugar, which could reduce your ability to focus. Check your breath for freshness, but don’t chew gum or mints during your interview.

1 hour before…

  • Take a deep breath – actually, close your eyes and take several. Deep abdominal breathing will calm your nerves and help keep you focused. Remember that it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious; in fact, studies show that anxiety can actually keep you on your toes and boost performance.
  • Plan to arrive 15 minutes early. Head to the restroom for a final wardrobe check. Be sure to engage politely and professionally with everyone you may encounter during your time in the building. Interviewers often ask the receptionist their impression of a candidate.

During your interview…

  • Speak clearly and with confidence. Play up your strengths and skills, and demonstrate how those will be an asset to the company and position. Maintain proper posture and appropriate eye contact.
  • Be concise and stay on track with the question. Keep your responses simple, honest and no longer than two minutes.
  • Accept a cup of water if offered. Dry mouth is a common response in stressful situations.
  • Don’t criticize a former employer. Doing this is unprofessional and may reflect negatively on you.
  • Smile! Studies show that a genuine smile will make you seem more personable and help form a connection with the interviewer.

After the interview…

  • Thank the interviewer(s) for their time, and shake their hand. Usually, the interviewer will mention the next steps in the process, but if they don’t, it is appropriate to ask.
  • Follow up with a thank-you email within 24 hours. Include a specific reference from the conversation, or a link to a relevant article, to set yourself apart and help the interviewer remember you.

Incorporating these steps into your interview preparation strategy will turn you into a star interviewee, and help you rock your interview!

RSVP for NLU’s March 7 Educator Job Fair here. It will take place from 1 to 4 pm, and students and alumni are welcome and encouraged to attend.